Astro Boy: Greatest Astro Adventures

Manga Video’s Astro Boy: Greatest Astro Adventures packages seven episodes from the eponymous child superhero’s 1980s revival. The first and last episodes are represented and the selection is strong. Highlights include "The Robot Circus‚” in which Astro wrestles with exploitation and tragedy, and "The Liar Robot‚” in which Astro wrestles with… exploitation and tragedy. This Astro Boy can’t be accused of the coy optimism of modern children’s programming; instead, he acts as an unfaltering and reliable Pinocchio variation, ever-confronting the spectres that haunt every robot-boy’s passage into adulthood. Instead of wanting a "normal life as a real boy‚” he desires only to make the lives of contemporary Japanese citizens safe and comfortable. Preserved in this series was creator Osamu Tezuka’s sense of spatial menace. Tezuka’s comics present contemporary non-active structures as near-gelatinous clumps of wall and floor, while active futurist buildings (such as the Ziggurat in his Metropolis) are concrete, elegant steam-punk inventions. A disconnect between the likened-to-existing and imaginary structure is as relevant to 1980’s Astro Boy as it was to 1963’s. A construct such as the Robot Circus’ train seems to have escaped from Winsor McCay’s Dreamland as an illustration in rhythm of the ideal train, lighting the countryside with bright, cheerful music and happy, bouncing displays from machined elephants, while Astro’s school offers necessary dull familiarity. Russian animator Genndy Tartakovsky (best known for Samurai Jack and The Powerpuff Girls) is attached to an Astro Boy feature slated for 2008. Casual viewers may want to pick this up and test out the Astro universe. For fans, the entire 1980 series is available. (Anchor Bay)