Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka vol. 1 review

pluto

The thought of remaking a popular movie or retelling a popular story is bound to provoke a reaction.  Some people love the idea, some people hate it.  When it’s a popular story by a legendary creator, that reaction may range from people believing the new creator is completely arrogant to try and re-imagine a masterpiece, to considering altering the original story even in the slightest to be sacrilege.

But sometimes, like here, the creators do it completely right.

“Pluto:  Urasawa x Tezuka” is a revisionist series based on the classic “Astro Boy” story “The Greatest Robot on Earth” (which can be found in “Astro Boy” vol. 3).  Helming this series is Naoki Urasawa, the master of suspense behind the excellent manga “Monster.”  “Astro Boy,” of course, is the best-known series from manga legend Osamu Tezuka, so the pedigree behind “Pluto” is of the highest caliber.

While some might not think Urasawa’s suspenseful, dark tones would fit a series as usually lighthearted as “Astro Boy,” it works well here.  Although the original series was more of a straightforward action/fight story, “Pluto” has been re-interpreted as a murder mystery.

The series follows the original “Astro Boy” story’s chronology fairly closely, but knowledge of that story is not needed to appreciate this one. Since it is told from the point of view of one of the original tale’s supporting characters, we get a different perspective on the events of that story.  In fact, Astro Boy – or Mighty Atom, since this story uses the correct translations of all the characters names – barely appears in the first volume.

Urasawa chooses to tell the story from the perspective of Gesicht, a German robot detective investigating a series of murders of both robots and humans, with the evidence pointing, unusually, to another robot.

Pluto, the antagonist of the original story, was one of Tezuka’s most popular supporting characters.  Here he is reimagined as a mysterious entity whose motivations, at least in the first volume, are shrouded in mystery.

And for the hardcore Tezuka fans, this story contains very subtle Easter Egg references to some of Tezuka’s other works, which are great for the fans but are in no way detracting to people just reading “Pluto.”

Urasawa’s artwork is the perfect complement to this story, since it is much darker and moodier than Tezuka’s original story, which had a light-hearted, cartoony feel.  Still, Urasawa keeps the character designs fairly consistent with Tezuka’s originals, maintaining a certain amount of continuity between both art styles while still giving the story its own feel.

Urasawa was assisted by Takashi Nagasaki, with supervision from Tezuka’s son — the filmmaker Macoto Tezka — and Tezuka productions, so even though Tezuka is no longer alive, the story definitely had Tezuka’s influence upon it.

In addition to the main story, the first volume contains background information about the story as well as interviews with the creators, which lets the reader know the genesis of this rather unusual story.  It’s not necessary to read to enjoy this book, but is fascinating for anyone who enjoys the history or behind-the-scenes details of manga.

Overall, volume one of “Pluto:  Urasawa x Tezuka” was an excellent read, not only as a fan of both Urasawa and Tezuka but just as a fan of comics and suspense stories in general.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of either creator or anyone who just wants to read a good mystery story.

Number of stars out of five:  Five

Number of dry slaps:  Zero

Posted by Luke

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