One of the staples of popular anime has always been robots, often giant in scale and battling in space. Long before Gundam and others, Astro Boy, created by Osamu Tezuka, was the first to make this genre popular. It’s also widely considered the “first” anime. The new Netflix anime PLUTO reimagines one of the arcs from Astro Boy, “The Greatest Robot On Earth,” as a darker, murder mystery. Episode one of the eight-episode series (all are now available on Netflix) introduces Detective Gesicht, who at first seems like a regular working husband, married to his human wife and living in a futuristic home; he’s revealed to be an intelligent male robot working for Europol. Gesicht is sent to investigate the murder of Bernard Lanke, who fought for robot rights, and Mont Blanc, one of the seven most powerful robots who served in the 39th Central Asian War and was left in pieces in the forest he helped keep safe. The conundrum is that robots are not allowed to harm people, yet one has, and not only that, it happened eight years ago as well.
Gesicht finds evidence of the assailant after speaking with the metallic wife of the victim, enough to conclude with the local police department that the criminal is after seven powerful machines that participated in the 39th Central Asian War. The episode transitions to another part of the world where a retired pianist named Duncan, renowned for his classical work, lives alone in a Scottish castle. He has had several butlers assist him but he ends up firing all of them as he wants nothing to do with anyone. A nightmare plagues him in which he runs after his mom who abandoned him for the man who used to own the same castle he now lives in. North No. 2, a new robotic butler, politely offers his services to Duncan but is also rejected and asked to leave. Several times this mysteriously soft-spoken machine asks to be taught to play the piano after hearing his master play it. After some backstory is given for each character and a climactic battle occur, the hour-long episode ends with Gesicht meeting a boy in the rainy streets of Tokyo named Atom.
Wow, what an interesting first episode! Animatrix vibes were everywhere (I wonder if that anthology was an inspiration for this series). It was surprisingly long and I would have liked it cut in two with one episode focusing on Gesicht and the other on Duncan as it felt odd having them back to back. I even went back in the episode to make sure I didn’t miss anything in the transition because it felt a little out of place. I enjoyed it all though; the scenery was beautiful and gave life to each setting. Duncan’s castle garden, the prison holding a criminal robot that gave me Lilith vibes from Evangelion, and the skyscrapers in the first few minutes were stunning, with all these places drawing viewers into the world. Duncan is a particularly interesting character and I was touched by how his attitude changes when he learns the truth behind his nightmare and the song he cannot seem to finish. There was a sense of forgiveness that I would have liked to have explored at the end of his part of the story, but ended up as a missed chance. There’s still much to be revealed in the coming episodes about PLUTO, though, including the mystery villain and more about Atom as the presumed savior of the series. I have my hopes up for this one, as I’m a sucker for a good anime mystery that keeps me guessing and I would recommend checking PLUTO out if you are up for one as well!
You can stream all eight episodes of PLUTO on Netflix.