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Astro Boy (1960s)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic 1960s anime series (which inspired the 2009 movie) follows the exploits of a highly advanced robot with amazing powers but a childish perspective on the world. The action is pretty standard for a superhero series aimed at kids, with Astro Boy easily defeating a wide variety of giant robots, aliens, monsters, and more. Expect plenty of fighting and explosions, but there's no blood or injuries. The show’s view of family is more complex; Astro Boy’s creator built the childlike robot to replace his own son who was killed in a car crash, and the young hero needs a father figure to figure out his place in the world.
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What's the story?
After his young son is killed in a car accident, a grieving genius scientist decides to create ASTRO BOY as a robotic replacement. The childlike robot (voiced by Billie Lou Watt) is incredibly powerful, with super strength, laser blasters in his fingers, and rockets in his feet that enable him to fly. While he quickly learns to defeat monsters, aliens, futuristic battle-bots, and other foes, Astro Boy finds it more difficult to understand modern society, and the kindly Dr. Elefun (Ray Owens) takes on a paternal role to help Astro Boy find his place in the world.
Is it any good?
Osamu Tezuka's classic animated series debuted in Japan in 1963 and is considered one of the very first examples of anime. Watching it today, it’s easy to see elements of the story and aesthetic that are still common today, ranging from the characters' exaggerated eyes, the blend of serious images and sudden whimsy, and the wide use of futuristic, anthropomorphic robots.
The episodes' basic stories aren't complicated, much like many American cartoons from the same era; typically, some powerful foe appears, and Astro Boy handily defeats it. The interpersonal dynamics are more complex -- Astro Boy was explicitly created to replace a dead child, and despite his immense power, he needs a father figure to guide him. That makes the show a bit deeper than other series from the period, as well as a fun way to examine an important part of animation history.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about anime. Astro Boy is considered one of the very first anime series. How do current anime shows resemble this one? Can you spot elements of Astro Boy’s storyline and look/feel that are still common today?
What do you think about Astro Boy’s interactions with other people? Despite his power, do you think he seems like a child? Does his relationship with Dr. Elefun seem like a father-son dynamic?
How does the action/violence in this show compare to that in modern cartoons? Does it have more or less impact?