Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム, Tetsuwan Atomu, "Mighty Atom", lit. "Iron Arm Atom") is a Japanese television series that premiered on Fuji TV on New Year's Day and is the first popular animated Japanese television series that embodied the aesthetic that later became familiar worldwide as anime. It originated as a manga of the same name in 1952 by Osamu Tezuka, revered in Japan as the "God of Manga." After enjoying success both in Japan and abroad as the first anime to be broadcast overseas, Astro Boy was remade in the 1980s under the same name(s), and in 2003 as Astro Boy: Mighty Atom. It lasted for four seasons, with a total of 193 episodes, the final episode presented on New Year's Eve 1966. At its height it was watched by 40% of the Japanese population who had access to a TV. In 1964, there was a feature-length animated movie called Mighty Atom, the Brave in Space (鉄腕アトム 宇宙の勇者, Tetsuwan Atomu: Uchū no yūsha) released in Japan. It was an anthology of three episodes; The Robot Spaceship, Last Day on Earth and Earth Defense Squadron. The latter two were filmed in color.
Astro Boy is in the year 2000, fifty years in the future from its original production in the 1960s. Dr. Tenma, a scientist working in the Ministry of Science's Department of Precision Machinery, loses his only son, Tobio, in a car crash. Though the robot is the most advanced anyone has ever seen, he is not pleased with it because of the fact that it does not grow, and in a fit of rage he sells it to the circus. After this, he loses his job at the Ministry of Science and rarely appears again. He harnesses a complicated relationship towards robots, mainly believing that they should not be treated as humans but as slaves.
In the circus, where robots exist, but are a lot more primitively made than Tobio (now named Atom), they are forced to participate in fighting tournaments similar to gladiator battles. However, Atom wished to be peaceful, and luckily runs into Professor. Ochanomizu, the man who succeeded Dr. Tenma at the head of the Ministry of Science. Ochanomizu is treated much differently to Tenma, however, being regarded as a saviour figure by the robots for his large amount of affection and kindness towards them that Tenma did not possess. After realising how advanced Atom is compared to the rest of the other robots, he sets him free from the circus, becoming a surrogate father figure to him.
According to Osamu Tezuka, the main themes of much of the manga he had created, specifically Astro Boy, were that of anti-war, the preservation of nature, and discrimination, which had emanated from his childhood experiencing the devastation of World War II.
Since Mighty Atom ended up being re-written over ten times, either due to limits on size or duration in the magazines Astro Boy was published in, instead of just simply cutting or scaling down certain parts of the manga, Tezuka would completely redraw certain panels and sections of the manga to fit and flow better with the rest of the story. This means that it is hard to define what the most original, authentic version of the story is. Also, when the manga was to be made into the anime, further revisions had to be made, including a simplifying of the story to suit the less sophisticated, wider target audience the show was aiming to appeal to.
After a while, since the television company that made the series needed an output of fifty-two episodes a year, the anime quickly outpaced the manga, meaning Tezuka also had to create many original stories that would not appear in the manga for the purpose of filling in the gaps.
For the English version, the producers, NBC Enterprises settled on "Astro Boy" after discussions between producer Fred Ladd and representatives from NBC. Of the first 124 episodes created (there were 193 total), 104 were adapted into the English version by Fred Ladd, and initially syndicated from September 7, 1963 through August 20, 1965, with repeats continuing until the series was withdrawn from syndication in the early 1970s. The names were adjusted for American audiences. Frederik L. Schodt, who created the English version of the original comic, said that the names were “cleverly” changed for American tastes.
In one Astro Boy manga story Tezuka expressed frustration towards the restrictions passed by American television networks on the adaptation of the newly titled Astro Boy television series. The U.S. version did not air an episode showing a dog being operated on, as the producers believed it was too cruel and grotesque to show. Tezuka criticized this as hypocrisy, as non-Japanese eat and kill animals in manners he described as “grotesque.” Tezuka added that many White people in Africa shot animals for sport, yet people in England spread false rumors about Japanese people eating dogs.
In 2007 and 2008, Cartoon Network broadcast and webcast NBC’s syndicated edition of the original 1960s episodes as a part of its late night Adult Swim line-up. Only the first 52 episodes were aired.
The Right Stuf International and Madman Entertainment have recently released the entire dubbed series on DVD in two box sets. The Right Stuf sets also include episodes 1, 20, 34, 56, and 193 in Japanese with English subtitles, a behind-the-scenes film, and an interview with Fred Ladd.Atom / Astro Boy / Astor, A robot created and modeled upon Dr. Boynton's late son, Astor Boynton.
At first Dr. Boynton enjoyed his company and having his son back, however rejected the robot after realizing he could not grow up physically like a real human child. With this, the robot Astor was sold to the cruel circus owner, The Great Cacciatore, in order to perform in a circus and renamed as Astro. After a fire broke out during a circus show, Astro saved Cacciatore and was granted his freedom, due in part by intervention from Dr. Elefun and following the Law of Robot Rights being passed to grant robots the ability to lead the same lives as humans.
Astro has several special powers, such as flying with rockets, super hearing, 100,000 horsepower, super human endurance and a machine gun which lies in his backside.
In the final episode, which aired only in Japan, Astro sacrifices himself to save the Earth while carrying a shutter which would normalize the sun which was threatening all life on the planet.
Astro is voiced by Mari Shimizu with the exception of episodes 97-106 where he is voiced by Kazue Tagami.
Professor Ochanomizu / Doctor Ochanomizu / Dr. Packidermus J. Elefun, head of the Ministry of Science after Dr. Boynton resigned. He is Astro's father figure and mentor, and is very supportive of him. He also created a robot family for Astro, including a mother, father, and a robot sister named Uran. Afterward, he reactivated the prototype of Astro, Cobalt, as his brother. Dr. Elefun always stands for robot's rights and don't want Astro to take part of unnecessary battles.
Ochanomizu is voiced by Hisashi Katsuta.
Doctor Umataro Tenma / Dr. Astor Boynton II, former head of the Ministry of Science. He lost his only son, Astor Boynton III, to a deadly traffic accident. Overcome with grief, he vowed to recreate Astor as a great and powerful robot, and used every available resource of the Ministry to create his greatest creation: Astro Boy. Once he activated Astro, he was seemingly mentally better, but grew frustrated with the fact that, as a robot, Astro didn't grew physically like a human child. He sold Astro off to a circus owner, The Great Cacciatore, and resigned from the Ministry and was said to have disappeared. However, he has come out of hiding on occasion to assist Astro; one such occasion was to upgrade Astro's systems to allow him to output 1,000,000 horsepower.
Tenma is voiced by Hisashi Yokomori.
Astro's parents, created by Dr. Elefun in order to make Astro feel more human-like. His mother and father are kind and doting to Astro. They were not part of the cast in the 2003 series.
Uran / Astro Girl / Zoran, Astro's younger sister and his most recurring sibling. Uran was given to him as a gift on Astro's birthday. She is often tomboyish and usually gets herself in trouble, like allowing a scientist to give her the ability of splitting in two in order to both live a normal life with one body and fight in a robot battle arena with another. However, her strength was halved and her other half was destroyed. She is repaired, but no longer had the ability of splitting in two after Dr. Elefun repaired her.
Uran is voiced first by Yoko Mizugaki, secondly Reiko Mutoh, and thirdly Kazuko Yoshikawa.
Cobalt / Jetto, Astro's older prototype brother.
He was thrown away by Dr. Boynton as scrap for being a failed prototype and reactivated by Dr. Elefun when Astro went missing during a search for a deadly H-bomb. The two found each other deep in the ocean due to transmitting on a common frequency, and Cobalt managed to save his brother from certain destruction.
Cobalt is voiced by Kiyoshi Komiyama
Chi-Tan / Ti-Tan, Astro's baby brother.
Dr. Elefun had made him alongside other robot babies, but Uran took him as the family's new baby brother.
Higeoyaji / Mustachio / Shunsaku Ban / Mr. Percival Pompous / Daddy Walrus / Albert Duncan / Wally Kisaragi, Astro's schoolteacher and/or neighbor in the original manga and color 1980 TV series; a private detective and surrogate uncle for Astro in the 1960s TV series.
He is voiced first by Masaaki Yajima and secondly by Ayao Wada.
Shibugaki and Tamao / Dinny and Specs, two of Astro's friends.
Tamao is a very good friend for Astro while Shibugaki is rather a bully who learns of Astro's moral values after some adventures.
Chief Nakamura / Chief McLaw
Inspector Tawashi's partneer who is made for comical relief, he acknowledge Astro's bravery and often try to defend him from his partneer Tawashi, specially when Astro is accused of a crime which he didn't commit.
Nakamura is voiced by Shinpei Sakamoto
Inspector Tawashi / Inspector Gumshoe
A police inspector who have a huge distaste for robots and doesn't had much faith in Astro till he manage to prove his worth.
Tawashi is voiced first by Shingo Kanemoto and secondly by Koichi Chiba
Tobio Tenma / Astor Boynton III/ Toby Boynton / Toby Tenma, the little boy Astro was modeled after, who dies in the first episode.
Atlas A robot created by Dr. Ram who wanted revenge against the whites for the slavery and in order to accomplish this task, he added the Omega Factor which would allow Atlas to commit several crimes. However, Atlas turn against his creator and leave him to be burned by the flowing lava, however Atom manages to defeat Atlas and save his creator.
Dr. Ram, an Incan who wants revenge against slavery, for that he create a robot named Atlas for his cause, but after a turn of events Atlas turn against him and leaves him to be burn in the flowing lava caused by an artificial eruption.
However, Astro manage to beat Atlas and save Dr. Ram, who realize his mistake.
Astro Boy was initially very popular, being the first Japanese animated television series to make it to US televisions, with the highest ratings of any show at the time. However, its popularity eventually declined to the point where only 104 of the 193 original episodes were released in the US, the reasons mainly being that it was still in black and white and many of the storylines were too violent and depressing for the mainstream audience.
It was named the 86th best animated series by IGN, calling it the first popular anime TV series.