It's the latest movie in the inescapable kiddies' cultural phenomenon that is Doraemon. If you've lived in Japan, you know Doraemon. I'm not sure if anything can top it for being omnipresent in the country. Anpanman, Pokemon... it beats everything. (Apparently it's huge in much of Asia, actually.) Generations of children have grown up on it, including Tomoko. It topped the Japanese box office on its opening weekend, of course, and was the fifth highest-grossing Japanese film of the year at the domestic box office. (It also hit cinemas in Hong Kong, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Yes, Italy. The Italians love anime.)
Anyway, I like this show, but I've watched very little of it. The main character is Nobita, a young boy who's lazy, a bit pathetic and generally a loser. (That's more so in the TV show, though. Apparently he and his friends tend to be more heroic in the movies.) Meanwhile his best friend is Doraemon, a big blue time-travelling robot cat with no ears and brain-melting gadgets. You have no idea. He has thousands of them, he can produce them at will and their potential would be terrifying in the hands of perverts, world dictators or... well, any adult. In this film alone, we get:
1. Movie Director Robot in the shape of a hamburger, who can (a) direct movies, (b) create three-dimensional fantasy worlds and (c) reverse time. He also has an army of pinhead-sized drone cameras that will fly around you 24 hours a day and never stop filming you. No one sees anything odd about this and indeed they think it's quite a good idea. The more footage for their film, the better! Sometimes the world of children's movies is scary.
2. Upgrade Light, which can make anything real. If some children are playing at superheroes, for instance, then this pointed at their costumes can give them superhuman strength and the ability to fly.
3. Rocky Head, which makes your head indestructible and capable of destroying anything hard.
4. Take-copter, a helicopter hat that lets you fly if you stick on your head.
5. Translation Gummy, which translates all languages if you've eaten it. Apparently you'll even be able to talk with animals, although we don't see that in this film.
6. Invisible Cape, which makes you invisible. This alone could get half the world's population arrested. (The male half.)
7. Coagulation Light, which can freeze anything into a solid, even if this was originally gas, fire or a planet-blasting space energy beam.
8-17. Dress Up Camera, Space Capsule, Rebounding Cape, Secret Underground Room, Moodmaker Orchestra, Mole Gloves, Air Cannon, Partial Gourmet Table Cloth, Big Light and an unnamed geothermal measuring gadget.
...and that's not counting the Pass Loop, 3D Camera, Coalition Glue and Vending Machine, which are only in this particular story's original manga version. That must, surely, be pretty extreme even for Doraemon, but there are literally thousands more of these gadgets. The Dokodemo Door might be the most famous one. If you put that on a wall, it becomes a teleporting door to anywhere you want.
This story's first half-hour is all about Nobita and his friends trying to make a superhero movie. Well, I say "friends". Even the softer, gentler movie versions of Gouda and Honekawa are still a bit dickish, although the one girl in their group, Shizuka, is nice. Later in the film, Honekawa will argue in favour of running away and letting a planet get blown up. This is a surprisingly edgy line-up, compared with what you'd expect from a wildly successful children's show.
A spaceman called Aron then shows up and takes everyone into space, marked playfully by the editors with a George Lucas wipe. (Wikipedia thinks this film is a bit like the 1985 Doraemon movie, Nobita's Little Star Wars.) Mind you, watching this through Star Wars goggles will be terrifying in the scene where Aron jumps into hyperspace while surrounded by asteroids. Our alien hero is from the planet Pokkoru, which has been invaded! Aron's people are mice with radar dish ears. The invaders are space pirates. Nobita and his friends think this is just more filmmaking, because they've been hanging out with Doraemon too much, which leads to a highly amusing confrontation while our heroes still think the pirates are just actors in costume. Shockingly, real pirates don't wait for you to stop posing before they open fire!
It's not bad. I didn't fall in love with this film and it didn't make me burn for more Doraemon, but it was okay. It's for children rather than infants. Parents in the cinema would find it reasonably adult-watchable. We're talking the level of Pokemon and Yokai Watch, rather than Anpanman (although as it happens I quite like Anpanman too).
It also surprised me a couple of times. The pirate boss turns a minion to black crystal, then shatters him. Someone just got killed in this kiddie film! He then later threatens planetary destruction, complete with a countdown to the mass extermination of billions of innocent victims-to-be. They're nice. "What's bad about destroying some insignificant planet?" This is unexpected, although there's no real dramatic tension since Doraemon is Doraemon. However the pirate boss apparently gets killed towards the end, although a little squid then pops up from his black sludgy remains.
It's a reasonably entertaining film. If you thought Doraemon was just a 1970s manga... well, it is, but it's a modern show too. They never stopped making it through all those decades, with a new anime episode every weekday and a new movie every year. It's pretty good, too.