The previously introduced Blue Knights makes a reprisal with the episode, "Secret of the Blue Knight." We find out the secret behind his quest, and Astro Boy helps him recover his place in the world. That the antagonistic Blue Knight is turned away from his relentless search for vengeance is a surprise to Shadow, who made Blue Knight purely to be a destroyer. Shadow is a recurring character that occupies a strange place at the side of Dr. Tenma. Actually a robot, Shadow is more dedicated and effective than Tenma when it comes to testing Astro's abilities. There are times, such as the episode "March of the Micro Bears," where we wonder whether Shadow the student has actually become the master over his creator and teacher Tenma.
Given a proper introduction is Zoran, Astro's sister. She entered during a previous episode with nary so much as an explanation for why, how, and where Astro Boy came up with a sister. Dr. O'Shay's creation of a robotic sibling for his adopted son is a nice touch, and Zoran is a great character. She reminded us more than a little of Ed from the Cowboy Bebop series; whether there was any mutual admiration or one-sided borrowing, we'll never know... By far the funniest character yet in the series appears in the episode "Old Dog, New Tricks," a self-proclaimed, hard-boiled detective that has been reduced to helping people find their lost cats until he gets pulled into working with Astro Boy on a kidnapping and string of robberies perpetrated by another recurring character, Skunk.
One-off episodes like "Old Dog..." are fun, but the real meat behind Astro Boy: Volume 3 is the development of a tense relationship between Shadow and Tenma. Tenma as Astro's creator and the ambitious father figure is increasingly opposed to Shadow's methods, but shares Shadow's vision of Astro as the ultimate robot in need of stress and testing to reach full potential. Everything Shadow does seems calculated to upset Astro and provide feedback for how a strong robot acts and reacts. The element of human emotion that makes Astro special is what ultimately prevents him from falling prey to Shadow's weird schemes. Outright crooks like Skunk obviously don't stand a chance against Astro Boy, but Shadow and Tenma seem so cold and clinical that they add a nice layer of doubt. You're really not sure to what lengths they would go, in order to construct some test for Astro and once more prove his robotic supremacy. Doing bad things with good motives would sum it all up, but Astro Boy increasingly relies on his friends for help. Will Tenma and Shadow manage to find the weakness in Astro's armor? Stay tuned for future looks at the remainder of this series on DVD.