*Warning: This may contain minor spoilers*
The brilliant Naoki Urasawa makes another appearance on my blog, but this time, he’s teaming up with Osamu Tezuka.
So, what do you get when you put together one of the greatest suspense writers with possibly the most renowned cartoonists in the entire world? You get Pluto.
If you recall from my previous reviews, Naoki Urasawa is the creator of my favorite fictional story of all time: Monster. So, who’s Osamu Tezuka, then? I can guarantee that every single one of you reading this knows him, whether you’re familiar with the anime/manga world or not. He’s essentially the father of anime and one of the biggest contributors to manga. I just need to say two simple words to make everyone say, “Ohhh, I know who he is!” Ready?
Osamu Tezuka is the original creator of possibly one of the most famous cartoons/stories of all time.
So, Naoki Urasawa decided to borrow one of the arcs and some characters from the original Astro Boy and added in a pinch of his own flavors and spices in order to give birth to the manga Pluto.
Synopsis: The story follows a detective named Gesicht, who is put in charge of a case where some of the most well-known robots around the world are being murdered without apparent reason. However, this case becomes much more complicated once all evidence begins to point at this being the work of another robot, something that hasn’t been reported in many years.
Story/Plot: The way this story was put together and delivered was nothing short of brilliant. I’m sure that everyone here shares my thoughts when it comes to stories revolving robots: it’s overdone and utterly predictable now. We’re so accustomed to the stereotypical ones dealing with robots rising up against the humans, or about what happens when the three robotic laws no longer apply to them (I’m looking at you I, Robot… I love you). But it’s rare to find some that deal with robots being treated like actual humans, with jobs, families, relationships, and other problems we may encounter ourselves on a daily basis, as well as, being accepted as a legal citizen of the country they live in. That’s when I noticed that I would be loving this story.
Initially, I thought this would just show us what it’d be like to live in a world where robots are accepted, almost like they’re another race of human beings. But, I guess I should never underestimate Naoki Urasawa, even if he didn’t create the story himself. The decision to revolve the plot around the mental stability and psychological aspect of robots and how they deal with the struggles and pain of war, even if they might not have those emotional capacities at times, was exceptional and intense. It added a much deeper level to their meaning, since the horrors of war that they each experienced brought upon a certain cycle of hatred, disgust, and, at times, revenge, that affected every character, whether major or minor, in some way.
One thing that took me by surprise is that the plot does not progress by how we’re used to nowadays; you know, the usual elements: an action occurring, the death of a character, a physical fight between friends, etc. This one is almost purely moved along by the dialogue between both main and side characters. That’s something a lot of people would have a problem with since the attention span of this generation seems to lack and won’t allow them to read for too long. However, the information you receive from said characters and the missing pieces you start to click together in your head thanks to that, makes it all worth it. It doesn’t feel like you’re reading a conversation between people. You almost feel like you’re a part of it, and that’s not something that’s easily achievable as a writer (trust me, I know).
This is a manga where you’re almost required to pay extra close attention to the minor characters. Why? Because through them, we get glimpses here and there about what happened prior to the story, shedding light as to perhaps why certain events are going on or why specific people/robots are inclined to do the things that they do. It’s such a subtle way of getting away from the cliche of “the main protagonists should be progressing the story and/or providing the information needed to solve the mystery.”
The final ‘plot aspect’ that I wanted to touch up on was how successfully Urasawa was able to transfer how on-edge and anxious the protagonist is at all-times. It genuinely made me fear for his well-being. Was he the killer’s next target? What danger would he encounter next? Would he survive it this time? Those were questions that I found myself asking whenever the other robot characters were involved, as well. And, that made me burst out laughing at one point. How good of a writer does someone have to be in order for me to desperately worry more about the robots, who have always been rumored to be ‘indispensable,’ than the actual humans?
Characters: For anyone who is a fan or is at least familiar with Urasawa’s work, then his art is easily recognizable. He left alone some already beloved characters that were part of the original Astro Boy, while also implementing his own special touch to others. One of those would be the main detective, Gesicht. Now, for those of you who have read Monster, Gesicht is almost like Lunge’s slightly more emotional and moral younger brother. He has a very similar work ethic and need for justice, but seems a lot more human than Lunge acts during the first half of Monster (which is ironic seeing as Pluto is a story about robots).
One of the other main characters, Atom, is easily and almost immediately recognized as “Astro Boy,” although it’s never voiced in any part in the story. Along with him, we have two other characters that come directly from the original source: Dr. Ochanomizu and Tenma Umatarou. Similar to how all of Urasawa’s works are, every minor character has some type of role or purpose to help progress the story. No character is unnecessarily in there; they all work to further the plot
The funniest thing to me was that the characters were full of depth and development, yet a majority of them weren’t even biologically human.
However, the part that really stuck with me was that, similar to Monster, Urasawa was able to create an antagonist that resides in the darkness and background of every scene, almost like a consistent force hiding in the shadows. It adds that suspense of “What’s going to happen next?” and makes you greatly worry about the safety and well-being of each of the characters. Even though this antagonist doesn’t see the spotlight as much as I would have liked, I clearly understood the danger that he posed
Favorite Character: As much as I want to say Atom, I can’t. I loved him and still do. And I also love Epsilon (plus, he’s almost a carbon copy of Johan physically). However, I think I’ll have to go with the character that first made me start falling in love with this manga: Norse (North) #2. I’m a huge sucker for characters that are ridiculously powerful, and everyone knows it, but he/she wants to turn over a new leaf and must repress that strength. That’s pretty much who Norse #2 is. He’s a war veteran, essentially, who wants to live out the rest of his days serving as the butler to one of the most famous musicians in the world. Sadly, he’s an extremely minor character and only shows up for a small amount of time, but he’s the one that made me think, “Oh, this is gonna be good.”
Overall Score: Initially, I had given this work a 9/10. But I’ve made it a habit that if something stays in my head for a while, long after completing it, then I have to go back and revisit it. Now, I don’t necessarily mean re-read it or re-watch. I just go and skim through it again so that I can go down memory lane and remember how I felt while I was being sucked into the story.
After doing so, I decided to raise its score because I realized that not only did I love so many of the characters, but I also devoured the second half of the manga, staying up late just to finish it. Why would you do that with something you don’t really enjoy (unless you’re a fellow masochist, of course).
So, in conclusion, I give this masterpiece a 10/10. The greatness of it overshadows its minor flaws.
Do I Recommend This?: Does this even need to be answered from how I scored it? I would recommend it to anyone that wants something different from your typical manga, something that feels much more real and personal.
Pluto’s undeniable success certainly does prove that Urasawa’s reputation is nothing to joke about. The good news is that an anime adaptation was officially announced last year, so hopefully, that doesn’t disappoint. I’m looking forward to seeing Atom and his fellow robots animated.