As we move toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the government of Japan has adopted the “Cool Japan” initiative in an effort to promote Japanese culture abroad. A panel consisting of violinist Taro Hakase, TV personality Tomoe Shinohara, designer Eisuke Tachikawa and sociologist Noritoshi Furuichi have been tasked with finding ways to hold Cool Japan events effectively in Japan and overseas.
One of the events promoted by Cool Japan in the U.S. will be the broadcast of Doraemon, Japan’s favorite robotic cat, starting this summer. Nationwide cable and satellite channel Disney X-D, owned by Walt Disney Co., will screen 26 episodes of Doraemon. The animated series, based on manga by Fujiko F. Fujio, has been broadcast in 35 other countries and regions, mainly in Southeast Asia.
The show will premier July 7 in the U.S. mainly targeting elementary school children. Episodes will air weekdays at 12:30 p.m. Although other Japanese anime episodes such as Space Battleship Yamato, Naruto, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Dragon Quest and others have been broadcast in America, “Doraemon” has never aired.
The name “Doraemon” (ドラえもん) can be translated roughly to “stray.” Doraemon started off as a manga series in Japan and later became an anime series and an Asian franchise. The series is about a robotic cat named Doraemon, who travels back in time from the 22nd century to aid a pre-teen boy called Nobita Nobi.
The manga first appeared in December 1969. A total of 1,344 stories were created in the original series and published by Shogakukan under the Tentomushi brand. Turner Broadcasting System bought the rights to the Doraemon anime series in the mid-1980s for a US English-language release, but canceled it without explanation before broadcasting any episodes. In July 2013 it was released digitally in English via the Amazon Kindle e-book service. Most of the Doraemon episodes are comedies with lessons regarding values such as honesty, perseverance, courage, and respect.
To date, it is one of the best-selling manga in the world, having sold over 100 million copies.
In the version released in the U.S., Doraemon’s name will remain the same, but the character Nobita has been renamed Noby, Shizuka is Sue, Suneo is now Sneech and Gian is Big G. Noby’s money has been converted into dollars from yen and the food stall selling Shizuka’s favorite baked sweet potatoes has been changed to a popcorn stand. To promote healthy foods, the traditional Japanese “manju” snacks have been replaced with fruits. According to TV Asahi Corp., which airs “Doraemon” in Japan, some scenes, like those of Gian beating up Nobita, and Shizuka taking a bath, will be deleted or shortened in line with U.S. broadcast regulations that ban images of violence as well as sexual and discriminatory content in animation for children.
Broadcasts of the show in other countries have used the Japanese version, adding only subtitles or voices dubbed in the local language. This will be the first time “Doraemon” will be truly localized.