Reading the "Astro Boy" comic book with his dad is Tsugio's one refuge from the bullies at his school. One day he finds an abandoned kitten, and names it after the robot hero to convince his family to keep it. But after a strange encounter with aliens honeymooning on Earth, Tsugio's shocked to find his cat can speak - and has all of Astro Boy's powers! Sworn to secrecy, Tsugio and Earth's tiniest hero together fight raging fires, awakened mummies, and more!
Tetsuwan Atom (first published in 1952) is one of famous manga author Osamu Tezuka's most prolific works. Translated as Astro Boy in the US, the manga was adapted into an animated series with a 193 episode count in 1963 which led to American audiences getting one of their first tastes of anime. Astro remains beloved in Japan as Tezuka's expression of innocence and of the power of the human spirit in the face of evil. Of course, being the man he was, Tezuka decided to remake his story in the late 1980's albeit with a slight twist. Atom for this version is four legged, has whiskers and has fur. In other words, he's a cat.
Found by often bullied schoolboy Tsugio as an ordinary kitten, Atom is at first the standard cat: he destroys curtains, leaves poop everywhere and digs up bugs, worms and frogs for the mother of the house. So, Tsugio's parents order him to take Atom away. While on their way, their bike is hit by a car. This being a Tezuka manga, the car owners turn out to be aliens who find Tsugio hurt and Atom dying/dead. Using Tsugio's mind (which is filled with his memories of Astro Boy manga that he read with his inventor father) they reconstruct Atom with Astro's powers: jets in his feet, 100,000 horsepower and laser guns in his butt. Though he now has the ability to speak, Tsugio and he hide his new powers and talents from Tsugio's school mates and Tsugio's parents. Tsugio's parents are typical Tezuka comedy types: his father is an inventor who doesn't invent so much as create weapons of mass destruction and his mother who defines a loving, cheerful, crushing, husband basher. Armed with his newform powers, Atom tackles bullies, demonic cats, forest fires and hoodlums. With his trademark artwork, Tezuka just decides to have fun and along us to have fun with him. There are no real stakes to fights for with his cast, just one adventure after another.
To tell the truth, there's no point in describing this what happens in this manga. Atom and Tsugio get into all kinds of scrapes and adventures and much merriment is had by all. Tsugio frequently relies on Atom to save him from the local school bully (with the nickname "Qaddafi" for some reason) and Atom sometimes forgets that he's an indestructible cat and not a regular feline. Where it is going is to be a parody of Astro Boy with constant recap pages at the start of every chapter from Astro Boy itself and then run into its story from there. It kind of reminds me of the adventure books of Enid Blyton with its angle of derring-do, though with a hundred percent less casual sexism and rascism. If I had to give an idea of what the tone of the story is, I would use Akira Toriyama's Dr. Slump. In both, jokes are presented at lightning speed, people are thrown around the room by explosions and general destruction and mayhem plus the main characters often don't know what precisely is going on.
In the end, Atomcat is a happy diversion for the young at heart and fans of the original work. How well it would work on the children of today is anyone's guess. In any event, for the price of a coffee and cake at Starbucks, you've found your afternoon's distraction.
This book is part of the Tezuka Unico Kickstarter organised by Digital Manga Publishing. Others in the same pledge include Triton of the Sea and Unico.