?When Universal got the rights to make an Astro Boy movie, I was pretty appalled. I knew that there’s no way the Hollywood machine would be able to do the slightest justice to one of Japan’s most enduring and beloved characters; that they would just crap out a shitty CG robo-Pinocchio movie ignoring Osamu Tezuka’s classic manga’s darkness (Astro Boy’s father builds and casts him out, Frankenstein style), its morality, and most of all, its heart. Universal did crap out a shitty CG Astro Boy flick, which made $40 million worldwide, $25 million less than its budget. In Japan, where Astro Boy is as well-known as beloved as Mickey Mouse is here (as for as long), the film grossed less than a million dollars.
Selling an Astro Boy movie in Japan should be like selling ice water in the Sahara, a pure gimme. If they don’t want it, you have fucked up unbelievably badly. And Universal did.
Which is why the news that Universal has picked up the rights to Naoki Urasawa’s critically acclaimed Pluto manga has me ready to go on a fucking murder spree. Let me let the official English Osamu Tezuka site explain why:
The original Astro Boy manga introduced young readers to the realities
of racial conflict by presenting them on a level children could
understand and discuss with their parents, but this meant that Tezuka
could not fully explore the more mature psychological and moral issues
in the background of Astro’s grim world. The rough and episodic nature
of Astro’s adventures and the long time over which Tezuka developed the
world and character also limited his capacity to bring to the fore the
emotional and philosophical potential of the universe and characters he
had created. Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto is, quite simply, Astro Boy for adults. The work is a retelling of the Pluto chapter of Astro Boy,
originally entitled ‘The World’s Strongest Robot,’ which looks at the
seven most powerful robots on earth as their programming and human
vanity force them to fight one another. The original story focused on
Astro being asking why humans create these temporary life forms, robots,
then bind them to specific programs and hardware which lock them into
limited roles in life, and why ultimately do humans make robots destroy
each other. Naoki Urasawa preserves this central question, but adds to
it many subtler questions about the psychological and social tensions
which would arise in a society as densely populated with robots as
Pluto is absolutely Astro Boy for adults; it turns the action-advneture of the original Astro Boy story and turns it more into a suspenseful crime drama. Urasawa gives Tezuka’s classically cartoonish characters a mesmerizingly realistic makeover (that’s Astro on the cover up there); Astro Boy appears, but he’s not the main character. It’s a fantastic story, made even better by its roots as a classic children’s comic.
And now Universal has the rights.
Universal couldn’t get Astro Boy right, so I don’t know why they — or anyone — would think they could get Pluto right. Apparently, they’re not even going to bother trying — they’ve already put the production team behind Despicable Me on the project. So, if you hear about a series of brutal murders over at Universal in the next few weeks, I’d appreciate it if you could say I was at your guys’ house the entire time. (Via The AV Club)