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.

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Part 2 - Eternal

£18.75
sale_tag
was £24.99
The true meaning of being a magical girl!
The young girls have discovered the truth... the cruel fate of a magical girl. Madoka's best friend, Sayaka Miki's Soul Gem turns pitch-black as its owner falls into despair and it is transformed into a Grief Seed. Upon seeing this fate, Kyoko tries to save Sayaka, and ends up sacrificing her own life. One magical girl after another is destroyed.
Throughout it all, there is one magical girl who continues to fight alone - Homura Akemi. All this time, she has been acting with one goal in mind. I promise... I'm going to save you, no matter what it takes. Homura renews her vow. And then it happens - a miracle powerful enough to sway the fortunes of the universe...

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Matt Kamen on the “Evangelion of magical girl shows”
Magical Girls can be traced as far back as the 1960s, with the likes of Fujio Akatsuka’s Secret Akko-chan or Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s Sally the Witch – the first manga and anime, respectively, to dabble in the genre of girls gaining powers from a piece of jewellery or trinket of some kind. Hundreds more would join their ranks over the years, some merely using their powers for twee but ultimately everyday adventures, others transforming into battle-ready warrior women fighting for the safety of the entire planet. Ever since Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon exploded in popularity in 1992, the more superheroic approach has dominated the field.

Madoka Magica versus Angel Beats

Andrew Osmond says if you liked that… you might like this…
So, you’ve finished Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Good, wasn’t it? Don’t be too depressed that it’s over. A new story is being prepared as a feature film (not to be confused with the two-part compilation recently released in Japan). Moreover, writer Gen Urobuchi revealed in October that a further TV incarnation of the show is on the cards. But if you’re looking for something to watch till then, consider Angel Beats, out on Blu-ray and DVD.

Cosplay: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Paul Jacques rounds up the best dressed fans
Amy Sun is in the pink as Ultimate Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
With all three of the Madoka Magica Movies available on DVD and Blu-ray now in the UK, it’s the perfect time to take a quick look at the franchise.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

One Piece Cosplay: Boa Hancock

Paul Jacques finds a Pirate Empress at the Birmingham Comic Con
"Whether I kick a kitten, tear off your ears, even slaughter innocent people, the world will never cease to forgive my actions! Why, you ask? That's right, it is because I am beautiful!"

Gatchaman Crowds

Warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space
The colourfully mad Gatchaman Crowds is one of those anime which isn’t happy unless it’s doing umpteen things at once, all seeming completely different. It’s a campy, lowbrow action show and a thinky piece of SF and an otaku series with a taste for the meta and it’s anxious to engage with the real world. You can watch it just for the tangerine colours and the shouty panda. But if you want more pointers, read on…

Ghost in the Shell: Arise

The latest incarnation of Masamune Shirow's classic
A new addition to the Ghost in the Shell franchise is here, but it’s maybe not the one everyone was expecting.
This week we have Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season 4, One Piece (Uncut) Collection 12 and Bleach Complete Series 15 Box Set.
The roller-coaster of emotion that is Golden Time comes to an end this month with the release of the second collection, and it has been a ride to remember.
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.