Saturday, November 10, 2007

Doraemon: The Movie (Doraemon: Nobita No Kyôryû)

Hail The Gang's All Here

You can count on the Japanese to design a character that appeals to all demographics. If Hello Kitty and the Sanrio gang are deemed to girly, and the Ultraman/Power Rangers/Masked Rider et al deemed to manly, then Doraemon is just the perfect creation to appeal to boys and girls. A futuristic cat with more than a bagful of fantastic gadgets springing out from his pouch, my first brush with the character was through the animated television series, and later through translated comics. I still remember vividly the Doraemon gigantic soft toy (comes without the cotton wool/sponge insert, and you have to DIY) was the #1 toy that NS boys bring back from overseas during my time.

And while there have been Doraemon movies released over a period of time, this one marks the very first that makes it to the cinemas here if I recall correctly, no doubt boosted by reasonable box office numbers from recent anime movies like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Brave Story and Paprika. Watching this Doraemon movie is like taking a nostalgia trip down memory lane to meet up with familiar friends, only that the friends have been frozen in time and didn't age at all - they're still very much the school going children when we left off, with rich brat Suneo, fatty Gian, the token rose amongst the thorns Shizuka, the braggart Nobita who always shoots from the hip, but is extremely lucky to have a faithful companion that we too would love to have, Doraemon.

A typical television episode would have Nobita running into trouble, and coaxing Doraemon to bail him out, more often than not featuring one of the countless gadgets that get introduced one episode at a time. However, this is unlike the series, that we don't have an all new, all powerful gadget to encompass the entire movie, but we have a series of familiar ones such as the time machine (through the drawer), the stick-on helicopter head gear, and the shrinking ray gun. The movie doesn't delay any moment in getting things kick started, again relying on Nobita's loose tongue to get himself into trouble again, this time bragging that he could find a complete fossil to show off to his friends.

As luck would have it, he finds a fossilized egg, and uses a Doraemon gadget to bring to life a dinosaur, hence the Japanese title, and the cute creature you see adorning the posters. While not spoiling the plot for you, it's akin to a Jurassic Park episode, with our friends helping to keep the creature alive, and through the process learn about friendship, perseverance and sacrifice.

What I liked about this movie was the 2D animation. While 3D animation can be detailed and crystal clear without parallel if done right, this was a refreshing treat for the eyes as we go back to basics, to the old school style of animation, so much so that it is a breath of fresh air. And while art matters, story weighs in a lot more, so I'm glad to say that it possesses the little things in the television episodes that endears it to audiences, this time magnified for a feature length film. It's not a 90 minute film mind you, but a close to 2 hours one, but given its length, there are portions which could have been shortened of course, and I thought it really tried very hard to get some tears out of the tear ducts. Thank goodness for the well placed humour throughout the movie!

Given the school holidays just around the corner, and for young adults who reminisce growing up with the futuristic robot cat, I can't recommend Doraemon enough. An age old classic character that would appeal to all fans old or new. Oh, pity that the language in this movie is dubbed over in Mandarin. I suppose that's to allow for kiddies who can't read proper English or Mandarin yet to follow the proceedings. Would have loved it if it was in the original Japanese language track.

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