Pluto Episode 3 - Featured Television 

Five Thoughts on Pluto‘s “Episode 3”

By | November 10th, 2023
Posted in Television | % Comments

So far, we have seen the storm from afar. We hear of it. We see signs of it. As “Episode 3” progresses, those signs transform to experiences.

The wind is picking up. The sky, darkening with every second. A rumble rolls through the clouds. The storm is not yet here, but it approaches. And we had better prepare.

Spoilers ahead.

1. Everything and the Kitchen Smart Sink

Fairly focused and semi-episodic up until now, “Episode 3” is where Pluto begins to narratively fragment and fracture. While never losing sight of the central murder mystery, there is far more to keep track of now with multiple seemingly unrelated subplots and a host of new and returning characters: Uran, Epsilon, Professor Abdullah, Adolf (YUP,) Sad Not Herr Dr. Kenzo Tenma, and that’s not counting the people from the last episode that we’re now following more closely like Hercules.

Gesicht’s vacation plans get a monkey wrench thrown in when he begins to question his memories, Uran, Atom’s sister, takes an amnesiac painter under her wing and becomes a truant, Hercules prepares to avenge his fallen friend Brando (BRAAANNNNDOOOOOOOO!!!!,) and, of course we have Nazi robots.

I kid. This isn’t “Hellsing.” They’re an anti-robot cult of bigots, so it’s more like the KKK. Same difference. Both are awful and both are seeing a troubling resurgence alongside other right-wing hatemongers. We’ll get to them soon enough.

This isn’t even half of what’s going on in the episode. If this were any other project, I’d likely say that it’s too much. However, this is an Urasawa project we’re talking about. This is nothing. Plus, the hour-long run time means a lot more happens per episode. The CW WISHES it had the kind of tone, pacing, and character control Pluto has. I took four full pages of notes, y’all, and the only reason it wasn’t more was because I didn’t want to miss what was happening on screen.

I tell ya folks. You’re lucky I have the will to not watch the next episode so I can speculate properly.

2. The Spectre of War Is Cold and Merciless

Pluto hasn’t done much with its “seven strongest robots in the world” schtick other than to use it as a reference point for who will be important in the plot going forward. We had Mont Blanc, North No. 2, and Brando as well as Hercules and Gesicht. I’m not sure if Atom counted, and Uran certainly didn’t as she’s his little sister and didn’t have anything to do with the 39th Central Asian War. “Episode 3” unifies the characters a bit more by introducing us to the seventh robot – Epsilon – and using him as a contrast to the rest of those who participated in the war.

A pacifist, he refused to fight or even appear as a “peace ambassador” like Atom, and after the war started an orphanage for, well, orphans of the war. In doing this, Pluto continues its interrogation of war’s effect on people and what purpose it serves if all it causes is pani, death and destruction. In Epsilon’s conversation with Hercules, they debate the merits of pacifism, albeit briefly, and discuss the cost of war – not in economic terms. In moral terms – and the cost of stopping war.

That last bit, the cost of stopping war, is what I hope Pluto chews on more. It’s the part that I want to chew on more because it’s what sets Pluto’s message apart from the thousand other “war is bad” messages out there. Peace is not easy, it’s not simple, and most certainly not free. It will cost, it will cost a lot, but that cost is worth it. Why do we balk at the cost of peace but happily pay higher and higher sums for the cost of war? In families and culture. In souls and humanity. In dollars, in history, in dignity and in lives.

This is why I say the message of “Attack on Titan” (the manga more than the anime) – “war sucks but is inevitable” – is messy and garbage. It’s not wrong per se but it is shallow, at least in how Isayama explores it, and the execution of said message is some of the sloppiest writing and drafting I’ve seen in a long time. Pluto’s brutal but incisive approach is a breath of fresh air.

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Pluto is not shy about where it stands. I think Gesicht’s flashback says it all. There are leaders right now who would best take heed of this message. But for them, the cruelty is the point and peace the furthest thing from their minds.

3. Fuck the Nazis

I was only half kidding with my “suddenly Nazis but not really” bit earlier. There’s no getting around the ways Urasawa clearly evoking Nazism without explicitly utilizing the aesthetics and symbology. Our focal character is named Adolf! The cult talks about blood and honor and kinda sorta sieg heils. They use propaganda to seed discord and distrust. Also they chant “death to the robots” but that’s pretty typical gross religious fervor kind of stuff.

By not explicitly tying the group to any real world strains of hate, Pluto does a great job of showing how heinous ideas metastasize and mutate as they find new groups to hate and what an anti-robot hate group would look like in the near-future world Pluto has created.

Back to Adolf though. He blames robots for all his misfortunes and the death of his father. That’s why he’s wrapped up in this cult which only feeds his insecurities about them “stealing human’s jobs” and how one day they’ll replace all humans. (Nazi parallels return.) What makes this all so fascinating, and makes Adolf a great focal character, is that he’s just a regular old schmoe. He’s not an ideologue or a cynical grifter; he truly believes this stuff but only because that’s the lens through which he’s been told to see the world through.

He saw first hand what losing his job to a workforce that, at the time, did not have rights and could be exploited for free, arduous, and unending labor did to his father and how an overzealous cop-bot’s arrest of his father for stealing a soccer ball acted as the final straw in said father’s life. He’s disaffected and disillusioned and predisposed to blaming the robots, and not the systems they were tools for, making him easy prey for more radical hatred. Thus, when he finds out his really bad dude of a brother got murderized by special ammunition only a robot could fire (only at the behest of Europol, I should mention,) it’s no wonder he fully goes down the radicalization rabbit hole.

When the morgue worker says your brother’s mincemeat body was an “appropriate and lawful” end, it’s not hard to see why one would be angry, even if that guy was a piece of shit.

Now, Adolf still sucks as a dude but the understanding we have of him makes for a compelling character study and a word of caution. Hatred is made up of people like the cult leader, sure, but it’s also made primarily of people like Adolf.

4. Error 404. Vacation Not Found

Despite taking a back seat to, well, most of the rest of the episode, Gesicht finding out that he may have had his memories tampered with is a HUGE bombshell that has me very hopeful we’ll get more Brau-1589 in the near future. Seriously! It opens up a big can of worms related to the perception of the perfection of robot memories and if I weren’t already way too many words into this five thoughts I’d dive into how Pluto is playing with themes of hidden bias in “objective” systems, of prejudice reinforcing stereotypes, and perfection as a false standard. Since I won’t, I’m just gonna gush about this development because it is SO GOOD.

We’ve known for a bit something is off with Gesicht. I thought maybe it had to do with his time in the 39th Central Asian War. Everyone else has some form of PTSD related to it so why not him? Then there’s been all this talk of the only way a robot can forget things is to delete a memory but clearly Gesicht doesn’t remember doing that; I presume he’d remember the act of deletion, just not the deleted memory itself.

Which begs the question: if he didn’t delete these memories, who did? More importantly, WHY did they?

We don’t get answers to those questions but we do get plenty of evidence of a conspiracy from the higher ups in Europol. And I love, love, love the way we find out about all this. It’s pure slow-burn political thriller with the perfect sci-fi twist. A registration with a travel agency for his wife they don’t remember having. A canceled trip he doesn’t remember making. And memories of a different vacation – a year abroad in Spain – memories they both share, and have photos to back up. Too many photos.

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Why would a robot family need that many photos if they have perfect memory? When he gently probes his doctor about the question, he dismisses it but secretly follows up and is soundly rebuffed. What would the director go to such lengths to cover up? And what does this have to do with the special weapon housed in Gesicht’s arm? The very weapon that may have killed Adolf’s criminal brother.

Questions upon questions remain. And we have plenty more miles before we can sleep.

5. Beauty is Ephemeral. Cops Being Fuck Ups are Forever

Uran’s introduction stands in interesting contrast to Atom’s. Both are introduced with an interaction with animals and both are shown acting out of kindness. It establishes their strong senses of justice and moral code right from the get go. Uran, however, is brash and flashy while Atom is more subdued and gentile. Uran has no filter and it often gets her into trouble but it also means she’ll leap right into danger if she thinks someone needs help without a second’s hesitation.

It’s truly wild how effective an introduction the first scene of the episode is. Uran saving a crying child from five escaped zoo animals AND saving the zoo animals from the police establishes all we need to know about her while also foreshadowing the events of the episode’s climax with the mysterious Not Kenzo Tenma. Yes, I know he has a name but the face Urasawa used was the same as scraggly Dr. Tenma from “Monster” so I’m gonna keep calling him that despite this show ALSO having a Dr. Tenma with a very noticeable proboscis.

I love Uran’s presence here. Most of the characters are quite dour, as is to be expected from their haunted pasts, but not Uran. She’s unburdened from the effects of the war and so Urasawa gets to use her as a…not quite innocent figure but as a more optimistic one. She trusts more widely. She fights harder against injustice because she’s less weary. She has the benefit of youth. Even though Atom is not all that much older than her, he feels of the others’ generation and his narcing on her at the end solidifies that feeling.

Not Kenzo Tenma is another fascinating character. He has the power to give life, to transfer energy, and this manifests in a field of flowers he paints and then creates. He has no memories and so he believes that this was his purpose. That his only memory, a field of flowers, must be why he was built.

Sadly, as he realizes after seeing Atom, that was not his past. And despite Uran’s help to imagine a beautiful future, he is shackled by what he once was and what he is forced to be. This is Not Kenzo Tenma’s only appearance. But it will not be Pluto’s last.

Best Line of the Night:

Army ‘Peacekeeper:’ “That’s despair. That’s probably more emotion than a robot like you will ever understand.”

Gesicht: “…That’s despair.”

//TAGS | Pluto

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.


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