Osamu Tezuka’s Atomcat is inspired by Astro Boy, but you don’t have to have read Astro Boy to understand what’s going on in this manga. It opens showing us the “birth” of Astro Boy—and then we realize these pages are being read by our main character, Tsugio. Tsugio is a big fan of Astro Boy, and it seems like comics are his way of escape. He’s constantly harassed by bullies and wishes he just had one friend.
One day the bullies steal Tsugio’s much-needed glasses, and while he’s feeling around trying to find them, he finds a half-dead little cat. He takes the cat home and it heals right up, but then it’s such a troublemaker his parents tell him to get rid of it. While Tsugio is biking off with the cat, he’s hit by a car.
It looks as if the cat’s dead, which would be way too sad and traumatic for a cute manga like this. Then a little creativity gets thrown in: the people driving the car actually aren’t people, they’re aliens. (Stay with me.) They want to revitalized the poor unconscious boy’s dead cat, so they look into Tsugio’s memories in an attempt to figure out what the cat was like. They find images of Astro Boy, and hence they bring back the cat to act like these images. Then, you can say, Atomcat is born.
Atomcat can talk, fly, do all the stuff Astro Boy can do, and he quickly takes care of those bullies bothering Tsugio. He does other heroic deeds, like saving forest animals from a fire and taking care of a demon cat named Mephisto. Tsugio loves all that his cat can do, and is determined not to let anyone find out about the feline’s special powers.
The Atomcat manga is as cute as its cat protagonist, and it has Tezuka’s well-known humor and whimsy. The manga often turns to slapstick (the kind more often seen in older cartoons) and you can see the Disney influences on the drawing style. It’s interesting to see the evolution of manga, because it’s so different from the stuff you see published today, but it helped pave the way for what we have now. This isn’t just a nostalgic manga, though, or a manga to read just so you can know the genre’s history. It’s a fun kids comic, and older readers can enjoy it, too. It’s great that DMP is working to get more of Tezuka’s works available in English.
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Story & Art: Osamu Tezuka