SDCC 2013: Kids Manga Fave Doraemon to Be Published in English
On Friday night at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, at the “Beyond the Valley of Tezuka: Manga Legends You Don’t Know (But Should Know)” panel, it was announced that Doraemon, the longtime Japanese kids manga/anime favorite by Fujio Fujiko would be soon available in English in Fall 2013 in digital format.
Fujiko F. Fujio Productions, working in conjunction with Japanese multi-media producer Voyager Japan and translation company AltJapan, will be releasing Doraemon with all-new English translation/localization and in full-color for Amazon Kindle, and possibly eventually via other ePUB outlets, which may include Apple iBookstore, Google Play, and Nook as the releases roll out. The first releases will be in English, with other versions in other languages, such as Spanish, to follow in the coming year.
While the Fall 2013 release date is confirmed, a few other details are as yet to be finalized, including a month/day for the first release, the price, the rough page-count per unit that will be sold by (e.g. by chapter or by volume, and the rough page count per volume), and the publishing frequency. Also, this is a digital-only release, with no plans to publish this title in print at this time.
News of this new English publication of Doraemon came about at the 2013 International eBook Expo in Tokyo, at a presentation hosted by Voyager Japan in early July. AltJapan translators Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda (who have also translated sci-fi manga Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida for VIZ Media and are authors of books on Japanese culture, including Yokai Attack! and Ninja Attack! from Tuttle Publishing) spoke about the challenges of adapting one of Japan’s most beloved children’s comics characters for English readers, many that will be introduced to this robot cat from the future for the first time. You can view this presentation on YouTube, although it is all in Japanese.
SO WHAT IS DORAEMON?
From Doraemon v. 1 by Fujio F. Fujiko © F. Fujio Productions
For fans of Japanese anime and manga, Doraemon needs no introduction. But given that until now, Doraemon manga was only officially available in English via a few volumes of bilingual English/Japanese manga published by Shogakukan (largely as language learning teaching aids), very few readers in the English-speaking world have actually read much of it.
Doraemon is basically the story of a robot cat from the 22nd Century named Doraemon who is sent from the future to help hapless, extremely ordinary boy Nobita Nobi. Nobita is a bespectacled boy who is doesn’t get good grades, is not very athletic, and is often bullied by his classmates. Nobita is generally a good-hearted kid, but he’s a bit lazy, and pretty unlucky to boot.
Then one day, Doraemon pops up out of Nobita’s desk drawer, and tells him that he’s here to save him from a terrible fate. As a robot cat who comes from the future where almost anything seems possible, Doraemon has time-traveled via the fourth dimension to Nobita’s house. He’s there by request of Nobita’s great-grandson, Sewashi, who also visits Nobita on that fateful day.
Doraemon and Sewashi give Nobita a glimpse into his future — that he’ll grow up to be an even bigger loser than he is today, and will saddle his future generations with immense debt and misery. To avoid this misfortune, Sewashi has charged Doraemon with helping Nobita to be a better person, largely with the help of numerous gadgets that Doraemon plucks from the future via the fourth dimensional pocket on his belly.
Over the course of this long-running series, Doraemon and Nobita get into a vast array of fantastic adventures and get into a lot of trouble too along the way. It’s a fun, light-hearted series full of imagination and action. It’s kind of like a cross between Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes — and is just as popular and iconic to Japanese kids as Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes are to American comics fans.
DORAEMON: MANGA AMBASSADOR TO THE WORLD
Nobita’s Secret Gadget Museum © Fujiko Pro
Doraemon is the creation of Fujio Fujiko, the pen name of Hiroshi Fujimoto, a.k.a. Fujio F. Fujiko. As a contemporary of other manga legends such as Osamu Tezuka and Shotaro Ishinomori, Fujiko Fujio is also regarded as one of the creators who helped shape what manga is today.
Since being introduced to Japanese readers in 1969, Doraemon has become an indelible part of the Japanese pop culture landscape. Doraemon has been featured continuously in kids’ manga magazines like CoroCoro. The manga alone includes 1,344 stories and 13,000 pages in 45 volumes!
There have also been several versions of the Doraemon anime, shown on Japanese TV from 1973 – 2005, with a current season now showing on Japanese TV. Since 1980, Toho Studios has been releasing a new Doraemon feature-length movie almost every year (34 Doraemon movies have released to date).
And every year, it is a consistent winner at the box office. In March 2013, ticket sales for Doraemon movies exceeded Godzilla movies lifetime ticket sales: 100 million tickets vs. Godzilla’s 99 million.
Of course, there are loads of Doraemon toys, video games, candies, and even a museum in Kawasaki, Japan devoted to the work of Fujio F. Fujiko featuring Doraemon prominently.
Doraemon’s status as one of Japan’s most beloved anime characters has earned him the honor of being recognized by the Japanese government as an official ambassador to the world. In 2008, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura bestowed the title of “Anime Ambassador.” Doraemon was also recently appointed as “special ambassador” for Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics.
WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG FOR DORAEMON TO BE PUBLISHED IN ENGLISH?
For a character that is so popular throughout Asia, it’s a little perplexing that it has taken so long for the Doraemon manga to be published in English. It’s had to pin-point the exact reason for this years-long delay, and honestly, no one will speculate why on the record.
I can only guess that it was due to a combination of factors that have hampered the publication of other classic manga titles in North America, such as the series is too old, too long, and “too Japanese.”
However, digital publishing overcomes some of the roadblocks that get in the way of making more manga available to English readers. Publishing graphic novels digitally means that publishers don’t need to fret about the cost of printing and distributing books on paper to bookstores and comic shops. Color printing is also a pricey proposition in print, but not as much of an issue in digital publishing.
With over 45 volumes of comics content in the series, Doraemon is a series that presented a considerable risk to publish in print in English, despite its huge popularity in Asia. If the digital edition proves to be popular, who knows? Maybe there will be enough demand to warrant a print edition, but in all likelihood, it would take a very healthy amount of digital purchases to make this a serious consideration. In the meantime, keep an eye out for more details about this much-anticipated digital manga release, coming your way in Fall 2013.