Astro Boy (アトム Atomu), known in Japan as 鉄腕アトム Mighty Atom or Iron Arm Atom or just Astro, is a fictional character created by Osamu Tezuka and the main protagonist of every series in the Astro Boy franchise.
Astro is a robot male with human emotions created by Umataro Tenma (known in English as Dr. Boynton before 2003). Tenma created Astro in the image of his deceased son Tobio Tenma (called Toby in English before 2003). After learning that Astro is robotic and therefore cannot function like a biological human boy, Tenma sold Astro to a robotic circus out of a fit of rage. Astro was forced into fighting other robots against his will in the robot circus, but was eventually rescued by Dr. Hiroshi Ochanomizu (best known in English as Dr. Packadermus Elefun). Astro fits the embodiment of a hero, having a strong sense of justice and is always willing to defend those who can't defend themselves. A natural pacifist, he always attempts to solve situations intelligently with diplomacy. He has an extreme care for the preciousness of life, much like his real-world creator Osamu Tezuka himself.
Astro made his debut appearance in 1951's Ambassador Atom. He only played a very small role in the story and often only appeared in the background. Although Ambassador Atom itself was only a moderate success, Atom became incredibly popular with Tezuka and the publisher receiving many letters from young boys requesting the character.
Tezuka's editor would suggest that he create a manga series in which Atom was the star and had human emotions. While working in the hospital, Tezuka was punched by a frustrated American G.I. who was having difficulties understanding him; this encounter gave Tezuka the inspiration to make Atom a robot who fights for the innocent.
Tezuka was a lifelong fan of Disney and he drew many of his early characters with the famous Disney characters' design in mind. Astro would continue this trend of characters designed after Disney characters, using a simplistic cartoon style. Astro bears a strong resemblance to Mickey Mouse -- Disney's most popular character. The most prominent feature of Astro's design that borrows from Disney is in the head. His head uses a large circular shape, also being used by many popular American animated characters at that time. Symbolically, this suggests Astro's innocence, while the spikes on his head introduce an edge to his personality.
Astro Boy's most defining feature are his eyes, especially in the anime series due to the use of limited animation. His eyes were designed to be fully reactive to light and feel dynamic. This would become a very common design aspect in anime and manga characters that would follow. The use of the eyes in this manner allowed the facial expressions to use less animation yet seem more real.
Although a robot Astro was intended to look indistinguishable from a human being as he was designed to resemble Tobio Tenma. He was given many of the similar distinguishing attributes, his large innocent eyes, jet-black spiky hair and light skin tone. His hair has two spikes one on the the left of his head pointing directly upwards and the other on the right side just above his ear pointing out to the side, and a widow's peak. Since Astro is a robot and does not function like a biological being, the height of his body, his weight, and the length of his hair never change.
Astro was created with what appears to be underwear and a green belt. Other than these Astro has no clothing, except for when he is dressed in his school uniform. Astro also wears a red pair of boots, which can change into jets for rocket-powered flight. for the most part his design and clothing remain consistent throughout adaptations with some exceptions.
Astro was created in the image of Tobio Tenma therefore he inherited his basic personality traits. Due to Tobio being a child when he died, Astro has inherited his same childlike innocence including his childlike naivety, Astro by nature has a strong sense of justice and for deciding what is right and wrong. Mostly a pacifist, Astro will not stray from using force if he has no choice, although he always tries to solve situations diplomatically. Astro is incredibly protective of family and friends and will often risk his own life to protect them from harm.
Astro is selfless, brave and kindhearted. He has a deep love for humanity, in spite of the many hardships he may face. At the end of both the 1960s anime series, he willingly sacrificed himself in order to save humanity from certain doom (although it was only broadcast in Japan; only its first two seasons aired in America).
Astro's most complicated relationship is with his own creator Umataro Tenma. Although, he was treated with love and care by Tenma in the beginning, the grief left over after the death of his son Tobio took control causing Tenma to accept that a robot could not be an adequate replacement for his flesh and blood human child. Due to this realization, Tenma slowly begins to lose his sanity and in some adaptations resorts to drinking, he begins to treat Astro poorly and even becomes outright hostile towards him leaving him stuck in dangerous situations. In most adaptations Astro is eventually sold to Hamegg's Robot Circus by Tenma and although Tenma feels legitimate remorse for his actions, fails to reconnect with Astro who mostly tries to avoid him however, in some instances tries to forgive him which results in Ochanomizu typically going out of his way to stop such a reunion.
Mari Shizimu is the voice actress for Astro Boy in Japan for the 1963 series and the 1983 series; in the English dub of the 1963 series, his voice actress was Billie Lou Watt, while in the 1983 version's English dub he was voiced by Patricia Kugler Whitely (in USA) and Steven Bednarski (in Canada). In the 2003 series, he was voiced by Makoto Tsumura in Japan and Candi Milo in America.
Abilities and Powers
- Horsepower: Astro was designed with a 100,000 horsepower engine, making him among the most powerful robots. In some adaptations he is upgraded to 1,000,000 horsepower.
- Jet-powered Flight: Astro's most commonly used power is his flight ability. He achieves this by retracting his feet into his legs and blowing exhaust out.
- Digit beams: In the 1983 and 2003 series, he has lasers in his fingers.
- Intellect: He also has useful tools such as a brain that can speak more than 100 languages and solve tough math problems in seconds.
- Laser cannon arm: In the 2003 anime, he gains a powerful new weapon, a cannon in his arm which he uses in escape from volcano island to create a huge tornado of laser to save a ship from a exploding volcano. This was likely added to give Astro a big appeal to viewers of a new generation.
- Posterior mounted machine guns: In the 1983 series, Astro had machine guns in his hips, but the way it was animated made it look like it was coming out of his bottom.
- Hyper Adaptive/G&E: Body increases in power to match and then exceed the capabilities of stronger combatants. Astro has a intent deferent between good and evil.
- Hyper Sensitive Hearing: Astro's hearing can be amplified by 1000 times.
Reception and Legacy
Astro's character proved such a success that it launched into an international franchise of anime, manga, films and video games. Tezuka, originally designed after traditional Disney characters of the time, Astro's style reflects that of Mickey Mouse. A simple cartoon style of character, although Tezuka would implement some of his own styles into the drawings that would become commonplace for most anime and manga that came after. Astro would also inspire the creation of the character Mega Man.
Astro was listed on Empire magazine's 50 Greatest Comic Characters list ranking forty third, making Astro the only manga character on the list. Astro was placed tenth on Mania Entertainment's 10 Most Iconic Anime Heroes written by Thomas Zoth who commented that "he was Japan's first great modern cartoon hero, on the printed page and the TV screen". In 2014, IGN ranked him as the fourth greatest anime character of all time. Astro appeared in Screwattack's Death Battle!, where he faced another fictional robot, Mega Man in battle and won.
Even decades after his initial appearances Astro remains a cultural impact in Japan and is among the most celebrated figures in popular culture. On April 7, 2003 Japan celebrated the official date of birth for Astro, people from all over Japan participated. In 2004 Astro was accepted as an honorary citizen of the city of Niiza in Japan and was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame. Multiple statues of the character have been erected in Japan, most prominently is a statue immediately outside of the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka. Mostly due to his numerous appearances on syndication Astro has become well known in Europe and Australia and with the mainstream success of the 1963 series and the 2009 feature film Astroboy has built a presence in the United States.
Astro Boy was one of the first manga characters to embrace mass merchandising including action figures, collectible figurines, food products, clothing, stamps and trading cards. The franchise has earned 3 billion dollars.
- Akin to Mickey Mouse, no matter which direction Astro faces, the spikes atop his head are always in the same place.
- Astro Boy's Color remake that came out in the 1980's was originally meant to come out during 1977, but changes in plans resulted in it changing into an anime called Jetter Mars.
- Astro appears as a Star System character in many manga Tezuka series.
- Astro is the mascot for a series of children's traffic safety videos.
- Nintendo Power Issue 220 http://www.rockmanamv.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1509 (October 2007)