Astro Boy (アストロボーイ・鉄腕アトム Asutoro Bōi Tetsuwan Atomu, lit. "Astro Boy: Mighty Atom") is a 2003 anime series, produced by Tezuka Productions and Animax. It was created to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1963 series, featuring lush, top grade cel animation. This series was one of the first in Japan to be developed and designed for international broadcast.
In this 2003 series, Atom (also known as Astro Boy) is a super-powered boy robot, who is reactivated and brought into a new life by the kindly scientist Professor Ochanomizu. While Astro tries to adjust to a free life among humans, he finds himself being stalked by his original creator Dr. Tenma, and a hateful anti-robot movement clashes with a robot uprising. The series blended optimistic and light-hearted scenes with serious, dramatic science fiction conflicts. It ran for 50 episodes from April 7, 2003 to March 28, 2004.
The series begins in 2043, where robots are common in human society. In Metro City, the Minister of Science Professor Ochanomizu finds an abandoned robot boy in the Ministry's basement. He reactivates the boy, renames him as Astro (after the Astro Tech Omni Module on which he awakens from), and begins to raise and educate Astro as if he were his own son. Astro contains rocket boosters in his hands and feet, super strength, various lasers, and super analysis powers. He also contains "Kokoro", a specialized AI program that allows him to emote and act exactly like a human. However, Astro discovers he is the robotic replica of a young boy, Tobio, who was the son of renowned but demented scientist Dr. Tenma. While Astro struggles to find his own, true identity, he befriends children his own age, and becomes a famous hero throughout Metro City.
Later in the series, a robot called the Blue Knight emerges, vowing to start a revolution that will free every robot from mankind. At the same time, a paranoid politician and businessman named Acetylene Lamp begins to push for the subjugation of robots and the removal of AI. They respectively build up the robot revolution and the anti-robot league. In the middle of this, Astro Boy is pulled between being human and being a robot, and he struggles to try and make peace between sides. This builds into the esteemed Robotonia arc, from episodes 45 to 50, where the Blue Knight attempts to create an Antarctic robot nation in the face of Lamp framing a robot for a human child's accident.
The series is divided into two seasons, with episodes 1-25 developing Astro's powers and his past. Episodes 25-50 follow his exploration of the rest of the world and space, building up to the robot revolution. Many episodes are standalone adventures, but overall, the series follows a continuous storyline.
In the English version, an episode called "Eternal Boy" was never dubbed because of imagery similar to that of the Disney Peter Pan film. It was replaced by a clipshow where Dr. Tenma and his robot assistant Shadow discuss Astro's capabilities.
In 2001, a promotional trailer for the series was released, which featured early concepts for characters and settings. It contained animation exclusive to the trailer and was dubbed in English by in-house Sony Pictures voice actors. This trailer was made to promote the upcoming series and to raise international interest.
In 2005, after the end of the series, a film called "Astro Boy: Mighty Atom - Visitor of 100,000 Light Years, IGZA" was released by Sarai Inc. exclusively for IMAX theatres. The series contained the same characters and elements as the 2003 series. There was also a short film called "The Secret of Atom's Birth", which is only available for viewing on specialized Japanese pay-per-view websites or at the Osamu Tezuka Museum.
- Astro: (voiced by Makoto Tsumura, Candi Milo) A robot built with "Kokoro", an advanced form of artificial intelligence. Astro appears as a young boy who works as a superhero of sorts for Metro City. He continuously tries to stop the collapsing relationship between mankind and robots, despite numerous attempts to destroy him by various groups. He can fly using rocket boosters concealed in his limbs and possesses great strength. Astro was originally constructed by Doctor Tenma to recreate his deceased son Tobio, but Astro rebelled against Tenma when he saw how robots were brutally destroyed in an area of the Ministry of Science and was shut down by his "father". (Note: "Kokoro" is actually Japanese for "heart".)
- Dr. O'Shay: (voiced by Hisashi Katsuta, Wally Wingert) Head of the Ministry of Science, Dr. O'Shay is an elderly man with a distinguishable large nose. He led the project to revive Astro and is his guardian and protector. O'Shay, like Astro, is very defensive of the relationship between mankind and robots, often defending Astro when he is accused of being dangerous to Metro City. He is portrayed as being a bit clumsy and quick to anger, but is very intelligent and compassionate.
- Dr. Tenma: (voiced by Shinya Owada, Dorian Harewood) The main antagonist of the series and Astro's creator. Dr. Tenma was a former scientist working at the Ministry of Science, but lost his beloved son Tobio after showing him how discarded robots were scrapped. He built Astro to replace Tobio but found Astro was more powerful than he thought and shut him down. Dr. Tenma becomes somewhat insane and believes robots are superior to humans, and Astro should be their leader. In the final episodes, he tries to coax Astro to his side but fails, only to be forgiven by Astro and willingly surrenders himself to the authorities. In this series, at the start it didn't show him creating Astro.
- Zoran: (voiced by Miki Maruyama, Susan Blu) Astro's younger sister, constructed by Dr. O'Shay with the same AI technology seen in Astro. She shows the ability to talk to animals and understand their languages, befriending a bird who she names Houdini. She has a rather excitable personality, but at times envies Astro for the amount of attention he receives and is over emotional at times too, but she also looks up to and protects her brother. She claims herself to be the largest fan of the rocket ball player robot Harley.
- Yuko: (voiced by Akiko Kawase, Faith Salie) Doctor O'Shay's assistant. She often fuses over him and repeatedly reminds him of schedules he must keep to. She is assisted by a flamingo-like robot named Momo.
- Inspector Tawashi: (voiced by Banjou Ginga, Bill Farmer) A police inspector who has a large nose resembling a shoe brush. While at first he shows a distrust towards robots in general, he grows to trust those closest to him, including his own robotic partner Delta, and Astro. He often banters with Dr. O'Shay in arguments.
- Epsilon: (voiced by Kiku Hiramatsu, Faith Salie) A female robot (hinted to be Australian) that protects Metro City's wildlife, most notablely the marine animals. Also, she can alter the weather however only uses her abilities for peaceful purposes.
- Delta: A robot policeman that serves as the leader of the "Anti-Robot Robot Squad", a division of the police force.
- Reno: A close human friend of Astro. He originally started off in a robot circus where he disguised himself as a robot to avoid being separated from the other robotic performers whom he saw as his family. He becomes a student of Dr. O'Shay's and becomes quite skilled around robotics, but still maintains his acrobatic skills from the circus.
- Blue Knight: A gallant anti-hero of sorts who was badly treated by humans and was rebuilt by Dr. Tenma and Shadow to act as a catalyst to boost Astro's power. He instead decided to wage war against mankind to bring freedom to robots. He dresses in blue armor and rides a white horse, his main weapon being a laser-based lance of sorts. He ultimately builds a robotic empire towards the end of the series.
- Shadow: (voiced by Shinya Owada, Dorian Harewood) A highly intelligent robot created by Dr. Tenma to help him make Astro stronger. He wore a mask over his face for most of the season, eventually revealing his face after some reconstruction to be based on Dr. Tenma's.
- Lamp: The secondary antagonist of the series. Acetylene Lamp is a politician who deeply hates robots, particularly robots with AI. He grows more paranoid over the course of the series, haunted by memories of a robot he knew in the past whom he considered his friend but drove him to his hatred for machines. His hatred for robots goes as far as being a financial investor for Hamegg's robot battling ring on Mars.
- Skunk: (voiced by Kazuki Yao, Wally Wingert) A recurring villain who uses robots to commit various crimes, showing no concern and care for the robots he uses. Before his final capture, the police told Astro that he was one of Metro City's most dangerous criminals. He acts as a secondary antagonist throughout the series.
- Atlas: (voiced by Nobuyuki Hiyama, Greg Cipes) A robot constructed by Dr. Tenma similarly to Astro, built for a man named Tokugawa. Atlas is a clone of Tokugawa's deceased son Daichi, and has his memories. Atlas is a very destructive robot but maintains Daichi's dream of seeing Earth from space, which he eventually achieves unintentionally with Tokugawa. He floats away into space and returns as a recurring character.
- Pluto: (voiced by Akio Otsuka, David Rasner) A powerful combat-based robot built by Shadow to challenge Astro and other robots including Epsilon, Hercules, Harley, and Delta. He gains emotions and befriends Astro and Zoran, and dies saving the two from a clone of him. However, he is rebuilt later on in the series.
- Nora: (voiced by Naoki Tatsuta, Jennifer Darling) A yellow, cylindrical robot which acts as Dr. O'Shay's housekeeper as well as a nanny, who takes care of Zoran. She appears in most of the episodes, although having a relatively minor role which has little impact on the storyline.
- Hamegg: The owner and operator of a robot battling arena on Mars. Hamegg was the previous owner of the Blue Knight, abusing him violently before abandoning him in space. Despite his stature, he is a cruel and powerful man, and is wanted by authorities for illegally buying and trading robots.
- Duke Red: The primary antagonist of the later episodes, Duke Red is a high-ranking officer who thinks of robots as mere tools. His hatred towards them later intensified after his domestic robot supposedly tripped his daughter. In the final war, he is the leader of the human troops.
- Kennedy, Abercrombie, and Alejo: Astro's good friends and schoolmates. Kennedy plays soccer for his local team and has somewhat of a short temper. Alejo is portrayed as a science geek that is fascinated by Astro. Abercrombie is a bully that, at first, declines Astro, but soon becomes friends with him. Astro, along with Kennedy, Abercrombie, Alejo and a robot named Denkou, were also the founding members of a club called the "Skyriders".
- "True Blue" by Zone
- "Now or Never" by Chemistry meets M-Flo
- "Boy's Heart“ by Fujii Fumiya
- "Tetsuwan Atomu" (A remixed version of the 60s series' theme song)
- "Astro Boy Theme" by William Anderson
- "True Blue" by Rainie Yang, cover version of the Japanese one
- "滿天飛" by Candy Lo, Cantonese cover version of "True Blue"
In the English dub and some networks, episodes were run out of their original order, which was in an attempt to push action-based episodes to the foreground.
|JPN #||USA #||Episode Title|
|4||6||Into Thin Air|
|7||4||Astro vs. Atlas|
|13||23||Little Sister, Big Trouble|
|15||25||Only a Machine|
|17||13||The Rise of Pluto|
|18||14||The Fall of Acheron|
|20||27||Eternal Boy / Dawn of the Techno-Revolution|
|22||28||The Legend of Tohron|
|23||16||Lost in Outland|
|24||29||March of the Micro Bears|
|26||18||The Blue Knight|
|27||30||Old Dog, New Tricks|
|29||31||The Case of the Phantom Fowl|
|32||21||Secret of the Blue Knight|
|37||37||Atlas Strikes Back|
|40||40||Escape from Volcano Island|
|42||42||Battle of Steel Island|
|44||44||Into the Dragon's Lair|
|45||45||Night Before the Revolution|
|47||47||Showdown in Robotonia|
|48||48||Journey to Tomorrow|
|50||50||The Final Battle|
- This was the first Astro Boy series to be aired after the Cold War (1947-1991)
- "RETURN OF THE RISING SON WB 'Astro Boy' based on first anime series", New York Daily News. Retrieved on 2010-10-21.