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Tetsuwan Atom:
Mighty Atom
a.k.a. "Astro Boy"

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Tetsuwan Atom -- "Mighty Atom" -- was first published in 1951, and was created by Osamu Tezuka, the most influential comic book creator in Japan, ever. The lead character in the series is Atom, a self-aware robot that resembles a young human boy, who stives to bridge the cultural gap between the humans and the robots while using his fantasic robot powers to save his family and friends from danger. (Whew!)
Atom was created by a scientist who was attempting to replace his son who had died in a car accident; but Atom was not the scientist's son reborn, and, though Atom tried to be a good son, the scientist soon turned against his creation and drove him out. Throughout the series Atom continuously encounters the stock prejudice that humans have for all robots, and at the same time sees the hatred and prejudice that robots are developing towards humans. Despite these social difficulties Atom manages to make both human and robot friends, and eventually has a family of robots he lives with while attending a human school with children. His ultimate dream forever remains the same: that all beings someday learn to live in peace with one another. At the same time however, Atom was a superhero to rival any American superhero, and often fought criminals and giant monsters in the course of trying to set things right.
When Tezuka used the money he had made from creating comics to found his own animation studio, Mushi Productions ["Bug" Productions], the first thing the studio produced was a black & white animated version of the Mighty Atom manga... and, in 1963, this became the first animated television series released in Japan. In addition, the series was soon roughly translated to English and released in America under the name of "Astro Boy"; so it was also the first Japanese cartoon to be imported to the USA, something its youthful American viewers were blissfully unaware of!
Partially because of the excellence of the manga's story and partially because of its unique status in Japanese animation, Mighty Atom may very well be the only manga in Japan for which I can guarentee that every citizen will recognize it by name [as long as you say Tetsuwan Atom rather than "Mighty Atom", that is]. Though Tezuka is dead, and the comic is long ended, Mighty Atom continues to appear as a national icon in Japan, sometimes promoting a bank or phone company, sometimes as the friendly face on a safety poster. His presence in modern Japan is only comparable to the presence of the character "Snoopy" in modern America.

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All illustrations on this page [except the one of Mighty Atom above] are copyright (c)2002 Garth Haslam, and shouldn't be used without his permission. The image of Mighty Atom was drawn by the Osamu Tezuka, and published around 1951 in an installment of Tetsuwan Atom, "Mighty Atom". Contact Garth by Clicking Here!