Earlier today, financial journal Nikkei reported that Disney will begin airing Doraemon on the Disney XD network. A total of 26 episodes will run five times per week, starting in summer 2014, albeit with a few changes for western audiences.
The adaptation is being overseen by the three copyright holders, TV Asahi, Fujiko F. Fujio Production, and Shin-ei Animation, who are contracting the work to American studios. Confirmed changes so far are as follows:
- Character Nobita will be referred to as “Noby”
- Character Gian will be referred to as “Big G”
- Doraemon’s Takecopter will be referred to as the “Hopter”
- The Dokodemo Door will be referred to as an “Anywhere Door”
Excuse me one moment, while I pick my jaw up from the floor. The past few weeks have been absolutely loaded with news that’s seemed to come out of left field. Nature Valley went AniTwitter, NISA nabbed Cardcaptor Sakura, and now Disney’s pushing Doraemon in the west? Has the world gone topsy-turvy? Is this an alternate reality where people where hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people?
Joking aside, the Doraemon reveal is a truly fantastic announcement. While we’ve seen unofficial translations of the iconic show in the past, the airing marks the first time that it’s had an official airing in North America.
That said, I don’t expect the show to get through unscathed. While Doraemon is, first and foremost, a kids’ show, there are a number of cultural differences to be accounted for in the transition. It won’t be a “pure” release by any stretch, due to the fact that Disney projects a certain image in its children’s programming. Personally, I expect to see things like mild nudity get edited, while local items like food are renamed and certain settings are changed to more “local” alternatives.
I also expect to hear a number of fans let slip the dogs of war once the first episode airs… but that’s another story.
Honestly, I’m okay with Disney airing Doraemon on western shores.
The adaptation, which is being handled by the Japanese copyright holders, implies that the run has their blessing, and will be handled mostly on their terms. Edits for content, while disappointing overall, are a price of working in a western market, particularly in the daytime set. This falls well out of the “safe harbor” that Adult Swim operates within, and is held to the regulations passed in the US’s Children’s Television Act of 1990.
In plain English, edits will be made to ensure that these mandates are followed, in addition to the normal cultural mucking that arises in these situations. Given the target audience for the show, which is firmly in the “under 6” set, I see this as an opportunity to create the bedrock for a new generation of anime fans. This is a chance to give the newest generation their Robotech, their Noozles, their Voltron. It’s a chance to hook an audience with something new, something special that will stick with the audience, to the point that it gets renewed.
Would I like to see an uncut release hit eventually? Absolutely! Doraemon is a legendary anime series, which has fans of all ages in Japan. It’s a show that I’d love to see on the receiving end of the “white-glove” sets from a company like, say, NIS America… as unlikely as that would be. Until that day comes (if it comes), though, I do hope that this upcoming Doraemon adaptation is able to resonate with the target audience.