Do you love anime and manga? Well, the character who started it all in Japan, the very first anime character ever, Astro Boy, is coming to theaters in the United States. Astro Boy first appeared as a comic (manga) in a Japanese magazine in 1951. Later, starting in 1963, he became an anime sensation in an animated TV series in Japan.
So what is the new movie about? Astro Boy’s Japanese name is Tetsuwan Atomu, meaning Mighty Atom. Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist named Dr. Tenma. He is endowed with super strength, x-ray vision, unbelievable speed and the ability to fly, but he also has a heart. When he learns that his friends and family are in danger, Astro Boy marshals his awesome super powers in a valiant effort to save them.
Freddie Highmore is the voice of Astro Boy in the new movie, and he answered some of our questions about it.
Q: What was it like playing an animated character versus a human character?
Freddie: Well, it was something different. People often think it’s a bit easier to do a voice, but I think it can be a bit harder. I mean my experience is you’ve still got to be committed to the role. In Astro Boy there’s so many moments where he’s upset or in the middle of a big battle and I think you’ve really got to be there, whether it means crying in the middle of the scene when people say, “Oh just use your voice.” Or running up and down on the spot to get out of breath and sound authentic. I think you’ve got to do that and not be self conscious at all. So in that way it can be harder. And also that you’re not with the person that you’re supposed to be doing the scene with. David’s been fantastic in that way explaining to us what the other person’s done and what we can do to make it fit in, but it’s never the same thing.
Q: Are there similar characteristics or different characteristics between you and Astro Boy other than that he’s a robot?
Freddie: I think that everyone has something in common with Astro Boy in that we’ve all got something different about us that makes us stand out for certain reasons. And Astro Boy is a human in a robot’s body. So I guess I can identify with him in that way and everyone else in the world can. We’ve all got a different characteristic, be it a good thing or a bad thing, that makes us different from everyone else. And like Astro Boy we all want to be accepted into society, into a group of friends, into a family. Just another normal person. He wants to be accepted right from the moment his dad says, “I don’t want you any more. You’re a robot and you can’t replace my son.”
Q: What was the coolest part about working on this film?
Freddie: I think it was fantastic being able to get to see it right from the beginning to the end. I also think it’s very cool to play a superhero and to have such a fantastic role in the film, but what made it really exciting was having been to Japan to do promotional shoots and seeing Astro Boy stores that they have there and the murals dedicated to him. I mean he is Japan’s Mickey Mouse. The exciting thing was to be able to try and bring the excitement generated there to the rest of the world.
Q: If you had a personal robot, what would you get it to do for you?
Freddie: I think being able to transport me at an incredible quick pace anywhere in the world would be fantastic. I could be in London through the help of my London, travel over to Los Angeles in a couple of seconds. That would be fantastic. And it would be incredibly easy to keep up with friends that way all around the world.
— Sonja, STACKS Staffer
Interview by Marie Morreale
Images Courtesy of Summit Entertainment, © 2009 Imagi Crystal Limited/Original Manga © Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd.