Manga-ka: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: July 2009
Synopsis: “The seven great robots of the world are being destroyed one after the other, and the former members of the politically charged Bora Survey Group are also being targeted. Could Professor Tenma, the man who created the Japanese boy robot Atom, hold the key to finding the killer and his motive? The latest developments in the investigation send shock waves throughout the world in this masterful work of science fiction and suspense.”
Urasawa has begun shaping the story more and more away from the linearity of the original Astro Boy, but these are all welcome changes in exchange for the exuberant amounts of depth and potency brought to each and every scene of Pluto.
Amidst the larger scheme of things, Urasawa still manages to burrow deep into the souls of his readers and tug at the heartstrings with even the most seemingly plot-irrelevant of scenes, scenes that are indisputably pinnacle to a readers’ mindset while reading. His continuously engaging portrayal of robots as individuals garners both respect and sympathy for every single one in a way that makes moments that would usually inspire no second thought in any other series (such as the destruction of a robot), leave me in both retrospection and regret at any delivered loss. A particular scene in this fourth volume involving a robotic dog left me especially moved, to a point where I had to set the book down to reach for a tissue and take a moment to give my silent kudos Urasawa for again eliciting more emotional response than many other artists could strive to achieve.
On the plot-heavier side of things. the ball keeps on rolling as the string of deaths continue at the hands of Pluto, bringing about even the most unexpected of tragedies. As if the events of the book itself weren’t powerful enough on their own, the ramifications of these occurrences leave much to be anticipated with near white-knuckled eagerness. Epsilon in particular has much of my curiousity focused on him, a kind but enigmatically introverted individual whose abrupt reaction to the events of volume four leave me in the dark as to where he’ll go next.
Meanwhile another pinnacle character from the Astro Boy universe makes his appearance, a slightly darker rendition than memory serves for comparison, but one whose more jaded personality fits perfectly in a story so grounded in reality that it can’t help but stand far coarser than the original. I continue to find each rendition of these pre-existing characters irresistible overall and seeing every thought, conflict and sheer movement carried out in this reinterpretation is exciting. The fact that Urasawa is taking a story, to which the ending and basic grounds of which many readers are already familiar with, and makes the bad guys still truly terrifying is a continuously well-appreciated layer to the experience. There are also the moments where despite the actual severity of the situation they still offered their own kind of giddy fun for me as a childhood fan of Astro Boy, such as seeing Atom take off through the skies and watching Uran streak through the air on a futuristic hover-bike.
As with all the volumes before it, volume five can’t come fast enough to sate the desire for more Pluto after a volume so moving and suspenseful. The whole thing reads like a near-perfectly executed suspense-thriller that demands curiousity-sating continuation. With things ending as they did here in the fourth volume, and so many threats on the horizon coming against the remaining cast, current readers have every reason in the world to wish to continue while newcomers would still do well to give Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto a well-deserved go.