Doraemon The Super Star 2015 / Doraemon: Nobita’s Space Heroes (2015)

First of all, I’m fully aware I don’t come even close to being the main target audience for this movie. For one thing, I’m at least twenty years too old and my childlike funny bone probably has osteoporosis at this point. That of course then raises the question of why would I even bother watching a kids movie? It’s not like I’m a long time Doraemon fan, in fact, before seeing this movie my only real encounter with Doraemon was watching a random episode from the most recent TV anime adaptation, and seeing those not-so-recent Toyota TV ad campaign commercials where the gimmick was that all the kids from Doraemon cast had grown up now and were played by real people, which culminated in Jean Reno play Doraemon. Well the answer is quite simple. Being a long time Japanophile that I am, I can’t help but to be a bit intrigued by Doraemon due to the long lasting popularity and cultural significance it still enjoys in Japan. You see the merchandise everywhere, there are still movies being made, it’s become very much a permanent part of the Japanese pop culture, just like Ninja, Godzilla, Anpaman, Pikachu and etc. are. It’s very much part of the Japan experience that I feel compelled to understand it better.

As a movie it’s more or less what one might expect from a generic kids movie. As far as the story in the movie goes, it’s pretty okay for what it is, simple but nothing particularly memorable or moving. What basically happens is as follows: inspired by a TV space hero show, the all the kids in the Doraemon gang start play pretending to be space heroes for fun, as well as filming themselves as if they were inside the show. Things of course soon escalate with the help of Doraemon’s ever convenient deus ex machina device that gives everybody actual super powers and creates elaborate sentai hero scenarios for the kids to play with, and as one does in these situations, they accidentally get involved in actual space heroics when they encounter a space alien looking for help to save his planet, as the alien mistakes the kids for authentic heroes while simultaneously the gang thinks the alien is just part of the sentai movie they are filming with Doraemon’s gadget. Like I said, it’s a very simple story, but kinda cute and very goofy and I could very well see my younger self being entertained by this. You can easily relate to what the kids are doing and even as an adult feel a bit nostalgic by the fantasy of playacting actually working. After all, who as a kid didn’t do this type of thing and get entirely immersed in their own imagination?

On the down side, there really isn’t much to the story once they arrive on the planet. They regroup, fight bad guys, save the day and…. that’s basically it. There’s obviously a little more to it than that, but that’s the basic gist of the plot. The central antagonists are also very forgettable and bland. They feel entirely superfluous to the actual plot and they’re primarily in the story only because you can’t have a hero story without some villains and an evil scheme to combat. I think my main problem with the bad guys is that they aren’t even that particularly cool looking, nor do they have an interesting gimmick. There’s nothing to latch onto, and hero stories need a good villain to keep things interesting, otherwise the climax tend to feel rather unsatisfying. I didn’t really enjoy much of the humor either, as it isn’t particularly appealing most of the time to an adult. Or at least to me. I could see a kid liking it, but for me it usually fell a bit flat, rarely getting more than a vague smile out of me.

When it’s all done and said, it’s not like this was an awful movie. As an adult viewer you kinda just end up wishing there was slightly more substance to it, especially in the second half of the movie after they go to space to save the planet. The story just kinda ends up spinning on its wheels once they arrive for awhile until it’s passed enough time for the climax and resolution to take place. The climax itself does have couple of pretty fun ideas in it how  they end up saving the day, which does salvage the second half of the story a little from being a complete bore, but it’s a bit too little too late. Overall, it’s entirely adequate little animated movie for kids. Clearly better suited for younger audiences who can get more out of it, but entirely watchable even as an adult as long as you turn off your brain and don’t expect much. Perhaps if you were to see it with little kids, where you could enjoy their enthusiasm over what’s happening on the screen, or with your own childhood nostalgia if you are a Doraemon fan you might get even more out of it. In any case, you could do worse, if you’re stuck on a plane and have couple of hours to kill.

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