Although Osamu Tezuka's Complete Manga
runs to 300 volumes and his filmography as a writer, producer, and/or director includes more than 70 shorts, features, and TV series, Astro Boy
--including this 1980 remake--remains his iconic creation. Tezuka wrote many of the scripts for the second version, and he and Noboru Ishiguro are listed as co-directors. Created by Dr. Boynton to replace his dead son, Astro is a 100,000-horsepower super-robot with jets in his legs, lasers in his fingers, and a gun in his derrière. His round head and goo-goo eyes reflect Tezuka's affection for the old Fleischers cartoons. Astro overcomes criminals, people who use robots for evil purposes or who harbor anti-robot prejudice, and Atlas, a robot who wants to rule the world. In these struggles, Astro never loses his temper, holds a grudge, or feels temptation. Tezuka wanted him to embody the virtues of selflessness and compassion, but his naive, unflagging goodness makes him a rather dull character.
The color version of Astro Boy is better animated than the 1963 original, which relied heavily on cycles and reused footage. But the stolid timing robs the action scenes of the punch they should pack. The English dub is equally flat, with little inflection or acting to communicate the characters' emotions. The faded prints have been restored to their original colors. Characters are called by their English names in the dialogue but by their Japanese names in subtitles (e.g., Dr. Boynton becomes Dr. Tenma). Among the extras are several deleted scenes, including one of Tezuka introducing "Astro's First Love." Tezuka devotees and fans who grew up watching the color version on TV will want this set, but the original, black-and-white series remains the definitive Astro Boy. (Unrated, suitable for ages 7 and older: violence, alcohol use) --Charles Solomon