Astro Boy

Small Screen Specials, Series and Direct-To-Video
Post Reply
AV Forum Member
AV Forum Member
Posts: 398
Joined: May 28th, 2009
Contact:

Astro Boy

Post by estefan » April 22nd, 2011, 1:55 pm

So, today, I watched the first couple of episodes of the 1960s Astro Boy series. It's weird. I'm currently obsessed with the manga, which is actually exciting, page-turning and a brilliant social commentary. The show seems to have none of that, which is surprising considering Tezuka's involvement. The animation is really terrible, the dialogue is poor, the voice-work is embarrassing and it's just surprisingly dull, the worst quality for an action show. I understand it's considered the first anime series, but it did nothing for me.

I also saw the pilot of the 2003 series and that was better, especially in the writing department, but I'm not fond of the particular animation style they used. Hopefully, I will enjoy the 1980s series more.

So, thoughts on the Astro Boy television series?

Animated Views Admin
Animated Views Admin
Posts: 5346
Joined: October 23rd, 2004
Location: SaskaTOON, Canada

Post by Randall » April 22nd, 2011, 4:35 pm

Each series has its strong points, but it does take time to warm up to them. The first show has the drawbacks you mentioned, but eventually I found it charming. Keep watching, as there are some cute episodes with unique plots and ideas in them. The second series does better overall, while the third is actually pretty good, though spoiled on DVD by being a pan and scan hatchet job.

For much more of my thoughts, I also reviewed each series for Animated Views:

http://animatedviews.com/2008/astro-boy ... -sets-1-2/

http://animatedviews.com/2008/astro-boy ... n-box-set/

http://animatedviews.com/2008/astro-boy ... te-series/

AV Forum Member
AV Forum Member
Posts: 3226
Joined: September 27th, 2007

Re: Astro Boy

Post by EricJ » April 22nd, 2011, 6:09 pm

estefan wrote:So, thoughts on the Astro Boy television series?
Have to understand, there was almost NO anime in the early 60's before Astro Boy--
Apart from a few folktales, Japan's commercial animated product basically thought it had to follow Disney and Western culture's lead for heroes and kiddy-fairytales.
Osamu Tezuka (and this is one of his more normal concepts...) was a shameless Disney fanboy, but was also trying to bring in more culturally "Japanese" ideas. It would take at least a decade or two until the country's self-awareness could give us Urusei Yatsura, though.
(If you've seen Gigantor, or GeGeGe no Kitaro or Little Witch Sally on digisub, they were a few years behind us in the artform, and over here in the early 60's, we were still watching Space Ghost.)

I hadn't seen the vintage reruns on Netflix until after the '09 Movie, and that's a good place to start the canon.
Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion did NOT do as well with its American bigscreen adaptation, however. :x

AV Forum Member
AV Forum Member
Posts: 2949
Joined: October 24th, 2004

Post by GeorgeC » April 26th, 2011, 2:38 pm

The original Astro Boy series (1963) is very expensive to buy to own. Either try to get a sampler disc of episodes (they're available; you just have to look for them), or try NetFlix.

Cartoon Network was broadcasting the original series on weekends a few years ago but it was a ratings disaster. As bad as weekend ratings are for CN in general, they were practically nonexistent for Astro Boy and the other anime series on the air at the time time.

There are several things that make the original show hard to watch --
a) horrible animation; it was made very cheaply;
b) bad audio quality; the original American masters were thrown out in the 1970s and restoration has depended entirely on early videotape copies and recovered 16mm films; and
c) a far higher-than-normal cost to own the series given the shape of the audio and video. $200+ to own sub-standard, sub-VHS quality material on DVD. Ouch.

The Japanese video exists for all but one episode that's unique to the US version... The audio is completely intact for the Japanese version only.

The 1980s Astro Boy series is close in overall story outline to the original series (basically a color remake) but has higher production standards. It's also only half as long (52 episodes) as the original series. It also received a big promotional push worldwide and was fairly popular in Australia from what I understand. It's a fairly decent series, priced within reason to buy, and probably the Astro Boy series to buy most people interested in the character. The American adaptation of Astro Boy (1980) follows the Japanese version fairly closely but for whatever odd reasons an episode was cut out of the American run and was only referred to in flashbacks in another episode! Oddly enough, the 1980s Astro Boy is the only bilingual edition of the character in the US market so there must be otherwise fairly little cut from the Japanese version. There's no seamless branching or anything else I could detect on that DVD set!

The more recent Astro Boy TV series was a failure in spite of good intentions. It just doesn't have the charm of the earlier two series. A combination of overwhelming graphics/CG and a push to make Astro Boy more hip doomed the show I think. The series was insanely budgeted for Japan and I'm sure that very little of that money was made back in the initial broadcast. I've seen enough clips of that show online to get the idea of what went wrong. I have no desire to get that show whatsoever... Besides a mediocre dub, the show was cropped from widescreen. It was aired in Japan originally which has had hi-def broadcast and widescreen TV sets longer than the West. At the very least, the original aspect ratio should have been retained when the series was translated for the US but AR is the least of that series' problems.

Who knows when anybody is going to produce a GOOD Astro Boy series again. It may not be in the cards; a lot of shows and characters hit the mark at a certain point in history and then they're never that popular again and fade for a variety of reasons. Timeless classics are pretty rare... Astro Boy, like Mickey Mouse, is now remembered more as a corporate/cultural symbol than for the films and TV series he was in. The character should continue to do well as a licensed image but his days of being a matinee idol are probably long over.
"Waiter, more champagne...and plenty of ice!"
- Randall/Time Bandits, 14 April 1912, 20 to midnight -- local time

Animated Views Admin
Animated Views Admin
Posts: 5346
Joined: October 23rd, 2004
Location: SaskaTOON, Canada

Post by Randall » April 26th, 2011, 11:57 pm

The last Astro Boy series is very different in tone from the others, but I admit to liking it quite a bit--- except for the chopped image making it harder to enjoy (not just cropped, but noticeably so).

Overall, though, I'd agree that the 1980 show is the best representation of the character.

AV Forum Member
AV Forum Member
Posts: 2949
Joined: October 24th, 2004

Post by GeorgeC » April 27th, 2011, 2:00 am

Tone was what drove most fans nuts about the last Astro Boy series.
The stuff I've read suggest darker tone and changing characters' names for whatever reasons. The clips I saw gave me headaches... I dunno how some reviewers could give the 2003 series an "A+".

Admittedly, the original Astro Boy TV series and the manga are very strange creations that won't appeal to everyone or require a bit of time to settle into but they have a charm that later remakes and sequels are lacking in. They're like sushi -- an acquired taste. And I'm talking about just the mainline TV series, NOT the feature films, original TV specials, and animated shorts that are all over the place in Japan. There has to be at least a dozen hours of Astro Boy in feature anime alone that has never been licensed outside of Asia.

Even if the original Americanized names for Astro Boy (1963) were crazy, they should have stuck to those instead of trying to make the characters more ethnic! Dumb, dumb, dumb... Example -- the character with the big nose who was known as Dr. Elefun (literally "Elephant") in the 1963 dubbed version was changed to Dr. O'Shay for the 2003 version! Sometimes they just should just leave well enough alone.

For that matter, none of the attempted Speed Racer revamps have taken off, either. The American-produced sequel shows were both awful and even the Japanese attempt at a remake in the late 1990's was a bust, too, in spite of much higher production standards.
"Waiter, more champagne...and plenty of ice!"
- Randall/Time Bandits, 14 April 1912, 20 to midnight -- local time

Post Reply