Opinion / Zhu Ping

Don't blame Doraemon for worsening ties

By Zhu Ping (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-29 07:53

Should Doraemon, a modern cultural icon of Japan, be a scapegoat for the worsening Sino-Japanese ties? For some people, it seems, the answer is yes.

Over the weekend, three newspapers based in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, sparked a fierce debate by launching an attack on the ongoing frenzy about the chubby, blue, earless robotic cat in the southwestern metropolis. However, it would be more thought-provoking to consider ways to rationally treat civilian exchanges, which have chilled since Japan's so-called nationalization of China's Diaoyu Islands in 2012.

According to local media commentaries, the Doraemon-themed exhibition ill-intentionally kicked off on Aug 16, one day after the 69th anniversary to mark Japan's surrender during World War II, and the exhibition bore its political task to export Japan's national values, and tried to bring young Chinese under the banner of Japanese cartoon culture.

No wonder the strong criticism sparked a fierce online debate, and divided netizens into pro- and anti-Doraemon groups. But for most young Chinese netizens, the Chengdu media's criticism was too much as Doraemon was part of their childhood.

The exhibition, even though it was a commercial one, should have been more sensible with its timing, especially since Japanese rightist politicians headed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe persist with words and actions that strain Japan's ties with its Asian neighbors. Yet it goes too far to politicalize the exhibition by linking the robotic cat with Japan's worrying politics. In the cartoon series, Doraemon travels back in time from the 22nd century to aid a pre-teen boy named Nobita Nobi who is performing badly in his studies, often shouted at by his mom, and bullied by his classmates.

The fictional robotic cat was created by Fujio Fujiko in the 1970s. The cartoonists' real names were Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko, and both were born in the 1930s. Most children across the world who grow up watching the cartoons love the almighty cat series, as the stories are full of fantasies, scientific inventions, friendship, family love, cherishing peace and so on. Such values are not uniquely cherished by ordinary Japanese people, but also across the world.

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