By Osamu Tezuka. Released in Japan by Sekai Bunkasha, serialized in the magazine Nico Nico Comic. Released in North America by Digital Manga Publishing.

I have been noticing, around the internet, a lot less enthusiasm for this particular title as opposed to other Tezuka titles. Usually the comment will start by saying “Well, any Tezuka is good Tezuka, BUT…” and then moving on to note its fluffiness and lack of deep, tragic history. This is a marked contrast to the other type of Tezuka fan, which is the “we must have every single Tezuka work ever created translated into English as soon as possible!” sort. I have sympathy for both camps. Tezuka wrote a TON of stuff, and not all of it is going to be on the scale of Apollo’s Song or Buddha. At the same time, I do want to see his lighter comics that are just moments of everyday life or dumb humor. And that’s why I’m quite pleased to see Atomcat, which is both.


The story of a young boy and his Astro Boy-themed superhero cat, this manga actually intersperses moments from the actual Astro Boy manga (redrawn by Tezuka) as contrast and compare. Usually Tsugio reads about another aspect of Atom’s fairly crappy life, and sympathizes, then has to deal with his own issues, such as an eccentric father, overbearing mother, and the ever-present school bullies. He tries to take home a stray cat as a pet, but the cat is an absolute disaster, destroying everything in the house in a great comedy sequence. Taking it away so he can abandon it, he and the cat and struck by a car… driven by Princess Diana. Only not really, she and Prince Charles are actually ALIENS. The boy is fine, but the cat is dead, so they fix him using the boy’s memories… with are filled with Astro Boy. So now the cat is intelligent and has superpowers. This doesn’t help quite as much as you think, although he’s a few levels above Doraemon.

This is a very 1980s manga – leaving aside Charles and Di the space aliens, we also have the school bully being named Gaddafi. It’s also very much for kids – Unico was too, but it had an undercurrent of melancholy at its core that Atomcat simply doesn’t possess. This is broad comedy with lots of funny faces. Our hero’s father is an absentminded freak, and his wife is the typical cartoon wife – all she needs is a rolling pin to beat her husband with. Atomcat and Tsugio fight mummies and gangsters, search for island treasure, and plunge through the sewers of Japan.

There’s no real character arc here – Tsugio starts the series as a bit of a wimp, and ends that way as well, and the series does not so much end as stop. But it’s fun! The dialogue is snappy, the Astro Boy inserts work well with the themes of the stories, and there’s lots and lots of comedic slapstick, which Tezuka was very good at indeed. I read this title and thought of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game, or Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2. Everyone says they’re influenced by Tezuka, but we tend to look for it in series like Ayako. In reality, these manga artists were more likely to grow up reading stories like these – and these are the stories that influenced a future generation. Fluff, but IMPORTANT fluff.

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  1. Well now I am just psyched to get my copy hopefully soon! And I’m a big cat fan, part of why I instantly had to have it. I’ll probably read it with my cat, Butters, on my lap (because she refuses to leave me alone when she wants cuddles), purrrfect! Seeing how most of the Tezuka on my shelf seems to be, at best, bittersweet, having something cheery (except for the cat dying, but if you’re going with Astro Boy, something’s gotta die at the start) will be cool.

  2. While the 2003 anime did poorly in North America, having received poor distribution and having been heavily edited, including the removal of its orchestrated soundtrack and much of Astro’s childlike innocence, it was better received in the UK on the BBC , where it ran in syndication for almost three years as well as other parts of the world such as Dubai based MBC 3 .

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