Friday, November 20, 2009

New Atom Angel

Joe McCulloch of has written a fascinating new editorial about the history and politics of Astro Boy, comparing the manga with new movie. It's a great read that takes a very serious look at the character, with a focus on the much discussed chapter where Astro goes back in time and fights the U.S. Militray, who were bombing a village in Vietnam.

Here's a sample.

"So, the funny thing about the new Astro Boy is how much it gets right, which means picking up Tezuka's weaknesses as well as his strengths. A lot of the manga's in-joke charm is preserved, from various Tezuka Star System cameos (including Tezuka himself and his lil' pig-faced critter stand-in) to tactical citation of earlier bits of its own history - some of the ‘60s anime title sequence gets subtly remade as Astro zips around exploring his powers. The original's dour origin premise is dutifully updated, with brilliant Dr. Tenma's beloved son violently killed (sadly, Nicolas Cage restrains himself from chomping into the Dr.'s potentially livewire role) and Astro Boy created as an imperfect twin replacement, the imperfection always figuring into the work's grand theme, since robots are individuals like people are too."
Read "New Atom Angel" on for the entire piece.


Anonymous said...

Some have dissed Nicholas Cage's performance as Dr. Tenma, but I think he was perfect. Tenma, after all, was a man of science, emotionally distant from his own son; naturally he'd have a reserved personality. But when he lost his son and began grieving, Cage's acting skills really brought that emotion home. When, nearly sobbing, he tells Dr. Elefun that "Toby's gone, and he's never coming back", that's an Oscar-worthy delivery in my opinion. But then all the voices were wonderful, especially Freddie Highmore's; he really brought Astro to life in a way he's never seemed alive before. Kristen Bell did a great job as Cora too. I could fully understand why Astro fell for her; who wouldn't? Really, the film is so rich, with such rich characters, it's a pity that more time couldn't be spent on them. This movie has got to be the most underrated of our time. It lacked only one thing: the original "Astro Boy" TV theme song. It's a shame it wasn't played at all in the movie; it could easily have appeared in the end credits. I bet moviegoers, even those who had never heard it before, would have been absolutely delighted. I just found the song at Lala and played it; wonderful, wonderful, and mind you I'd never heard it before Adult Swim started playing the old episodes. Oh well. Who knows, maybe there will be a sequel, and the song will be used there. We can hope...

Anonymous said...

Cage? There was no emotion at all from Tenma and as for the script?

This movie could have been better done, especially without the obvious political junk they threw into it.

Astro deserved better.

Dan Rush said...

At first several years ago I was upset at Tezuka's "NAM" toon, taking it as an outright ignorant rant of America bashing. After all, what would Atom think of the aftermath of Vietnam and how Communism has brutally murdered millions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos?

And how did Ho Chi Minh escape blame? After all he sought both American and Soviet help in overthrowing the French in Indo-China?

Then I read Fred's book "Astro Essays" and was pleased to know Tezuka blamed Russia, China and America for using Vietnam as a place to fight their idiological conflicts. That resolved my anger.

Vietnam was a disaster in so many ways that could have been avoided in the years leading up to it, as the case today with the war against radical Islam. But you can't argue against Tezuka's hate for things military and war given his own experiance. Anyone who lusts for war is a maniac.