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Astroboy

Talk to any cartoon or anime fan, and Astroboy will inevitably come up.  He is, after all, the first hard example of anime culture.  The idea began in 1951 with now-legendary Osamu Tezuka’s comic book called ’Tetsuwan Atom’.  Later the series would be named ’Astroboy’.  In his lifetime, Tezuka would go on to create over 150,000 pages of the comic.  His legacy is more far-reaching than that, though.  In 1960 he released the animated Astroboy in black and white on Fuji television.  The series went on for a whopping 193 episodes over the next six years.  In 1982, the groundbreaking color version was released and 50 episodes of that followed.  Though Tezuka died in 1989, his works live on today in the hearts and minds of his thousands of followers.  Astroboy is still a major marketing force with his image appearing on everything from key rings to backpacks.

The story goes something like this.  The year is 2000 A.D. (keep in mind he wrote this in the 50’s) and robots have advanced to the point where they are active members in society.  The eminent Dr. Boyton who heads the Ministry of Science is interested in creating a new class of robots.  He plans to make a robot with human emotions.  The work proves more difficult than he anticipated and he fails many times.  One day his son, Toby, suggests that he pursue a robot based on a boy.  Dr. Boyton is inspired by this and resumes his work with great vigor.

Consumed with his work, Dr. Boyton neglects his very own son.  Toby runs away from home and is killed in a car accident.  This even leaves Dr. Boyton stricken with guilt and decides to finish the project by molding the robot to look and act like his lost son.  The result? Astroboy, the robot with a human soul.

Astroboy is placed into a normal life with robot parents, a sister, and his dog named Jump.  He even attends school and makes friends.  Soon this happy picture is shattered by the discovery of his evil brother, Atlas, who is intent on destroying the human race for the wrongs they’ve committed against robots.

The series is about Astroboy’s struggle to become human and counter his brother’s attempts of world domination.  He is aided by Dr. Elefun who rescued Astroboy from the robot circus.  He replaces Dr. Boyton as the father figure after Dr. Boyton is fired from his job. 

There are no other anime series that have the kind of prestige and popularity that Astroboy enjoys.  Though not strictly anime in the modern sense, Astroboy pioneered many of the themes and storytelling techniques that would later become part of the anime canon.

Though the episodes are not widely available except on the occasional television broadcast, there are currently plans in the works for the DVD release of all 50 color episodes.

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