Netflix’s Pluto | What is it about, when does it stream and what is the anime’s link to the classic Astro Boy?

A neo-noir anime series based around of of the greatest story arcs in the history of manga series ‘Astro Boy’ arrives on Netflix this week with ‘Pluto.’

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One of manga’s greatest story arcs has not only been spun off into its own seinen manga series but now makes its way onto our screens as part of Netflix’s continued market into the world of Japanese animation. Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Pluto’ arrives on the platform this week, reimagining an origin surrounding one of Astro Boy’s greatest anti-heroes; Pluto.

To call the release of the manga series ‘Pluto’ success is a complete understatement; upon its first strip in Big Comic Original back in September 2003, Naoki Urasawa’s work was met with critical acclaim, and transformed one of the characters from the original series, Gesicht, into a hard-boiled detective akin to the ones you’d find in a pulp fiction - or for Hideo Kojima fans, the similar kind of protagonist you might have played as in ‘Snatcher’ or ‘Policenauts.’ 

The critical acclaim for the reimagined ‘Astro Boy’ world led to ‘Pluto’ winning several awards, including the ninth Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, and selling over 8.5 million copies after being released across eight tankōbon volumes after its run in Big Comic Original in April 2009. Urasawa would go on to create one of the official posters for the 2020 Summer Olympics and continue to busy himself with more manga work - when he isn’t performing as a musician.

The anime of ‘Pluto’ wasn’t the first attempt to bring the work to our screens; during a period of time when ‘Battle Angel Alita’ was first being discussed as a live-action/CGI film and rumours that Leonardo DiCaprio would be involved in a long, long rumoured live-action version of Katsuhiro Otomo’s watershed work ‘Akira’ (writers note: please don’t), ‘Pluto’ was considered to be turned into a live-action work.

Universal Pictures and Illumination acquired the rights to Pluto in 2010, however, nothing eventuated after that news emerged. What fans did get however was a stage show adaptation of the work, that incorporated 3D imagery via projection mapping and premiered at Tokyo's Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon on January 9, 2015

What is ‘Pluto’ about?

The eponymous Pluto, one of Astro Boy's greatest villains (Credit: Netflix)The eponymous Pluto, one of Astro Boy's greatest villains (Credit: Netflix)
The eponymous Pluto, one of Astro Boy's greatest villains (Credit: Netflix)

“Pluto follows the Europol robot detective Gesicht in his attempts to solve the case of a string of robot and human deaths around the world where all the victims have objects shoved into or positioned by their heads, imitating horns. The case becomes more puzzling when evidence suggests a robot is responsible for the murders, which would make it the first time a robot has killed a human in eight years.” 

“All seven of the great robots of the world, the most scientifically advanced which have the potential to become weapons of mass destruction, seem to be the killer's targets, and the murdered humans are connected to preserving the International Robot Laws which grant robots equal rights.”

What is the voice cast involved in ‘Pluto’?

Netflix has listed the following performers as the Japanese voice cast for the show - wrestling fans might want to pay particular attention to the voice actor of Uran, who is none other than New Japan Pro Wrestling’s resident sadist, Minoru Suzuki.

  • Gesicht: Shinshu Fuji
  • Atom: Yoko Hikasa
  • Uran: Minori Suzuki
  • Montblanc: Hiroki Yasumoto
  • North #2: Koichi Yamadera
  • Brando: Hidenobu Kiuchi
  • Hercules: Rikiya Koyama
  • Epsilon: Mamoru Miyano
  • Pluto: Toshihiko Seki
  • Dr.Ochanomizu: Toshio Furukawa
  • Dr.Tenma: Eizou Tsuda
  • Helena: Romi Park
  • Duncan: Michio Hazama
  • Brau-1589: Hideyuki Tanaka

What links ‘Pluto’ to the classic manga series ‘Astro Boy’?

Pluto happens to be the antagonist of the manga classic ‘Astro Boy’ story arc “The Greatest Robot on Earth" (地上最大のロボット, Chijō Saidai no Robotto), which then spun off into a manga based around an alternative history of the character with a more modern reimagining of what some consider now an anti-hero, created by Naoki Urasawa. 

Pluto was brought into existence under the orders of the corrupt sultan Chochi Chochi Ababa the Third, with the explicit purpose of establishing himself as the "most powerful robot in the world" by eliminating all competitors in his path. Among his victims were formidable robots such as Montblanc, North #2, Brando, Gesicht, Hercules, and Photar, all of whom he dispatched effortlessly, solidifying his reputation as an unfeeling killing machine devoted to his master, with no regard for anything but combat.

However, when faced with Astro Boy, his ultimate target, Pluto's convictions begin to waver after being rescued by his adversary. He finds himself grappling with the implications of his actions and unexpectedly develops an attachment to Astro Boy's sister, Uran. As their climactic showdown unfolds at a volcanic site, Pluto's creator unveils an even more formidable robot named Bora. In a selfless act, Pluto sacrifices himself to vanquish this new threat, safeguard Astro, and prevent the volcanic eruption from causing further destruction

When does ‘Pluto’ arrive on Netflix?

‘Pluto’ arrives on Netflix in the United Kingdom on October 26 2023.

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