Mighty Atom aired 1963 in Japan and America, Licensed by NBC Enterprises
Fred Ladd was the director of the first episode.
Astro Boy released 2009 Distributed by Summit Entertainment, a subsidiary of Lions Gate Entertainment
David Bowers was the director of this film.
Both the film and the TV series opens with the main character dying (well the human that Astro Boy was based on). If there's one thing to know about Astro Boy, it's a sad story, something you don't want to bring your kids to, until the second part of the episode or half of the film. Future cars didn't need a driver, the highway did it all for you, though in the original he was driving the car, in this cartoon his car was driving him (hit a dump truck), in the film it was a giant robot, then Astro died. The Father came once he heard what happened and collected the boy's body, sadly walking away with the corpse of his beloved kin. It keeps changing between Astro driving or was hit by a driver, the main point of the character is his death and the motivation of the Father to make a being who will never die, who will be greater than his son, in the sense that this person has beaten death. An insane idea, that the original cartoon really perfected and elaborated on, better than the source manga. Both film and cartoon has shown that the Father has regrets of building this android, since he will never become the proper heir to the Professor's lineage. Though the transition between the film opening and the television series is almost word for word, but only the American version… that haunting theme song. Seriously, organ music and children singing, listen to that with the lights off or 20% slower, you won't sleep.
The Astro Boy's opening in Japan has fantastic! Amazing control of perspective, and an awesome grasp of animation. It's surprising that America went with the clip show opening since the original Japanese opening theme is the same music and length. It's just stunning that the production company didn't see this and fight for it to be shown instead of throwing together this mess they clipped. I guess during this time it was seen as too calm, it didn't show enough "action" in this series, but it had a lot of Superman like fighting. Though if any of the team listened to the radio shows, they'd know that it's the world around the man of steel that makes his stories so interesting. In this series it's Astro's (or Atom's) tenacious attitude and peaceful demeanor that changes the mind of most enemies, solving problems (like Superman) without fists.
Gom giving it's all posing as Astro Boy, Professor Steeping and his niece Tea Steeping
agreeing to make his efforts worthwhile.
Anyhow the film opens with details of the setting, focusing on this new world, that's floating in the sky. In the cartoon it wasn't something that really needed to be focused on, since a central City for Astro to come back to was the only thing that was needed, since most of the time it was about taking on a villain or worldly problem and having Astro solve it. I liked that Astro Boy saved the day all over the world, this starts to lose focus on the character's setting and what made him interesting to the majority of people, since it wasn't Japan, it was a future City. Astro Boy had a hard life, since he wasn't seen as a person and wasn't treated as one either. It wasn't till his "Second Father" that he was truly a person, a boy that could play and grow up and be an equal to Professor Ochanomizu or Professor Packadermus J. Elefun. The movie sandboxes Astro Boy, though explains that the surface of the Earth is horrible and Robots are the caretakers of their floating utopia. To sum up the plot, cliches, cliches for everyone, oh Astro Boy's Dad is the hero of the City, I sure hope he's not the villain (cliche). In the cartoon and manga, he's mostly left to his own business, since his madness and obsession to recreate his son has left him unable to continue his work. The movie does take things into an interesting direction and has the Father feel bad for Astro, though with great acting it's still a flat note for the story, since midway through it's dropped.
There was a lot of amazing things within this film, parts of this film felt like it was strong and independent of the recreation and embellished on the spirit of the character as a whole. For example the puppet with strings symbolism was beautifully executed in the film. Note on the animation in the TV series, was stunning, the work that was put into it and the detail was astonishing. My favorite moment, though subtle is the Father's mad laughter. He's in his office and you can see the sorrow and horror that builds up into insanity, laughter is his only refuge from reality, and he slowly historically laughs trying to hold himself together and takes a step, crossing from a man of science to a man of vengeance, vengeance against nature, creating his son once more in the body of an automaton. In the movie too when they want to create a solid dark moment they preformed well, the scene when the Father comes into the study and dies a little, it's horrible and poetic, though diluted in comparison to the TV series.
The writing is weak in the film, it's good in parts, but that's the problem, they're not living in the spirit of the character, just making their own Astro Boy. More or less that's good, though it feels more like Robots 2 in spirit. Then as the cliched ending of the film comes to a finish an Alien attacks, WHY, it seems completely out of nowhere, though it is literally not even introduced that there could even be anything beyond the island, and now they introduce a new plot to end the film. This is bad, this is maybe the worst ending I've ever had to experience, since the Alien is something that they did no research on, they only saw him in the American opening.
The TV series had it's own problems too. They gave Atom a lame name, Astro Boyton or something, it's fine, since like the movie they called him Astro, so it's not like the source, but the message is across, this is Astro Boy, here's his origin story. If you want to think about it Superman could have been Soo~Pier Mun from the planet Improbable. We as fans just want to see and hear the adventures of the character, the origin's only duty is to set up the character and the plot. Most hero's have an origin that effect their main plot, though these are modern heroes I'm talking about, most heroes from the past, their backstory was to just establish their powers and reason for fighting.
The Lip sync is completely off in the TV series, though that's fine, since it's coming from Japan and a new script is being put into place. That's right, we've been taking other country's work and molding it into something that feels correct, or meets our needs. Not saying that's a bad thing, personally I loved the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, which was Super Sentai footage that was dubbed into English and had a feature film made based on the series and the proceeding Super Sentai team, promoting the next TV season to follow the film.
Back to the TV animation, Astro Boy runs around unfazed by the situation, everything is on fire and he's walking through the circus. Then he finds the crushed Giggling man (which was the orphan savior in the film). With amazing strength, speed, and beautiful animation, Astro Boy hurls the fallen mess off of the sinister circus barker and catches him in a whirl of fluid blur animation. The Giggling man is in the hospital and Professor Elefun is fighting with him over Astro Boy, smug as always the Giggling man taunts and mistreats the two beings in the room. Astro is an item to him and Elefun is a play thing to push around, poke, and see if it will push back. The over all plot is that Robots are used as slaves and Elefun has taken over Astro's Father's role at the head of Science (they really don't say if it's only in this City or of the World). Elefun was at the circus, as he was in the manga, and tries to save the boy from a hard life, the Giggling man stands his ground and wants to keep his object. Then as the arguments (and time for the show) end Elefun turns on the television to a crowd of robots surrounding a government building. Seems Robots are free, Robot bill of Rights, the Robots make it legal for them to not be tools. One thing that bothered me in the movie, they never resolved that, machines where still tools, but Astro Boy was considered a boy, though he died twice in the film and the relationships between the machines and humans didn't change at all. This seems to be a theme in a lot of Osamu Tezuka's writing, treating others as you'd like to be treated, create peace and cultivate a better future, usually in a future-like landscape.
I have great respect for Osamu Tezuka, his contribution to Anime in Japan and to the Manga community as a whole is indispensable to history. Astro Boy is a character that has come up a lot in my life as parody, even Osamu Tezuka made Astro Cat; a beautiful take on his beloved character and a bit on Ultraman. In short, Osamu Tezuka has been someone in my life, indirect and recently direct, as an inspiration and an honorable artist to everyone that enjoys a wonderful story, written or visualized. Thank you, Osamu Tezuka, for being everything to the industry and to the future of all sequential art.
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