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World-Loved Animation Character Still Capturing Hearts at 30

March 13, 2000

The robot cat remains as popular as ever at age 30. (Fujiko-Pro)

One morning, just a few days before the deadline for the first installment of his new comic series, manga (comic) artist Fujiko·F·Fujio (whose real name is Hiroshi Fujimoto) was in a dilemma: he had still not come up with the story's main character. The previous month's issue of the magazine carrying the series had shown a preview of the new strip that offered no title or picture hinting at the story's feature character, only a drawing of its young boy partner, Nobita. Then, by chance, he happened to see his eldest daughter playing with a doll shaped like a tumbler, and had a flash of inspiration: "How about drawing that doll's shape into the likeness of a cat?" And so was created Doraemon the robot, who has captured the hearts and inspired the dreams of children around the world ever since the start of the comic series bearing his name 30 years ago in December 1969. Events in celebration of Doraemon's thirtieth birthday have been going on since 1999 and will continue throughout 2000.

Japan's Most Popular Figure
As of December 1999 forty-five volumes of the Doraemon comic series had been published, as well as 19 full-length books, which were the basis for the Doraemon movies. Today, from 1.5 million to 2 million copies are sold each year--and total sales of some 100 million make the series one of Japan's all-time bestsellers. There have been 1,700 episodes of the "Doraemon" animated television series, which began in 1979, and 21 "Doraemon" movies have drawn a total audience of close to 63 million. A new film is scheduled to be released in March 2000. Several years ago, a final episode to the Doraemon series was posted on the Internet and caused a great commotion all over Japan. It was later revealed to be a hoax.

Global Audience
Doraemon's popularity has been equally explosive overseas. The comic series is published officially in nine languages in 10 countries and regions, including South Korea, China, Thailand, and Spain. In 1993, a pirated edition published in Vietnam proved popular, and when the official version was published in October 1998 it sold over 10 million copies and became a bestseller. The animation series made its overseas debut in Hong Kong in 1981, and has since been broadcast in numerous countries, including Italy, Brazil, and Singapore. In 1992, it was shown in Russia as part of a joint Japan-Russia friendship and exchange program. Doraemon has transcended books and television to become one of Japan's goodwill ambassadors, with initiatives like the Doraemon Education Fund in Vietnam and the Doraemon Fund-Raising Campaign to help provide relief to victims of the recent earthquake in Turkey.

Inspiring Dreams
One of the most fascinating aspects of Doraemon is his collection of over 1,800 "secret gadgets." Almost every child who watches the series is inspired by these devices, which include a tiny propeller that, when placed on his head, becomes a "personal copter" enabling him to fly; a "wherever door" through which he can walk to wherever he wants to go; and his famed four-dimensional pocket, which houses his endless assortment of gadgets. Kids are not the only ones who pine for tools like these. Doraemon also has a large following among robotics researchers. "Although Doraemon as a robot is a complex machine, he is friendly toward people, and the fact that his devices sometimes fail gives him a human quality. Doraemon and his gadgets represent the ideal connection between humans and science," says one researcher.

Back to the Future
With Doraemon now 30 years old, those who grew up with him from the beginning of the comic series are now in their thirties and forties. As a result, there are now many parents who share an affection for Doraemon with their children. Fujiko·F·Fujio, the original author, passed away in 1996, but the magazine, television, and movie series live on. Doraemon's real birthday (in the story) is September 3, 2112--more than one hundred years away. Until then, the lovable robot is sure to continue inspiring the dreams of children throughout the world.

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.