Japan doesn't do cultural fads as much as they do cultural phenomenons. (Although there certainly are their fair share of fads!) But I was trying to come up with an American equivalent of the phenomenon of Doraemon and couldn't really do it.
Imagine if you read a children's book 30 years ago, and those characters were STILL being published today, with the full range of marketing, merchandising, and media exposure, and the public STILL lapped it up? Imagine if people didn't outgrow Disney characters and just pat them on the heads and say "that's nice for YOU kids." Imagine if Looney Tunes were family-friendly and didn't have to forcibly re-brand themselves to keep themselves in the public eye (did you see Looney Tunes: Back in Action? Yeah, no one else did, either.)
Well how's this for a cartoon character: Google Japan (www.google.jp) celebrated the birthday of Doraemon by devoting Thursday's web banner to him:
Doraemon is a robotic cat from the future (created on Sept. 3, 2112) who was sent back in time to be a pet for a little boy Nobita-- it seems his descendants were a little concerned that Nobita would otherwise not be able to grow into being a great man. So our clumsy and awkward Nobita gets rescued and swept into adventures by Doraemon and his Inspector Gadget-like pocket on his stomach.
To quote Wikipedia's article: "Doraemon is a term of common knowledge in Japan. Newspapers also regularly make references to Doraemon and his pocket as a something with the ability to satisfy all wishes. Other characters in the series are also referenced frequently on TV shows with similar looking casts. Some magazines have used the analogy that America is the Takeshi of the world and Japan is his little brother Suneo."
In case you are not convinced:
- Wikipedia also reports that "since the debut of Doraemon in 1969, the stories have been selectively collected into forty-five books . . . which had a circulation of over 80 million."
- He will have had THIRTY feature films with his latest coming March 2010.
- Has had over FORTY video game (or video game tie-ins) spread among all major game platforms
- Has had his television series syndicated to nearly THIRTY-FIVE different countries (except, strangely, the United States)
His latest series continues from 2005, with a total of over 200 episodes so far.
Not bad for a robotic cat. Too bad Nobita is as nobbish as ever.