Pluto First Thoughts
Posted on 10 Nov 2023
Having recently spent some time in Japan, I was slightly amused to see Netflix advertising Pluto on the subway line. It just seems very strange to have a Western company advertising anime to the Japanese, and it really shows how far the streaming company has come over the years. Once I returned home, it stuck with me, so I thought I'd give it a try, despite the fact I often find Osamu Tezuka's work both dry and depressing.
Pluto follows a robot detective named Gesicht as he investigates three potentially connected murders, starting with Mont Blanc, a wartime robot turned eco-activist living in Siwtzerland, torn apart during a forest fire. The world is left in shock as the robot was mostly beloved by the population for his heroics and gentle nature.
Two more murders, one of which having a similar style to the Mont Blanc case, bring Gesicht to ponder the nature of the crimes, to the point that he visits a murderous robot entombed in a facility, speared to a wall and shut away by fearful humans. He confirms that someone is after the most powerful robots on Earth, and that 6 remain as targets. Gesicht is therefore on the trail of a serial murderer whose motives remain unknown.
While Gesicht is a kindly, human looking robot, his delivery is pretty monotone, and that doesn't really help the story convey much urgency or emotion - once again, the trademark Tezuka dryness is very much in place, with the surrounding cast left to try and emote the urgency and tragedy of events as they unfold.
Halfway through the first episode, we're taken away from Gesicht to drop in on a war robot named North Number 2, who is now serving an ageing musician who has become aloof and bitter during his old age, pining for the attention of a mother who abandoned him and resentful of the success his music has brought him. North Number 2 wishes to learn music, which infuriates the old man, but eventually they become friends for a brief but happy period, after which the robot is destroyed by an unseen force, presumably behind the attack on Mont Blanc.
It was a thrill to see Tezuka's Black Jack alluded to in once scene - he does like to link all his properties together, and it's a pleasure to see it here, no matter how subtle.
As a piece of thoughtful sci-fi drama it's really hard to find fault, with characters exhibiting rounded and reasoned personalities, the robots teetering on human emotions and the society built by the two being well thought through. However, it really takes its time and I can see it being a turn off for a younger audience who might crave a bit more excitement in their anime. While I'll make the effort to watch the rest of the series, I do hope the pace picks up somewhat, as almost an hour of muted talking can be a little dry even for my tastes.
Pluto is streaming on Netflix
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