“Who is Astro Boy? Where did he come from?”
That phrase was repeated in an audio loop, flowing over cheerful marching music, while actors furiously drew cartoons of an impending horror. It might as well have been my own question, coming into Astro Boy and the God of Comics at The Studio 2ndStage without any prior knowledge of artist Osamu Tezuka or of his cartoon creations. That phrase seemed to be the lynchpin of the play’s meaning. It stayed with me for several days, running through my mind, unwilling to be forgotten.
A real boy dies in a horrible accident. A robot boy is created to take his place.
Created and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, Astro Boy and the God of Comics is a seventy minute riff on creation and destruction from both the creative and historical angles. We learn about the brilliant Tezuka through episodes presented in reverse chronological order – seamless mash-ups of live action, video, projections and puppetry. It’s a dizzying concoction that might almost seem gimmicky if it weren’t for the production’s total commitment to the bright-eyed, vivid intensity of comics.
Honestly? It might be a bit genius.