Unless you’re already a fan of Japanese animation, Doraemon is probably a complete unknown to you. You should get acquainted though — he’s a time-travelling robot cat, one of the world’s most famous characters, and he’s coming to UK television next week for the first time in his 46-year history.
Doraemon will begin airing on cable and satellite channel Boomerang on 17 August, with episodes daily at 7:30am. The series follows the eponymous android kitty as he’s sent back in time from the 22nd century to improve the timeline of Nobita Nobi, otherwise destined for a life of hardship and strife. Unfortunately, he’s not the most functional or sensible of robots, but does have a portal in his torso that can produce practically anything that can be imagined, leading to many weird adventures.
Doraemon was created in 1969 by Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko (the pair working under the singular pseudonym Fujiko Fujio), first appearing in comic book — or manga — form before being adapted into animated form for the first time in 1973. Although that series only ran for 26 two-part episodes, a 1979 follow up would prove much more popular and rack up a mind-boggling 1,787 episodes.
The series was rebooted once again in 2005, and it’s this more recent version that Boomerang will be airing in the UK. The channel describes the show as “a magical robotic cat named Doraemon travels back in time to help 10-year-old Noby, a lazy, uncoordinated terrible student who needs all the help he can get!” For the English language dub, Noby — a slight change from the original ‘Nobi’ — is voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch, and Doraemon by Mona Marshall. Several other edits exist between the original Japanese and the edited English version, though this is a show aimed at kids, rather than anime purists.
Doraemon’s impact in Japan and much of the rest of the world is significant. The original manga has sold over 100m copies, and the character was named a cultural ambassador for Japan. Combined ticket sales for animated movies (of which there are 37 and counting) have exceeded those for Godzilla. The character and his friends have also been translated into stage musicals, video games, and an unclimbable mountain of merchandise.
Outside of Japan, Doraemon is massive in Asia and mainland Europe, and has made inroads in the US and Canada over the last year. Whether the character will prove as popular with British kids as he has elsewhere in the world remains to be seen, but the balance of comedy and adventure to each of Doraemon and Noby’s adventures proves a potent mix. Boomerang has also set up a dedicated site for the show ahead of its premiere next week — time to get up to speed on what could be your kids’ next big thing.