In a super-advanced city in the near future where humanoid robot technology is very sophisticated, the boy detective Kenichi is caught up in the conflict as the powerful politician Duke Red, distraught over his child's death, hires a scientist to create a replacement, an exquisitely beautiful sex-changing robot child named Mitchy. Note that this original 1949 manga supplies only part of the plot for the recent Metropolis movie, and does not feature Rock, whose role in the film was adapted from Phoenix, Nextworld and other Tezuka manga.
I, like many people, picked up this manga because of my love of the movie, and Tezuka in general. What I didn't know was how immensely different from the movie this is. There's no Rock, no politically driven story or romance: there isn't even a "Tima".
The story focuses on a gender-bending young robot named Michi, who is very like Tima in almost all respects. Both befriend Kenichi, have run ins with Duke Red (who isn't nearly as charismatic as he is in the movie), and both are, for the most part, innocence incarnate. Many recurring characters in Tezuma's world make appearances, and even some hilarious
references to Disney (from whom Tezuka's style is mostly based on) pop up in the form of radioactive rats resembling Mickey Mouse.
The art, admittedly, isn't Tezuka's best. The backgrounds after the initial, almost chaotic, pages are very sparse, but when he does do one of those panels that takes up 2 pages, there's a lot going on. His old school style, almost Steamboat Williesque in its simplicity, makes for a very entertaining read considering the content of this manga, which includes blackmail, betrayal, and some brutal (and by brutal, I don't mean bloody) deaths towards the end.
The characters are kept simple. Duke Red is your typical intelligent gangster evil scientist (if having a list of descriptions like that can be called "simple"), Mustashio is the detective (along side none other than Sherlock Holmes himself), and Lawton, who appeared to be insane and almost sinister in the movie, was far more kind and respectful than I expected him to be. Unlike the movie, where there are so many characters its hard to keep up, there were way less characters (the biggest loss for me was Pero who apparently had no role in the manga)
I personally had a blast reading this. It's not the best manga out there, but when you get overwhelmed with the overly complex story lines of modern manga and arch after arch of the same thing over and over, its nice to take a break from the fast paced stories of nowadays and go back to a simpler time. This will certainly not be for everyone, but if you want to pick something short of Tezuka's to get into, you can't go wrong with Metropolis.