In an unexpected turn, the smiling blue robot cat Doraemon has become embroiled in a political controversy in China, where critics charge that the popular anime character is a tool for Japan's "cultural invasion."
The New York Times reports the rumpus follows the successful opening in mid-August of the 100 Doraemon Secret Gadgets Expo in Chengdu, which apparently led three major newspapers last week to question the motives of Japan's Foreign Ministry, and not its cultural or economic branches, in naming the cartoon cat as "anime ambassador." Doraemon, the argument goes, is merely a Trojan Horse for Japan's political goals.
Appointed as Japan's anime ambassador in 2008, Doraemon was created in 1969 by the manga team of Fujiko Fujio. A robotic cat from the 22nd century who travels back in time to help a little boy, the character has appeared in three anime series, and a host of movies and video games. The anime began airing in 1991 in China, where it has a large following.
Dubbing the character the "blue fatty," a Chengdu Daily News editorial cautioned that the exhibitions have a "sinister hidden meaning," and insisted, "Doraemon is Japan's attempt to weaken China's firm stance on and understanding of history."
However, the character does have its supporters, and defenders: 77 percent of people who responded to an online poll (more than 70,000 as of Monday morning) said they don't support a proposed boycott of Doraemon.