In writing up this piece on the ending of Naoki Urasawa’s PLUTO, a retelling of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy: The Greatest Robot on Earth for a modern audience, and discussing whether it works or not, I realized that I was taking a very important piece of the puzzle for granted. I was assuming anyone that might be reading this would have already ready Urasawa’s PLUTO.
That would be an erroneous assumption to make.
So, here, as best as I am able, I give you a quick synopsis of the 8 volumes of PLUTO.
Europol has sent its prime investigator, Gesicht, to look into the death of the world-renowned robot from Switzerland, Mont Blanc. Gesicht is one of the seven most advanced robots in the world, which is why he is given this case. He is also a humanoid robot, passing for human in every way imaginable, which is helpful in his line of work. Mont Blanc, until his untimely demise, was also a member of these elite seven robots, and his death is felt by people all over Switzerland.
During his investigation, Gesicht discovers a pattern – it appears that these seven advanced robots are being targeted, along those humans involved with the Bora Project during the 39th Middle East War in Persia; a war in which all of these seven advanced robots were involved one way or another. Even if it was to protest the war and remain out of it, as Epsilon did. Gesicht is unable to reach the second victim, North No. 2, before he too succumbs to Pluto’s devastating attacks.
The person behind these attacks appears to be the President of the United States of Thracia – the antagonist in the 39th Middle East War when they invaded Persia behind the claims that Persia was working to create robots that would act as Weapons of Mass Destruction – but we see that he is being manipulated by a teddy bear, which is actually a sentient supercomputer working to decimate the planet and leave the robots in charge of a cinder almost completely lacking in humankind.
But that explanation comes much later in the story.
As Gesicht works the case, we are introduced to all of the other super robots – including two wrestlers, Brando and Heracles, Atom (better known to Americans as Astro Boy), and Epsilon, the pacifist who now runs an orphanage for the orphans of the 39th Middle East War. We also learn about the scientists behind the creation of these robots, specifically Dr. Tenma, who created Atom as a replacement for his son who died, and Dr. Abullah, who was the head of the Persian Ministry of Science and is working to bring back the beauty of his country after the devastation of the war. He was also a victim of the war, losing his family and most of his body and, like Darth Vader, becoming more machine than man.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Abullah is working with the President of the United States of Thracia because they, along with Dr. Tenma (see below), were the scientists who created Pluto. Dr. Abullah is seeking revenge for what these robots did to his country during the 39th Middle East War and will stop at nothing to achieve his ends.
We follow Gesicht, who vainly tries to stop the killing at two, and experience the humanity he and his robot wife have, as well as the humanity found in so many of these advanced robots. The mystery of who or what Pluto is continues to deepen over the course of the 8 volumes, twisting and turning as we learn that Pluto is not only a destructive force, but also wishes to paint beautifully colorful landscapes. His A.I. is a strange dichotomy that strains his psyche and eventually leads to his final salvation.
Eventually, the President of the United States of Thracia succeeds in killing all seven of these most advanced robots in the world, paving the way for the ascension of the U.S.T. as the most powerful nation in the world. But he hadn’t counted on Dr. Tenma using his genius to provoke Atom’s resurrection.
Which we will discuss in the next installment.