Japanese Title: Pluto
Related: Astro Boy (tangentially related)
Genre: Psychological Science Fiction Mystery
Length: 8 volumes
- Masterful suspense and mystery.
- Top quality art in every panel.
- I can’t stop reading.
- Complex characters.
- Engaging commentary on AI.
- Action overtakes mystery in final volume.
I have made no effort to hide my admiration of Monster, created by Naoki Urasawa, so when mucking through several disappointing manga from my ever-growing backlog, I turned to Urasawa’s work in the hope of restoring quality. It succeeded. Having only the time to read a volume a day was agony, for Pluto kept the pages turning even when I needed sleep.
Pluto is a True Detective meets Ghost in the Shell crime mystery set in a world of AI so advanced it begins to pass as human. Europol robot detective Gesicht investigates a string of robot and human deaths. Each victim has makeshift antlers impaled through the skull and all signs indicate a robot as the culprit, which shouldn’t be possible – it defies the Laws of Robotics.
From the first chapter, Pluto swathes you in mystery and suspense. Each scene makes you want to know more, see where the case will go. Urasawa knows exactly how much to give the audience to keep us hooked, yet not so little that it becomes vague and dissatisfying. The flow and rhythm of the dialogue delivers weight precisely when needed.
The key, as always in fiction, lies with the characters. No character lacks depth in Pluto. All come outfitted with full complexity, making us want to see what they will do next, how they will react to the next conflict. I cannot decide which character I thought best. Was it Gesicht trying to understand the emotional evolution of his AI? Or the music composer offended by a robot trying to understand music? Perhaps the creator of the greatest AI and what it cost to bring to life? Character after character, across the full spectrum of types, added to Pluto’s intricacy in constructing a phenomenal manga.
I cannot recommend Pluto enough. Reading manga of this quality makes it worth sifting through the muck.
Art – Very High
Full detail backgrounds, thoughtful compositions and lighting, emotive expressions, and texturing place Pluto at the top. Seeing this side by side with your average manga makes the latter look cheap.
Story – Very High
A German robot detective investigate a series of murders, seemingly committed by a robot, which goes against programming. Pluto engages from the first page and doesn’t ease until the last.
Recommendation: Must read. If there is one manga yet to be adapted to anime you should read, it’s Pluto.
(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)