Hopefully I’m not beating a dead horse, although I’m pretty sure I am. Sorry!

This is Gesicht, whose name I need to learn how to spell and who is not as surly as he looks. (Illust: 浦沢直樹)

Title: Pluto
Author: 浦沢直樹 (URASAWA Naoki)
Co-Author/Producer: 長崎尚志 (NAGASAKI Takashi)
Supervisor: 手塚眞 (TEZUKA Makoto)
Original Concept: 手塚治虫 (TEZUKA Osamu)
Volumes: 8
Genre: Seinen (Mystery, Science Fiction)
Status: Completed, licensed in North America by Viz.
My Rating: 10/10

In the far future where robots and humans now co-exist and robots even have freedom of rights, Gesicht, a highly advanced and world-renowned robot detective from Europol, gets called to solve the mystery of who or what is trying to kill off all the best robots and founders of robot law in the world. It is based on “The Greatest Robot on Earth” arc of Astro Boy.

Drawn and authored by the very famous Urasawa Naoki, it comes as no surprise that this work is of incredibly high quality in terms of coherency, depth, and storytelling. The strongest part of this series is of course its plot, which, being only 8 volumes, is just right in terms of length, and has absolutely nothing similar to filler. It also resolves 99.7% of everything mentioned throughout the series at the end, with the remaining 0.3% leaving the issue of a certain bear unresolved. At first the story’s direction seems relatively easy to predict, and then things happen, slight chaos unfolds, and a totally unique direction picks up in the latter half of the series. However, both halves of the story are equally immensely intriguing, which I thought was really amazing. The pace never slacks, and events just keep unfolding one after one. It even made me almost cry. Thrice.

On equal footing with the crazy good plot, characterization was just as awesome. I don’t remember what I’ve read of Astro Boy at the age of 5, so I can’t compare the characters’ counterparts, but every member of this series’ cast is not only memorable, but makes you feel something for them. Even the villians..! Gesicht is basically the protagonist overall, but for different segments, other characters get a chance on the stage too, and Urasawa really utilizes their spotlight time well to develop and let the reader learn more about them. If you must know, my favourite character was Atom, and not only because he is a perpetually cute little boy.

As per usual with Urasawa’s art style, characters are simply drawn but really expressive, perhaps even moreso than in his usual works, since even the robots seem to give off emotion. The character redesigns (as compared to the original) are super-cool and modern too, and so very realistic and plausible, even if Evangelion’s Ikari Gendou seems to have been the inspiration for one of them. Being set in the future, the backgrounds and buildings are drawn in excruciating detail as well, which I highly, HIGHLY appreciated.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a high quality work like this, so my final verdict is that this is now one of my Top 5 Awesomest Manga Ever Created, and maybe even surpasses Urasawa’s Monster solely because of the very satisfying 99.7% complete wrapup and the conciseness of everything, from 8 volumes to no fillers to 100% un-pretentious dialogue. It also made me unconsciously (!!) think about the depth of the whole issue of what is human and what is robot. The concept was just THAT intuitively presented. Another thing is that this is set mainly NOT IN JAPAN. Mostly Europe, and that just makes it better. Did I mention there were large robots? Well, there are large robots, and everyone likes large robots.

I recommend this work to everyone who can or wants to delve further into the issue of who or what can be considered as human, and to everyone who is fascinated with robots, technology, or Urasawa Naoki. Fans of Astro Boy probably shouldn’t miss this either, though I’m quite sure that this is an enormous departure in both atmosphere and tone from the original concept. Also, even though this manga’s pretty serious and thought-provoking, I recommend it even to readers who don’t want to think while reading, because mystery’s development is explained very well and very concisely (ie. no Death Note-length paragraph panels). I also recommend this to people who like perpetually cute little boys and girls and who aren’t afraid to read ~2-3 volumes in until they get to meet them.

Actually, you know what? I’m going to recommend this work to every human being who can read English or Japanese.

Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto_(manga)
Pluto article at Tezuka in English: http://tezukainenglish.com/?q=node/147