Pluto: Character designs and story shifts.
For Alternate Universe Week! Assuming we can get more people on board for this.
And what's an alternate universe without the things that make it different from the original? Today, we're going to start off with a few scans that show off some of the characters, including new characters and redesigns, and finish off with a major plot twist that wasn't (IIRC) in the original story.
All scans read right to left.
First off, a new character. Brau-1589 is a robotic Hannibal Lecter, buried in an asylum for insane AIs. But where the rest of the insane AIs have had their bodies taken away and are stored in electronic jars, Brau has received special treatment. This is because he scares his handlers: Brau is the only AI to have ever killed a human being.
Gesicht is visiting him for the first time:
I love that design. I mean, superficially and in terms of story, it's serviceable. It's scary. The damage to his body shows just how much he fought to avoid capture. At the same time, it increases the Lecter factor: we sense that since he can no longer inflict physical harm (as much as he used to, anyway), he's happy to do so in a more intellectual way.
At the same time, there's a bit of deeper symbolic meaning here. Look at the missing eye, the wires holding him to the wall, the lance through his chest. Brau is a splitting image of Odin, after sacrificing himself to himself on Yggdrasil. Oddly, though, his role in the story is more akin to Mimir: he exchanges wisdom for vision. Of course, he's darker than Mimir by far: the wisdom he offers is that of insanity and hatred. Things robots shouldn't know, but which they might need to understand to solve a crime...
Next, let's check out Dr. Tenma:
Now, is it just me, or does Tenma bear more than a passing resemblance to Gendo Ikari from Evangelion? I think it's the glasses.
There are two possible reasons for this. The first (not my idea) is that Urasawa is just pointing out that the character of Gendo Ikari is, essentially, a spiritual successor to Dr. Tenma. So now it's come full circle: Tenma as Gendo as Tenma. The second (the one I thought when I first noticed the similarity) is that it's a commentary on Tezuka's Star System.
Tezuka, for those unaware, reused character designs quite prolifically. Of course, unlike Land (insert appropriate scream here), Tezuka's were all originals anyway. He just liked to bring them back, like a director would with actors. Tezuka even joked about it, saying which "actors" got paid more. I suppose some would call it lazy, but I think it's an excellent idea. The only reason I think it's not used as much in western comics is because of the monolithic multiverses making it inconvenient to do so. I mean, if you have a run on X-Factor, you can't reuse a character design for X-Force because those two characters might interact one day.
Urasawa is essentially saying here that a Star System doesn't necessarily have to stop with a single author. Actors don't have to stay with the same director, so character designs can be taken when it's appropriate for the cast. It's not stealing, because the artwork isn't actually copied (take a look at Gendo's picture on Wikipedia, for comparison's sake), just used as inspiration. Urasawa has already done this once, actually, with a Tezuka character: Shunsaku Ban shows up in Monster as Dr. Reichwein, appropriately modified to Urasawa's style.
And as a further affectionate poke at the Star System, let's see Urasawa's design for Epsilon:
Yep, that's pretty much Johan Liebert with long hair. What makes it sort of parodic is the way Johan is so different from Epsilon. Epsilon is a committed pacifist, who has alienated the world through refusing a draft and loves children. Johan will happily kill people to further his ends, and is well loved by everyone through being manipulative. His relationships with children usually ends with them dead or consumed by nihilism. While most of the characters in the Tezuka's Star System shared other characteristics beyond appearance with their inspirations, using Johan for Epsilon is definitely a case of playing against type.
Finally, it's not just characters that have been changed. Some of the plot has changed a bit too. And what's the good of having an alternate universe if you can't kill off previously unkillable characters?
Context: Pluto attacked Professor Ochanomizu's family has been attacked by Pluto. Atom and his little sister Uran rush to their defense:
Nothing says alternate universe more than killing off the old protagonist, I always say. Okay, so that's the first time I ever said it. But that doesn't make it less true.
On a more serious note, I love the splash panel of Atom flying at Pluto. It's a standard shot, David facing off against Goliath, but it's done well here.
Scans taken from Spectrum Nexus and not the Viz translation. Nothing was taken from past where the Viz translation has reached, so get that if you can.