Pluto has been on my mind for weeks. After reading the heart-stopping third volume, I was left awestruck.
What could I possibly hope to say that could do this justice? How could I possibly convey the thoughts racing through my head? How could I ever critically assess this masterpiece?
It is a task that has rolled around in my mind as I dragged my feet on putting this piece together. As I sat pondering Urasawa’s genius manga, a familiar song began to sound from my radio.
Suddenly it hit me, this is what Pluto is really all about.
“Love and hate, get it wrong,
She cut me right back down to size,
Sleep the day, let it fade,
Who was there to take your place?
No one knows, never will,
Mostly me and mostly you.
What do you say?
What do you do, when it all comes down?” – Gavin Rossdale (Comedown by Bush)
So what does it all mean? To cut a long story short, Pluto is an epic exploration of existentialism and the things that make us feel alive. It is one of the most thought-provoking works in manga history and believe it or not it actually surpasses Tezuka’s classic that inspired it in almost every regard.
It has taken three volumes but we are at last introduced to the titular character Pluto. He is a lost soul wandering from one life to the next, barely capable of creating any lasting memories. Uran stumbles upon him living under a bridge and forges a friendship with the lost robot. She helps him recover and upon seeing his attempt at painting on the wall under the bridge brings him some more paint. He had originally painted what appeared to be scribbled marks in black and white. But in one of the most beautiful pages in the very history of manga, the page comes to life as the wall is lit with vibrant colour as Pluto paints a work of art. Uran asks if it is a field of flowers, Pluto replies simply with ‘No, it’s something else.’ And with that we know exactly what Pluto is referring to.
On the other side of the world a tale of espionage and assassination plots are unfolding around Gisecht as his forgotten past is being dug up by a Ku Klux Klan fashioned anti-robot cult. The themes of love and hate are played like an orchestra’s performance turned into ink on paper. Urasawa explores these themes with the deftest of sensitivity, blurring the lines between humanity and robotics all the while building a divide between them.
The major theme of this volume is life and what qualities constitute it. What is a soul and are robots capable of possessing it? Pluto has left me pondering these notions for weeks now and I still can’t bring myself to a resolute thought on the whole thing. There are some things that are beyond our understanding and Urasawa conveys both sides of the point without bias.
In one of the most profound moments of the volume, Pluto himself asks the question ‘What does it mean to die?’ It is a heavy thought to have for a robot. When a human dies its generally believed there is some kind of afterlife or that their soul passes onto some higher plane of existence, but what about a robot? Does a light simply flick off, never to be turned on again? Or is there a soul that exists within the heart of that hard drive? Urasawa you played my heart like a fiddle right there.
Pluto Volume 3 is simply one of the greatest books of manga in the history of the medium. Whether it be the soulful splash on colour lying in the heart of the black and white manga, or the exploration of love, hate, life and death, Pluto is essential reading for any true manga fan. This is profound reading that will stir you to your very core. I’m grateful to have been able to read this. Thank you, Naoki Urasawa.
You can pick up this volume of Pluto over at Madman’s Online Store.