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Astro Boy: Volume 4

Score: 85%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Sony Pictures Home

Region: 1
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 202 Mins.
Genre: Anime/Action/Family
Audio: English, Portuguese, Spanish


  • Episodes:
    • The Case of the Phantom Fowl
    • Gideon
    • Fairy Tale
    • Shape Shifter
    • Firebird
    • Space Academy
    • Atlas Strikes Back
    • Battle-Bot
    • Time Hunters
    • Escape from Volcano Island

This series came and went two decades ago without much fanfare, at least where US audiences were concerned. The original Tezuka Osamu series that the Baby Boomers enjoyed was remade in the '80s with newer, flashier animation and a portrayal of Astro Boy battling real enemies along with negative perceptions about robots. This newly released 5-DVD set from Sony Pictures captures all the episodes from the series, but unfortunately shows them in a strange sequence that proves jarring at times. The narrative is disrupted, and some characters are even featured in episodes before we have any idea who they are or how they got there... It won't bother the kiddies, but purists looking for a revival of the Astro Boy they enjoyed as kids before watching the upcoming theatrical release are likely to be irked.

Astro Boy: Volume 4 plays out as more of an "Extras" collection, with more one-off episodes than in prior volumes. You don't have to know many of the recurring characters to enjoy the ten episodes collected here, although the introduction to Astro's sister, Zoran, in the previous volume is a must. A return performance from the angry robot Astro battled in the first volume is the subject of "Atlas Strikes Back," and a new villain is introduced named Rock. Rock is featured in the combined episodes "Shape Shifter" and "Firebird," both of which feature some awesome, suspenseful action. Rock is a good hybrid of previous villains like Tenma and Skunk; he has the intensity of Tenma, but isn't afraid to roll his sleeves up and do the kind of dirty deeds that we've seen from Skunk. Unlike Skunk, Rock thinks big - world domination big - and actually seems capable of executing on his plans.

There are more instances on this volume of content that some parents might find too intense for younger children. Some scenes from the first two episodes are especially spook-inducing, bringing ghouls and ghosts into play with a rather graphic treatment. We're not talking the extreme effects present in modern anime, or anything, but images of (fake) dead bodies and other hellish icons in a theme-park setting might set a few impressionable youngsters back on their heels. The out-of-sequence episodes aren't that big a deal by this point, since we've suffered along throughout thirty other episodes, but it especially isn't a problem on this volume. The more we see of this old Astro Boy the more we like, so it's with a little angst that we acknowledge the fifth and last DVD in this collection is coming up next.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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