*Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Book 8 — Recommended

The much-anticipated (and much-feared, because no one wants it to be over) final volume in the deservedly much-praised series is here, and the presentation is excellent. This volume, with 10 chapters and 254 pages, is over-sized compared to the previous, and it opens with 10 glorious color pages. This book feels substantial and important, and so it is.

Pluto Book 8 cover
Pluto Book 8
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This is the manga series that converts any comic reader to appreciating the format. It has an immediately intriguing high concept — someone is murdering the world’s seven greatest robots. But how do you murder a robot? Does that even make sense? And why would someone make a gripping story for adults out of an Astro Boy story? Isn’t that like doing War and Peace with Mickey Mouse? Surprisingly, no. It plays off of all the strengths of the medium in an approachable way.

The art is gorgeous, easy to read, with the pacing and emotional punch of a great movie. The themes are big and classic. What makes someone human? How do you cope with the loss of a dearly loved one? What if you could bring them back, or prevent war from hurting anyone else? What is the responsibility of science and how do you practice it ethically? Anyone can relate, especially once you meet the great robots, lovable personalities with their own quirks. They’re all remembered here, inspiration for a new generation.

Each chapter ends at a point that immediately rushes you into wanting to read the next installment. Yet the staging is so well-done that you won’t realize the story was originally serialized if you’re not looking for it. It all holds together, each revelation building on previous events. The layers of identity can be confusing at times, but they demonstrate the potential for anyone’s change and re-invention of self.

As befits a story based on his series, Astro Boy has returned, but in a much scarier way than his usual cheery fly-by. The visual contrast between his deep, adult motives and his friendly, childish appearance is shocking, and that’s what makes him the perfect centerpiece of the book. Everyone wants to protect him, almost instinctively, without realizing his power and abilities. It’s a kind of deceptive immortality, where he can’t grow up, no matter how much he learns or mentally ages. Yet it’s his increasing wisdom that drives him to begin deceiving those he cares for.

The end will seem young in its optimism to some, but I think hope in the light of acceptance of the horrible things people can do takes maturity, as shown in the gorgeous cover illustration. This is the kind of book where, as soon as you reach the end, you want to reread the whole series to recognize what you missed and relive the emotional power of the story. Here’s a look back at our reviews of every volume in the series. (The first were by Ed, but then I took over later in the series.)

(The publisher provided a review copy.)


  1. It was definitely one of my favorite comics I read last year. I had some problems with it (They were all on the side of the source material though). But overall I’ll proudly display it on my shelf for a number of years to come.

  2. […] on vol. 1 of My Darling! Miss Bancho (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 8 of Pluto (Comics Worth Reading) Snow Wildsmith on vol. 1 of Rampage (Graphic Novel Reporter) Barb […]

  3. What were some of the problems you saw? And by source material do you mean the original Tezuka story?

  4. […] Johanna Draper Carlson reads the much-dreaded final volume of Pluto and mulls over the whole concept: " And why would someone make a gripping story for adults out of an Astro Boy story? Isn’t that like doing War and Peace with Mickey Mouse? Surprisingly, no. It plays off of all the strengths of the medium in an approachable way." […]

  5. I guess I should clear that up. Spoilery for anyone who hasn’t read it.

    In my view, this was Gesicht’s story. His his mystery to unravel, character development to go through. That he had to be taken off the board in order for Atom to save the day (Which how it was in the source material that Urasawa had to stay somewhat faithful to) for me weakened the last two volumes.

    I found that this intense, psychological political/crime thriller ending with the supporting character foiling a cartoon super villain plot to destroy humanity created too much of a disconnect between the two versions (Tezuka’s kiddy morality tale and Urasawa’s adult one) for me to call it perfect.

    It’s sort of like Batman busting his butt to stop a criminal plot only to have him get knocked out, and then Superman showing up to finish the story.

    As it is, it’s still a very very good comic. And if film makers had any sense, they’d be beating a path to get the rights.

  6. Also, I never got over Brando’s death scene… *sniff*

  7. I also very much loved Gesicht, and I was disappointed to see him go. But I think that speaks to Urasawa’s talent, that he made the portrayal of a cop robot (a rather flat character description) so affecting. And yeah, I could see echoes of the simpler source material throughout the end. For me, at least I had the element of surprise, since I didn’t know the original story. But it is somewhat kiddy in its bones. Still, as you say, it’s very good, especially in terms of its craft.

  8. John Henning

    War and Peace with Mickey Mouse = MAUS

    I think Pluto is up there with the great comics in the West, like MAUS and WATCHMEN. In fact, the murder mystery with superhuman characters that becomes much more than a murder mystery is very similar to Watchmen.

  9. Ha ha! True. I hate trying to come up with ridiculous comparisons, because someone’s always come close. Pluto has something else in common with Watchmen, too — they’re both amazing recreations that started with someone else’s characters.

  10. […] my first podcast! Ed invited me to join him on Manga Out Loud to discuss Pluto now that it’s concluded. We had a great […]

  11. […] Pluto — Heartbreaking in its achievement, I wish it could have gone on far longer than its eight books, but part of the skill demonstrated by Naoki Urasawa is knowing how to wrap things up. The best counter-argument to the idea that some stories are too silly to take seriously, it’s astounding that this stunning contemplation of humanity is based on a kids’ Astro Boy comic. […]

  12. […] recommend that method, of reading a bunch in one big gulp. Unlike some of Naoki Urasawa’s other works, the serialized original publication method seems more obvious to me in this series. There’s […]

  13. […] you’d like to learn more about Pluto, my first Manga Out Loud podcast was a two-parter where Ed and I talked about how much we enjoyed […]

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