With a pedigree by the names of Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka, it is damn near impossible for Pluto to not be good. This first volume of Urasawa’s re-imagining of the wonderful world envisioned by Osamu Tezuka is utterly remarkable. Exploring human emotion through artificial beings is an incredible thing to tackle and Urasawa does so with the deftest of delicacy. Pluto tells us a lot about what it means to be human, all through a robot’s eyes.
Urasawa’s take on Tezuka’s world of Astro Boy is a dark one indeed. The style feels almost like a cross between Urasawa’s Monster and Tezuka’s Astro Boy. A winning combination undoubtedly and the direction this story takes is astonishing to say the very least. The series follows a slew of murders taking place across the globe in a future world where humans and robots coexist. We follow Gisecht a robot detective tasked with the case of the series of murders.
Gisecht looks very human in appearance, however on the inside he is machine. Throughout his travels to various crime scenes he comes to uncover a deeper conspiracy at play all of which involves the titular character of Pluto. It is rather interesting that Urasawa chooses to leave Pluto completely out of the volume, the character makes no appearance whatsoever. Rather he focuses in on the victims and Gisecht the burnt out detective.
The volume’s high point is actually in its quieter moments, a mini arc focusing on a robot named North No.2 and the human he serves. The bond formed between these two is truly touching as we see the disgruntled old man form a tender connection with the once military robot North No.2. We see their bond form over a love of music and the nostalgia for a song that has faded from the old man’s memory like a passing Summer breeze.
Ultimately North No.2 heals the old man’s broken heart by discovering the truth of his shattered family and childhood as an orphan. North No.2 plays the man that forgotten song and brings back his memory of that sunset by his mother’s side. It is a sweet moment in a volume filled with sad ones. While it seems to be an odd side-story, the story of North No.2 ends up intertwined with the murder cases with the unfortunate demise of North No.2 who selflessly sacrifices himself to save this old man’s life. It is a very human moment, once again seen through actions of a machine.
Pluto volume 1 is an emotional rollercoaster, one that only the minds of Urasawa and Tezuka can put together. The idea of human traits being seen within non-human beings is something common to the works of Tezuka, a complete inverse of Urasawa who often finds the monster within humans. Where this manga goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it winds up being one of the most compelling manga releases in quite some time. If you’re looking for a real page-turner, this is one you’ll read from start to finish without putting it down once. This is intellectual manga with a human heart beating at its core.
When two great minds come together, great things usually come from it, Pluto is one of those great things. This volume is proof enough that Urasawa and Tezuka are two of the greatest mangaka minds of all time.
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