Astro Boy (新・鉄腕アトム, Shin Tetsuwan Atomu, lit. New Mighty Atom) is a colour reboot of the 1963 Tetsuwan Atom anime series. It was based on the Osamu Tezuka. The series was the first full colour television series featuring Astro Boy; it was preceded by the alternate universe series Jetter Mars.
Outside of Japan, the 1980 Astro Boy series was particularly popular in Australia, the Philippines, and Canada. A second English dub was even produced for Canadian broadcasting networks.
In the year 2030, Japan's Minister of Science Dr. Tenma is attempting to create a robot capable of expressing human emotions. After his fourth failed attempt, Tenma is approached by Skunk Kusai, a shady man who offers him the Omega Factor circuit. This device can bypass all robotic programming inhibitions to make a robot "just like a human". Tenma rejects this device and throws Skunk out. However, Tenma's nine-year-old son, Tobio, suggests making a robot child, which sparks Tenma's inspiration. However, Tenma begins to spend all his time working on the boy robot. Tobio is neglected in the meantime, and his anger with his father comes to a boil when Tenma forgets to take him to an amusement park in favour of working overtime. Tobio tries to drive home in a toy aerocar, but is hit by a truck and critically injured. Before he dies, Tobio asks his father to make his boy robot be just like Tobio, but with super powers, and one that Tenma loves like his own son.
Dr. Tenma creates a 100,000-horsepower (75,000 kW) robot with jet rockets, fine-point lasers, and machine guns. Afraid of the potential threat Tenma's robot son could pose to humanity, the Prime Minister of Japan orders the robot dismantled by the next night. Tenma, however, secretly finishes constructing the robot that night, only showing his two assistants Ms. Honda and Dr. Ushiyama that the robot Tobio exists. During this time, Skunk Kusai secretly obtains the blueprints, duplicates them, and brings them to the evil Count Walpur Guiss in Bavaria. Guiss aspires to put the Omega Factor into a super robot and use it for world domination. The two create Atlas, a gold and bronze super robot boy with human emotions and all of Astro's powers, but with no adherence to the Rules of Robotics. Their attempt to create the most powerful robot possible backfires, as Atlas rebels against Guiss and attempts to kill him, after seeing Guiss has disassembled Atlas's only friend, Livian.
As the series progresses, Tobio is renamed as Astro, and is saved from a robot circus by Professor Ochanomizu. Astro begins to go to school and begins living with his own family, with two parents and a younger sister named Uran. Atlas, meanwhile, rebuilds himself and Livian as super-powered adult robots. Atlas and Astro are robot brothers bound by fate, and Astro must stop Atlas from wreaking chaos throughout the galaxy.
The original author, Osamu Tezuka, who was dissatisfied with the content of the first adaptation produced by the former Mushi Productions, created this series with Tezuka Productions to reboot Atom anew. The fact that the first series was in black-and-white and was not rerun very often, and that it was not broadcast outside Japan, was also cited as a reason for the remake. The plan for the reboot was brought up in 1970 and 1971, but was abandoned, and it was not until 1974 that the project was launched. The plan for this series was realized due to the popularity of the Osamu Tezuka special animation that NTV had been airing on 24 Hour TV: Love Saves the Earth since the first edition in 1978. The contract was made directly between Tezuka Productions and NTV, not through an advertising agency.
As in the first series, Tezuka himself participated as a staff member in charge of scripts, storyboards, direction, and key animation. In this series, the first episode is set in the year 2030, which is a change from both the year 2003, the year of Astro Boy's birth in the original manga, and the year 2013 in the first anime. Since the music director was Seiji Suzuki, the sound effects used in the previous shows The Rose of Versailles and Lupin the Third Part II are used throughout, as both were broadcast on NTV and were available for use. It was customary at the time to change the voice actors every time the broadcasting station changed, but at Tezuka's request, Mari Shimizu as Atom and Hisashi Katsuta as Dr. Ochanomizu were retained from the previous series.
The opening theme was initially commissioned to Yasuo Higuchi, but when the demo tape was played to an overseas buyer with whom a contract was negotiated, he was very unhappy with it, saying, "What part of this is Atomic?". A disco remix of the opening theme was then produced; this version appears on some home video releases, and notably contains a pulsing dance beat. However, viewers in 1980 complained to Tezuka and Nippon TV about why the 1963 series music was not re-used in this series. The final episode, broadcast in 1981, featured live-action footage of Tezuka himself at the episode's beginning. This video was shot by Tezuka's son, Makoto Tezuka, at his request. However, in the ending of the episode, Hisaya Tamate is credited as the cinematographer, while Makoto is credited as the director.
The original Japanese version of the series ran for 52 episodes while the English dubs (American and Canadian) ran for 51 episodes, as the first two episodes were combined into one, omitting the entirety of Atlas's backstory. The first two episodes were dubbed into English in their entirety, but were cut down into a single pilot by the dub's production company for unknown reasons. Because of this, episode four's title "Atlas Lives Again" does not make sense. Furthermore, during the episode when Astro meets Atlas in the latter's underwater base, Astro recognizes him, refers to him by name and remembers their fight on the iceberg from episode two.
American broadcast order
- 3. Robot Circus
- 6. Robot Land
- 7. Frankenstein
- 8. The Red Cat
- 10. The White Planet
- 12. Goliath's Head
- 14. Uran the Tomboy
- 15. Robio & Robiette
- 22. The Liar Robot
- 27. The Time Machine
- 30. Uran's Twin
- 40. Blackie Young
- 43. Atlas Forever
- 44. The Snow Leopard
- 45. Uran's Quest
- United States - First-run syndication, PBS, CBS
- United Kingdom - ITV
- Canada - First-run syndication (English), Radio-Canada (French)
- Australia - ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- Osamu Tezuka『ぼくはマンガ家 手塚治虫自伝・1』Daiwashobo, 1979, p.193
- Osamu Tezuka「鉄腕アトム 基本構想」『図説鉄腕アトム』Haruji Mori, Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2003, pp.125–126
- COM, April 1970 issue
- COM, December 1971 issue
- 『図説鉄腕アトム』Haruji Mori, Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2003, p.125
- 『鉄腕アトムと共に生きて―声優が語るアニメの世界』 (Sakitama Publishing Co., Ltd., July 1, 2015), p. 215.
- 『図説鉄腕アトム』Haruji Mori, Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2003, p.128
- Makoto Tezuka『天才の息子 ベレー帽をとった手塚治虫』Sony Magazines, 2003, p.117