ASTRO BOY Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment Year: 1983 Film Length: 1530 minutes Genre: Animé/Adventure/Sci-Fi Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.33:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English 2.0 mono Subtitles: English Film Rating: Unrated Release Date: November 22, 2005. Show Rating: / Directed by: Noboru Ishiguro & Osamu Tezuka Known as Tetsuwan Atomu to the Japanese creators, the series played on U.S. networks and Canadian television under the title Astro Boy. Being only 6 years old at the time, it was my favourite TV “cartoon” (and was the first time that I was ever introduced to the Anime genre – not that I knew what Anime was at the time). I must admit that I have a soft spot for this television series. It’s unlike anything else I remember that was aired. Over the years I loved much more aggressive shows such as G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man and the list goes on. As fun and exciting all of these shows were, and no matter how much they spurred my imagination, none of these shows were gentle as Astro Boy was. In the face of discrimination and prejudice, Astro Boy was about the triumph of kindness, compassion, and selflessness. While this is a higher-quality colour version of the original black and white show from 1963, the story remains very similar. The year is 2030 and Dr. Boynton, an amazing but controversial robotics engineer, creates a robot the strikingly resembles his son Toby who he recently lost in a car accident. Despite the criticism he receives, he abandons the engineering facility with his boy robot Astro. But after he realizes that the robot will never be the boy he loved and could never grow up as a human can, he regretfully abandons his creation and will never fill the void in his heart. With trickery, Astro is picked up by a cruel ringmaster of a robot circus. After this twisted moment in Astro’s life, he is saved by a robot-rights activist who Astro stays with for the rest of the series. From here on, Astro learns of special powers to aid and protect mankind from the evils in the world. Gentle by nature and timeless in its execution, Astro Boy is one of my favourite animated television series. Everything is just sooo perfect about it. It’s both emotional and nostalgic for me to watch it, and listening to the theme song again brings delight and joy (it’s absent from the new 2003 series). In fact, when listening to it recreated by piano while viewing the special features on this disc, its sounds somewhat sad and lonely…quite possibly because Astro Boy is one of the few on this earth whose actions are selfless and whose heart is always compassionate. The series in this box set spreads 51 episodes over eight discs. There are four slimcases packing 2 discs in each of them; each also having colourful artwork as well as the episodes and synopsis to each under the translucent plastic that grips each disc. According to the liner notes, they appear in the Japanese Broadcast order rather than the U.S. Broadcast order. There are many differences in the order but I’m happy they are in the Japanese order. Interestingly, there are 52 episodes in the Japanese Broadcast. Astro Boy VS. Atlas is the extra episode but it is not included in this set. My best guess why that is would be because there is no English dub for this episode so it wasn’t included in the order. If that was the case, it would have been great if it was included in the special features on disc 8. VIDEO QUALITY / Anchor Bay has done an AMAZING job in making this Astro Boy set look great. If you remember anything about how these shows looked on TV, be prepared to be amazed. My memory has the show looking faded of colour and not very “high-quality” as the show was supposed to be. It was faded and had cream-coloured whites (but I also wasn’t ISF calibrating televisions when I was 6 years old). This set is sharp, doesn’t have edge enhancement, brilliantly colourful in comparison to old video masters (as seen in the special features). Aside from the tiny black spots (like dirt?) that come and go in a fraction of a second, these transfers cannot be faulted. I ensure you that aside from a “Bambi-like” restoration; this is as good as it’ll get on SD-DVD. No disappointments here! AUDIO QUALITY / The audio, delivered with Dolby Digital, is 2.0 mono. We have the option to listen to the English dub or the original Japanese language soundtrack for the first time!! When listening to the Japanese track, English subtitles are available. You’ll notice that what is translated in the English dub is not always the same as what the subtitles say. Also, as I’ve noticed on Disc 1 when Astro is being created for the first time, the music is different on the English mix. It’s different than the Japanese version which has the opening theme music to 2001: A Space Odyssey as Astro rises for the first time. If there are other differences, I’ll let you have the fun in finding them! The audio is surprisingly good but what I expected for the animation series. Dialogue is a little thin, stressed, and distorted on occasion. Sound effects are good and there is decent bass as well, and both the Japanese and English mixes use most of the same sounds. The Japanese version does seem to have the better soundtrack of the two; lower level detailed sounds are more prominent and not masked in the mix and it’s not as chesty sounding in the midrange and the dialogue is integrated better. Dialogue is far too forward with the English dub. Background hiss is noticeably quiet on the Japanese track as well so if you want to crank this title’s audio up you can do it without a lot of noise. The English track as a much higher level of background hiss. SPECIAL FEATURES / All of the special features are on disc 8. There are a few deleted scenes that are spoken in Japanese only and have the episode number just before it. They are just as good looking as the episodes themselves. Also included are 13 character profiles, a restoration comparison, storyboards of the opening sequence that features the animated opening on the right side and the storyboards of it on the left. There is a 7-minute slideshow gallery of the original character art as well as a 6-minute slideshow gallery of the original Astro Boy Manga covers. Both rotate pictures to the theme music of the series. Lastly, there is a very informative and well put together 24-page booklet about Astro Boy and his creator, episode listings, lyrics to the theme song, artwork, and more! Astro Boy fans will love this! IN THE END... If looking to pick up an animated series from the ‘80s, one that you remember and love very much, when picking through the large selection now available on DVD, please consider the 1983 version of Astro Boy with the red box from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Don’t get this set confused with the 2003 remake in the “black box” set available from SPHE. It’s just not the same. If you love this series or if this will be your first time viewing it, I guarantee you’ll love this complete set. Absolutely recommended! Michael Osadciw January 5, 2006.