I was around 9 when I first watched the first 10 episodes of Astro Boy on VHS. I had no idea at the moment that it was the 80’s remake of an older show, which in turn was actually a legend in the field as it revolutionized how anime look and feel decades before we had the internet to hype everything with little effort. And here I am some decades later myself, making a small essay on the damn thing. You may have heard from time to time about a series that begat a whole new genre, such as Tetsujin-28 being the first mecha series that began the trend. Other times you may have heard about a series that defined a whole generation, such as Dragonball Z being the most renowned series of the 90’s. Well, Tetsuwan Atom is THE series that begat and defined ALL anime. Why? Because it is the VERY FIRST anime tv series ever made!
There are of course older animated movies that were made in Japan, way before Atom. The anime was made in mid 60’s the manga was around a decade older, but there already were animated features made even as back as 1910. The thing is all those cannot really be called anime in the traditional sense because the style of animation was not the same and neither were its themes to the most part. You see, up until the 1950’s, animation and graphics were made to look in a very Japanese way to the most part. If you look for classical paintings of Japan’s past, you will find a lot of pictures that depict their way of artistic expression, up until that time. Their trademarks were the almost extinct perspective and the expressionless faces of the people, which were very realistic and reminiscent of the average Asian morphology. Many short features were copying the style of the west of course but those were still seen as foreign influences, not traditional in the broader sense. Also, all western-looking characters of that time were all anthropomorphic animals, while human figures were kept Asian-looking all the way.
When Japan lost in World War 2, the new generation tried to get stronger by mimicking the winning side and amongst them was Osamu to try something entirely new. He made his humanoid character to resemble western cartoon characters, which allowed emotions to be a lot more expressive compared to the emotionless faces of the earlier Asian-looking caricatures. He basically took pointers from Walt Disney and gave his characters huge eyes and easily distinguishable grimaces. Also he allowed for dark themes to be explored instead of being silly fairy tales or war propaganda.
Obviously you can’t judge the show based on its visuals because they are as outdated as they can. There is no color, the animation is super choppy and cartoony-looking characters are off-putting for most even today (look how much One Piece suffers because of it). What you should instead focus on is how much passion and energy was thrown into it at a time when budgets were super small and there wasn’t an audience of tens of millions who would nag on the internet over 5 seconds of someone not wearing his jacket in a fluent enough way. Also keep in mind how artistic and mature it was for the time it came out despite being a show for kids. Lots of dark and depressing themes are explored in it and the outcome is not always “they lived happily ever after”.
The protagonist (and essentially the only character you get to care for) is Atom (or Astro in the dub), a human boy who was killed and was then replaced by a humanoid robot. Seen as a replacement for his creator’s dead son and potentially a powerful weapon, Atom practically fails at both the prime purposes he was made for. His body doesn’t age like a human so his father does not see him as a son and his feelings constantly prevent him from ruthlessly obeying orders from megalomaniac leaders who want to use his advanced weaponry for war. At the same time he is made to care about everything and everyone, using his abilities to protect what he cares for. Every episode is a test of strength or courage Atom faces in a mechanized, and rather dangerous and deprived society. He faces people with cruel hearts and inhuman behaviors, but is also aided by good-hearted people and robots. Every episode features a battle with an evil robot or human that attacks an area or goes against Atom’s moral code. Sometimes he is forced to fight a battle he finds unnecessary (taking orders and such) but does so anyway, just to prove himself useful. Although “too goody” as a character you still see how he is tormented by social norms and he can’t always please everyone.
The premise is inspired by classic stories such as Pinocchio, Frankenstein, and Metropolis, and criticizes the dehumanizing factor of technology. It obviously does it in a very light and episodic way, so it won’t mean much once you get accustomed to the dark sci-fi anime of the late 70’s and beyond. There have been countless shows that dealt with the same themes and with far better visuals, such as the Ghost In The Shell franchise. One could even say that Neon Genesis does the exact same with the relationship Gendo Ikari and Rei have, which is homage to the one Dr. Tenma and Atom have in this show.
Astro Boy is practically surpassed on every field by a show that followed it, but that doesn’t change the fact it was the original inspiration for all anime of the future. Atom’s special attacks are classic mecha weaponry, the big eyes are a staple of the medium, and exploring the dark side of societies is a very interesting theme to this day. It’s not like the franchise died either, as remakes of the show are still being made today with Pluto being the most recent one. Atom’s legacy never died, it just got surpassed and overshadowed by its contemporaries. It’s still the foundation of all anime in general and as such deserves to be remembered, at least as an important historical footnote.
Here we have it folks, the single most influential anime of all-time! it's kinda funny because it looks nothing even close to anything coming out nowadays. Astroboy helped developed anime in so many ways from the sci-fi genre, episodic shows, common anime features still used to this day: (enlarged eyes, round features, shading ect.). But still even though it did help shape the eastern animation style in a big way Astroboy actually drew very little on traditional japanese styles; from the Disney-ish art style to the avant-garde sci-fi nuance's of the 1927 classic Metropolis, Astroboy ends up with this strange mix between childish inocents and harsh reality. The show doesn't suger coat much of anything, actually sometimes the reality can be a little to harsh for poor little Astro but threw it all he plays the perfect little boy scout always doing the right thing and trying to save the day. While it may look dated compared to the latest Madhouse show, Astroboy was a ground breaking, innovative and ahead of its time masterpiece that is still a blast to watch 50+ years down the line.
"Astro Boy (1963)" - A Classic Anime Gem That Shaped the Genre - 7/10
Story: 8/10 "Astro Boy (1963)" is a pioneering classic in the world of anime. The series revolves around the adventures of Astro Boy, a robot boy with incredible abilities, in a futuristic world where robots and humans coexist. While the episodic nature of the show can feel formulaic by today's standards, it's essential to acknowledge its historical significance. The stories often explore themes of justice, discrimination, and the consequences of technology, providing a moral compass for young viewers. The storytelling is engaging and, considering its time, remarkably forward-thinking, earning a story rating of 8 out of 10.
Animation: 6/10 Given its release in the early 1960s, "Astro Boy" features animation that is understandably dated by today's standards. However, it's vital to appreciate the series for its groundbreaking contributions to the medium. The animation style is simple, with limited frame rates and black-and-white visuals. While it lacks the fluidity and detail of modern anime, it remains a testament to the creativity and innovation of its era. Despite its technical limitations, the animation serves its purpose and deserves a rating of 6 out of 10.
Sound: 7/10 The sound design of "Astro Boy (1963)" reflects the technology available at the time. The voice acting and music may sound quaint compared to contemporary anime, but they carry a nostalgic charm for those who grew up with the series. The iconic theme music still resonates with fans and is instantly recognizable. Despite its technical constraints, the sound elements play a significant role in capturing the essence of Astro Boy's adventures. Sound receives a rating of 7 out of 10, acknowledging its historical importance and lasting appeal.
Characters: 7/10 The characters in "Astro Boy (1963)" embody the archetypes and values prevalent during the era of its creation. Astro Boy himself is a timeless and endearing protagonist with a strong sense of justice. Supporting characters often serve as vehicles for moral lessons and exploration of societal issues. While character development may not be as complex as in contemporary anime, the characters remain memorable and relatable due to their timeless qualities. Characters earn a rating of 7 out of 10, recognizing their historical significance and enduring appeal.
Overall: 7/10 "Astro Boy (1963)" is a classic anime series that has left an indelible mark on the medium's history. It serves as a testament to the origins of anime and its evolution over the years. While it may not match the technical and storytelling standards of modern anime, it holds immense cultural and artistic value. Its pioneering spirit, exploration of relevant themes, and contribution to the development of anime earn it a score of 7 out of 10. Watching "Astro Boy" today is not just a nostalgic trip but also an opportunity to appreciate the roots of anime as an art form.
Astroby 1963 is not to bad for a black and white cartoon. Gives a nice futuristic touch but at the same time it could of been better. Wasn't a huge fan of it.