Pluto is the first big adaptation of a critically praised manga, although you wouldn’t know it from the debut of the anime. No matter the format, the eight-part drama is compelling and emotional. Despite its obvious appeal to an older demographic as an animated series (and an anime at that! ), Netflix has done nothing to market it.
On October 26, Pluto silently dropped onto Netflix, without so much as a peep. There were hardly any reviews published on the day of its premiere, and it was never included in Netflix’s own Top 10 rankings. You are one of the lucky few if it appeared on your Netflix main page.
This lackluster release is disappointing for many reasons. The fact that it’s based on a manga by Naoki Urasawa, who won an award for making it, is probably the most noticeable. The show is faithful to the source material, which in turn was inspired by one of the most iconic comics and cartoons of all time, Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka.
One of Astro Boy’s arcs was rewritten by Urasawa, and it has a super-strong robot named Pluto on a killing rampage that includes both humans and other super-strong robots. Astro Boy is one of these robots; Urasawa calls him “Atom” because that’s what he was called in the Japanese version of the series.
Urasawa shifts the action tale into a murder mystery with science fiction overtones rather than focusing on how Atom counters Pluto’s vengeful mission. Pluto is tagging along with Gesicht, a highly functional humanoid robot from Europol who has been tasked with the Pluto investigation.
For an intelligent robot like Gesicht, whose artificial intelligence would appear to rule out emotions, becoming tied up in events targeting friends and familiar faces dredges up startling feelings. Through his inquiry, he crosses paths with the fascinating mundanity of human life; the startling hatred that resides inside much of mankind; and the tangled nature of his own life and memories.
Pluto is a potent reimagining of the Astro Boy plot, exploring conceptual depths that make it more interesting to an adult audience thanks to its focus on refining the robots to the point where it can be impossible to identify them from the character.
The animation takes its time throughout eight one-hour episodes (corresponding to the manga’s eight volumes) to savor the rich character development found in Urasawa’s work. The quiet moments where robots and humans shed tears together, face each other’s preconceptions, and weep for the falling darkness of civilization outweigh those that another animated series would pleasure in expanding: any real action or fight amongst robots.
For instance, the animated version of the scene when Gesicht eats lunch with Atom (who masquerades as a small child while holding a much superior brain) is more impressive since we get a longer time to examine Gesicht’s astonished reaction to Atom seemingly eating food (despite the fact that robots shouldn’t be able to do this).
Atom’s ability to convincingly imitate human behavior endears us to him, making the tragedy that befalls him all the more devastating. Pluto’s slick animation and deft use of a tense tune make it such that viewers will remember the emotions rather than the actual battles.
Despite its critical acclaim and connection to Astro Boy, Pluto’s arrival on Netflix has been met with surprisingly little enthusiasm. Not all Netflix anime series are like this. Netflix’s algorithm often recommends original shows such as Cyberpunk Edgerunners, Kotaro Lives Alone, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures, while One Piece has been heavily promoted since the release of the show’s live-action remake.
Pluto, on the other hand, is an international political thriller/murder mystery about incredibly lifelike AI’s inner philosophical conflicts in the aftermath of a global war, so the pace, length, and subject matter all suggest that the algorithm isn’t up to the task.
I haven’t seen much talk about Pluto in the so-called mainstream media, but sources that generally cover anime have been praising it. Whether this says more about Netflix’s regrettably low-key debut of the series or the persistent marginalization of anime in the greater cultural realm, I’m torn.
However, now that Love Is Blind has ended (funny), Pluto is by far the greatest choice for anybody searching for a new, thought-provoking drama to watch on the streamer. It’s excellent on both the anime and television fronts. Netflix has a good thing on its hands with this one.