REVIEW / ANIMATION
DORAEMON THE MOVIE: NOBITA AND THE BIRTH OF JAPAN 2016 (PG)
103 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars
The story: Grade school pupil Nobita (Megumi Ohara) runs away from home to Japan 70,000 years ago with the help of his trusty robot cat from the future, Doraemon (Wasabi Mizuta). He encounters prehistoric caveboy Kukuru (Ryoko Shiraishi) and, with his friends, has to help save the Hikari tribe from the evil machinations of the mysterious and powerful Gigazombie (Yoshitada Otsuka).
Stand By Me Doraemon in 2014 was a tearjerker 3D flick embraced by both audiences and critics. It was the second-highest grossing local film for the year in Japan and it also won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.
With its above-average production values, it was clearly not a run-of-the-mill entry in the longrunning franchise of big-screen outings, which stretch all the way back to 1980.
Doraemon films are pretty much an annual staple in Japan and are as comforting as a bowl of ochazuke (Japanese-style porridge). The characters are familiar as they have remained unchanged since the manga series made its debut in 1969, from lazy, klutzy but good-hearted Nobita to Doraemon with his endless supply of fascinating gadgets.
There is a certain homespun feel to the animation as well - 2D and not overly complicated. Indeed, there are weekly anime series now with more detailed artwork than in the Doraemon movies.
Still, there is no denying their appeal and Birth Of Japan 2016, a remake of the 1989 hit instalment, topped the box office in Japan for three weeks.
While the manga and anime stories tend to revolve around home and school life, the feature films have Nobita et al tackling all sorts of outlandish adventures. Here, there are trips to prehistoric Japan and a powerful villain messing around with the space-time continuum.
It is always fun to see what new gadgets have been dreamed up and how they are used and misused, and a definite highlight here is Doraemon pretending to be a witch doctor - Dorazombie - complete with nose ring and facepaint markings.
There is not much surprise to how things end, but the point is to have Doraemon and Nobita stick around for another adventure next year.