License request day: Doraemon

October 23, 2009

(I’m always happy to hand over the license request reins to an enthusiastic guest, so this week we’ll hand the proceedings over to Ed Sizemore, manga reviewer for Comics Worth Reading. Ed casts his gaze upon “Fujiko F. Fujio’s” much-loved robotic feline.)

By Ed Sizemore

DoraemonCoverFor this week’s License Request Day, our revered Curmudgeon has been generous enough (and saintly in patience) to let me discuss one of my biggest wishes, Doraemon. Spend enough time around manga or anime and you find numerous references to this robot cat from the future. Like Peanuts, Doraemon has become part of the air of Japan and all the main characters have been iconic symbols in their own right.

The original manga ran from 1969 until 1996 and has 45 collected volumes. The first Doraemon anime ran briefly in 1973. The second Doraemon anime series first went on air in 1979 and is still running today. In fact, the five main characters had the same voice actors for 25 years. They retired as a group in 2005, when the anime changed production companies.

The setup is pretty basic. Nobita Nobi is a good-for-nothing, lay about. One of his great-great-grandsons, Sewashi, travels back in time to give Nobita Doraemon. Turns out Nobita grows up to be an extremely irresponsible adult, piling up enough debt that his great-grandchildren are still trying to pay it back. Sewashi hopes Doraemon will help Nobita avoid such a mistake. I have to give credit to the creators, they do quickly address the classic time travel paradox this might cause, even if the solution isn’t very convincing. Here are some pages from the first Doraemon story.

DoraemonScan1

The manga is very episodic and formulaic. Doraemon’s greatest ability is him being able to pull an endless array of gadgets from the pouch on his stomach. It’s called a fourth dimension pouch and it appears to be limitless inside. Nobita has either gotten in some trouble or is trying to avoid some chore. He requests Doraemon manifest a gadget that gets him out of his current predicament without any effort on his part. Of course, Nobita begins to use the device beyond its intended design and this creates new problems. Below are two pages showing the typical results of Nobita’s adventures.

The stories I’ve read are very universal in nature and I can’t imagine American children having any difficulties comprehending and enjoying them. Nobita deals with bullies, homework, school trips, household chores, etc. So I’ve never understood why this series still is unlicensed. Won’t someone please think of the children and bring Doraemon to the US? We want to love that dorayaki scarfing robot cat too.

Kodansha has released 11 volumes of the manga in a bilingual format. You can buy them either from jbox.com or Kinokuniya bookstores as import books, but they’re a little pricey for kids books. You get about 150 pages for $12.50. I’d like to see the series offered at the same price point as most kids manga, which is about 200 pages for $7.99.

Wikipedia has an excellent Doraemon webpage with tons of detailed information on both the manga and anime series.

Thanks to David for letting me share this amazing series with you.

(And thanks to Ed for making this eloquent pitch. Would you like to sing the praises of an as-yet-unlicensed comic? Contact me, and we’ll see what we can work out.)