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A Doraemon guitar is not actually that weird, considering

Doraemon is the wacked-out creation of Hiroshi Fujimoto and Abiko Motoo, collectively known as Fujiko Fujio. He’s been around since 1969, and has enough staying power to inspire stuff like the guitar above. But if you think a guitar in the shape of a kid-friendly robot cat from the 22nd century is weird, just read his great exploits! Here are five reasons why I think Doraemon still endures into the 21st century.

The cool-yet-simple concept

Nobita sure is smiley for a battle-ready dude

Nobi Nobita, an ordinary middle-schooler in late 20th century Japan, is lamenting having to do his homework. Suddenly a strange blue creature bursts out of his desk drawer, claiming to be from the future. The short of it is, he’s there to set Nobita straight before bad things happen. Nobita isn’t a bad kid, with drugs, robbery and rampant killing on the horizon. But he’s incredibly lazy, a theme which is revisited many, many times throughout Doraemon’s iterations. Then as now, the Japanese aren’t big on laziness! Anyway, the Doraemon series puts Nobita’s problems in a glorious SF blender and hits the “on” button, allowing for endlessly inventive ways of unjamming him.

The Posse–minus the girl

Of course, Nobita’s exploits wouldn’t be complete without a posse to share them with. Pictured here are Gian, the big kid on the right (yes, that name means what you think it means), and Suneo on the left. There is a girl, Shizuka, who is literally out of the picture right now! Suneo represents the upper-class lifestyle of the time–his father, who was always away on business, can afford goodies like that remote-control ‘copter (the wife says that was a coveted item then, I dunno). Gian is a half-friend, half-bully hybrid, the well-meaning but violent embodiment of lower-class life. He often uses his fists to get his way, and is just as often dragged away by his angry parents, literally by the ear–I’ll let you connect the dots, folks.

The wacky gadgets

I’m so sorry about this (cute? Disturbing?) pic, folks

In Doraemon, ordinary events and characters are made extraordinary by off-the-wall gadgets, all pulled from Doraemon’s “four dimensional pocket” at a moment’s notice. The most important of these is the “Dokodemo Door,” or “Anywhere Door,” which can take our characters pretty much anywhere they wanna go, even Shizuka’s house in mid-bathe (?!). Another crucial one is the “Take-copter,” basically a beanie that allows everyone to fly. These are really just the tip of the iceberg, though. There are gadgets that can stop time, speed it up, make you taller, shorter, invisible, clone you, etc. etc. There’s even a special “sembei” (Japanese rice cracker) that can help you retain information for a test! Each gadget is incredibly useful, until Nobita gets his hands on it. Ahhh, poor Nobita.

The endless story possibilities

Don’t ask me how those beanies work–they just do, OK?

It’s not just because Doraemon is unrestricted by the laws of physics that possibilities abound–manga and anime also are! Budget wasn’t a concern for Fujiko Fujio when they were writing/drawing the comic, and it’s not a concern for those who now helm the animated series and movies based on Doraemon. So Nobita and friends can fly off to exotic locations, either on-planet or off, doing battle with dinosaurs one week and returning to face the realities of middle-school life the next. It’s an open-ended premise that doesn’t require huge amounts of explanation. If there’s one “drawback,” it’s that the gang is stuck perpetually in 1970s Japan. This leaves it in danger of being labeled “old fashioned” by the kiddies of today, among whom its popularity is slowly declining.

The multi-media appeal

A Japanese history book with a touch o’ Doraemon

Doraemon publisher Shogakkukan is big in the educational field, so it’s no surprise that the property is tied heavily with multi-media educational tools. There are history books, how-to books, kanji books, you name it. I actually started learning my first kanji (Japanese characters) with one of those books, and didn’t feel a wit embarrassed about it, so there. There are other quasi-educational tools galore, including an Uno game! If you’re gonna learn something, it might as well be fun, right?

And finally…all the other cute stuff!

I think that must be Mickey Mouse right above…Doraemon’s ears were bitten off by a mouse, so I’m getting a bad vibe

There’s more Doraemon stuff out there than there are stars, so whatever I show you won’t be enough, but just to give you an idea, this is one of the more “subtle” things out there: a wallet! You might ask who the target demographic is, but that’s a whole other post. Incidentally, it looks like the Doraemon wallet is positioned just below a Mickey Mouse one, which is kind of weird since Doraemon is often dubbed “the Mickey Mouse of Japan.”

Anpan-man (right) actually wants you to eat him…not so sure about Doraemon, though!

There isn’t a snack food out there that hasn’t been Doraemon-ized at some point–these little handheld sweetbread snacks, called melonpan because they taste somewhat melon-y and are melon-shaped to boot, are no exception. The guy next to Doraemon is called Anpanman, and he’s a character made from bread who actually loves to be eaten. That’s also another post, if you really wanna know.

You know, it’s like the elf-in-the-picture thing…only not

There’s no reason to put this here, except that A) I’d never seen a Doraemon balloon like this before, and B) Putting Doraemon in the foreground of various “ordinary” scenes is just a killer idea, don’t you think? Kind of like the elf thing everyone started doing after that French indie-film came out, only cool. It’s like Doraemon is taking me to places I’ve never been before–just like in the manga. Here’s to hoping he keeps on doing it.

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