I’m still torn on Atom: The Beginning. With Kabukibu! moving out of the danger zone and Sekaisuru Kado and Re:CREATORS joining it (in the other direction) this show is really the only true bubble series left. It would be a nice candidate for a digest post, but the nature of those is that you need multiple series airing on the right days in order for it to be practical. At one time I might have thought one of the Shingeki series might be a fit, but “Bahamut” has clearly earned its own posts and “Kyoujin” is, well- Kyoujin.
The bottom line, for now at least, is that I’m enjoying Atom and I think it’s best to try and judge it as much as possible on its own merits, rather than as part of the most hallowed mythology in anime. The quality does shine through – while there are three studios co-producing the fact that one of them is Production I.G. is not insignificant, and the series has two prominent directors and a high-caliber writer behind it. Atom looks good and the narrative has an easy confidence about it that betrays the experience behind the camera.
I’m not 100% sold on the story itself yet, to be honest, though it’s pretty entertaining. The characters seem pretty 2-D at this point, a collection of gimmick traits (or in Ran’s case, one gimmick trait) rather than fully-realized people. But the episodic plots have all worked pretty well as one-offs, including this week’s tale of a lost robotic dog. The esteemed Tobita Nobuo (listing his credits would take a week, -Dayon) joins the cast as Ban Kensaku (his son made an appearance in the premiere, and will be a significant character as well), the private dick hired to find the lost pet. Kensaku is a bit of a comic relief character, but clearly has the Bones McCoy role here as the luddite roboskeptic who preaches the value of legwork and the human heart.
One of the reasons these episodic tales have worked is that they’ve all had something to say about the core idea at the heart of Atom: The Beginning – and indeed, Astro Boy as a whole – the nature of artificial intelligence and human emotions. The man searching for his lost “pet” has clearly established an emotional bond with these robots, and the whole raison d’etre of Six is that he’s a robot who’s motivated by human impulses. Six is the key to everything here, though at this point he’s still basically an embryo. No one – not Six himself, nor even Tenma or Ochanomizu really understands what Six is and in what ways he’s different than what’s come before. If Atom: The Beginning can eloquently elaborate on that question over the next two months, it has a chance to be a very worthwhile series.