Astro Boy is often credited with being the first anime program. Based on a comic created by Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy started flying onto TV screens in homes all over Japan in 1963. This first series was very popular and lasted until 1966, racking up an impressive 193 episodes. Osamu was never totally satisfied with this show though, since the emphasis was on action rather than the pacifist ideals he wrote into the comic book. When the chance arose to make another Astro Boy cartoon in 1982, he jumped at the chance. This cartoon was shown in the US as well as Japan, and now all 51 episodes of this first color series are available in R1 in a nice boxed set.
The year is 2030, and Dr. Boyton is the head of The Minister of Science and Technology is trying to make a new type of robot, one with emotions but also with great offensive capabilities. He persues this goal to the exclusion of all else, including his own family. When his son is killed in a car accident after being stood up by his father once again, Boyton is wracked with guilt and tries to build a boy sized robot in has son's image. The other members of the Ministry of Science and Technology don't like the idea of a robot with a boy's personality having so much power though and insist that the experiments be halted. Boyton refuses though, finishes the project, and leaves the country with his creation that he names Toby after his dead child.
While on a cruise ship to their new life though, Dr. Boyton gets disillusioned. He gets upset that Toby will never pass for human, and when the young robot ruins a dinner gathering with his clumsiness Dr. Boyton disowns him. (Nice guy huh?) Having no where else to go, Toby joins a robot circus. There he's given the name Astro Boy and worked mercilessly. This all changes though when the kind Dr. Packadermus J. Elephun rescues Astro from the circus and gives him a regular life, including a home, robot parents a dog and eventually even a robot sister.
Astro with his incredible powers gladly helps the police and the Ministry of Science and Technology whenever trouble arises. He doesn't like harming any living thing, and would rather talk things out than resort to violence. That doesn't stop him from opening a can of whoop ass when he needs to however.
This series is a lot of fun, especially for those who enjoy old school anime. There's a lot of action, and a little humor (I have to laugh every time Astro Boy shoots bullets out of his butt) but most importantly the message in the show isn't heavy handed. There's never a time when Astro says "Wow, I guess I really learned that friends are the most important thing!" We can all be thankful for that.
In addition to having a pacifist message, there is also a strong tolerance
theme that works well. In the show, robots have just been given the
same rights as humans, but not everyone is happy with that. Time
and time again Astro has to deal with racism against robots and prove that
they aren't a threat to mankind. Again, this isn't a 'wack the message
over the head' type of show, so these episodes are still enjoyable and
This set presents the entire 51 episode run of this second Astro Boy series on eight DVDs. They come in four double thinpak cases which are enclosed in a slipcase. A very nice 24 page booklet comes with the set too. It should be noted that in Japan there were 52 episodes in this series. For some reason one show, Astro Boy Vs. Altas, was never released in the US. This episode is not included in this set, which is a shame.
These shows come with the original Japanese audio track or an English dub, both in stereo. There isn't much use made of the soundstage, but he dialog is clear and the range is satisfactory. There is a slight hiss in the background, which I was surprised to hear in both tracks, but otherwise the audio is acceptable.
The restored full frame image looks very good. The colors are bright and solid, the lines are tight, and the contrast level is very good. Digitally there isn't much to complain about. Aliasing is very rare, and other compression artifacts are absent. There is the occasional spot, but otherwise this is a very nice looking set.
There's a nice set of extras included with this set. It starts off with 7 minutes worth of deleted scenes (in Japanese with English subtitles) from various episodes. These are mainly songs and Japanese customs that wouldn't be understood by American audiences.
There's also a two minute restoration comparison that shows what the program looked like before it was restored, a storyboard of the opening sequence, a seven minute reel of character designs, five minutes worth of the original Astro Boy (called Captain Atom back then) manga covers, and text character profiles of the main characters.
This is a kid's show, but it still has a lot of charm. When watching
three or four episodes in one sitting, as I did, the show does start to
feel a little formalistic and tiresome, but I'm sure this wouldn't be the
case if you spread the series out over more time. A good show for
both kids and adults, this second series of Astro Boy will be a great part
of anyone's anime collection. Recommended.