Tomokazu SekiJunko MinagawaAkeno WatanabeDoraemon
Doraemon movie #39: Nobita's Chronicle of the Moon Exploration
Also known as: Eiga Doraemon Nobita no Getsumen Tansa-ki
Medium: film
Year: 2019
Director: Shinnosuke Yakuwa
Writer: Mizuki Tsujimura
Original creator: Fujiko F. Fujio
Actor: Junko Minagawa, Megumi Oohara, Subaru Kimura, Tomokazu Seki, Wasabi Mizuta, Yumi Kakazu, Akeno Watanabe, Alice Hirose, Ikue Otani, Kotaro Yoshida, Shigeo Takahashi, Soichi Nakaoka, Yukiji, Yuuya Yagira
Keywords: Doraemon, anime, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 111 minutes
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 9 September 2019
dora emon
It's the 39th Doraemon film and definitely one of the better ones. The problem with Doraemon films is that they keep aiming for action-adventure, but that's hard to do successfully in this franchise. Doraemon is a 22nd century cat robot who can produce any gadget at will from his four-dimensional kangaroo pocket. Anything. The Anywhere Door will take you instantly to any location you desire. (If this existed in reality, civilisation would probably end and capitalism definitely would. Thank goodness Doraemon is a children's show with no perverts.) This franchise has been running since the 1960s and almost every adventure introduces a new gadget. We've had a time machine, an E.S.P. Training Box, an Animal Transformation Stick, a Boygirl, an Aladdin's Lamp (with no wish count limit), a Head of the Gorgon (which turns you to stone), the Conveyor Belt Sushi of People I Wanna See and many, many more.
In this film alone, the children do a Superman. A vehicle's falling through the air. Take-copter on head! You can fly. Some other whatsit! You have super-strength. Bingo, they catch the falling vehicle... and this isn't even a big deal. It's a throwaway story beat that doesn't take a minute.
That's why it's hard to do action-adventure with Doraemon. He has every possible superpower, with no limit on his abilities except for comedy.
However, this film does two things right. Firstly, it ditches the action-adventure stuff for well over an hour, focusing instead on delightfully mad whimsy that's completely and utterly Doraemon. It's bonkers. It's absurd. It's charming. It's also far more interesting and unique than yet another not-actually-bad-underneath baddie in a children's cartoon.
Then, after that, the long-delayed action-adventure turns out to be serious enough to matter even in the Doraemon-verse. It has laser cannons, Star Wars spaceship chases and an unusually convincing threatened invasion of Earth. The film's set it all up properly. It fits the villain's motivation and circumstances. He's been living on a trashed planet for a thousand years, so of course he wants a new home. (Admittedly he does have the more positive option of rebuilding his world, but he can't be bothered with that. Too much like hard work. Besides, it's his fault that it was like that in the first place.)
As Doraemon explains, the old geocentric model of the solar system was superseded from around the 16th century onwards by the heliocentric model. In other words, we know the Earth goes around the Sun. Doraemon, though, has a badge that lets you visit the world of fringe theories! We see a flat Earth with the universe revolving around it. They've animated it, properly. THIS IS INSANE. I loved it.
Doraemon and Nobita then visit the moon. (Again, this is kind of wonderful in animation. We see the Earthrise.) There are two theories about the moon, you see. One is that it's an airless rock with a mean radius of 1,737 km and 0.1654 Earth gravity. The other is that rabbits live there. (That's an East Asian thing, although moon rabbit legends occurred independently in the Americas too. I have a man in the moon, while China, Japan and Korea have a rabbit.)
This is all mad, but it keeps getting madder.
Doraemon and Nobita build a place where life can grow on the moon's dark side. They give it greenery and even create animals out of clay. (You could run a long way with the hypothesis that Doraemon is God.) Nobita goofs and makes a semi-deformed rabbit kaijuu. There's a mysterious magic child, glowing bamboo, a rabbit kingdom and a moon disco. There's the fact that you'll become subject to the usual laws of physics again if your "I wear tinfoil hats" badge falls off, which is scary when you're exploring two completely different kinds of impossible magical realm on the moon.
Doraemon's the one asking all the sensible questions. (Nobita and his friends are just a bunch of children, after all.) "The Earth's history is built on fringe theories," we're told, which is actually true given the evolving nature of what's been traditionally regarded as "fringe". I also laughed at "I have to punish myself" and the giant mallet.
It's just so much more imaginative and charming than the usual runarounds. It's as if the filmmakers are challenging each other to boggle you by piling up a tower of ever-more wonderful impossibilities. There's no real urgency and there's nothing at stake, but that doesn't matter at all.
However there's also a Death Star. Baddies are coming after all.
We have scorpion-shaped spaceships... no, wait, they're lobsters. We have baddies who can neutralise Doraemon's powers, blasting the Anywhere Door and stealing his four-dimensional pocket. We have an entire planet that's been oppressed for a thousand years by a ruler who kept it poor by fighting endless wars.
This is actually pretty cool. Doraemon vs. these guys isn't a walkover. He'll have to find other ways of reaching the moon, for instance.
That said, though, there are some headscratchers.
(a) there's a group of children who've stayed young for a thousand years. They'll never become adults. However everyone else from their planet is a normal grown-up, from the soldiers to the peasants. Admittedly we're told that they were "created" rather than born, but it doesn't feel as if it fits.
(b) at the end of the film, a bunch of children give up their immortal lives and magical powers. We want to die! Also we'll never see Doraemon and his friends again! This is presented as a completely normal kiddie film ending, with everyone smiling and happy. "We can see you again... in our imaginations!"
(What's happening, of course, is that the filmmakers don't want a one-off movie to have long-term effects on the Doraemon-verse, so they're undoing all their changes and hitting the reset button.)
I liked this film a lot. It's much better than I'd expected, using the Doraemon universe to explore impossible mind-benders you couldn't do anywhere else. I'm not wild about the girls' role, admittedly. The gang's token girl, Shizuka, gets left behind to nurse the injured Luna while the boys go off to have an action finale. This is subverted when the girls show up triumphantly later, but then soon afterwards Luna gets captured and needs rescuing. Huh.
The film's still cool, though.