AX 2023: Veteran Producer Masao Maruyama Talks About Spending 10 Years on ‘Pluto’ Anime

Fans of Pluto, Naoki Urasawa’s 2000s murder mystery manga based on Osamu Tezuka’s 1960s sci-fi manga, The Greatest Robot on Earth, don’t have to wait much longer to see the anime adaptation. Set to release on October 26 on Netflix, Pluto follows Gesicht, a Europol robot detective, who investigates a series of high profile murders that threaten the coexistence of man and machine. APA sat down with veteran producer Masao Maruyama to discuss his work to adapt a classic and the importance of re-telling this decades-old story in today’s world.

Looking back to when Maruyama first read Urasawa’s manga, he thought it could only be two or three volumes. The sheer volume of content shocked Maruyama, and he was moved by the depth of the story. “Back then, I told Urasawa that in his manga, everything is depicted perfectly. I told him it was impossible to make it into animation.” At that time, Maruyama even wondered whether there would be any point in animating the story. However he recalled that Urusawa pushed back on that, explaining that an anime adaptation could offer so many other things like “landscapes, moving characters, voices and music,” and that he’d “love to see that work.” Urusawa had one condition though, telling Maruyama, “As long as you honor the original story, you can freely express it in the animation format.”

Maruyama took this stipulation to heart and has spent the past 10 years working on Pluto. The 80-year-old producer has previously stated that this adaptation is one that he endeavored to complete before his death. “Urasawa said that it took so much of his time and energy to create Pluto, that there were times he felt he was dying due to all the suffering,” Maruyama shared with a chuckle. “He told us [the animation team] to experience the same thing, and we certainly did suffer.” The producer reaffirmed it was all worth it with a smile to a cheering audience at Anime Expo: “I’m a masochist, so I was happy to suffer.”

In order to fully honor the original story of Pluto, Maruyama decided the anime adaptation would cover the entire story through eight one-hour episodes. Considering that anime episodes are typically around 20 minutes, Maruyama and his team took on a heavy workload to create a faithful adaptation. While the length of the series was a major challenge, it was necessary to depict all the details and richness of the original story.

While Pluto and The Greatest Robot on Earth were written decades ago, both works reflect ideas that we see as reality today like our common use and exploration of AI. “Both Tezuka and Urasawa’s stories were considered back then as sci-fi or the future. Urasawa worked on Pluto about 10 to 20 years ago, and Tezuka worked on his story about 60 years ago. Those things they wrote about in the past are what we see now. As they have imagined, we see the same kind of standards regarding AI and robots,” Maruyama shared. “What we’re doing is trying to chase their vision and reenact what they have created decades ago. I think it’s amazing that they had these ideas in their minds and used their imagination to create these stories back then, and we are now able to visualize them into the show. I think it’s very important to have such wonderful artists for Japanese manga and animation; it’s very significant and helpful to our industries.”

Mai Nguyen

Editor-in-Chief at Asia Pacific Arts.
Feel free to send me a note on Twitter to @hellomailee.

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