Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka Vol. 1

by Naoki Urasawa after Osama Tezuka

It's tempting to start writing this review with my usual disclaimer that I don't read a lot of manga, and don't always understand the ones that I do read, but this is one of those books that, while completely steeped in the culture of manga, transcends it in almost every way.

Pluto is the modernization and reworking of Osama Tezuka's classic Astro Boy character, as handled by modern master Naoki Urasawa.  This first volume is mostly used to establish the mood and situation of this series, but it is done in a way that surprised me.

It opens with the death of Mont Blanc, Switzerland's most famous and beloved robot, who was killed mysteriously during a tornado, and found with wooden horns coming from his decapitated head.  Later, a human is killed in a similar way in Dusseldorf.  A crack robot detective from Europol, Gesicht, is assigned to the case.

Gesicht believes that a robot killed this man (robots are very common, and live much as humans do, taking spouses and living in homes and apartments, although it's not clear why), which is against the most basic of the robot's laws, and with one exception, is unheard of.

Strangely, the middle of this volume is devoted to a completely different, yet related, story about an aging musician and his new robot butler, who is trying to escape from his war-torn past.  This part of the book is what captivated me the most.  I began to really care about the old crank and North No. 2, his butler.

The book returns to Gesicht, who has come to realize that someone or something is targeting very special robots, which leads to him seeking out Atom, who I suppose will become the central figure in this comic.  (Atom is, of course, the original Japanese translation of Astro Boy's name).

Urasawa's art is beautiful in this book.  I read the first volume of his Monster, but was not anywhere near as impressed with his pacing and eye to detail.  I have three more volumes of this book to read, but I'm afraid I'm going to find myself completely hooked by this story, and so have to start hunting down the rest.

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