Ninety five years from today Doraemon, the amazing cat robot, will be born. At least that’s according to Fujiko Fujio’s imaginative comic. Doraemon and his magical fourth-dimensional pocket, which produces fantastical gadgets from the future, have tickled the minds of children (including myself) since the 1970s to today.
It was easily my favorite cartoon growing up in Tokyo. However, we didn’t have a television so I vividly remember my mom taking me to a local soba shop near our small apartment in Koenji. We would sit down and order our dinner. A couple of minutes before 7pm, my mom would stand up, walk over to the waitress, and kindly ask – in broken Japanese – if we could change the channel. Looking back, it must have been an odd sight: an American mother and her small child, quietly slurping their noodles while watching Doraemon.
Surely those kinds of memories are one in a million, and if you have your own nostalgic memory of Doraemon, head to the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills where visual interpretations of everyone’s favorite cat robot is on full display thanks to a collaboration between 28 contemporary artists like Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara and Makoto Aida.
“That’s not Shizuka-chan,” said a young child strolling through the gallery with his father. He was referring to a sexualized version of the comic’s lone female character, who had emerged from water dripping wet. Painted by the 32-year old artist Satomi Kondo, it was a reinterpretation of an actual scene. Those who overheard the boy’s comment couldn’t help but chuckle as they attempted to reconcile their own memories with the artist’s.
Indeed, you won’t always find yourself nodding in approval but you’ll be stunned nonetheless to see the wide range of interpretations of a beloved character who has, by and large, remained constant in an ever-evolving society.
One of the highlights for me was a small room camouflaged by double curtains to keep the light out. Inside the dark room, a small train on tracks with an LED light traverses through household objects, casting oversized shadows onto the walls and creating a world that felt like you were inside a comic book. It was the work of Ryota Kuwakubo. Photography wasn’t allowed in that room so you’ll have to see it for yourself. The Doraemon Exhibition is up through January 8, 2018.