There’ll be mild spoilers here. But then again, what’s left to spoil about Doraemon? We’ve known the series all of our lives. We grew up with it. We’ve watched and read every episode of it. In fact, that’s exactly the appeal of this latest installment of the Doraemon franchise: what more does it have to offer? Because frankly speaking, we’ve seen it all.
The marketing campaign of Stand By Me Doraemon has been dramatic. Currently, there’s a four-month Doraemon exhibition in Ancol and before the premiere, the film trailer was designed precisely to make you cry, both in anticipation and childhood sadness. Just look at the film poster. They’re not shy in dubbing their film as sad.
It’s been no secret that the film would combine the first episodes of Doraemon manga up to the moment the robot cat had to return to the future and leave Nobita. It’d be a lie if I tell you I wasn’t excited for this animation as much as the others. The film started with the backstory we’d all read and watched many times before. Nobita’s great grandchild visited him in the past to send a message: change yourself for the better or you’d live a sorry life in the future. In an attempt to help Nobita, his great grandchild left him with Doraemon, a robot cat from the future that came with a 4D pocket, out of which he conjured various fancy futuristic gadgets to help Nobita.
In the past, Doraemon was popularized through an all-too-familiar 2D series. In 2014, they gave us a 3D look: smooth and all around clean cut. It felt a bit weird because the characters look different. Physically, they weren’t the characters I knew. But they’re still there. Doraemon is still grumpy. Giant is still a big bully. And Nobita is eternally 10 years old, lazy, a crybaby, and forever trying to win Shizuka’s heart as well as relying on Doraemon’s gadgets instead of his own skills. Back then, it was the sophisticated gadgets that fascinated me, followed by the friendship Nobita and friends made through the whole series. The gadgets always come first, at least for me.
And how I smiled during the first half of the film. It’s practically an homage to Doraemon’s endless collection of gadgets. Remember the classic baling-baling bambu and pintu ke mana saja? The film once again walked us through the nuts and bolts of Doraemon’s gadgets and how Nobita ended up misusing and abusing them. As always. The more Doraemon gives him gadgets, the more Nobita relies on them. It suddenly made me wonder whether Nobita liked Doraemon for Doraemon or for his gadgets. I never thought about this when I was a kid.
When I was a kid, Nobita was unforgivably lazy in my eyes. I really didn’t like this selfish crybaby. But now I finally see him for what he is. A difficult kid who needs to be handled with patience and love. And that’s what Doraemon’s friendship means to him.
Except it didn’t show in the film.
This film is more about Nobita than his friendship with Doraemon. I was expecting a story of friendship, but no, it’s a story of how Nobita tried to be a better man, which is not a bad thing, but it’s just not what I was expecting. I was ready to bawl my eyes out nearing the moment Doraemon had to leave, but such moment never came. Doraemon was sad to leave Nobita, but it wasn’t convincing. Because the film never took the time to elaborate the changes Doraemon felt towards Nobita. Wow, it was very anticlimactic.
And don’t get me started on the writing. At the beginning of the movie, I was fooled by the swift and dynamic graphic. All I ever had was the limited 2D animation, but with this 3D one, the pictures moved so quickly and seamlessly, it was one exhilirating visual experience. And the details they worked so hard to incorporate, from the drip, drip, drip of the tears up to the twilight that falls on the bookshelf, it was insane. Unfortunately, the writing is pretty weak. There’s a handful of unnecessary lines and scenes I can cut to make the story more concise. They could have made it more efficient.
Then there’s also the thing about wreaking havoc in the future timeline. I don’t even want to go there. It just occured to me that there’s a lot of issues going on with Doraemon’s gadgets and scientific accuracy. But oh well, it’s just a kid’s story. Which got me thinking, is Doraemon really appropriate for kids? I mean, considering Nobita’s perversion towards Shizuka and Giant’s mindless bullying. There’s also the way they depict Jaiko that I really, really don’t like. Nobita was told that he would marry Jaiko, who became bigger and bigger as she got older, and that his life would be miserable. But why would you picture Jaiko that way? For all we know, Jaiko could be a very nice woman despite how she looked like, and we know for sure that she’s a dedicated mangaka. Many things are horrific and twisted, I don’t know why I liked Doraemon when I was a kid.
Granted, I’m not as impressed with Doraemon as much as I was back then now that I’ve seen it with a pair of different eyes, but it remains as a major theme in my childhood. I can still name his gadgets one by one, and I still know the many, many characters inside out. I have to raise my hat to the film for staying relevant in the midst of new popular genres in the 21st century. And it gets even more relevant because Doraemon’s gadgets don’t look fictional anymore. They look feasible. Surprisingly, Doraemon is catching up with time. We might just have a pintu ke mana saja one day. I know I’m still waiting for it.