Atomcat by Osamu Tezuka, translated by Sachiko Sato
If you knew nothing about manga history before picking up Atomcat, you would find an entertaining story of a young boy, Tsugio, who shares a love of comic books with his father. Bullied by neighborhood classmates, Tsugio longs for a friend who might have the same superpowers of his bookish superheroes.
During yet another bully attack, Tsugio discovers a tiny kitten, barely alive. Named Atom for his resemblance to a favorite manga character, the kitten not only recovers, but becomes so bothersome that Tsugio’s parents insist he must take Atom far, far away. Enroute to do his parents’ bidding, Tsugio and Atom are hit by a speeding vehicle … driven by a glamorous couple who turn out to be peripatetic aliens-in-disguise. They attempt to restore the lifeless kitten by mining Tsugio’s memory … which is filled with the exploits of his favorite superhero… Astro Boy.
When Tsugio wakes, his supercharged kitten is right at his side. Watch out, bullies! Atom can fly to the rescue, exorcise demons, tame pirate ghosts, foil a smuggling ring, and destroy zombies. Exciting adventures, right?
Oh, but there’s more! Context always make the content richer: creator Osamu Tezuka, revered as the godfather of manga, is best known as the creator of Testuwan Atom, aka Astro Boy. Introduced as a story in 1951, the iconic manga series began in 1952 and lasted through 1968, but continues to live on in many international incarnations, including anime, television, films, video games, and more. In 1986, three years before he passed away, Tezuka (check out his comical – couldn’t resist! – cameo on page 41, bottom right) announced he, too, would “[ride] the ‘remake’ boom … [and] decided … to do a remake of my own, starring Atom.” Tezuka’s endearing essay (which includes his manager’s flabbergasted protestations) of how the iconic mighty Atom morphs into Atomcat – more accurately, A-tom-cat – is included at manga’s end and not to be missed.
Go ahead … take a cue from Tsugio’s manga-addicted father. (Re)discover some of your childhood antics … see that cover? Astro Boy’s pointing right at you.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult
Published: 1986, 2013 (United States)