“Do not meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.” – Bruce Graham.
Astro Boy is widely regarded as being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, and certainly the most important manga series ever written. It was also the first manga to have been given an anime adaptation. However, long after the success of this series, Osamu Tezuka decided to revisit it with this short children’s take on the original story.
In Atomcat, a schoolboy called Tsugio who is often the victim of bullying and who likes reading the original Astro Boy stories, finds an abandoned cat. He tries to take him home but his parents reject him. Tsugio finds a safe spot to let the cat go, but while he tries to do so he is run over.
Tsugio is knocked out yet survives but the cat dies. Luckily, the people driving happen to be aliens in disguise. They use their technology to bring the cat back to life; using Tsugio’s unconscious to help them. However, as Tsugio is thinking of Astro Boy the aliens design the cat to be like the famous robot. The aliens leave the duo, and when Tsugio wakes up he discovers that the cat, who calls himself “Atom” (Astro Boy‘s name in the original Japanese manga), has all of the abilities of the famous creation. Atom thus dedicates himself to helping Tsugio, but must keep his powers secret.
Much of the stories depicted in Atomcat begin with short extracts from Astro Boy and the chapters therein relate to the themes in the original such as love and relationships with your fellow kindred. There are also more fantastical stories. For example: in one chapter Atom has to battle with some Egyptian mummified animals. This collection is a bit of fun, but we have to remember that it is basically a spin-off of the original classic. It is enjoyable, but nothing significant. There are some things however that do strike you as being interesting. Firstly, the kid who bullies Tsugio is called Gadaffi, which in my read I kept reading as “Gaddafi”, which is slightly confusing but admittedly a bit funnier.
The other issue, however, is that even at this late stage in Tezuka’s career he was still drawing depictions of some races that would be considered today as being rather non-PC. While it is noted that Tezuka was opposed to racism and intolerance, something which often forms the themes of his manga, it is still a bit uncomfortable seeing these depictions which were being made as late as the mid-1980s.
Atomcat is a nice read, but the end result of it is that it makes you want to read the more superior original. But I for one am happy to do that.