Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Do you know Astro Boy? Of course you do. Have you seen his series? Maybe not. The good news is that even if you haven’t, you can jump right into the action without having that feeling that you’re missing something. This is a prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s masterpiece, and even if Episode 1 of Atom the Beginning seemed a bit too childish, give it the benefit of the doubt. I am sure that the show is going to surpass those first cheesy moments and give us a story that we will remember for a long time.
Then, we can binge-watch Astro Boy all over again.
Japanese Title: 鉄腕起動
Atom The Beginning is based on a sci-fi manga series by Tetsuro Kasahara with writing contributions by Makoto Tezuka and Masami Yuki. It is a prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s classic Astro Boy (Mighty Atom). It depicts the events until the birth of our familiar robot boy. It began serialization in Shogakukan’s Monthly Hero’s magazine on 1 December 2014.
The story follows the two genius scientists Umatarō Tenma and Hiroshi Ochanomizu, as they spent their time researching robots and their potential to become either a god, according to Tenma, or a friend, according to Ochanomizu. Eventually, they produce A106, a prototype that could be both.
The Episode starts by setting the stage. In the very near future, the planet (or just Japan) was decimated in a great destruction that left the country in ruins. In a clear analogy to the country’s condition after World War II, Japan was able to recover and thrive because of the advent of robotic technology. Robots are part of everyday life and do everything from regulating traffic to taking part in Real Steel (or Plawres Sanshiro if you prefer) robotic wrestling fights. The world lives in the robotic rhythm. They are workers and entertainment, but that’s where their usefulness stops. In the end, they are just robots.
Robots are not human
In Nerima University, the leading institution in robotics research, two postgrad students are researching a new system that might make a robot self-conscious. They don’t want to make a machine just intelligent, but aware of itself. They have probably never seen Terminator or else the mere thought of a possible Skynet would have put their research to a halt, but in this universe, the two scientists believe that robots must be allowed to have feelings and thoughts of their own. If there is a path to divine intervention, these two went from creations to creators with the sixth prototype of the A10 series, robots they created to test their awareness system.
The first episode has the genius scientist couple (not in a romantic way) interact with all the characters that will play a role in the series: Moriya and Motoko Tsutsumi, another genius student, and his sister who think of our protagonists as ‘trash;’ Hiroshi’s little sister, Ran, is an engineering enthusiast who has few interests outside her love for robotics; A guy with a weird white moustache; an enthusiastic young man who knows all about the robots’ special moves, and the weird oho ho ho European-style lady.
I loved how a seemingly innocent moment gave A106 the chance to prove to his creators that their system does work, and I am wondering what will happen in the later episodes, even if the intro sequence does give it away.
Noses: Both Tenma and Hiroshi have awkward noses. You will see later in the series that they tend to honk each other’s nose a lot. When they fight, when they congratulate each other, when they are pressured, when they feel anxious. It’s just their thing, and I must say I find it adorable.
Opening Sequence: Hands up one of the most amazing opening sequence I have ever seen. Do you think I’m overreacting? Probably. If you disagree, please share your favorite opening in the comments below!
The sequence is set against After the Rain’s ‘Kaidoku Funō.’ It was created by an incredible team, but sadly, according to kViN from Sakura Blog, ‘not even half the people who worked on Bahi’s spectacular ATOM opening got credited in the TV broadcast because of NHK’s stupid restrictions.’ You can check his Tweet for more info on the NHK restrictions:
Not even half the people who worked on Bahi's spectacular ATOM opening got credited in the TV broadcast because of NHK's stupid restrictions
— kViN (@Yuyucow) April 15, 2017
You can also check the ‘thank you’ tweets from 26-year-old Austrian GIF animator-turned-pro Bahi JD:
・Jonathan Djob Nkondo
— BAHIJD バヒ・JD (@bahijd) March 31, 2017
And the opening itself from the official anime Twitter account:
— アニメ『アトム ザ・ビギニング』公式 (@atomtb_anime) April 15, 2017
F14: This comes from the manga, but I’m sure it will come up in one of the later episodes. The cat that A106 is wishing a good night is a tomcat. The codename of the F-14 fighter jet is Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft. The day that the genius scientist couple will adopt the cat will be Valentine’s Day. February 14 (F14). Two puns in one.
1000 Horsepower: A first stage before the 100,000 horsepower punch of Astro Boy.
No Reason to Worry: Having the public unaware of the real events behind the malfunction of the robot and their avoided death is a common trope found in many similar situations. This scene was japanised by having the audience mistake the fire and the water for familiar special moves.
German: Did you think that Attack on Titan has the exclusive right to use German for its imagery? ‘Bewußtsein’, the theory of our geniuses, means ‘consciousness’ in German.
At first, I was put off by the bright colors and the simple drawings. I felt like I was watching Pokemon or Sailormoon or any of my Saturday morning favorites. The animation was smooth but I felt like I was in the middle of a kids’ show. But, who cares? I really think this is going to be one of the highlights of the season. A robot that is going to take part in arena matches and a cat who is too cute to ignore? Sold. After all, who could say no to these awesome noses of the protagonist duo?
An AI that has a sense of self? A robot that has a heart? There is a difference between having a consciousness and being self-conscious. It may be a subtle difference but of great importance. Is A106 just acting on his algorithms or is he making conscious choices?
Did you like the first episode of Atom the Beginning? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t forget to check the rest of our episodic reviews for Spring 2017 and read our first impressions on (nearly) all of this season’s anime!
NEXT TIME: Bewusstsein (ベヴストザイン)