We’re at the halfway point folks. That means things are getting spicy. Conspiracies deepen, mysteries develop, and we spend a decent chunk at the start of the episode lounging on a bench feeding the birds. Of course, if you all know anything about an Urasawa work, that just means something really sad is going to happen. I don’t make the rules. I just follow them.
1. Acquiring Hobby. (Scans a Nearby Bird Bot and Smiles)
All joking aside, the opening of “Episode 4” is a perfect example of Urasawa’s ability to make you care about someone or something in a very short period of time and convey a ton of character through compelling but mundane actions. Here we have Professor Ochanomizu, now under protective detail from Yujiro the Cop Bot, sitting and admiring the weather and the birds when he hears something behind him. It turns out it’s a robot dog that’s very damaged. He immediately rushes to bring it home and try to fix it.
The next five minutes of the episode are spent watching as he tries his damndest to save this poor pup, from calling up everyone he can for spare parts long out of production to operating long into the night as the puppy’s pulse slows little bit by little bit. When he fails, he’s distraught. The animators really made the pup pitiful! How dare they.
Through this, and his earlier interactions with Yuijiro, we’re given real insight into Ochanomizu. He’s not bluster. His comments in previous episodes about robot rights are deeply held and an active part of his identity. His love of his grandson too shows the depth of his care and ups the stakes for whoever is hunting down the members of the Bora fact finding mission.
2. Hello Bird. What is Your Name? Goji? I Would Love to See Your Roach Bots. They Do What?!
I didn’t mention him last week but gross Roach Man is back and nastier than ever. Is he actually Goji? Is Goji the AI chip that the roaches are stealing? I don’t know! I cannot remember so I’m here along for the ride with all of you. It’s great. What I do remember is this is the part of Pluto that is the most plot heavy.
“Episode 1” was half table-setting, half self-contained vignette about the meaning of humanity, emotion, and the purpose of art. “Episode 2” was about war and its aftershocks. “Episode 3” was about capitalism’s destructive and exploitative use of automation and the disaffection & hatred it fosters. All have elements of the central themes and plots but “Episode 4” focuses much more heavily on developing the story than on drilling down into one mode or another. The episode is also the least action heavy thus far, despite there being a couple truly standout action scenes in it.
None of that makes for a bad episode though. I love all the twists and turns Pluto is throwing at us regarding the whos and whats behind Pluto and all the deaths. My one complaint is not enough of SungWon Cho’s Brau-1589. Bring him and his creepy metal ass back!
3. Ahhh, The Majestic Space Duck
While Ochanomizu was dealing with Roach Man/Goji/random robot and being threatened with the death of his grandson, Gesicht was having his own version of a no good, very bad day. First his vacation is canceled when he gets brain blasted by Atom’s dying moments (YEAH THAT HAPPENS) and is then assigned to guard none other than Adolf.
Turns out Adolf’s hatred for Gesicht motivated him beyond where the Notzis wanted so they’re cutting their losses and making an example out of him by blowing up his car. Whoops! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Actually, it could. Later in the episode Professor Hoffman has his apartment blown up by Pluto/Goji. Huh.
Anyway, Gesicht is now stuck with Adolf and the two have a very interesting series of conversations. Nothing particularly revelatory, aside from the footage of Darius XIV reciting a list of names that just so happens to be a kill list. There’s no reason that’s important right? Right.
It’s a real testament to the show’s direction and animation, and the acting, that all these conversations never feel boring. I’m constantly amazed because there were definitely moments in Monster that did not translate well onto the screen. Pluto doesn’t suffer in that way and I am forever grateful. Though, I could do with a little more of Adolf groveling.Continued below
4. My Only Request Is That We Kill Son Atom
I mentioned earlier that Atom dies in this episode. It’s true! He’s killed by Pluto protecting Takashi, the Professor’s grandson. It’s a real tragic death that’s shockingly not dwelled on too much. Perhaps, and I’m just spitballing here, it’s because this ISN’T an “Astro Boy” story.
Atom is not the main character – Gesicht is. He’s a well-developed side-character, sure, but so was Brando (BRAAAANNNDOOOOOOOOO!) and North No. 2. It’s still a real shocker how he goes out. I can’t wait to see the ramifications of his death beyond Gesicht’s collapse. That said, Atom’s death is not the one I’m most interested in seeing explored.
The one I want to see is the random cleaning robot’s at the end of the episode.
It’s a brutal scene and while there’s no blood, the animation team put the same level of viciousness and dread into Adolf’s destruction of the bot. I felt every blow and found myself flinching by the end. Gesicht witnesses it all and stops him but only after it’s too late. Gesicht is horrified, rage filling him up and Adolf taunts him for it. I mean, it was just a bot, right? It wasn’t human like him.
It couldn’t fight back.
5. I Saw A Bird. It was Pretty. Kick Its Ass.
Man, Dr. Tenma really sucks. The creator of Atom, he calls him his greatest failure and refuses to share his research with Hoffman & Ochanomizu after they share theirs. Also he won’t pick up their calls! How rude.
However, he’s voiced by Keith David and his sultry, sultry pipes of doom. The dub continues to work wonders and miracles.
I ADORE the manner in which Dr. Tenma is introduced. He’s this mysterious, Genji Ikari like figure. Until the very end of the episode, all we see of him is half a face, cut off by shadow or the camera, or just his feet or his back. He’s an elusive figure with dangerous knowledge and an understanding that as we reach for the “perfect robot,” we’ll find that it is imperfect like us. Because the perfect robot will be able to do everything a person can. Love. Laugh. Weep.
Best Line of the Night:
Professor Ochanimizu: “This is too pleasant a Sunday for homicide.”