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Book Review: Pluto, Vol 3 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Pluto, Vol 3      

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 19, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci-Fi Manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes


Uran is a robot who looks like a little girl. She has the unique ability of being able to sense emotions, even from great distances. As she and Atom leave the police station, Atom notices an odd man heading into the station, but he can’t tell whether he is robot or human. Turns out he is Professor Abdullah. From Persia, he is considered to be Central Asia’s greatest intellect. The police requested he come in to discuss some of the people he met with on a recent visit, some of whom are now dead. As the Professor leaves the station, he requests directions to Central Park where something just happens to be emerging, something dark and sinister-looking.

In Dusseldorf, a family are enjoying their breakfast. The wife reminds her husband, Adolf, that it is the three year anniversary of his brother’s death, and he needs to claim the body. When he does, he requests to see the body and is shocked by what he sees.  Later he attends a clandestine meeting of people wearing hoods who all espouse the cause of death to machines, and seek to eradicate all robots. It appears his brother was practically pulverized by a particular type of weapon which few robots can wield. He is determined to find out which robots are capable. He researches reported incidents involving such a weapon and learns the only one within the last few years since the war was reported just the previous night, and that one involved Inspector Gesicht.

With the help of a friend, Hercules has “borrowed” a military battle suit, knowing this is a serious offense, one that could end his career. As he is testing it out, suddenly a second sun appears in the sky. It turns out to be a robot named Epsilon, who says he had to stop Hercules before he got himself killed, like Brando and Mount Blanc. Back in Germany, Adolf takes his findings to his group, to request their help in locating and destroying Gesicht. They tell him not to take any action as this could reveal the awful things Adolf’s brother did, but let them handle the matter. Epsilon approaches Gesicht and tells him of the children he cares for since the war. One particular little boy, the sole survivor of his village, saw something terrible, and the only word he will utter now is the name Bora.

In Tokyo, Uran oddly wakes to find what seems to be a tear on her pillow. Since when do robots cry? Leaving her building, she says she senses someone in emotional distress, perhaps an animal, and goes off to find it.  Going into a closed park which is forbidden for anyone to enter, she finds a man inside an abandoned building who is in apparent distress. Except he isn’t a man, he’s a robot. When she asks what sort of nutrient he requires, she tells him she can’t get that one but gets the closest thing to that she can find. She helps nurse him back to health and begins to piece together his story. In the meantime, Professor Abdullah has sent out a robot on a mission… and who is Pluto?

Maybe I’m late to realize this and am only stating the obvious, but it seems to me that Pluto can be seen as an allegory about the human condition, even though it involves robots. It has themes of prejudice and hate, which of course are reflected in our everyday lives with people who hate others based solely on the basis of their skin color, sexual identification, religions, etc. People fear what they don’t understand. They also fear people who know more than they do (whether they are willing to admit to it or not) So robots are a double threat in that regard. And these robots are eerily human as well, some of them. That hooded hate group looks remarkably like the KKK – imagine that. Now it seems that Gesicht has a target on his back, assuming he didn’t already just because of who he is. How many more robots have to die before this menace is stopped? Who or what is Pluto?

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: Pluto, Vol 2 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Pluto, Vol 2     

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 17, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci-Fi Manga//208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes


Investigators called to the scene of a collapsed old-style Japanese house find a dead man has been strung up there, two horns affixed to his head.  The victim is a professor of law, the same man who came up with the National Robot Laws. Superintendent Tawashi recalls there have been other recent cases involving horns, and decides they need to talk to the lead investigators on those cases. But, as it turns out, there is only one, Detective Gesicht.

Gesicht has gone to Japan to talk to Atom, a robot who looks like a little boy. The detective tells him that someone is targeting the strongest robots in the world, thus placing him in danger. Atom offers to swap memory sticks. At first, Gesicht is reluctant, then decides to trust Atom. Having seen Gesicht’s memories, Atom excuses himself to go the bathroom, to pretend to be more human, but once there he cries because of what he saw in Gesicht’s mind. On his return, he encourages Gesicht to take the trip to Japan he’s been planning with his wife, and he will gladly show them the sights. Gesicht says he might just do that.

Atom shows up at the police station, where Tawashi and Inspector Nakamura are examining the 3-D image of the ruined house. Atom offers to sift through the rubble and discovers something the others missed – two tea cups. Tawashi admits that traces of tea leaves and yokan were found in the stomach of the victim. Atom explains why he thinks there were two people, and at least one of them was human. Witnesses  reported seeing a huge tornado that seemed to target just that one house. Atom speculates on various gods of death and ends with Pluto. Finding a trace of ink on the victim’s hand, Atom investigates until he ends up with Professor Ochanomizu. He knew of Tasaki, the legal expert, and he had met Lanke when they were both part of the Survey Group! Atom warns the professor that he is in danger.

During the war, a group was formed to search Persia for weapons of mass destruction, but none were ever found. What they did find was thousands of discarded robot bodies buried beneath an old mosque. What did this mean? Meanwhile, in Istanbul, Brando manages to get ahold of his pankration suit, even though it’s not allowed for him to do so, but he gives the man a story of why he needs that and the truck and off he goes. Gesicht is in Greece, speaking with Hercules, when the latter realizes something is happening with Brando and urges Gesicht to quickly patch in, and also Atom. Brando! A monstrous tornado is attacking! They rush to help him.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Gesicht decides to go ahead and book his travel to Japan. But something the travel agent says bothers him and he begins to doubt his own memories.  He goes to see Brau 1859, even as Hercules vows to find out what happened to Brando and to avenge his friend.

This is such a great story already! I know it has its origins in Astro Boy, but I’m unfamiliar with that so I can’t tell you in what way it was influenced. I might have to find that too and read it. But I do know Urasawa is a genius in the depth and complexity of his plots and characterizations. Only two volumes and I feel as if I know his characters, and I mourn the ones who have been lost. I hope there is justice in store and retribution against the perpetrator of these crimes.

Great volume, looking forward to the next one!