tek's rating: ¾

Astro Boy, Fuji TV
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This was based on the original anime Astro Boy, which was made in the 1960s. The new series, made in 2003, aired for awhile on Kids' WB in 2004. (I guess it also aired on Cartoon Network, but I don't think I ever saw it there.) I don't think all 50 episodes were ever aired on the WB, and I probably didn't see all the ones that did air. But I got the series on DVD in 2016, so I'll be updating my review as I watch it now.

According to Wikipedia, it's set in 2043, though I'm not aware of the year being specified in the series itself. Still, that seems like a believable date. It's clearly the future, but not too far in the future. I can say that robots are very common in the world, but not everyone is happy about that. And now, more and more robots are being created that possess kokoro (human intelligence, emotions, free will), which makes anti-robot sentiments begin to increase, somewhat. One such robot is Astro, who looks like a young boy, but is the most powerful robot ever created. He was activated by Dr. O'Shay (who in the English dub of the original series was called Dr. Elefun; Professor Ochanomizu in the original Japanese version). But it wasn't O'Shay who created him, it was another roboticist, Dr. Tenma. (In the dub of the old series he was called Dr. Boynton, though Tenma is his original Japanese name. So it strikes me as odd that this new series would go with that name, but instead of using either the Japanese name for Dr. O'Shay or the old new name, they gave him a new new name.) Anyway, Tenma used to be the head of the Ministry of Science (in Metro City), a position that went to O'Shay when Tenma apparently went mad. Tenma wants robots to rule the world, and he has plans for Astro (or as he calls him, Tobio). But Astro has no interest in those plans; he'd rather help humanity.

Meanwhile, Astro tries to live a somewhat normal life. Dr. O'Shay is kind of like a father to him. Astro is also looked after to some extent by a robot named Nora (O'Shay's housekeeper, who becomes a nanny to Astro), and a woman named Yuko, who is O'Shay's assistant. Astro also begins attending school with human children, a few of whom become his friends. After awhile, Dr. O'Shay creates a robot named Zoran to be a sister to Astro. And Astro will make various human and robot friends throughout the series, including a boy named Reno, who was an orphan raised by robots who ran a circus. Reno leaves the circus to become a student of Dr. O'Shay's. But despite Astro's desire for a normal life, he frequently gets caught up in police business. There's a police detective named Tawashi, who doesn't really like or trust robots, but he grudgingly accepts Astro's help, when necessary. Eventually, a group of robots with kokoro, led by one named Delta, join the police as their own squad, often working with Tawashi.

Aside from Tenma's machinations, there's also a crook called Skunk who often makes trouble, and there are any number of random foes, in other episodes. Of course, all the villains use robots (usually ones without kokoro, who have to obey their programming) to commit crimes, whether it's just to make money (like Skunk) or specifically to turn people against robots (which Tenma does as part of his plan to make robots the rulers of the world, while others, most notably a politician named Mr. Drake, do it to force society to eliminate robots entirely). So, there's an ongoing theme about robot rights vs. discrimination against robots. There's also a robot called Shadow, which Tenma built to help him with his plans, including creating other robots to test Astro. Probably the most important robot they worked on was the Blue Knight, who ultimately decided to turn against humanity in order to champion the rights of robots. So he would often have arguments with Astro, though they just as often ended up on the same side against common enemies. Near the end of the series, the Blue Knight and several of his robot allies form their own nation, Robotonia, against which humanity goes to war, for a reason I don't want to spoil. But when that war is ultimately resolved, Dr. Tenma launches his own final attack on the Ministry of Science. In the final episode, we learn more about Tenma's motivations. And... well, there's a happy ending to the series, and I guess that's all I want to say.


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