Extra Credit: Astroboy, Film Review

By: Natalie Jongjaroenlarp

Tezuka’s Astroboy, an animated television series, is about a boy robot created to replace a scientist’s son who passed away. The scientist, Doctor Tenma, through his depression and sorrow over the death of his son, desperately denies that his son is gone. Once Astroboy comes into his life, he tries his best to teach the boy how to live like a regular, human boy. When that fails, however, he sells the robot to a circus without another thought to the boy’s feelings.

This film has grotesque, dark moments that reflect german expressionism. The stereotypes and characteristics of the feeling of claustrophobia, the dark shadows, the mad scientist caricature, and the doppelgänger and split personality effect are prevalent in this film. In the beginning, the frankenstein-like music coupled with the birth of what seems like a monstrosity coming into being help to create the german expressionistic atmosphere. Meanwhile, Doctor Tenma laughs wildly as his creation of Astroboy becomes real, much like a mad scientist. This foreshadows the dark things that will happen to the character of Astroboy later. Also, there are times when Astroboy resembles something of a younger Doctor Tenma. That is why it is so heartbreaking when the scientist sells the boy. It seems like he is selling a part of himself away, as he tries his best to move on after the tragic death of his son. The doppelgänger characteristic of German expressionism comes into play especially during the scene where Doctor Tenma is debating whether or not he should create Astroboy. He has an internal war with himself, as he struggles to come to terms with the recent tragic accident that took the life of his one and only son.

The main point of the film is driven home at the end when Astroboy saves the circus master. He treated the boy with such cruelty, yet he was saved by him in the end. This reveals that everyone should always be treated with absolute kindness because you never know what may happen in the future. As they say, what goes around comes around. This film stars a character that all children love.

The appeal of Astroboy not only comes from the film or tv series, it also comes from the advertising and merchandise. Children everywhere would be thrilled to see candy with Astroboy’s face on it. Sales increased quite a bit once the decision was made to use Astroboy as a strategy. Because children identified with the brand so much and Astroboy was literally everywhere, it made it easy for Japan’s largest candy company to make a lot of money. This same idea was later copied by other manufacturing companies once they realized that the use of popular cartoon characters worked. However, once they began to use the actor’s image, from the tv show, alongside the face of the cartoon, the strategy did not work as well. The problem was that children identified the actor with other characters from other shows.

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