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Astro Boy Volume 1 & 2

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Astro Boy Volumes 1 and 2 (omnibus edition) by Osamu Tezuka, published by Dark Horse

Astro Boy Volumes 1 & 2

© Tezuka Productions

The Bottom Line

If you love manga, you know about Osamu Tezuka and his most famous creation, Astro Boy. After blasting onto the scene over 50 years ago, Astro Boy is the Japanese equivalent of Mickey Mouse: Iconic, but largely irrelevant to the kids of today. But Tezuka's robot boy is much more than a kids' comic book character.

Astro's earnestness can seem naïve, but Tezuka's tales explore complex themes about man's uneasy relationship with technology in a way that readers of all ages can appreciate. While you may not feel compelled to read all 23 volumes, this omnibus offers an appealing introduction to Tezuka's signature series.

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Pros

  • An entertaining and accessible introduction to Osamu Tezuka's most iconic character
  • Includes insightful vignettes where Tezuka introduces his stories and gives them context
  • Astro Boy offers thought-provoking themes about how robots reflect humanity's hopes and fears
  • While it's a kids' comic, Astro Boy contains many layers of meaning that adult readers can enjoy
  • Features many appearances by Tezuka's recurring stable of "actors" seen in other series

Cons

  • Dark Horse's omnibus doesn't add any color pages or extra content compared to prior editions
  • Astro Boy's earnestness and innocence can seem naïve to contemporary readers,
  • Some of the cruel treatment endured by robots (including Astro) can be heartbreaking

Description

Guide Review - Astro Boy Volume 1 & 2

Astro Boy is probably the most famous manga by manga's most famous creator that most manga fans have never read. Granted, Astro Boy is an earlier work that lacks the artistic risk-taking of Tezuka's later works, but it still has much to offer to modern manga readers.

It's helpful to remember that Astro Boy first debuted in 1951. When you compare Astro Boy to Golden Age Superman, these stories are much more sophisticated and multi-layered, as Astro tries to promote peace and understanding between humans and robots. Complex themes of social inequality and man's uneasy relationship with machines are treated with a sensitivity that goes beyond your typical "kids comic."

While Astro's earnestness may seem naïve by modern standards, it's humbling to remember that he inspired a generation of children to imagine and create our technology-driven world. Astro Boy was a symbol of hope for Japanese children who lived in the aftermath of World War II. The robot boy's adventures promised an amazing future filled with gleaming rockets, helpful robots and inter-stellar travel -- a promise that is more reality than sci-fi today.

When Tezuka collected these stories in 1975, he inserted himself as a cartoon narrator who looks back on his earlier work, with a perspective of a creator who is many years older and wiser. For example, he muses over the '50s-era American producers of Astro Boy who were horrified at scenes of robots vs. robot violence, while American troops "didn't have much trouble going to Southeast Asia and killing people." Ouch. On a lighter note, he also sheepishly apologizes for inconsistencies in his drawings of Astro fingers over the years.

While it lacks the cool extras that would make it more collectible, Dark Horse's omnibus edition offers an appealing, affordable entry to the world of Tezuka's most beloved character.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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