Astro Boy Volumes One and Two is a combination of the English translations of the first two volumes of a collection of Astro Boy manga released in Japan.

Astro Boy Volumes One and Two
Written by: Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Kobunsha
English Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 23, 2008

The manga published in this volume are not in chronological order. It starts with the story about the birth of Astro Boy, which was published in 1975; however, Tezuka created the manga in 1951. This origin story is very similar to the origin story presented in the 1960’s Astro Boy anime series. It should also be noted that for this translation, Schodt primarily used the original Japanese names for the characters, with the main exception of using Astro Boy instead of Mighty Atom.

The second story, “The Hot Dog Corps,” was originally published in 1961. It opens with Tezuka interacting with Astro Boy, and Tezuka complains about how when the Astro Boy anime series began airing in America, the episode with the storyline from this manga was rejected because the Americans thought that showing dogs being operated on was “cruel and grotesque.” This particular story is the longest one in this volume, and runs for about 170 pages. In this story, Astro Boy’s teacher has a dog that is kidnapped, and there’s also a plot about cyborgs.

The third story, “Plant People,” was originally published in 1961. This story also appeared in the 1960’s anime series, but some of the details between the two are a little different. In this story, Astro Boy tells his friends about an encounter he had with the plant people.

The next story is “His Highness Deadcross,” which was originally published in 1960. This one opens with Tezuka appearing in the manga, this time with a complaint about when the Astro Boy anime series was sold in America, and how an American declared Astro to be a murderer because he destroyed an evil robot. Tezuka followed this up by saying that Americans were sensitive about scenes of violence in fantasy, yet at the same time, they had no problems going over to Southeast Asia and killing people. The actual manga story deals with Astro Boy being asked to help protect the first robot who has been elected as president, because there are humans who are unhappy with his election and want to force him to resign. This story runs for almost 100 pages.

“The Third Magician” was originally published between 1961 and 1962. In this story, a robot magician named Kino is introduced. He is kidnapped by a thief who wants to learn some of his tricks in order to commit heists without being caught. Astro Boy and his friends must try to help Kino.

The final story in this volume is “White Planet,” which was originally published in 1963. This one is about a race car driver’s high tech car that is destroyed by rivals. The driver asks Professor Ochanomizu to help him fix it. The professor agrees, and Astro Boy helps out. This is another story that I recognized from the 1960’s anime series. Personally, I thought the story was done better in the anime, because the manga version is a little on the choppy side.

In his introduction, Schodt mentions that over time, Tezuka would sometimes go back and redraw parts of a story if he felt they didn’t live up to his standards. This means that when you’re reading some of the stories, you may sometimes see more modern art styles mixed in with Tezuka’s earlier art styles. Also, since the stories in the book aren’t published in chronological order, you will see fluctuations in the art style between each story. While I understand why this is, I still found the sudden changes in art styles to be rather jarring at times while I was reading the book.

Since the volumes used for this book were translations of volumes that were released in Japan, Dark Horse didn’t have control in the way the manga stories were presented. However, by the end of this volume, I found myself wishing that the manga stories were published in chronological order. Even with this “flaw,” I’m still grateful to be able to have a legal way to read Tezuka’s original Astro Boy manga series in America. Prior to these releases, the original Astro Boy manga had not been published in the United States.

If you have an interest in manga history and want to see one of the titles that helped to bring about the art form that we know today, this volume would be worth reading.