-by Dylan D
After a decade long absence from the manga world I decided to jump back in, and the first series I’ve completed is Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto. Quick note, Pluto is a re-imagining of a famous Astro Boy arc. I know nothing about Astro Boy so I may miss out on some key elements. Sorry!
Pluto takes place in a futuristic world where humans and robots coexist. Robots are still a fairly new form of life and the world is adapting by giving them rights through the Robot Laws and whatnot. The older model robots look like something from The Jetsons meanwhile the newer models are indistinguishable from humans. The story of Pluto is simple, there is a serial killer out there targeting one robot and one human at a time, and it’s up to Europol Detetive Geischt and his peers to solve the case.
My only gripes with the storytelling is the constant jumping around from character to character. It gave me more details on each characters motives but it also cost me my concentration on certain events. As far as I can tell, the perspective changes are a staple of Urasawa’s work.
Obviously being a manga series, the main appeal of Pluto is it’s story, so I won’t go into any details for the sake of spoilers. Instead, I’ll talk about why I liked Pluto personally.
I really like philosophy and one topic that always crams itself into my mind is; “What is a person?” See, I know what a human is, but a person; that can be different, right? Pluto takes full advantage of the very concept in it’s first volume and throughout the rest of it’s series. You see the kid in the picture above? That’s Atom, the most advanced robot in the world. If you weren’t told, you wouldn’t be able to tell he’s a robot. He is programmed to think and feel. Is he a person? What about those older model robots that look clunky and inhuman? They are both robots and therefore equal.
I could go on forever…
Not only are there themes of personhood, the concepts of racism and antiwar ideals are prevalent through Pluto’s short 8-volume run. If you’re not interested in any of that deep stuff, there is still a good murder mystery here.
On a more simple and cosmetic level, Urasawa’s art is fantastic. The big cities or the landscapes you see above are amazing and almost feel criminal to be jammed into just on a single frame of a manga series. It never dropped in quality and looking back on it, it gave Pluto a very human feel, funny since most of the protagonists are robots.
Unfortunately I can’t say much more about Pluto without spoiling it. The art is stellar and the story, while sometimes convoluted for my simple mind, has many powerful messages. I would certainly recommend giving it a read, it’s one of the standout manga with no anime adaption.
I know it’s kind of short but this is my first manga review and wasn’t too sure how to go about it. Let me know what you guys thought and any recommendations for further manga reviews down the line!