Published in the US by Viz
Slugline: A re-imagining of a classic Tezuka/Astro Boy story
Gesicht is a homicide detective in a near future where intelligent robots are common. It has been only recently have robots become difficult to tell apart from humans with robots getting married and having child robots, but robots are still somewhat removed from humanity by an emotional distance. Even Gesicht, himself a robot, can't help but feel some distance from the victims he tries to find justice for. His latest case is the murder of Mont Blanc, has very little emotional distance for everyone in Europe, since Mont Blanc was a beloved and wildly popular forestry robot who was also an environmentalist, poet and former soldier from the Asian wars. Mont Blanc's crime scene is very similar to the crime scene of a human murder which cause a great deal of worry for the authorities. If the two murders are related, only a robot would have the strength to tear apart Mont Blanc but no robot has killed a human in eight years. This disturbing contradiction drives Gesicht to consult with that killer robot, who warns him that there are 8 targets, all powerful robots many with connections to the Asian war. One of them is Atom, better known to American readers as Astro Boy.
This is an authorized extension of a Tezuka's Astro Boy story arc, now told as a murder mystery starring what was then a supporting character. I was not aware of all this back story when I picked up the volume but it was easily able to stand on its own. The characters and the plot are very subtle, holding more than what first appearances would suggest. Sure, there are some silly bits, such as robots with robot children, but once you accept the premises of the story, everything else flows naturally. Knowing Tezuka's titles would deepen one's appreciation for this homage, letting one recognize the off-handed Black Jack mention, but it is strong even without that knowledge.
Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga