The more I read of Pluto, the less averse I am to the idea ofremakes. Or, rather, of an artist of high caliber having his workrevisited by another artist in the same stratosphere. Osamu Tezuka isabout as up-there as manga artists get, and Naoki Urasawa has beenracing up the rungs of the same ladder for some time now. Pluto is Urasawa’s reworking of one of Tezuka’s best-loved stories from Astro-Boy (aka Tetsuwan Atomu), and the best thing I can say about it is that it does not for one moment feel like a “remake”. It stands alone.
Thethird volume is a frenzy of twofold plotting and character development,with a fair amount of page time occupied by Uran, Atom’s sister. Justas Atom himself stepped into the picture at the end of volume 1, Uran (short for Uranium, mayhaps?) popped in at the end of volume 2—justin time to calm down a batch of escaped zoo animals. She’s ascheerfully blithe as Atom is focused and serious, but maybe that’s justher way of dealing with her peculiar sensitivity towards things aroundher. She’s the sonar to Atom’s radar: he can sniff out a robot thatlooks like a human, and she can sense disturbances in the Force,sorta-kinda, that bespeak of bad tidings for both machines and men.
They’re both going to need all the help they can give each other.Because at the start of the volume, someone else who makes both oftheir heads spin enters the picture: the Persian scientist ProfessorAbdullah. His detached little smile and convenient explanation for whyeven Atom can’t figure out if he’s human or not (he allegedly had agood percentage of his body replaced with robot parts) conceal a largeand dark agenda. He is, as we learn, at least partly responsible forthe deaths of the world’s greatest robots, with Atom next on the hitlist—but knowing this alone still leaves plenty of mysteries unsolved.Namely: why?
The whole question of whydrives another parallel plot development that runs through this volume.Adolf Haas is a successful businessman—wife, son, house in the bestneighborhood in Düsseldorf. He is also a member of an undergroundanti-robot movement, one that borrows heavily from the KKK for boththeir iconography and their logistics. The other members of the groupare as well-placed as he is, and their plan is to make as many of thehigh-profile robots—for instance, robot detective Gesicht—look as badas possible. Haas, however, is a little too obsessed with finding therobot that killed his brother—obsessed enough to go off the deep endand do something stupid and dangerous for all concerned. The way thisparticular thread plays out is best when it sticks to emotion andmotives, less credible when it feels like it’s making up clues on thespot to justify the man’s ongoing search.
Another detour thatUran takes towards the end of the book is all about emotions andmotives, and all the better for it. In an abandoned corner of a citypark, Uran’s senses pick up what feels to her like a cry for help. Saidcry comes from a humaniform robot, one as hard to tell from robotkindas Atom himself is. With Uran’s help he creates a mural (shown in theone color panel in the entire volume!), and also with Uran’s help heunwitting unlocks the door to his diabolical true nature.
It might not make sense at first to think of Plutoas a collaboration—after all, how can you collaborate with a man who’sbeen dead for almost twenty years? But somehow Tezuka makes hispresence felt on every page, and not just because his son Macoto Tezukaoversaw the project. Sure, Urasawa dots Pluto with plenty of subtle references to Tezuka’s other works—one of the lions in the zoo was a rare white lion,get it?—but they’re for flavor, not as compensation for an underlyinglack of substance. And entirely outside of that, there’s the sameeternal longing, a longing for answers to questions that only a childcan ask.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind