The Ruminator

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Sunday, April 06, 2003

Happy Birth Day Astro Boy!

I loved Astro Boy. Like Monkey, G-Force and the Transformers, he played an integral part in my childhood imaginings. Astro boy was small and sweet, but super-tough and capable of shooting bullets out of his arse. What more do you need in a superhero? Plus he could fly, which as previously discussed is about the coolest thing you can do. Astro Boy conjures up fond memories of getting up early on Saturday and eating breakfast in front of the TV in my PJs.

Created by Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy was ‘born’ on 7 April 2003. Originally Tetsuwan Atomu, or The Mighty Atom, Astro Boy was launched in 1951 as a comic book, then a black and white TV series in the 60s. The version familiar to those of us who were kids in the eighties set the story back to 2030 (preserving the original ‘50-years from now’ concept, and presumably accounting for the realisation that by 2003 we were unlikely to have a large robot underclass).

As the story goes, Dr Boynton, Head of the Ministry of Science, created Astro Boy as an exact replica of his son Toby, who was killed in a car accident. Presumably they meant ‘exact replica’ apart from the super strength, enhanced hearing, rocket-powered feet, searchlight eyes, hip-mounted machine gun, and laser beams in his fingertips. In one version of the story, Astro Boy is rejected by his father. In the version released in the 80s, Dr Boynton mysteriously disappears. Astro’s guardian then becomes Dr Elufun, creator of the Robot Bill of Rights and of Astro Boy’s robot parents. Astro also has a nemesis, Atlas, who was built from Astro’s orginal plans, but has an additional ‘omega factor’ which allows him to commit evil deeds.

The central Tokyo district of Takadanobaba, where Astro Boy was set, has been organising special celebrations for his birth day, including displays, a parade, and playing the Astro Boy theme to signal the departure of the trains at the local station.

For someone simultaneously new born and 52 years old, Astro Boy is not doing too badly.