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Astro Boy: Volume 5

Score: 90%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Sony Pictures Home

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


  • "Remaking of Astro Boy" featurette
  • Episodes:
    • Avalanche!
    • Battle of Steel Island
    • Undercover
    • Into the Dragon's Lair
    • Night Before the Revolution
    • Robotonia
    • Showdown in Robotonia
    • Journey to Tomorrow
    • Astro Reborn
    • The Final Battle

Ah, the end had to come some time and here we are... The fifth of five DVDs collecting the '80s remake of a '60s classic from Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy: Volume 5 is by far the best of the bunch as long as you've kept up along the way and seen the previous volumes. Many of the unresolved storylines are concluded here, the biggest being Dr. Tenma's endless fascination with his creation, Astro. The backstory on why Tenma is obsessed with Astro becomes very clear at this point, but we're 50 episodes into the series, so fans may have almost forgotten the early episodes that are referenced here as flashbacks. No question this is well placed as the last series of episodes, since it also ties the bow on an underlying struggle between conflicting visions of robots as slaves or equal partners to mankind.

The world surrounding Astro Boy is absolutely torn to shreds in the last five episodes beginning with "Night Before the Revolution." Ideas of robot equality and the awful treatment of robots by certain groups of humans combine and boil over, with the Blue Knight making another appearance. If the Blue Knight represents robot animosity toward humanity, Tenma is the worst face of humanity against robots. Tenma, we come to find out, is torn between his love and hatred for everything Astro represents. On one hand, Astro presents the image of Tenma's beloved son, lost in an accident. On the other, Astro shows the heights to which robots can rise when they are empowered with emotion, creating hostility and resentment on the part of humans. Tenma isn't immune to this latter emotion, and is further weighed down by feelings of inadequacy as a father for how he handled Astro's "real boy" counterpart, Tobio.

This stuff is likely to go right over the heads of younger viewers, so even Astro Boy: Volume 5 includes a few one-off episodes like "Avalanche" and "Into the Dragon's Lair." Not that young children won't understand the ideas of robots wanting to be free, but they don't have the historical and cultural context adults do, such as understanding real-world horrors of slavery and bigotry. This volume includes a short "Making Of" feature that talks about how difficult it was for Japanese animators to work with an American liaison during the creation of this series. Content that felt very true to the legacy of Astro Boy and the approach taken for Japanese audiences wasn't always right for the US, but the sense at the time was that a nice compromise had been reached. Watching this series of 10 episodes proves that to be true, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Astro Boy collected as it is here makes for a great historical document; the animation and production style is somewhat dated, but not so much that kids will feel like they've traveled back in time. Astro Boy is incredibly compelling, just the kind of principled crusader on which kids love to project themselves. Parents won't find much objectionable material here, unless you count strong action and a few spooky moments. The subtext to the series will be lost on most kids, but makes adult viewing that much more enjoyable. If you're strictly an otaku, you'll know Tezuka's work and may have even caught a few of these episodes previously, but the complete collection is a first. We'd have wished for more special features and better sequencing of the episodes, but nitpicking aside, this is a true classic that US audiences have a chance to catch in its entirety for the first time in two decades. As Astro himself would say, "Let's Rocket!"

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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