TW at the Movies: The Doraemon Franchise Grows Up

This month TW at the Movies reviews the 40th feature-length film in the Doraemon series: 'Nobita's New Dinosaur'

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At first glance, Kazuaki Imai’s 2020 film Doraemon: Nobita’s New Dinosaur (映画ドラえもん のび太の新恐竜) , seems almost sadistically inaccessible to new fans. It’s the 40th feature-length film in the franchise, which also celebrates the 50th anniversary of Doraemon, the iconic robot cat who travels back from the future to help Nobita Nobi, a young school boy, get his life together using a variety of inventive, futuristic gadgets.

Getting into any series with a history spanning half a century is daunting enough, but even more so when that history includes 45 volumes of the original comic book by Fujiko F. Fujio as well as three animated shows totaling nearly 2,500 episodes. Not only that, but Nobita’s New Dinosaur is also a sequel to Doraemon: Nobita’s Dinosaur 2006, which itself is a remake of Doraemon: Nobita’s Dinosaur (1980), the first Doraemon film ever produced. So newcomers are probably already confused and the film hasn’t even started.

Nobita’s New Dinosaur Is the Perfect Family Movie

©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK 2020

It’s all good, though. You do need to know a little bit about Doraemon before going into the movie… namely that he’s a robot cat who travels back from the future to help Nobita Nobi, a young school boy, get his life together using a variety of inventive, futuristic gadgets. That’s it. Once you know that, you can sit back, relax, and let the movie naturally introduce you to the personalities of all the main characters in the first three minutes, showcasing the screenwriting talents of Genki Kawamura.

Doraemon Nobita's New Dinosaur
©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK 2020

It’s what makes Nobita’s New Dinosaur especially recommended for families. It doesn’t require almost any knowledge of the Doraemon franchise beyond its most basic premise (because nobody likes homework in their movie-going experiences) while also offering something for everyone.

Kids will enjoy the story of Nobita using Doraemon’s future-tech to hatch an egg containing two feathered dinosaurs, Kyu and Myu, then playing with them before traveling back to the past and seeing even more dinosaurs. There are also plenty of gags and action scenes to keep all younger viewers happy for the movies’ entire 111-minute runtime. Adults, on the other hand, will connect with seeing themselves in Nobita.

A Story of Parenthood

©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK 2020

On the surface, Nobita’s Dinosaur 2006 followed a very similar story to the 2020 movie, what with also focusing on Nobita getting his hands on a dinosaur (here a plesiosaur named Piisuke). But the two couldn’t be more different. In Nobita’s New Dinosaur, Kyu and Myu aren’t pets like Piisuke, whose role in the movie was the cliché secret dog/cat/alien from an ‘80s family comedy.

©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK 2020

Kyu and Myu are, basically, Nobita’s kids. That’s their dynamic throughout the movie. They definitely go through all the familiar steps: Nobita dealing with Kyu being a picky-eater, panicking when the dinosaur gets sick, staying up with him throughout the night, or being pained when his “child” falls behind and struggles, like when Myu learns to fly but Kyu can’t figure it out.

We see Nobita make the mistakes any new parent would, from pushing Kyu too hard one time, being too lenient the other, but always wanting to do what’s best for him. Stuff like this will fly over the heads of most younger viewers but if they look up at their parents, they might catch them wiping away a single tear because of how familiar it all seems. It’s visceral.

Doraemon is Growing Up

©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK 2020

There is definitely conflict in the movie but unlike almost all previous Doraemon productions, there is no real villain here. When traveling to the past, the kids must deal with some dangerous dinosaurs, but they are wild animals that could not be called evil because they are a part of nature. And it is nature that’s really the main force pushing the story forward here, mostly by Nobita having to ultimately come to terms with the fact that he has to let Kyu and Myu leave the nest. By the end, he has to realize that he’s done everything he could for them, and now it’s time for them to survive on their own, which isn’t easy for anyone, but that’s life.

©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK 2020

But along the way, Nobita also discovers that by helping Kyu and Myu, he also helped himself. Despite being an unremarkable student, he studied like crazy when he first got his dinosaurs, and by helping Kyu learn to fly, he also became able to perform an exercise in PE class that he was struggling with before. The secret? Realizing that there is no secret, no magic feather etc. When you want to be good at something, you just try to do it until you eventually figure it out, picking yourself up every time you fall down.

Between this lesson, having no real villains, real-life themes plus theme songs by Mr. Children and special voice work by Naomi Watanabe, it seems that Doraemon has grown up for a new era without ever losing touch with what made it great in the first place. I personally can’t wait to see where it goes from here.


Feature image: ©藤子プロ・小学館・テレビ朝日・シンエイ・ADK 2020

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