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Originally entitled Tetsuwan Atom ("Mighty Atom" or literally "Iron Arm Atom"), it was created by Osamu Tezuka, the artist whose style defined the "look" of anime and manga for decades to follow. It began life as a manga in 1952 and has been brought to television as an anime three times:
First in 1963. 193 black and white episodes were created, although only 104 were exported and dubbed for viewing outside of Japan. It is historically significant as the first full-length anime series to be broadcast in Japan, and the first to be distributed in the USA. (Manga Calendar was broadcast earlier in Japan, but had episodes that were 3-5 minutes long.) It is also, perhaps, the first true anime, as it had an ongoing plot, a staple of the term as used today. Along with 8 Man, Kimba the White Lion, Gigantor and Speed Racer, it introduced anime to American audiences and paved the way for later, more sophisticated works on both sides of the Pacific.
A second series, this time in color, was created in 1980. It followed the 1963 series closely, with many episodes being direct remakes. It also introduced a unique sub-plot running thoughout the series, dealing with the creation of Atlas from Astro's blueprints (making them virtually "brothers" in the robot sense) - and his own development as a character, after having the Omega Factor installed. The 2003 series would also touch upon Atlas's and Astro's similarities, but not quite to the same extreme
A third Astro Boy series aired in 2003-2004, debuting on April 7, 2003 — the date of Astro Boy's "birth" in the original manga. This version (the first not to be overseen by Osamu Tezuka, who had died in 1989) differs significantly in some aspects of the setting and Astro Boy's origins.
The 1963 TV series provides examples of:
- Anime Theme Song: Possibly the Ur Example.
- Anti-Villain: Pluto
- Crossover: A 1969 TV special called Astro Boy vs. the Giants is a crossover between this and a baseball anime called Hoshi Of The Giants.
- Lighter and Softer: The 1963 anime was this in comparison to the manga, with several characters Spared by the Adaptation (notably Colbat).
- Ironically, the anime ends with Astro Boy sacrificing himself to prevent the sun from exploding. This also happens in the manga, but he's revived by aliens afterwards.
- Missing Episode: The Midoro Swamp episode is usually cut from re-releases because it was poorly animated, even by the standards of the time.
- And the English version cuts out even more episodes; only 104 out of the original 193 beast were ever dubbed.
- Sapient Cetaceans: In the 60s anime a sentient race of dolphin people threaten war on humanity if they keep developing on their land.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: In the English dub.
The 1980 TV series provides examples of:
- Anime Theme Song
- Captain Obvious
- Composite Character: Atlas and the Blue Knight are combined into one character in this series. He also has elements of Astro's "brother" Cobalt.
- Credits Running Sequence
- Crossover: an episode guest-starred several other famous Tezuka characters via Time Travel, including some from Black Jack and Princess Knight.
- False Reassurance
- Soundtrack Dissonance
The 2003 TV series provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The 2003 series is notable in that it deviates the most from it's original source material. While many of the stories are still based around the original manga storylines, most put a different spin on the story, and a number of episodes feature story lines written just for the 2003 series.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese theme song is different from the English version.
- Anime Theme Song
- Arm Cannon
- Bad Export for You: Sort of. On the dub's DVD release, the episodes are for the most part wildly out of order. And there isn't a Japanese language track or subtitles. And it's totally bereft of any special features. The dub is pretty good all things considered, but it's hard to ignore this stuff.
- Big Bad: Doctor Tenma
- Black Best Friend: Kennedy/Kenichi acts as one to Astro.
- Canon Foreigner: Shadow, who was created solely for this series. Though he does make an appearance of sorts in Omega Factor.
- Composite Character: While BK and Atlas are separate characters again Atlas is still part Cobalt in that he's Astro's "brother" (though in a completely different way from the 80s version). The 2000s version of Franken is actually a composite of two completely different robots from the manga (a robot chauffeur from the 1960s Sankei Newspaper serial and a magnetic robot panhandler (It Makes Sense in Context. Sort of) from a short tie-in manga for the 80s series) and has almost nothing to do with the original series' Franken, apart from becoming a flashpoint for anti-robot sentiment, which the Sankei version already did anyway.
- Cool Train: Neon Express is a train with A.I.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Shadow was deliberately built to be this, shoring up Tenma's own shortcomings in robotics with his own incredible intelligence.
- Deal with the Devil: When Astro Boy is killed during the Battle of Robotonia, the Ministry of Science is unable to reverse it. Dr. Tenma claims to know how and Dr. Ochanomizu turns to him as a last resort. Dr. Tenma succeeds, but at the cost of wiping Astro's memory clean, which he had intended to do all along.
- Demoted to Extra: Brando, Montblanc & North #2 still appear in this version of the World's Strongest Robot arc, but only as random goons sent to stop Pluto's path of destruction and are almost immediately ripped to shreds by him.
- Die or Fly: Instead of being built with his various gadgets from the start, Astro "evolves" them in response to life-threatening situations, such as his iconic rocket boots after falling out the window of an office building.
- Driven to Suicide: Dr. Tenma in the finale.
- Evilutionary Biologist
- Evil Plan: Skunk has them when he appears; usually either revenge on Astro or making money. Tenma's larger scale plan is a world where robots rule the world and are ruled by Astro himself.
- Heel Realization: Dr. Tenma has one in the finale.
- History Repeats: Tenma gets what he thinks he wants, but it ends up the same way every time The original Tobio rebels and takes the car for the fateful drive that claims his life, then he shuts down Astro at the first sign of rebellion and independent thought, attempting to do the same when Astro regains his memory
- Lighter and Softer: Both this and Darker and Edgier. Astro's angsty past is retconned away, but the series in general took on a much more serious tone than the two previous anime.
- While the outcome for Astro is maybe less tragic than the manga or previous versions, it's potentially even darker. Instead of simply selling off Astro, Tenma actually effectively shuts down Astro after he expresses his horror at seeing old Ministry of Science robots being scrapped, and shows signs of rebellion
- Line-of-Sight Name: Our hero gets his name from a sign that's nearby when he's first activated. (The sign is thoughtfully designed to include both "Atom" and "Astro", one as the first word on the sign and the other as the acronym formed by the initial letters of all the words.)
- Mad Bomber: Kato combines this trope with Mad Artist.
- Meaningful Echo: "And so we begin. Again."
- Mechanical Evolution
- Missing Episode: Dub only - the 20th episode "Eternal Boy" has been omitted from release with the rest of the series in Digital and DVD form, mainly because the plot revolves around the Peter Pan story, which is still under copyright by Great Ormand Street Hospital in the US and UK. It was replaced with a clip show episode, with Tenma and Shadow discussing Astro's progress up to that point in the series.
- Non-Action Big Bad: Dr. Tenma
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Tenma plays one.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Tenma when Astro seemingly dies.
- Power Glows
- Precocious Crush: Astro develops one in an episode at a space camp.
- Runaway Train
- Stalker Without a Crush: Tenma is one to Astro.
- Stealth Mentor: Tenma built Astro with the ability to "evolve" and then sends increasingly deadly robots like Atlas and Pluto to try to kill him in order to make him stronger.
- Too Long; Didn't Dub
- Ultimate Universe
- We Can Rule Together: How Tenma tries to convince Astro to come with him in the end.
- Where's the Kaboom?
- Villainous Breakdown: Dr. Tenma has one spanning the last two episodes.
- Villainous Rescue: Dr. Tenma saves Astro from a mind-controlled Atlas.
- Xanatos Gambit:
- Creating Pluto was this for Tenma. Either Astro losses or evolves and becomes stronger. He's perfectly happy either way. When Pluto instead has a Heel Face Turn, Shadow reveals he has a stronger robot in the wing, Archeron, who has no emotions.
- Skunk has one early on. He uses robots to hunt other robots and sell their parts on the black market. He hid his home base in a abandoned ice cream factory and here's where the gambit comes in. If no one finds him, he can continue unbothered but hopes Astro does find him because he has a trap set up.