Book Review: Pluto, Vol 1 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Pluto, Vol 1   

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 17, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shojo Manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

A wildfire in Switzerland leads to a horrific discovery – the body of beloved robot Mont Blanc! People are in shock. How could this have happened? Robots are commonplace in the future, and some resemble humans while others are more mechanical in nature. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which are humans and which are robots. Detective Gesicht of Europol is disturbed by what he saw at the crime scene. When his wife tells him he works too hard, he suggests they take a vacation, just the two of them.

Gesicht is sent to the scene of another murder, this one a human. Bernard Lanke was a key member in the movement to preserve robot laws. He tells the local police that robbery was not the motive, but they are skeptical. Then he asks them to explain why there are two horn-like objects that were shoved into the victim’s head… and strangely enough the same thing had been perpetrated on Mont Blanc. Are the two cases related somehow?

As he’s investigating, there is a disturbance in the street outside, one of the police robots having been attacked. Gesicht chases down the suspect and then goes to see the wife of the dead robot. He offers to wipe some of her memories, to relieve her pain, but she says she would rather have them. When Gesicht happens to run into a maintenance man about to throw out what is left of the robot cop, he is horrified to hear him refer to the parts as just junk. He retrieves the memory chip and takes it to the robot’s widow. She seems disturbed and he wonders if he did the right thing, but she tells him no, it’s what is in the video that is disturbing—what distracted her husband for just a moment, enough time to get him killed. The video shows something apparently leaping between two high rise buildings, and that something is… human? How can that be?

After making travel plans to go to Japan,  Gesicht goes to an AI Correction Facility to interview a dangerous robot, Brau 1589. He wants Brau’s take on the murders. The robot keeps suggesting they trade memory sticks, but Gesicht tells him that isn’t happening. Brau tells him his theory, and says there will be six more murders.

In Scotland, a blind film composer lives alone, except for his robot servant. The man has been through a number of robots from the agency already and expects no more from the new one, whose name is North No 2. North was once in the military and served in the 39th Central Asian War. The composer gives whole meaning to the world surly. He is very difficult and bitter. Frustrated with his apparent inability to compose, he takes it out on North, who refuses to be shaken. He also rejects North’s offers of assistance, when he says he thinks he knows what the problem is. North tells him he wants to learn to play the piano, and he wants to never go to war again. When North detects an approaching anomaly, he goes to investigate.

This is the first volume in this series, and I am already hooked! So good! Urasawa, of course, is the genius behind Monster and Twentieth Century Boys, both of which series I have reviewed. I can already tell I am going to greatly enjoy this one too. Obviously, the man likes robots, but this goes beyond the giant robot in Twentieth Century Boys, envisioning a future in which they are commonplace, and some can’t be distinguished from humans. This implies great leaps in AI research. Also I imagine laws would have to be changed to allow for such intelligent beings. So much to think about. And of course there’s the downside – what to do when something or someone goes horribly wrong. Does intelligence/consciousness equate to responsibility and culpability? What if someone manipulated AI to the point where they could take over the world? So many questions.

Another observation – I couldn’t help but compare the scene with Gesicht and Brau to that of Clarice and Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs. Like the old saying goes, it takes a thief to know a thief. In this case, it’s a robot murderer.

Looking forward to the next volume!

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