Pluto: Naoki Urasawa’s Scifi Thriller is a Masterpiece on the Futility of Hatred

As a great admirer of the venerated Osamu Tezuka, renowned mangaka Naoki Urasawa began conceiving the idea to reinterpret Tezuka’s seminal work Mighty Atom, specifically the “The Greatest Robot on Earth” arc in 2002. Known for suspenseful and mystery works such as Monster and 20th Century Boys, Urasawa’s take on Mighty Atom would have a similar tonal approach.

He transformed the endearing tale of a 100,000 horsepower robot boy into a sci-fi thriller titled Pluto, inspired by the titular antagonist in “The Greatest Robot on Earth” arc. The narrative now centers around the robot detective Gesicht instead of Atom, from the same arc.

Pluto volume 1 cover, Shogakukan

Urasawa cites “The Greatest Robot on Earth” as his favorite Mighty Atom story and considers it “enshrined as a centerpiece of literature of our generation”. Co-authored by Takashi Nagasaki and supervised by Tezuka’s eldest son, Makoto Tezuka, Urasawa’s Pluto began serialization in 2003 in Shogakukan‘s Big Comic Original.

An anime adaptation of Pluto was announced in 2017 to be produced by Genco, with animation production by Studio M2. The anime debuted in October 2023 on Netflix with eight 1 hour episodes adapting each volume of the manga.

Key visual illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Netflix

Pluto takes place in a futuristic society where advanced robotics are an integral part of daily life, and artificial intelligence has evolved to the extent that the boundary between humans and robots is vanishing—both superficially and internally. The story is set in the aftermath of the 39th Central Asian War, a significant conflict involving the Kingdom of Persia led by Darius XIV, and seven highly advanced robots: Montblanc, North No. 2, Gesicht, Brando, Hercules, Epsilon, and Atom.

Pluto follows Gesicht, an advanced Europol robot detective, investigating a series of murders committed by the assailant “Pluto,” who mimics horns by placing objects near the victims’ heads. The targeted individuals are humans associated with the Bora Inquiry Commission in the 39th Central Asian War and the seven most advanced robots.

Urasawa’s Pluto pays a poignant tribute to Tezuka by reimagining Mighty Atom’s original anti-war themes within a contemporary framework. While Atom was conceived in response to World War II, Pluto draws its own parallels with the 39th Central Asian War, echoing the conflicts of the Iraq War against Saddam Hussein. Following the downfall of the Kingdom of Persia, Darius XIV and Professor Abullah, who suffered personal losses during the war, embark on a quest for revenge against the members of the Bora Inquiry Commission and the seven most advanced robots, using the powerful Pluto.

The central theme of the series revolves around hatred, intricately woven with the political backdrop of discrimination faced by robots amidst the 39th Central Asian War. The narrative explores the evolution of robots, delving into their progression beyond mere emulation of human behavior to the genuine experience of human emotions. In a departure from traditional perspectives, robots in the series not only exhibit love and happiness but also grapple with emotions such as grief, sadness, and anger. Dr. Tenma, a prominent figure in robotics and Atom’s creator, characterizes these emotional nuances as the pinnacle of artificial intelligence. The story thus intertwines themes of emotion, discrimination, and technological advancement, providing a thought-provoking exploration of the intersection between humanity and artificial intelligence.

Pluto stands as a brilliant and sobering exploration of human nature, delving into the full spectrum of emotions that define our humanity. As the realms of robots and humanity intersect, the narrative unfolds to highlight the pivotal roles of communication, understanding, and empathy in overcoming grief and sorrow.

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1 Comment

  1. Kkrotto
    November 17, 2023

    Masterpiece, without doubt. I like the idea if Urasawa some day writting for Gundam. The franquice deserves some quality today, special the AU’S.

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