Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dororo Vol. 1 - Available Now

The first volume of Osamu Tezuka's samurai classic is now officially available in English. Dororo is the story of a traveling young warrior named Hyakkimaru who, as a baby, was robbed by demons of 48 body parts due to his father's desire for power. His missing body parts have been replaced by prosthetics, some of which contain hidden weapons! He's kind of a like a samurai cyborg! Hyakkimaru meets a young theif named Dororo and together they travel the countryside fighting demons.

The English version of the Dororo manga is being released by Vertical, and is in an authentic and unflipped format. There will be 3 volumes. It should be available at book stores and comics retailers, and you can also purchase a copy from the AstroBoy World Store.

More information can be found at the Tezuka in English Dororo page. Expect further Dororo posts here on AstroBoy World in the future.

Continue reading "Dororo Vol. 1 - Available Now"...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Afro Boy

Found these shirts on eBay. Clearly, they are unofficial products of dubious legality based on already existing artwork. But you got to admit they're pretty creative.

These shirts are made by Capsuco and they have both a website and an eBay store, neither of which is probably appropriate for younger audiences to visit.

Continue reading "Afro Boy"...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Predicting the Robot Kingdom

i09's Mangobot column has a great article about Frederik L. Schodt, Astro Boy manga translator, interpretor for Osamu Tezuka, and renowned author of several books about anime, manga, and Japanese culture. This article looks at how some books writen by Schodt, one about robotics in Japan and another about manga, were ahead of their time. Many of Schodt's books are available for sale at the AstroBoy World Store and I can definitely recommend them having read a few myself. You can expect more about Mr. Schodt and his writings here on AstroBoy World in the future.

You can read the article on the i09 website or click the link below to read it here.

Welcome back to MangoBot, a biweekly column about Asian futurism by TokyoMango blogger Lisa Katayama.

In the spring of 1988, Japanese publisher Kodansha released a revealing English-language book titled Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia. The book predicted a new era when humanoid robots would dominate Japanese society in the same way that industrial robots were then dominating behind-the-scenes manufacturing in the country. It was a topic that nobody in the Western world knew much about at all. The author, Frederik L. Schodt, was a freelance interpreter from Washington, DC who lived in Japan as a kid and traveled extensively between the Japan and the US—often as a private interpreter for Tezuka Osamu, the God of manga (Japanese comic books). And he predicted a social trend that was nearly beyond comprehension in the 1980s.

Robot Kingdom has been out of print since 1992. Although it got great reviews and the publishers had high hopes for it, sales figures were small. That was probably because the stuff Schodt was writing about was so alien to a U.S. audience. Schodt remembers seeing the book on the $1 rack at a bookstore in downtown San Francisco. Not long after that, Kodansha gave him back all rights to the book, as well as the original plates that were used to print it.

"The only problem with the book is that it was released ten years ahead of its time," says Chris Baker, a senior editor at Wired magazine. "If it had appeared in the era of ASIMO and AIBO, it would have found the audience it deserved." (Author Tim Hornyak published a follow-up to Robot Kingdom, called Loving the Machine, in 2006. It's a more pop-y, updated look at the robot industry, which, according to Hornyak, "has been very well received.")

In the 1980s, Americans seriously believed that the Japanese were going to take over the world. While technology manufacturing stateside was still subpar, it was equivalent to religious ritual in Japan—organized, routine, and very, very precise. Schodt, who had been hired to interpret during factory visits by major Japanese telecom companies visiting the U.S., was taken aback by the vast chasm between the two countries' processes. "The US didn't understand Japan's obsession with quality control and manufacturing technology," Schodt says. "They thought, we have the space shuttle, and we have the bomb. What else could we possibly need? Their factories were a mess."

When he returned to Japan, Schodt signed up for factory tours at JVC, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Fanuc. He found that each company had intense pride in their manufacturing processes and culture. The best of them had entire assembly lines formed by robots in virtually unmanned factories.

For the Japanese, robotics was not just a natural step in the evolution of the world; it was an enormous financial and emotional investment into a glorified future in which humanoid robots would eventually help humans in daily life. People were excitedly tossing around words like "robot kingdom" (ロボット王国) and watching anime like Gundam and Astro Boy with starry-eyed hope for a happy sci-tech future. "Robots are a metaphor for the relationship between technology and culture," Schodt says.

The book itself is a classic—it talks about the first Japanese robot ever (a tea-serving mechanical bot from the 17th century), scifi robots, anime robots, religion's influence on robotics, the difficulties of defining the word "robot", and the promising future of the humanoid. Schodt took most of the photographs in the books on his own, and collected the rest via all-day train rides across Japan to meet his sources. He even drew all the graphs and diagrams in the book by hand.

In addition to predicting the rise of robots in Japan, Schodt also foresaw the manga craze that would hit the U.S. in the 1990s. In 1983, when he published the iconic Manga! Manga!, most Americans had never even heard of Japanese comics; today they take up entire sections of bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble.

We've come a long way since Robot Kingdom. Stories about new Japanese bots show up in the blogosphere every day, and we all know that Japan's headed into the next phase of full humanoid bot integration (because I told you so). But in 1988, Schodt's book was the only resource on Japanese robots that existed in the US.

If you ask the man himself, though, he'll tell you that he was just in the right place at the right time. "I haven't actually predicted anything very accurately in life," Schodt says. "All I've done is identify a couple of trends that were staring me in the face."

Spoken like a true futurist.

Continue reading "Predicting the Robot Kingdom"...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Swallowing the Earth

Another Tezuka manga is on it's way to an official English translation!

Digital Manga Publishing will be releasing "Swallowing the Earth", which is one of Tezuka's first series created for older audiences and contain mature themes. It's about 7 identical girls who are out to get revenge on the entire male gender. Sounds like heavy stuff!

No further information on publishing details or release date just yet.

Kudos to DMP for taking a big risk and bringing out this old, obscure, and likely challenging title. It's just awesome to see companies who aren't just interested in publishing new manga, but are also bringing out worthwhile material that was originally published in Japan decades ago.

As a side note, DMP is also releasing the original Speed Racer/Mach Go Go manga. Way to represent old school manga!

Source: Anime News Network

Continue reading "Swallowing the Earth"...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

RUMOR: Nicolas Cage in Astro Boy?

Take this with a grain of salt.

An unconfirmed source is reporting that Nicolas Cage will be performing a voice, possibly of a villain, in the CGI Astro Boy movie.

Read about this rumor on Elroy Online.

Cage is very notable for his love of comic books, having been attached at various points to multiple super hero movie projects before finally staring in Ghost Rider. He even named his son Kal-El, after Superman's Kryptonian name. So it wouldn't surprise me at all that he'd be a part of a movie like this.

I think he'd be a great choice for Dr. Tenma.

Time will tell if there's any truth to this rumor. In the meantime, here's a pachinko commercial.

Continue reading "RUMOR: Nicolas Cage in Astro Boy?"...

Pipeline Magazine

PipelineImagi Creative Director and all around cool guy Felix Ip brings us word on the first issue of Pipeline Magazine, Imagi's internal newsletter. It's bilingual with English and Chinese. You can see an early version of the 3D Astro Boy model on the English cover.

Check out the info at this post on Felix's blog.

Not sure if there's going to be a way for the average person to read this magazine. I wouldn't count on it, but maybe some of the contents will find their way to the internet somehow.

Continue reading "Pipeline Magazine"...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Uniqlo Shirts in the UK.

To mark the 50th anniversary of famous Shonen comic book magazines, the famous and trendy Uniqlo brand of clothing from Japan has released a wide assortment of designer T-Shirts with manga-inspired imagery that are now also available in the United Kingdom. Included in the selection are shirts based on the art and characters of Osamu Tezuka. Chloe Sevigny is seen here modeling an Astro Boy shirt. At least, I can only assume that standing there with your hands on your head and your mouth agape is what modeling looks like these days.

Also available are shirts with artwork based on the works Shotaro Ishinomori, as well as other classic manga such as Ashita no Joe and Gologo 13.

Take a look at the Men's collection and a Women's collection. Very cool stuff, but only UK residents are able to make purchases online.

Source: Elle UK Magazine Online

Continue reading "Uniqlo Shirts in the UK."...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

2008 Eisner Awards Nominations

Kind of like the Oscars for comic books, the Eisner Awards are given out annually to recognize greatness in the field of sequential art. This year's award ceremony takes place on July 25 at the San Diego Comic Con.

Among the nominees for this year's ceremony are several manga titles, including the English Language editions of Osamu Tezuka's Apollo's Song and MW.

There is a very diverse range of nominated works up for awards this year, with many different publishers and genres represented. These Tezuka classics are in some very good company, and it's great to see them, along with several other manga, getting recognized like this.

Take a look at the full list of nominees here on Publisher's Weekly. You can also specifically look at all of the manga that has been nominated this year on Manga Blog.

Continue reading "2008 Eisner Awards Nominations"...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

'LardAss-tro Boy'


A new article from Mainichi Daily News has suddenly appeared, and it deals with Astro Boy taking on a... new look, of sorts.

I... uh... don't really know what to say. I guess in proper context I can kind of agree with some of the points brought up in it, however.... what on Earth is THIS? Is this really the best way to promote the works of Dr. Tezuka? This is utterly bizarre.

Wow, April 1st was 2 weeks ago, so that means... this is real. Only in Japan!

Read all about it here or just click the link below.

New, fat version of Japan's most famous superhero creates 'LardAss-tro Boy'

Forget the svelte little feller capable of soaring through the skies and 100,000 horsepower strength: the roly-poly latest incarnation of Japan's most famous cartoon character of all is more like LardAss-tro Boy, according to Shukan Shincho.

In a collaboration with decorated illustrator Lily Franky, Tezuka Productions has produced a version of Astro Boy (known as "Mighty Atom" in Japan) with fleshy jowls and a belly that wouldn't look out of place on Japan's other icons, sumo wrestlers.

The new plus-size version bears little resemblance to the little boy robot superhero created by "The God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka, a point those entrusted with maintaining his legacy are prepared to concede.

"I have to admit we get more than a few complaints about it from core fans in their 40s and older," Yoshihiro Shimizu, head of Tezuka Productions' Copyright Division, tells Shukan Shincho. "It's an important year for us. It's 80 years since Osamu Tezuka was born and the 20th year since his death. Of course, there are loads of people who absolutely adore Tezuka works, but there are growing numbers of young people who know nothing about them. We want to actively collaborate on a number of projects and use these developments to get young people learning about Tezuka's works."

Tezuka Productions insiders are calling the fat hero the "AvoCali Style" Astro Boy, taking the name from U.S.-created sushi dishes avocado-maki and California rolls.

"Once upon a time, Americans never ate raw fish, but now they really want to find a delicious sushi," Shimizu says. "In the same way, we want the collaboration that led to 'AvoCali (Astro Boy)' to take the character worldwide. There's no future for Tezuka Productions surviving on Tezuka works alone."

Does that mean Tezuka Productions is feeling the financial pinch?

"Not at all," says Shimizu. "We've got royalties coming in all the time, so we're doing very nicely, indeed, thank you. And it's not like this is the first time we've done a collaborative project."

Tezuka Productions first allowed Astro Boy to pop up in other projects in 2003, when he was given a guest appearance in "Pluto", a manga by "Yawara" artist Naoki Urasawa. Last year, four designers came up with their own Astro Boy designs to be used on Uniqlo T-shirts. And next year, a Hollywood CGI version of "Astro Boy" is due to hit the world's silver screens.

"All we want," Tezuka Productions' Shimizu tells Shukan Shincho, "is to increase the opportunities for people to learn about Tezuka-sensei." (By Ryann Connell)

(Mainichi Japan) April 15, 2008

Continue reading "'LardAss-tro Boy'"...

Sunday, April 13, 2008


To conclude our birthday themed week here on AstroBoy World, let's take a look at what Astro himself actually got for his 1st birthday in the original manga.

He got what every kid wants. He got... a little sister! Sarcasm!

Uran made her debut in the manga episode "Miss Uran" and was built by Dr. Ochanomizu as a gift for Astro. This was adapted into the 60's anime episode called "The Strange Birthday Present". The English dub refers to her as "Astro Girl".

In the 80's series she is given to Astro as a New Years present in the episode "Uran the Tomboy". In the Canadian dub she's named "Sarah". In the other English dub she's still called Uran, but it's pronounced more like "You-rane" for some reason. She had her own song, which would sometimes replace the regular end credits sequence, as seen in this video.

She also appears in the 2003 anime, and in this version she has the power to talk to animals. In the English version she's called "Zoran".

Uran is a tomboy and a bit of a troublemaker. She's an important part of the Astro Boy story as her presence helps Astro learn about being responsible and having patience. She's popular in her own right for both her child-like inocence and her fiesty independant attiude.

Tezuka in English has a great detailed write-up on Uran's first appearence. Make sure you give that a read!

Continue reading "Uran"...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

2003 Anime Japanese 1st Intro

Of all the things to come out of the 2003 Astro Boy birthday celebration, this new series absolutely had to be the biggest and the most important. Here is the first opening sequence from the original Japanese version.

Although it's said that this 2003 version of Astro Boy was only a modest success in Japan, it lead to a renewed interest in the character, with many new licensed products. Astro even appeared in commercials! This show gave modern anime fans a taste of what Astro Boy is really about, and it made the character relevant to yet another generation.

Here are few interesting facts about this particular incarnation.

- The first episode aired in Japan on April 6, 2003. It ran on the Animax and Fuji Television networks. 50 episodes were produced. More specific details can be found here and here.

- This series boasts a budget that is 3 times as much as a typical anime series on TV. The production cost was said to be 30,000,000 yen per episode. The result is near-theatrical quality widescreen animation.

- The storyline for this show included classic elements from previous versions of Astro Boy/Mighty Atom, with several stand-alone episodes. As it went on, though, a larger story arc about the brewing conflict between humans and robots revealed itself.

- Of course, this series aired in several other countries with translations into different languages, including an English version that I'll be talking about later.

- Even in the Japanese version, the name international name "Astro Boy" is acknowledged. It's no secret to Japanese fans that, even though they call him Mighty Atom, he's known as Astro Boy around the world, and so "Astro Boy" was incorporated into the Japanese Tetsuwan Atomu title and logo. Towards the end of the first episode, a young girl sees Atom flying and says he's an "Astro Boy", using the English words.

- This theme song is called "True Blue" and was performed by ZONE. The tune of this song figures heavily into the symphonic musical score of the Japanese version. Separate versions of this song were also made in other languages, one for Taiwan and one for Hong Kong.

- Zac Bertschy from Anime News Network managed to see the first episode before it was officially released outside of Japan and wrote a review stating that it was "perfect". I saw it too, way before the English version came out, and I loved it!

There's going to be plenty more information and discussion on the 2003 version of AstroBoy, so keep coming back!

Continue reading "2003 Anime Japanese 1st Intro"...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Jewel Covered Astro

Yet another part of the 2003 Astro Boy Birthday celebration took place at the Takashimaya department store in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo, where a huge Mighty Atom exhibit took up most of an entire floor. There, amidst large statues of Astro Boy characters, was this tiny little figurine.

Weighing 102.72g and standing 97mm (about 3.5 inches), this jewel covered Astro is made out of 18-carat gold and covered in diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. While small, it's still elaborate. The head and both arms can move, and the hatch in his chest can open to reveal his detailed robotic heart.

How much would something like this cost? Well, it was not available for sale, but its estimated value is 100 Million yen, or about 1 Million US dollars at the time. Crazy! In comparison, this item doesn't seem so outrageous! Of course, this jewel covered Astro is one-of-a-kind. I wonder where it is now?

Continue reading "Jewel Covered Astro"...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Robodex 2003

One of the biggest events of the 2003 Mighty Atom Birthday celebration was Robodex, an exhibition of robots held in Yokohama on April 6 of that year. The event focused on sharing the future of robotics in Japan with emphasis on showcasing more human-like robots, such as the Honda Asimo, instead of the boring industrial kind.

The event included an Astro Boy display by way of the "Atom Dream Factory", where a life-size motorized Astro was lying on an operating table, being attended by robotic appendages. Every 30 minutes, Astro would sit up and raise an arm.

More pictures from Robodex 2003 can be found here. It really looks like something straight out of an episode of Astro Boy.

Although Robodex 2003 was a grand, exciting display of the incredible advances that Japanese developers have accomplished, this particular Astro Boy robot was strictly ornamental and incredibly basic by comparison to the other robots at the event. It was mostly there as a tribute to what the character has done to inspire robotics in Japan and as symbol for the hopes and dreams of what is yet to come. No doubt caught up in the hype surrounding the Mighty Atom's birthday, crowds ate it up.

Here is Osamu Tezuka's son, Macoto, posing for a photo op with his father's famous creation.

The article that this picture was attached to has some great info on the history of Astro, Osamu Tezuka, the 2003 anime, and the movie that Columbia pictures had planned which has since been scrapped. You can read it on Web Japan or by clicking the link below to continue reading here.

Celebrating the Birth of the "Robot with a Heart" (April 21, 2003)

Many Japanese adults grew up with the cartoon character Astro Boy (known in Japanese as Tetsuwan Atomu, meaning Mighty Atom). Astro Boy first appeared in Shonen magazine in 1952. Later, starting in 1963, he starred in an animated TV series, of which 193 episodes were made. This cartoon was extremely popular, maintaining an average viewership rating of 30%. In the fall of 1963, the Tetsuwan Atomu series crossed the Pacific to the United States, where 104 episodes were aired on NBC under the name Astro Boy. Like their Japanese counterparts, many American adults no doubt feel nostalgic for their childhoods when they see the Astro Boy character.

Real Time Catches Up with Astro Boy's Birthdate
Astro Boy's creator, the late manga (cartoon) artist Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), set the Tetsuwan Atomu series in Japan 50 years in the future. On April 7, 2003, real time caught up with the fictional birthdate Tezuka chose for his character. When Astro Boy first appeared, Japan was just beginning to pick itself up from the rubble of World War II. Tezuka gave his creativity free rein, and his futuristic portrayal of the transportation networks and cityscapes of twenty-first century society anticipated today's computerized world with what was, in some respects, a startling degree of accuracy.

So has the modern age caught up with Astro Boy's world? Certainly, the high-rise buildings that dominate the Tokyo skyline and the superhighways that crisscross the country could have been lifted straight from the near-future world depicted by Tezuka. But what about the main character Atomu himself? Does he have an equivalent in today's real world?

A Robot with a Heart
With the aid of jet-propelled footwear, Astro Boy flew through the skies at supersonic speed. He had strength equivalent to 100,000 horsepower and could speak 60 languages. But his most important feature was that he had a heart and experienced emotions.

For better or worse, modern civilization has yet to create a robot with a heart. Though research into artificial intelligence is moving forward, nothing has yet been created that comes close to replicating human emotions. On this point, Tezuka's vision was too far ahead of its time.

In commemoration of Astro Boy's birthday, the character is returning to TV screens in his first new series for 22 years, Astro Boy Tetsuwan Atomu - to be aired by the stations of the Fuji Television Network. This comeback series, produced by artists who were heavily influenced by Tezuka, consists of 50 episodes that will air over the coming 12 months. The theme of this series is "the robot with a heart," and the focus is on Astro Boy's preoccupation with his own consciousness. According to the director of the series, Kazuya Konaka of Tezuka Productions, "The theme is the relationship between humans and robots. As Atomu wrestles with his status as a robot, humans have trouble deciding how to treat a robot with a heart."

Astro Boy on the Silver Screen?
The new Astro Boy series will be broadcast in the United States, too. And word has it that in 2004 a major Hollywood studio, Columbia Pictures Industries Inc., will invest $100 million in making a film based on the series. Meanwhile, Astro Boy's Birthday Party, a festival of animated-film screenings and exhibitions, began on April 6 in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles and will run for two months.

Naturally, a variety of birthday events are scheduled in Japan. Robodex 2003, one of the world's largest robot shows, took place in Yokohama from April 4 to 6. Robodex 2002 made headlines for the Asimo, an upright-walking robot created by Honda that can walk up and down stairs, and the SDR-4X, a Sony robot that can dance and sing. This year's event witnessed the introduction of a silver-colored Asimo that can walk twice as fast as the previous model and many other robots designed to do real work in human society, such as nursing care and security. At the center of the venue there was a display called Atom Dream Factory, which featured real industrial robots gathered around Astro Boy acting out the moment of his birth.

For anyone visiting Japan during this time, one spot that is well worth a visit is the Tezuka Osamu Memorial Hall in the city of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, where Tezuka spent his youth. Visitors to the country are also likely to encounter whimsical tributes to Astro Boy's birthday in some unexpected places. For example, in Tezuka's original manga, Atomu was born in the Tokyo district of Takadanobaba. Now, each time a train leaves JR Takadanobaba station, its departure is announced by the playing of a few bars from the Tetsuwan Atomu theme song over the station's public address system. So anyone standing on the platform is able to hear the famous melody that once captured children's hearts.

The number and variety of tributes to Astro Boy reflect the great affection felt by so many people in Japan and elsewhere toward this lovable robot.

Continue reading "Robodex 2003"...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Heart of Japanese Animation Beats in a Robot Boy

To continue with our birthday theme this week, here is an excellent article written back in 2003 about the April 7th birthday celebration. It covers both the details of the celebration itself and how Astro Boy has become an important figure for animation, science, and society in Japan. Definitely worth reading for all Astro-fans.

You can read it on the New York Time's website or click the link below to continue reading right here.

Tokyo Journal; Heart of Japanese Animation Beats in a Robot Boy

Published: April 7, 2003

Back in 1951, Osamu Tezuka, a Japanese cartoonist, dreamed up Astro Boy, a lovable robot with laser fingertips, searchlight eyes, machine guns in his black shorts, and rocket jets flaming from his red boots.

To make the 100,000-horsepower tyke seem really futuristic, the artist gave his creation a truly far-out birth date: April 7, 2003.

Tokyo may not yet have flying cars, but Astro Boy's official birthday on Monday marks the coming of age of Japan's animation industry. No longer marginalized, the bare-chested rocket boy with the spiky hair, known in Japanese as Tetsuwan Atomu, is being hailed with fireworks, costume parades, intellectual seminars, an exhibit in Parliament and a $1 million diamond-and ruby-encrusted likeness in a downtown department store display.

"We Japanese want to live alongside robots, that is why we love Astro Boy," said Takao Imai, a 72-year-old lawyer, dressed in a white smock and a white wig of cotton curls to look like Professor Elefun, Astro Boy's eccentric scientist protector.

Carrying a white cotton Astro Boy birthday cake, Mr. Imai was preparing to parade with his 5-year-old grandson Akinojo Ogura, who had just wowed a preparade rally with a spirited rendition of the Astro Boy song.

Moriyoshi Yoshizawa, a parade organizer, agreed, saying: ''Japanese people imagine a world where robots live with people. That idea comes from Astro Boy.''

The celebration, outside the Takadanobaba rail station today, was partly a neighborhood event. It was here on April 7, 2003, that Astro Boy, the robot with the kind heart, was created in a fictitious laboratory, according to the plot line written half a century ago.

But it was also partly a promotion. Today, Fuji Television Network broadcast the first segment of a new 50-part Astro Boy series that is to travel to the United States later this year. With this export in the offing, Astro Boy will contribute to what one essayist recently called Japan's ''gross national cool.''

During the 1990's, Japan became synonymous with economic stagnation. But, at the same time, it also became a cultural exporting powerhouse. Two weeks ago, in the latest example, Hayao Miyazaki's ''Spirited Away'' won the Oscar for best animated feature film. With this boost, the film has burst out of the art-house circuit and is now showing at 800 movie theaters across North America.

American television is now broadcasting almost 20 shows of anime, as Japan's sophisticated cartoons are called. Sales of anime videocassettes and DVD's are expected to reach about $500 million this year, according to Tokyopop, which sells Japanese comic books.

Hollywood is interested in remaking Japanese live-action movies. Last year, ''The Ring,'' an American horror movie based on a Japanese film of the same title, drew $127 million in North American box office revenues. An American remake is in the works of ''Shall We Dance?,'' a hugely successful romantic comedy about a quiet salaryman who finds love and a new meaning to life through ballroom dancing.

Separately, the top two children's trading card games in the United States are Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon, both made by Japanese companies. In November, Shonen Jump, one of Japan's most popular ''manga'' or comic books, went on sale, in English, in the United States.

Jun Saito, who took a leave of absence last summer from a Yale graduate school program to run for Parliament here -- and won -- said, ''The Yale students I ran into that were interested in learning Japanese were attracted not by business, but by manga and anime.''

Americans, Canadians and Australians all came out today for the Astro Boy parade.

"Astro Boy, and anime, are different from the typical American cartoon fare," said Dario Feltracco, a 32-year-old English conversation teacher from Ontario. "Astro Boy has characters, serious themes."

Stephen Haley, a 41-year-old Australian artist living in Takadanobaba, said: "Animation is stunning visually. Before, the Japanese never looked very seriously at the export market."

While Hollywood is often accused of exporting violence, Astro Boy spreads the message of peace. In the original series, he fought for justice, peace and for harmony between robots and humans.

"Astro Boy is the only one who can make peace between the two sides," said Marc Handler, the American editor of the new series. "The generals can't solve the problem, the politicians can't solve it, the adults can't. It takes the pure heart of the child."

In Japan, producers hope their new Astro Boy will once again capture the national moment.

"In 1951, there were still ruins in Japan," said Yoshihiro Shimuzu, general manager of the Tezuka Production Company, creators of Astro Boy. "People made efforts to create a bright future and better Japan. Astro Boy became the symbol of their dream."

Now, he continued, ''people have become tired of materialism, and Astro Boy is a robot with a heart.''

"Once again, the vector of Astro Boy matches with that of the people," he concluded.

"At this time of economic depression, people are seeking positive feelings."

Continue reading "Heart of Japanese Animation Beats in a Robot Boy"...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Time for CAKE

What's a birthday without cake, right? To celebrate the birthday of Astro Boy yesterday, I took a look around the net to see if I could find some Astro-themed cakes. To the right is an officially licensed cake topper based on the 2003 anime series, and it may still be available. But some folks have used their own creativity to make some really unique cakes featuring Astro Boy. Read on to take a look at them all.

Here's a great looking cake made for the 40th anniversary of the English premiere of the original Astro Boy anime. Fred Ladd himself was on hand for this feast.
Found here.

Nice subtle effect used on this cake.
Found here.

Astro looks suprised to be standing on this cake. He doesn't look thrilled with the idea of being eaten.
Found here.

Hopefully, Natasha really likes Astro Boy. Otherwise this cake would be pretty awkward.
Found here.

Gotta love the effort put into this one!
Found here.

Now this is impressive! Character portraits and a background and everything. It's so cute that it looks like it'll give you a tooth ache before you even bite into it.
Found here.

That's all the cake I can handle for now, but if you ever find anymore AstroBoy cakes, or bake one yourself, send me the links and I'll do a follow up post. And if anyone would like to bake an Astro cake for me, please understand that you are more than welcome to do so and that I like both chocolate and vanilla.

Continue reading "Time for CAKE"...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Happy Birthday!

According to Osamu Tezuka's original Manga, Astro was born on April 7, 2003. That means he would be 5 years old today!

Google Japan got into the spirit by changing their title graphic to this:

Totally cool! Thanks to Same Hat! Same Hat! for the news. Expect more birthday coverage over the course of the week, including a look back at the festivities surrounding the huge birthday celebration that took place in 2003 in Japan.

Continue reading "Happy Birthday!"...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

AstroBoy 80's Intro.

In 1980, the Mighty Atom returned to Japanese airwaves in full color with a brand new anime series. As with the original 60's series, this version would also be translated released around the world. Here is the opening sequence in English.

Despite its cute animation style and upbeat theme music, this particular version of the story is actually quite dark. This time around there was to be less of a focus on super hero antics of the 60's version and more attention paid to the serious issues and messages that Osamu Tezuka was trying to convey in his original manga. The result was a show that featured many characters dieing and several episodes ending on a real downer! Tezuka did not devote as much of his time to this series as he should have and he was unhappy with the result. He didn't think his staff understood what he wanted and complained that Astro came across as too much of a goody-two-shoes!

Oddly enough, there are actually two different English dubs of this show. One was shown in the US and Australia, and another was shown in Canada. Most characters in the Canadian version have different names than the other version. What really lets the Canadian version apart, though, is that every episode had an additional sequence where Astro would talk to a computer named "Geronimo" about what happened in that episode. There was always something intentionally wrong with what Astro said, encouraging viewers to write down the mistake and compare with their friends. This Canadian version was the one that I watched as a kid, and was probably the first anime I ever saw. Even at a young age, I could tell that there was something different about this show when compared to other cartoons of its time.

52 episodes were made, but there are only 51 episodes in English. The first two episodes were compressed into one for the English dub. I'll be exploring what happened there in the future.

The entire series is available on Region 1 DVD from Manga Entertainment, which contains both the US English version and Japanese audio. The picture quality on these disks is extremely clear considering the show's age. For those of you in Austrailia, Madman Entertainment released a box set of their own, which has many more features than the US release.

Maybe this is just for sentimental reasons, but the 80's version of Astro Boy is probably my favorite. It had brought us action, creativity, and thought-provoking messages through each unique adventure. Even though the 60's version was the original and the 2003 version had great animation, I think the 80's version is the definitive animated expression of the Mighty Atom.

Read more here on Wikipedia.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

AstroBoy World all over the World!

This site has only been open for a month, but in that short time, people from all over the world have visited. There has been at least one hit from every continent on the planet! Well, except Antarctica. Come on, Antarctican anime fans, represent!

Thanks to all the visitors thus far. I hope you've enjoyed the page, and the best is yet to come.

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