0 Items | £0.00

VIEW BASKET

Doraemon

Monday 29th October 2012

He’s blue and has no ears, but enough about Andrew Osmond

Doraemon

In Japan, Doraemon is a cartoon colossus on a level with Totoro, Hello Kitty, Snoopy or Mickey Mouse. He’s the manga that pretty much everyone in Japan under forty grew up reading, and the anime they grew up watching in TV and cinemas. Over in Britain, most anime fans know what Doraemon looks like and the basics of who he is; a friendly blue robot cat from the future, who comes back in time to help a lazy grade-school boy, Nobita, develop a stronger backbone.

But Doraemon’s no stuffy teacher. Rather, he’s a child’s ideal playmate/best friend/ally versus the bullies, with a stream of wondrous gadgets that’d make Batman hang up his utility belt in shame. When you can fly in the sky or time-travel at the tip of a hat, the potential for mischief and chaos is endless. Small wonder that Doraemon, Nobita and their friends haven’t run out of stories in the 43 years since their first manga appearance in 1969. Doraemon has starred in over two thousand anime TV episodes (still going strong) and over thirty cinema feature films (probably more than any other cartoon character).

The Doraemon gang change little in cartoon form, although one of the most bizarre new spinoffs from the franchise has taken them into live-action. This is a series of TV commercials for Toyota, in which the Doraemon characters are played by adults. Doraemon himself is drolly portrayed by the blue-suited French star Jean Reno, best-known for his hardboiled roles in Leon: The Professional and Ronin, though he also voiced Miyazaki’s nonchalant pig pilot Porco Rosso in the French dub of the film. The latest commercial is especially ingenious. The characters are watching the London Olympics, only for Doraemon to take them back to 1964 when Tokyo hosted the games (the city has a bid in for 2020). World champion gymnast Kohei Uchimura cameos at the end, with the characters recognising him as Nobita’s overachieving pal, Dekisugi.



Doraemon has been translated and screened in many countries, and the cartoon cat was even appointed “anime ambassador” by Japan’s foreign ministry in 2008. However, he’s never really crossed over to Britain or America, which is sad but understandable. Doraemon may be one of Japan’s biggest cartoon icons, but for foreign marketers, there’s no obvious way to market the antics of a grade-school boy and a cheery robot cat to Anglophone fans of Pokemon, Naruto or Akira. Like other Japanese children’s heroes (Anpanman, Crayon Shin-Chan), Doraemon may be a foundation stone of Japan’s cartoon pop-culture that’s forever unturned in Britain.

However, if you visit Tokyo and want to learn more about the feline wonder, a museum opened last year, making an admirable effort to reach out to English-speaking fans. The building is dedicated to Doraemon’s creator, the late Hiroshi Fujimoto, who died in 1996. Fujimoto had the pen name of “Fujiko F. Fujio,” although he created other works under the shared pen name of “Fujiko Fujio” (no initial) with his schoolmate Motoo Akibo. As the Anime Encyclopedia notes, Doraemon is often seen as a joint effort between the two artists, but it was actually Fujimoto’s sole creation.

The museum won’t give you a rounded history of the Doraemon phenomenon, but it will give a sense of how fondly it’s seen by the Japanese public. Doraemon-coloured blue buses ferry you from the local train station to the museum, much like the Totoro-themed buses servicing Tokyo’s Ghibli museum. The museum itself is an unremarkable brick building, until you see dozens of pairs of cartoony Doraemon eyes embedded in the brickwork. In the first room on the tour, the most delightful exhibit is a series of glass cases, each of which holds a blank page, where an animated-on-glass Doraemon and Nobita try making their own manga from scratch. (Mind that inkpot, Nobita!).

The lovely surprise for Anglophone visitors is that the audio-guide you’re given has an English-language option. The guide helps you through the designated route, which starts with Fujimoto’s soft watercolours of Doraemon and other characters, then continues through artefacts from his career. These include an early Fujimoto passport (“OCCUPATION – Caricaturist”); a snazzy postcard from the manga god Osamu Tezuka (the spiralling message starts in English, “I look sometimes your name in Manga Shyonen” (sic)); and even pics from an amateur live-action film that Fujimoto made, which was apparently a spoof western.

One of the most dramatic parts of the exhibition is a mock-up of Fujimoto’s study, with books and miscellaneous possessions piled up high on steep shelving, so that it’s like looking up a chimney. The possessions include dinosaur models and fossils, a cel from Disney’s Pinocchio (the “I got no strings” scene), a laserdisc of the Western classic High Noon, a replica John Wayne gun, and Star Wars construction kits. All in all, it’s a good range of references for the adventures of a robot cat who goes anywhere and anywhen. A later exhibit on Nobita’s Dinosaur, one of Doraemon’s best-known adventures in manga and anime (it was filmed twice), informs us that the story wasn’t just inspired by Fujimoto’s interest in paleontology, but also by the Hollywood film, Born Free.

As well as Doraemon, the museum also represents other “Fujio” characters, such as the friendly ghost Obake no Q-Taro (who only wears a sheet, the audio commentary tells us – no-one knows what he looks like); the team superhero strip Perman (aka Pa-man); and the paranormally-powered heroine Esper Mami. All of these characters were also adapted in anime form. Inevitably, foreigners who have no previous acquaintance with either the anime or the manga are at a big disadvantage, though there’s an interesting side-by-side section that highlights Doraemon’s special debt to an early Fujio strip, Tebukuro tet-chan. That was about children with the luck to possess magic gloves; the gloves got the moppets into much the same crazy scrapes as Doraemon’s gadgets did for Nobita.

There’s also a glimpse of a manga version of Ben Hur (drawn in the ‘50s before the Heston movie blockbuster). It was good enough to disconcert the manga god Osamu Tezuka himself on the day when Fujimoto and Akibo – who were Tezuka fans, naturally - dropped in on his house for a visit. One of several video screens dotted through the museum tour shows Tezuka paying gracious tribute to the two artists, acknowledging how these upstarts threatened to surpass him. Indeed, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Fujio’s characters loom larger over Japan now than Tezuka’s. Walk around everyday Tokyo and you’ll spot many more Doraemons than you will Astro Boys or Black Jacks.

Towards the end of the museum, there are touching tributes and fond memories from Fujimoto’s daughters and widow, including a letter from her to him after his death. The home movie footage is more touching than a minimally-animated mini-movie at the conclusion, in which Fujiko Fujio’s characters caper through the museum together. But despite this rather lame ending, the Doraemon museum makes for a thoroughly charming visit, enlightening even to the uninitiated, and leaving you in no doubt as to the lasting legacy of a dreaming artist and his blue robot cat.

The Fujiko F. Fujio Museum can be accessed via Doraemon shuttle bus from Noborito station in Tokyo, on the Odakyu Odawara line from Shinjuku station. Admission is 1,000 yen for adults; 700 yen for high school students; 500 yen for children; and free for 3 year-olds and under. Tickets must be reserved through the Lawson store, with entrance at the following time-slots: 10 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Please note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays and that there are no parking facilities.

Doraemon

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Harlock Space Pirate

£14.99
sale_tag
was £19.99
Far, far in the future, or perhaps the distant past... 500 billion displaced humans long to return to the planet they still refer to as home. Captain Harlock is the one man standing between the corrupt Gaia Coalition and their quest for complete intergalactic rule. Seeking revenge against those who wronged both mankind and himself, the mysterious space pirate roams the universe in his battle cruiser, the Arcadia, defiantly attacking and pillaging enemy ships. Gaia Fleet leader Ezra sends his younger brother, Logan to infiltrate the Arcadia and assassinate Harlock. But Logan will soon discover that things are not always what they seem and that legends are born for a reason.
Based on original characters and stories created by Leiji Matsumoto.
Includes bonus DVD disc containing the original Japanese edit with English subtitles and over 40 minutes of extra content.

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Harlock Space Pirate

The life and legend of Leiji Matsumoto's anti-hero
The new Harlock's ship is positively monstrous, a skull-faced battering ram that smashes other spacecraft to flinders. The press notes suggest the darkening of Harlock is a reflection of the times, and of modern Japan.

Harlock Music: Tetsuya Takahashi

Tom Smith on the man behind the music
Shinji Aramaki’s digital reimaging of Japan’s classic sci-fi adventure Space Pirate Captain Harlock is serious business. Not only is it ranked amongst Toei Animation’s most expensive productions to date, weighing in with a mighty £20+ million budget, its staff is also a who’s-who of the Japanese animation industry.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

Fairy Tail music: Hi-fi Camp

Tom Smith on the hi-fi hijackers
By the time Fairy Tail Part 9 hits the shops here, the J-pop band responsible for its ending theme will be fast approaching their second anniversary – of breaking up! Though, this particular writer can’t help but think Fairy Tail may have had something to do with the band’s demise…

Naruto Music: Asian Kung Fu Generation

Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the Naruto theme.
They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme to the latest volume of Bleach, released in the UK this month, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.

Fairy Tail Music: Daisy x Daisy

Tom Smith on Fairy Tail Part 7’s opening theme
Little Mika still has a long way to go, but since signing to Pony Canyon she has managed to have a crack at the anime universe, featuring heavily in one series in particular; Fairy Tail.

Godzilla: Too Soon?

When is it okay for a real-life disaster to become entertainment?
How soon is too soon? The question’s raised by the new Godzilla trailer, the first half of which seems to be all about recreating traumatic events as fantasy, just three years after they occurred. Specifically, the trailer opens with a disaster at a Japanese power station, before segueing into images of a giant wave sweeping into a town with devastating force. Both images seem less ripped than Xeroxed from the headlines of March 2011, when northern Honshu (Japan’s mainland) was struck by an earthquake which caused a tsunami, killing thousands, and the meltdown at Fukushima.

Birmingham Comic Con Announcements

For those that missed our panel in Brum...
Attack on Titan, the One Piece movies, Ghost in the Shell: ARISE and more...

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

The first rule of Kenichi is: big eyes and kick ass.
In the real world, mastering a martial art takes years of devotion. All require a harsh physical regimen that pushes the body to the limit. Of course, we’re dealing with the world of anime, so we have a sneaking suspicion that Kenichi Shirahama might be able to go from shy, quiet bookworm to martial arts prodigy in a matter of weeks. All it takes to send him on the path to becoming Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare is falling for the new girl in class after he sees her single-handedly demolishing a group of thugs.

Naruto Music: Totalfat

Tom Smith on Naruto’s rising punk-pop stars
‘The next hero in the Japanese rock scene!” boldly claims their press release. Someone certainly believes in Japan’s rising guitar act TOTALFAT, it’s not every day there’s an English language press release accompanying a theme song from Naruto (or most anime for that matter).

Cosplay: Fairy Tail

Paul Jacques snaps another fan with a fiery passion
Daniel Hughes suits up with a fiery vengeance as Natsu Dragneel from Fairy Tail, season three of which is out imminently on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Bleach music: Fumika

Tom Smith on Bleach’s most powerful voice
What does the anime series Bleach, Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys and grainy mobile phone videos all have in common? For 25-year-old singer Fumika Mitsui, they mark the point where her wildest dreams came true.

SWORD ART ONLINE MUSIC: HARUKA TOMATSU

Digital transvestite Tom Smith on the girl who’s hearing voices
Before taking on the part of Asuna, Haruka Tomatsu had accumulated over one hundred titles featuring her vocal talents, spanning anime, videos games and drama CDs. Achievement unlocked.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Doraemon from the UK's best Anime Blog.