Based off of a story arc from Osamu Tezuka's Tesuwan Atom, Pluto follows the Europol detective Gesicht as he tries to uncover the mystery behind a string of robot and human deaths. The case becomes much more puzzling when evidence leans toward the murders being the work of a robot, which is something that hasn't happened for 8 years.
In 2005, Pluto was awarded the 9th Annual Tezuka Osamu Cultural Grand Prize, as well as an Excellence Prize for manga at the 7th Japan Media Arts Festival. It also won Best Comic at the 2010 Seiun Awards.
The series was published in English as Pluto: Urusawa x Tezuka by VIZ Media under the VIZ Signature imprint from February 17, 2009 to April 6, 2010. It was also published in Polish by Hanami from March 2011 to March 2013.
Naoki Urasawa, now an established author of pot-boiling epic thrillers such as Monster and 20th Century Boys, delivers again with Pluto, a sci-fi mash-up of Osamu Tezuka's Tetsuwan Atom.
This excellent sci-fi revolves around AI robots and dispenses with the explanation of Asimov's Law of Robotics for Dummies and just gets right on with entertaining your brain with explorations of the theme of sentient life born from humanity's hands. You're either a sci-fi reader and will immediately swim in the narrative, or new to all this and thrash around unknown waters because Urasawa is not interested in holding your hand, he just wants to tell
the bold story using the 'World's Strongest Robot' story arc of Tetsuwan Atom as a jumping point.
Urasawa even takes a supporting character of the original manga and turns them into the main protagonist, rendering Astro Boy himself into a supporting high profile cameo, and a great one at that. This entire concept of one artist dipping into another's world is fascinating and full of wild possibilities. Tezuka's imaginative universe coupled with Urasawa's tension-filled narrative is a joy to read, especially after a few volumes when crisis after crisis befalls characters pushing them to the limit.
Blade Runner, I, Robot, Ghost in the Shell, The Animatrix, to name a paltry few, the list is long and varied. All of sci-fi's greatest literature and movies play with these ideas of the relationship between AI/robots and humans, as did Tezuka and as does Urasawa. But with Pluto there is no vague posturing of whether they can fit into human society, these ideas are already established by the time the story starts.
A brilliant decision as there are already many stories about the border between acceptance and antagonism of robots, the threat of their uprising against humanity culminating in apocalyptic war, but not as many stories about robots being treated as valid citizens of countries, with jobs and families of their own, some of them even revered and idolised by the masses while others are disliked for their metallic bodies. Yes it’s an allegory for race relations, but so is all sci-fi an allegory for something, at least it’s not hackneyed in the hands of a seasoned writer like Urasawa. (uh, except for a robot-hating character called Adolf, but anyway...)
The backdrop to Pluto is great future-retro design. Skyscrapers with inexplicable tubes for commuters flowing around and between them, sleek efficient cars wrapped in glass, long roads swirling around cities. It’s a heightened fantastical futurescape full of idealism. Urasawa's characters are distinguished by their noses as usual, with different races differentiated easily, you dont ususally ever get confused with who is who in his tales.
What kick-starts this story is when a major robotic figure, loved by all, is murdered brutally. Fans of Urasawa rejoice, we have yet another exciting mystery with procedural investigation, a cast of many witnesses, suspects, criminals and cameos. This manga began publication the same year a certain country was attacked and occupied by another, and that event permeates this story, for better or worse is up to you, but its integrated well by tying many threads together into the whole mystery. The first robot victim that opens the story was one of 7 of the most powerful robots in the world. Someone is going round bumping them off. Europol detective Gesicht is on the case.
A methodical man troubled by nightmares, he is as brooding as Urasawa's previous protagonists yet having the added depth of being a robot himself. This main character is so great because there is that classic dichotomy and juxtaposition of man and robot, the constant questioning of motive and intent, the internal conflict of the character and the external conflict of his work life and private life. By robot law instilled into every AI, robots aren’t allowed to take human life, yet all surface evidence of the crimes in the story point that they could not have been perpetrated by a human, so our detective has his work cut out for him to solve the mystery while resolving the issues in his mind.
At heart Pluto is a mystery/crime thriller, and there are great intriguing cliffhangers to each chapter. We follow Gesicht as he investigates crime scenes, questions people and we also get the occasional and obligatory “regret to inform you” scene which is turned on its head. You don’t know if you're meant to laugh at the blocky metal robot in a kitchen apron being told her husband's been killed, but the pathos through dialogue and composition ends up with gravitas.
You shouldn’t be laughing at our metallic friends; they've got intelligence and emotion as much as their creators. As is amply demonstrated through many chapters with robots attempting to attain the higher level of consciousness lived by their creators. When some of them die, in their last moments they're perplexed by how much humanity they show in death and it’s poignant.
So when Gesicht gives his chapter-one ending statement with steely determination, we're firmly in the passenger seat, riding shotgun for some great sci-fi thrills.
"I will search for the killer. Whether he is robot or human, he is possessed by a demon."
A coupling of brilliant acumen can evoke undertones of approval, or of apprehension. But all can rest assured that in the case of Pluto, the pairing of manga suspense master Urasawa and legendary cartoonist Tezuka is an exceptional good stroke of fortune. From the creators of anime giants Monster and Astroboy, the multiple-award winning manga Pluto gives first impression as a high-tension thriller that befits the reputation of its creators.
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.
Once in a couple of years, a great manga that differentiates itself from the rest of the horde, overcoming stereotypes of near-sighted
librarians, perverted high school boys, and female fighters with huge chests and short skirts – at the same time unusual and ludicrous. No, Pluto does not possess any of these indiscretions. Instead, this novel offers characteristics apparent in great anime classics that moved our hearts back during the turn of the century; a robot impersonating humans and striving to acquire emotions, a tear straining allegory of an old director with music as his only memory his homeland, a child genius that can impress even the smartest of doctors, a series of robot murders, and a detective giving all he has to solve the case – all in the style of novel classics such as Akira and Monster. This is the kind of manga that we have come to love, that we have become used to during the golden age at the turn of the century.
Taking inspiration from Isaac Asimov, arguably the greatest author of robot fiction, we are presented with a retro-futuristic world, the exact prototype of envisioned by Verne, Bradbury, and Huxley. Taking insight from Tezuka, we are again presented with old characters of renown that inundates one with vast pangs of nostalgia. An entirely new universe is born from the remnants of the old. An entire world envisioned to perfection where robots coexist with humans besides building and on sidewalks, a world in which, instead of Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws, we are presented with anti-robot organizations and the trashing and replacing of machines without sympathy. A world where those who fight for the rights of robots are killed mercilessly.
The strength of the story comes from its impenetrable plot. The setting is based on a police state of a society in the near future, where the moral dilemmas of ethical treatment of machines arose after the invention and development of the robots; as such, the plot is cleverly woven, and the issues brought up subtly. We are presented with big pictures. Head of departments screaming at their officials because they are robots, criminals kept alive in order to undergo extensive examination; we are also presented with insiders. In the homes of the denizens of the city, we see families mistreating robots who have worked for them without complaints over their short life-span when they are unfit for work. Although the characterization is arguably equally important, the minor characters, the ones that Urasawa is famed for focusing in order to develop the plot, are the ones that should receive the most attention.
Regardless of whatever accepted norms in which one writes a story, Urasawa breaks expectations and brings plot progression not through the introduction of characters, not through their deaths, but through the conversations between the main character and minor characters in the story. Through the conversation with a common household robot maid – whose husband is directly involved in a robot death, the reader is reveled with insight into the emotional threshold which robots are envisioned to develop in the story, and thus, have been perfected into beings which crossed the fine line between the living and the dead; the conversation with a robot who is locked up as a psychotic human killer – introducing events happening long before the story, creating the story’s back drop without excessive filler; through the dialogue uttered by father of the greatest robot ever built Atom – another character with only rare appearances in the novel, we are introduced to new ideas through subtle means. What better way to deftly progress the plot than to use minor characters instead of the protagonists from whom we expect change? So we’d better pay attention, because seemingly unrelated allegory to a musician can explain volumes.
A great skill that Urasawa possesses is the ability to keep suspense in animation for the entire duration of the manga. Unlike its more relaxed cousins, Pluto brings the suspense permeating through the entire cast of the characters. No matter from what angle one views the purpose of the protagonist, the mood is felt throughout the manga that he is on the edge of being blown into bits or slaughtered mercilessly. There is no moment when the reader ceases to worry for Gesicht as well as his compatriot androids; they seem at once invaluable to the plot, and disposable at any moment, a large boon to casting most of the characters as robots who can be seen as more things than persons, which brings up a main motif of the novel: if robots are so close to the real thing that they may be seen to have a conscience, then are they still animated objects? Humans originate from silt, and animate through the electrical signals sent by nerve endings, a description essentially identical to that of robots; so why are we held in higher regard?
As contrasted from thoughtless stories, the presence of these aforementioned reoccurring motifs provides the opportunity for thought, adding flavor to the plot through personal interaction. In this respect, Pluto proves itself as not merely a juxtaposed series of events for entertainment, though it provides a plethora in tow, but rather, an insightful reflection towards the allegory of life’s purpose. The addendum of these motifs also serves to bind the story together by providing a central theme as well as benchmark topics that work as threads connecting one parcel to another, forming the overall sphere of plot from the background.
The jewel in Pluto’s crown is its pantheon of characters, as well as Urasawa’s use of characterization on the antagonist. Wielding dexterous bouts of diction and plot devices, Urasawa molded the villain into a constant force lurking in the shadows; albeit having few appearances, we are left with a deep impression of the deep dangers threatening the main character. There is no place that is not influenced by the darkness; even in the mildest of settings, the central conflict is unconsciously understood through symbolic harbingers. A ride in the peaceful woods can turn into an explosive battle and insinuating sabotage. What to expect? What will happen next? We are kept at the edge of our seat as we turn page after page of insidious ploys and puzzling mysteries.
Without attention grabbing action and music adding a flourish, manga is rarely preferred over anime in this community. However, belonging to part of a minority does not mean that it does not have anything valuable to offer. On the contrary, manga works such as Pluto provide an interesting alternative to much of the tasteless cash reapers debuting on adult swim. Immobile graphics burst into life with the help of our imagination, each person envisioning a different world in the mind, with glorious music fitting perfectly into the background. That is the beauty of manga. To animate the imagination.
Pluto by Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka. The overall base of Pluto is taken from (according to Anime news network) a story arc of Astro Boy and uses some of its characters. Naoki's touch comes in with the main character detective Gesicht (almost a reincarnation of detective Lunge, from Monster, with more emotion), in the art and in the thriller suspense that comes in at the beginning followed by the intricate plot depth that continues throughout the manga.
Story: At the beginning the story starts off as a mystery/thriller with the series of robot murders and then slowly turns into
more of an action/mystery. The interesting part with Pluto is that it touches a bit on the psychology of robots while having the horrors of war to begin a cycle of hatred that plays a major role throughout the story affecting the characters deeply.
Characters: For those of you who have read Astro Boy or is just familiar with the cast of characters will realize that Atom is "Astro Boy" and notice the return of Dr. Ochanomizu and Tenma Umatarou also as I mention above that detective Gesicht is very similar to the of Monster's detective Lunge with some alterations. The characters do a very good job of following the story and are very well developed.
Content: One of the things that surprised me about Pluto was the content, it has (I believe) no blood or language (being that half the characters are robots). Absolutely no nudity or anything like it. Mainly anything content wise would be all the lives lost in the war talked about and some of the crimes committed that are mentioned. Overall probably one of the cleanest mangas i have read so far.
Art: The art is (if you are familiar with any Urasawa's other works) easily recognizable. Being somewhat similar to Death Note's having a very realistic portrayal of people versus some of your mainstream art leaving out the real detail of human features allowing Urasawa to really capture the full impact of human emotions.
Conclusion: I having watched the animated version of Monster am already a fan of Urasawa and if you are likewise you will really enjoy Pluto also. Urasawa starts off by sucking you into the story right alongside the characters all the way to the end.
Should you happen to be new to any of Urasawa's works Pluto in and by itself is a very good manga and I also suggest you check out some Urasawa's other works such-as Monster anime or manga (the anime directly follows the manga), 20th Century Boys or any of his other works.
Pluto is a sci-fi manga by Naoki Urasawa, the creator of such beloved series as Monster and 20th Century Boys, like the 2 works before it Pluto is a dark psychologically driven mystery revolving around themes of hatred, revenge, and death. Pluto is a remake of the late Osamu Tezuka's manga Astro Boy, specifically the "Greatest robot on earth" arc. Despite for the most part following its source material Naoki Urasawea's interpretations takes risks and adds more depth to both the setting, the implications behind the story, and most notably its characters all whilst giving the overall picture a much darker than grittier feel to
it both in looks as well as the story itself ultimately resulting in an emotionally powerful and intense story that has stuck in my mind even after finishing it.
Pluto's story revolves around A europol detective named Gesicht, one of the worlds 7 most advanced robots, as hes brought in to investigate the murder of one of the creators of said 7 robots, at the crime scene there is a suspicious pair of horns brutally attached to the victim's head, suddenly more deaths of creators and even a couple of the 7 robots alike all with a pair of horns somewhere near the body, Now with Gesicht at the helm of the mystery as well as him being in direct danger its up to him to discover who is doing this and why. The Story of pluto may not have as many twists as the previous stories by Urasawa had but its none the less intriguing, it manages to throw in a new aspect of world building, back-story, or a interesting new development to the plotline whenever it feels like it may become predictable and thanks to the liberties naoki urasawa takes with his own interpretation it provides a very different and more unpredictable story than the original source material.
The characters are easily the strongest aspect of Pluto, The amount of depth given to the characters is truly a masterful example of story telling, with the 7 robots in particular even with the short screen time given to a few of them the manga provides an in depth look into their motivations, Their relationships with others, what makes them happy, what torments them, as well as giving them unique and believable personalities that only helps strengthen the theme of humanity in robotic beings that Pluto uses as a main crutch to its story. The main character Geischt in particular was a compelling character and the story arcs dealing with his control over hatred and the emotional connections he feels to others most notably his wife was easily one of the highlights of the series for me, we are consistently teased with hints of tragedy in his past and uncovering what happened in the past is one of the more minor but none the less intriguing mysteries behind pluto. Gesicht is a smart and well written character with a load of depth and even some development in him, from start to finish he was a compelling and often times tragic character that really helped carry the themes the manga tries to convey. On top of these characters is the character Atom, or as you may know him astro boy, Atom is a much different character than in the source material being a much less care free and more mature to the point character. Atom like the other robots was given a strong look into what makes the character tick and does act as a strong lead alongside Gesicht. Alongside the robots there are human characters like the much more gritty Dr Tenma, the vengeful Adolf Haas, and the more serious Dr. Ochanomizu whom add alot of depth to the story as the series progresses though I will refrain from mentioning much about them as they are best left to see from your own eyes rather than a synopsis. The depth given to the robot characters makes pluto stand out to me as one of the best examples of a story using the humanity given to robots premise done right.
As the story progresses and more of the mysteries unravel the series does transition from a mystery to more of a drama/thriller, sadly even though the last 2 are still strong the series does reach a peak with volume 4 which provides a intense and emotion filler story full of revelations and intrigue all packed with a shocking ending that left me speechless, the final pages of volume 4 with the help of the phenomenal and detailed art is one of the most powerful and saddest images i have seen in story telling. What comes after is still a tear jerking tragedy but mainly in the final volume the series it begins to feel a bit rushed mainly in some explanations, while there are no lose ends the series does require you to use your head to fill in a few of the blanks, though this comes off more as rushed and poorly written in that aspect but not enough to really hurt the series too much as it was just trying to stay true to the source material and had to take a hit as a result, though the extremely abrupt ending of the final pages is disappointing none the less. Even giving it the handicap the final volume of Pluto is its greatest weakness, but isn't so weak to undermine the story pluto masterfully told up until that point.
Pluto is an emotionally powerful series that never left me feeling bored, despite its considerably shorter length than Urasawa stories are usually it still had so much depth to its writing, characters, and themes that its becomes hard to tell its as relatively short as it it. Its a phenomenal series more than worth a read despite its hiccups near the end. Osamu Tezuka would have been proud.