Credited as the first popular animated Japanese television series in 1963 and the pioneer of anime, “Astro Boy” has had a long history as manga and animation. To celebrate, the Center for Asian American Media's annual film festival CAAMFest will celebrate 60 years of “Astro Boy” at the NEW PEOPLE cinema in Japantown San Francisco on March 22.
First published in 1952 as “鉄腕アトム” or “Tetsuwan Atomu” by Osamu Tezuka, “Astro Boy” was a futuristic manga series where robots co-existed with humans. A brilliant doctor creates a powerful robot to replace his dead son but discards it when the robotic Astro Boy cannot express human aesthetics. Eventually a professor discovers Astro Boy, cares for it, and notices Astro Boy's power that blossoms into both superheroic abilities and ability to experience human emotions. Astro Boy's big eyes helped convey those emotions and would later be one of many staples of anime.
As a superhero series,“Astro Boy” was unique among superheroes. Writer Frederik L. Schodt, who is noted for his translations of the “Astro Boy” manga, says:
“In an age when most American superheroes fought for a patriotic form of justice and had special powers derived from mysterious, almost cosmic sources, Astro Boy was utterly original. …His powers were based on semi-scientific or mechanical principles, and instead of fighting for justice, he fought for peace.” --”Astro Boy:” Books 1 and 2.2
At 5:30pm in NEW PEOPLE cinema on March 22, CAAMFest will screen the 2009 adaptation of “Astro Boy.” Featuring the voice talent of Nicholas Cage (Dr. Bill Tenma), Donald Sutherland (President Stone), and Kristen Bell (Cora), the film is a family-friendly visual beauty that is an enjoyable way to introduce people to “Astro Boy.” Following the film, there will a 25-minute slide presentation and Q & A session with Frederik L. Schodt about the “Astro Boy” phenomenon. General tickets are only $12.
For a more hands on look at “Astro Boy,” CAAMFest will also hold an “Astro Boy” 60th anniversary exhibition at the NEW PEOPLE cinnamon’s SupeFrog Gallery in Japantown San Francisco. This free exhibition will feature a variety of “Astro Boy” toys, games, anime episodes, and other rare memorabilia that will show the evolution of the series and artwork. Doors open at 7:00pm on March 22.
To promote this celebration of “Astro Boy,” CAAMFest is holding an “Astro Boy” and robot costume contest. Simply upload a photo of your “Astro Boy” cosplay or yourself as any robot tagged with #AstroBoy and #CAAMFest on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr by March 16 for a chance to win free tickets to the screening. Alternatively, you can just show up to the “Astro Boy” screening to receive a raffle ticket for free “Astro Boy” merchandise and participate in the costume contest for prizes.