Pluto 6: On Man’s Casual Inhumanity

November 17th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , ,

Sometimes, knowing a creator’s work means realizing partway through a book that yes, this guy is seriously going to take everything he’s good at, put it down onto the page, and throw it right into your face. I was a couple of chapters into Naoki Urasawa’s sixth volume of Pluto when I realized that that was exactly what was happening.

Urasawa’s proven himself to be a master of tense, emotional confrontation, believable conversation, and careful pacing. What he isn’t as known for is high impact action scenes, but Pluto 6 manages to put that notion to bed.

The first third or so of Pluto 6 follows a formula similar to the earlier volumes. Gesicht is investigating and talking to people, there are brief asides where small robots break your heart into pieces with an equal mix of adorableness and poverty, a mysterious teddy bear does something frightening, and secrets are slowly passed out.

The difference here is that the secrets are passed out like candy. We find out exactly what Pluto is and where it came from. We find out why Gesicht killed a man. We find out what it looks like when a robot is consumed with hate. We learn just how deep certain characters are, and we get to see true grief in the face of more than one person. We learn the meaning of “500 zeus a body” and it’s the saddest thing.

We also finally get to see Gesicht in hard action. I’m talking wall running, hand turning into a laser gun, fighting a giant monster, dashing through the exploded remains of your enemy action. And Urasawa pulls it off just as masterfully as everything else. It’s horribly violent and utterly tragic all at once, as Gesicht is forced to fight something that either doesn’t know any better or isn’t interested in knowing better, because the truth is too awful to bear.

Pluto 6 is paced in a way that it all feels very inevitable. Inexorable. The first scene in the book is an uneasy conversation between Gesicht and a scientist from Persia. It sets the tone. Where Gesicht was once on top of things and ahead of the investigation, he’s apparently slipped a step. He finds out something surprising at the end of the first chapter, and the hits keep coming from there on out.

Tragedy is the fuel that makes Pluto go. By the end of the volume, we realize that Gesicht, our hero and point of view, has been lied to, betrayed, misled, and hindered by forces beyond his control. All of this despite being a more powerful being than most of the populace. He has to consult a murderous robot to even find a semblance of truth. He’s a good man in a world that doesn’t deserve him.

Pluto is that book where a conversation is just as tense as two robots fighting, and the last eight pages just raise the bar. Two people, one a robot, the other a human, embrace on the border of the past and the future. They open up in a traditional Japanese garden outside of a hotel, as a high-tech city looms menacingly in the background.

Pluto 6 is the best yet. There’s really no other way to put it. It’s everything that’s made Pluto the best series of the year, but simply done better than before. That’s impressive.

Matthew Brady has a good review of this volume. He includes some scans and it’s good reading.

You should be buying this comic. Blah blah blah, I don’t read manga, it’s backwards, it’s black and white, whatever- shut up. It’s the best. You’re doing yourself a disservice by missing out.

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6 comments to “Pluto 6: On Man’s Casual Inhumanity”

  1. I can’t wait until you finish this whole thing. It’s really epic.

  2. is this the one where a certain character dies? cause if so, you’ve reached the turning point. what happens from here on out will likely divide most readers more than anything so far.

    but yes like Julian says it is epic, especially the final battle (which happens in all it’s Tezuka glory)

  3. I picked up the first 5 volumes of this and 6 of Yotsuba on your recommendation. Both have been fantastic. I am afraid to read this whole article since I haven’t picked up Pluto 6 yet.

  4. Ok, read it. Loved it. Reread it. but… I’m still confused on what ‘500 zeus a body’ meant. Help!

  5. @DrewT: You know when Gesicht meets a certain character late in the book and says “I once had a child just like you?” “500 zeus a body” is what the salvage man offered him for the wreckage of his murdered son. One final casual inhumanity on top of the murder.

  6. thanks!