Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム Tetsuwan Atomu?, lit. “Iron Arm Atom”) is a Japanese manga series first published in 1952 and television program first broadcast in Japan in 1963. The story follows the adventures of a robot named Astro Boy and a selection of other characters along the way.
Astro Boy is the first, most popular Japanese television series that embodied the aesthetic that later became familiar worldwide as anime. It originated as a manga in 1952 by Osamu Tezuka, revered in Japan as the “God of Manga.” After enjoying success abroad, Astro Boy was remade in the 1980s as Shin Tetsuwan Atomu, known as Astroboy in other countries, and again in 2003. In November 2007, he was named Japan’s envoy for overseas safety. An American computer-animated 3-D film based on the original manga series by Tezuka was released on October 23, 2009.
The Astro Boy series consists of several storylines, many of which are self-contained. Frederik L. Schodt, who wrote the English-language adaptation of the series, said that as Tezuka’s art style advanced, Astro Boy “became more modern and ‘cute'” to appeal to the audience of boys in elementary school. Schodt added that the page layouts used in Astro Boy episodes “became more creative.” When designing supporting characters, Tezuka sometimes placed homages of Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, and other American animators. In several of the Astro Boy stories, the first few pages of each one were in color. Tezuka had a “Star System” of characters where different characters appeared ; several characters in Astro Boy appear in other works written by Tezuka. Schodt explained that Tezuka developed “a type of dialog with his readers” since he developed so many stories during his lifetime. Tezuka often had a habit of introducing nonsensical characters at random moments in order to lighten a scene that he believed was becoming too serious. Tezuka sometimes felt trapped by the need to satisfy the young male audience’s desire to see battling robots.
Tezuka used “Astro Boy” to imagine, in a 1950s perspective described by Schodt as “analog,” a world where man and advanced technology coexist and the issues stemming from this fact. At the time, Japan did not have a reputation for science and technology that it had gained by 2002.
The collection that was originally issued by Akita Shoten under its Sunday Comics imprint had 23 volumes of paperbacks. The stories do not appear in order by the date of creation. Instead, they appear in the order that Tezuka and the collection editors believed was the most appropriate. The collection begins with “The Birth of Astro Boy”, an episode which Tezuka wrote in 1975 to make the collection of stories easier to understand. The first “Astro Boy” story ever written, first published in April 1951, is in Volume 15. Osamu Tezuka often re-drew chapters he had created earlier. Schodt explains that therefore, when comparing two episodes written at the same time, one may appear “more modern” than another because Tezuka revised the art. For many of his older stories, Tezuka often added introductory pages in which he himself was portrayed as the interlocutor. The color pages of the “Astro Boy” stories were re-printed in monochrome for the inexpensive paperback versions.