Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
In October 2009, a computer animated 3D film was released that was loosely based on Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy. While some of the basic ideas were the same, there were also some notable differences between the original 1960s anime series and the 2009 film.
The original anime series was set on Earth in the year 2000. In the film, no time frame is given. However, there is now a place called Metro City, a city that floats above the planet; it was created when part of the Earth was broken off from the planet and was lifted up into the sky. The planet below is a polluted surface, and is where the garbage and debris from Metro City is dumped. However, there are still people living on the surface of the Earth. Another notable difference is that in Metro City, robots do all of the work that the humans don't want to do. The robots are also not allowed to cause harm to the humans. This is a concept that was directly lifted from another Osamu Tezuka property (Metropolis). And the concept of a city above the Earth with a ravaged planet below is similar to Battle Angel Alita.
The basic origin of Astro Boy is the same between the anime series and the film. In both, Dr. Tenma creates the Astro Boy robot after his son is killed. In the anime series, Dr. Tenma's son was killed in a car accident. In the film, his son is killed in an accident that takes place in his father's lab at the Ministry of Science. And between the two versions, Dr. Tenma's portrayal is also a little different. While Dr. Tenma ends up sending Astro Boy away in both versions, the Dr. Tenma in the film is nowhere near as mad as his anime series counterpart. As a viewer, I could definitely feel more sympathy for the Dr. Tenma in the film than I ever could for his anime series counterpart.
In the anime series, Astro Boy ends up at a robot circus that is run by Hamegg, a man who could care less about the robots in his show. He is ultimately rescued by Dr. Elefun. In the film, Astro ends up leaving Metro City and he goes down to the surface. He meets a group of kids, who take him home to stay with them. They are orphans who live with a man named Hamegg. At first, he appears to be a kindly scientist who fixes robots. However, it turns out that he runs the Robot Games, which are gladiatorial contests where a robot wins by destroying its opponent. While Dr. Elefun shows up in the film and is important, his role isn't quite the same as it is in the anime series.
The film introduces the idea of two cores: a blue core of positive energy and a red core of negative energy. Dr. Tenma uses the blue core to power Astro Boy, while the red core ends up being used in a robot being used by President Stone (a militaristic dictator in charge of Metro City). I personally didn't like the idea of the cores, even though they ended up being a crucial part of the plot. In the film, Astro meets three robots on the surface (Sparx, Robotsky, and Mike the Fridge); they are part of a group that they call Robot Revolution. They served as the comic relief for the film, although I'm not entirely convinced that they truly added much to the film.
Overall, Astro Boy isn't too bad of a film for what it is; however, I prefer the original 1960s anime series. This adaptation didn't throw in a whole lot of major changes, like what happened in the live-action adaptation of Speed Racer. It also wasn't a poor adaptation of its original source material, like the live-action adaptation of Dragon Ball.