Entry updated 12 February 2024. Tagged: TV.
Japanese animated tv series (2023). Studio M2. Based on the Manga by Naoki Urasawa, itself based on Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy story The Greatest Robot on Earth (June 1964-January 1965, Shonen magazine, original title "Chikyū saidai no robotto"). Directed by Toshio Kawaguchi. Written by Heisuke Yamashita and Tatsurou Inamoto. Voice cast includes Shinshū Fuji, Toshio Furukawa, Yōko Hikasa, Shōzō Iizuka, Marina Inoue, Sean Rohani, Toshihiko Seki. Minori Suzuki, Hideyuki Tanaka, Eizō Tsuda and Kazuhiro Yamaji. Eight 55-69 minute episodes. Colour.
In the future, humans and sentient AI Robots live side by side: though there are a few anti-robot extremists, they are largely accepted – though not quite as equals – by humanity; being programmed not to harm people (see Laws of Robotics) helps. Though most are humanoid but clearly robots, a few are indistinguishable from humans; both types tend to live like people – as one reflects "by living as the humans do, they say we robots can upgrade our senses, or refine them. Same difference I guess". A robot's consciousness is stored on a memory chip and can be transferred to other bodies (see Identity Transfer) – so robots that are giant machines during working hours have humanoid "off-duty" bodies for their free time.
Some years previously the United States of Thracia (see Alternate History) accused Persian dictator Darius the 14th (Iizuka) of planning to conquer the region with an army of robots – Weapons of mass destruction built by Professor Abullah (Yamaji). A fact-finding mission discovers a mass of junked robots, but no weapons: nonetheless, the 39th Central Asian War begins (see Politics). The Invasion of Persia is led by seven robots – the most powerful AI that humanity had yet produced. Though believing they were sent to liberate them from oppression, victory is achieved by their killing many thousands of robots; all of the seven are traumatized to a greater or lesser degree.
In fact, Darius had asked Professor Abullah to build Bora, a giant Terraforming robot to transform the desert. After many failures (the junked robots), Abullah realized he needed the most advanced AI possible to assist him, so he called on Professor Tenmar (Tsuda) (creator of the childlike Atom, built to replace his dead son); the two Scientists build Goji, loading his mind with 9.9 billion personalities to choose from: but he is unable to pick one and cannot be awoken. Then the war kills Abullah's family and leaves his body ruined, his brain placed in a Cyborg body, or so he believes.
This series starts with the members of the fact-finding mission and the seven robots – who have settled peacefully into human society – being murdered one by one. Gesicht (Fuji), a robot detective for Europol (see Crime and Punishment) and one of the seven, is charged with investigating the deaths: evidence suggests the perpetrator is a robot, despite their supposedly being incapable of harming a human. In a scene echoing The Silence of the Lambs (1991) he visits Brau 1589 (Tanaka), a robot who had murdered a human eight years previously – supposedly the only known case – despite a subsequent examination of their AI showing no defect. Gesicht later discovers he once killed a human who murdered a robot child, but the authorities overwrote the memory (see Memory Edit). We meet the other surviving members of the seven, including Atom (Hikasi) – now cared for by the fatherly Professor Ochanomizu (Furukawa), who has built him a sister, Uran (Suzuki), an empath. One day she meets a robot who is driven to paint and garden; Atom and Ochanomizu arrive, warning her there is something wrong with this robot – indeed there is, as it has no AI brain. It is the off-duty body of an industrial robot that is being temporarily puppeted by Pluto (Seki), the robot built by Professor Abullah to enact his revenge.
Pluto's memory chip is from a robot built earlier by Professor Abullah; named Sahad (Rohani) his wish was to cover the desert with flowers, so their kindly nature is distressed by being forced to kill. Eventually all seven robots are murdered, but Professors Ochanomizu and Tenma work to recover Atom: the latter's experience with Goji lead him to believe primal, volatile emotions – hatred, anger, sorrow – are needed to wake Atom, so he loads the contents of Gesicht's memory chip into him, despite not knowing what the effect on Atom's personality will be (see Psychology). Fortunately the lesson that Gesicht had learnt from his experiences is that "nothing comes from hatred except for more hatred", so – after some initial disorientation – Atom is the same person, but wiser.
Tenma reveals to Professor Abullah that he was killed during the war, with a copy of his consciousness being loaded into Goji – and it was his trauma that woke the unconscious robot. Abullah – or rather Goji (see Identity) – does not believe him, but continues with his plan of revenge, loading himself into Bora and departing to trigger an eruption of magma beneath the United States of Thracia, an act that will kill most life on Earth and start a new Ice Age (see End of the World). When Atom goes to stop Bora, Pluto is sent to intercept him, but Sahad's true personality wins out and the pair work together – and it is Pluto who kills Bora, at the cost of his own life.
We also learn that a superComputer built by the United States of Thracia – called Dr Roosevelt (Inoue) and who has a teddy bear avatar – has been manipulating events: the President had started the war to strengthen his country's dominance and also wanted the seven robots killed – considering them foreign weapons of mass destruction, and so a threat to his country. However, Dr Roosevelt has their own plans, wanting the magma eruption to wipe out all organic life, leaving only robots. However, he is conveniently killed by Brau 1589, who has escaped from prison and – perhaps a little implausibly – made it to Dr Roosevelt's location.
This is an impressive Anime, a tribute to Osamu Tezuka: Pluto is concerned with what makes us human (see Metaphysics), and – as is often the case with works considering this issue by using robots – the robots prove more human and sentimental than most people (one tries to transmit details of his attacker as he dies, but his thoughts are of his wife and adopted children). Professor Tenmar's argument "a brain capable of error: that's what it means to have reached perfection" is reminiscent of a remark in the television series Astro Boy (1963-1966), that Astro Boy cannot be considered human because he is incapable of evil. The original manga won the 2010 Seiun Award for best comic. [SP]
previous versions of this entry