Manga-ka: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Signature
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: January 2010
Synopsis: “Pluto has destroyed six out of the seven great robots of the world, and the pacifist robot Epsilon is the only one that remains. Will Epsilon, who refused to participate in the 39th central Asian war, leave behind his war-orphaned charges to step onto the battlefield? It just might be that kindly Epsilon, who wields the limitless power of photon energy, will be Pluto’s greatest opponent of all!”
Reading Pluto has always been a predominantly emotional-journey. The suspense and mystery is there. The action and drama is near seamless. But among all this, it’s the characters who really pull you in and keep you there. Even the most seemingly unimportant character can look just so in one panel and steal your heart, or in most cases break it. This ninth volume is no exception to the consistent hold the series has held on many a reader. It delivers what could perhaps be the most brilliantly executed moment to date – and in turn easily the most devestating.
The deaths of many are still weighing on the shoulders of both readers and characters yet it quickly becomes the matter of the living that returns to the forefront. Epsilon, the last of the seven great robots and a Pacifist by his own choice, is the next target of the robot-massacring monster Pluto. It’s easy to find a simple sympathy for someone as lithe and frail in appearance as Epsilon when he’s faced with the impending threat of the beast hunting him. But this is such a surface impression, granted a poignant comparison between him and those who’ve fallen before, with exception perhaps of young Atom. But its still barely a scratch on the surface of what makes his confrontation with Pluto truly compelling.
What repetitively hits hard with Epsilon is his emotion – and perhaps more so his desperation, the loss of the calm that so often lays upon his placid face. What really makes him such a likeable, and admirable, character is that his concerns and fears are never for himself. Whether it’s the children he cares for or the beast itself, Epsilon feels so much compassion for each and every one that it almost seems to pain him.
As impressively rendered as these moments are, the far fewer, but equally memorable, scenes that bring a smile to Epsilon’s face also match them. At one point in this volume the children of his orphanage are preparing a surprise birthday party for Epsilon. His admittance of knowing but feigning surprise, to his genuine pleasure at the gifts they created for him, is nothing short of heart-warming.
But the trade-off of coming to care for a well-developed character is feeling all those downs along with the ups. It’s hard to watch when Epsilon is given a task that shakes him to his core and the final chapter of book delivers a crescendo so gut-wrenching that it’s likely to leave many readers’ stomachs in a knot long after they close the book with revere.
Though Epsilon is the volume’s primary focus, there’re still plenty of the other continuing plotlines deftly threading in and out including Tenma’s overlooking of Atom’s lifeless body, Uran’s worldly empathy and what could be the true drive behind Pluto’s disastrous attacks on the world’s strongest robots.
As the penultimate book of the series, Pluto continues to prove more than capable of holding the weight of its praise. It’s sad to know a series so powerful will soon be coming to an end. At the same time, too many volumes like this one could easily wear a person out – too much of a good thing? Either way with so much of what’s been built up on the brink of erupting, and so many of the characters who’ve gotten us this far now gone, the end of Pluto is going to be as eagerly awaited as it is advancely-mourned.