Much like TV shows and movies here in the states, Japan also enjoys coming up with prequel additions to some of their classic shows and films, especially those created by the legendary Osamu Tezuka. Those unfamiliar with his name are sure to know his works such as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Black Jack (one of my personal favorites), and Hi no Tori otherwise known as Phoenix that would become his magnum opus that he continued to work on until his death in 1989. There have been a few recent prequel shows to some of his works that are either decent or miss the mark altogether, but the latest one, Atom: The Beginning, seems to capture just enough of Tezuka’s spirit while also adding in new elements to make it worth checking out for fans old and new alike.
Taking place in Japan where a major catastrophe leaves the country in shambles, the people have created amazing robots to help clean up and rebuild Japan into a brilliant, robotic age. Two young researchers, Umataro Tenma and Hiroshi Ochanomizu take it upon themselves to create a new kind of robot, one that will harness the ultimate power of a machine but also possess the most sophisticated AI out there to give it human-like qualities. Their creation becomes A106, a nearly perfect robot that will change the world of robotics and AI forever as it goes on one adventure after another discovering more about itself and what it wishes to become, as well as learning about humanity through situations both touching and cruel that show what it is to be human.
Those familiar with Astro Boy can already tell where this show will lead to in the end, and it almost comes off as a retelling of the famed series of sorts, but it’s definitely one of those anime that pulls you in with its deep “what is it to be human?” plot as well as the bits of action thrown in. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next for Tenma and Hiroshi (even though fans already know), and especially A106 since it was the major, unknown variable in this show. Watching it come to terms with itself and the surprisingly deep take on the nature of AI that goes into Ghost in the Shell-like territory always had me coming back for more. It’s also nice to know that Tezuka’s son, Makoto, also lends a hand with some of the writing and producing of this series as well.
If you’re a fan of Tezuka’s work and/or Astro Boy, you’ll want your sensors to scan Atom: The Beginning when you get a chance. With this being a recent release in Japan along with being released on Blu-ray, the visuals and audio look and sound great. There’s not a lot in the way of special features outside the standard clean opening and closing animations, but it’s the main story and A106 that will have you interfacing with this release.