Atom: The Beginning – Preview
Atom: The Beginning:
Original Air Dates: April 15th, 2017 – ???
Synopsis: Umataro Tenma and Hiroshi Ochanomizu are attempting to build a humanoid robot who not only looks like a human, but can feel like one. With no interested investors, they must pick up odd jobs to help fund their research. (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: As if the retro character designs done up with a modern animation style didn’t give it away: Atom: The Beginning is a tie in to one of anime’s most beloved and classic titles: Astro Boy, as we know him in the U.S. Atom: The Beginning offers up a re imagined look into Tenma and Hiroshi’s history, Astro Boy’s creator and ‘adoptive father’ before the untimely death of Tenma’s son, the young boy Astro ends up based upon.
Linny: If you’ve never watched or explored any part of the original Astro Boy series, have no fear. Atom: The Beginning is perfectly approachable and enjoyable for newcomers to the franchise, as it is a reimagined prequel and thus requires no prior knowledge of Astro Boy. The only tie-ins it shares with Astro Boy for now is its two main human characters, and that story wise, it might be going the way of having a ‘terrorist/terror act of the week,’ a formula employed in certain Astro Boy iterations.
Tom: Keeping things moving fast, we’re thrown right into the middle of Tenma and Hiroshi’s attempts to craft a self-aware and independent A.I. These attempts tend to be destructive or laden with problems, giving the show a quirky, mad-scientist atmosphere. There’s no time to dawdle as the characters rush through their hectic lives, giving us plenty of opportunities to learn the dynamics between Tenma, Hiroshi and the host of characters surrounding them. There’s even a tease for terrorist activity that A106, the pre-Astro Boy robot featured in the series, will have to contend with, but like many Astro Boy properties before it Atom seems to be keeping things on the lighter side of the spectrum. In fact this episodes entire situation is diffused without the general public even really being aware of it. The series isn’t afraid to inject plenty of humor either, frequently humiliating our heroes for the sake of a good joke.
Linny: There isn’t really a lot of time spent on exploring or showcasing A106, choosing to focus instead on the human characters and the events that lead up A106’s big heroic moment. This might frustrate viewers who were hoping for a more robot hero focused tale, although perhaps A106 will come into his own over the next few episodes as he appears to be listed as the main character.
Tom: Atom: The Beginning offers a new look into the origins of Astro Boy as well as Tenma and Hiroshi’s friendship and eventual parting of ways. We already get a sense of mild friction between the two, although they’re both allies in their quest to create a self-aware and independent A.I. This portrayal offers up seemingly more quirky versions of the characters, depending upon which iteration of Astro Boy you’ve seen. Both are likable, Tenma a lovably arrogant fool and Hiroshi, a frantic, absent minded goof. the portrayal of the two doctors works very well, offering up relatable characterizations, while adding enough whimsy and charm to match the general tone of the franchise.
Linny: Hiroshi might appeal to viewers who like more responsible leads, though he really isn’t that much more responsible than Tenma who’s the cocky and confident guy whose ambitions clearly outweigh his resources. They both seem somewhat incompetent in their own ways, most likely to sell the struggling and starry eyed grad kid vibe so no dashing leads for the audience, not yet anyway.
Tom: The episode offers up a host of additional cast members, most newcomers to the franchise. There’s so many, most are relegated to the briefest of glimpses, such as the starry-eyed, Ban Shunsaku, or his father Kensauku who has a grudge against robots in general. The only real clue that these people will play grander roles is their appearances in the opening credits, which give an almost slice of life vibe. The show even manages to squeeze in a tease for our big rival to Tenma and Hiroshi, one Tsutsumi Moriya, a wheel-chair bound top student of the university oozing with low-key arrogance. Atom makes sure to drip in all the elements that’ll make up its twelve-episode run and if properly built upon should make for a solid twelve episodes.
Linny: We’re introduced to two female characters as well, Moriya’s sister Motoko and Hiroshi’s younger sister, Rin. While Motoko does seem to share some of Motoko’s arrogance, the credit scenes already make it clear that she will be an ally to our main protagonists, if not a lover of sorts for one of them. Rin, on the other hand, seems destined to be the kid that’ll befriend the android and help highlight his humane side more, though she doesn’t get a lot of screen time this episode.
Tom: Overall I’m very excited for Atom: The Beginning. This episode offers up a lot and while it can perhaps feel a tad messy, introducing far more characters than it really knows what to do with, as an Astro Boy fan I’m dying to see how the birth of A106 gradually leads to the creation of Astro Boy. Atom is based off a manga however, one that’s still ongoing, so it’s likely these twelve episodes won’t get all that far in the story and that’s a shame. That said, what’s on offer here has all the whimsy, goofiness, darker undertones, and robotic intrigue that’s kept Astro Boy relevant and intriguing even to this day.
Linny: As someone who never had any interest in Astro Boy and never had a proper chance to experience it, I had no issues getting into Atom: The Beginning which should be good news to others like me debating watching this show. Personally, I wasn’t really impressed or engaged by any of the human characters and my enjoyment of the series arose from seeing how A106 would revolutionize the ‘soulless robot’ stereotype that was prevalent in the show’s universe. If the theme of a robot developing self awareness and emotions appeals to you, Atom: The Beginning has the potential to make an fun tale out of it.
Atom: The Beginning is available for streaming via Amazon’s Anime Strike Channel.