Tag Archives: Pluto

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!

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!