Author profile:
Toyoshi Inada / Editor, Writer
After working for a Film Distribution Company and a DVD magazine publication as an editor, he became a freelancer in 2013. He specialized in film, manga, anime and pop culture. He was the writer of “Social Theory of generations of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” by Subarusya Linkage.

A Robot Described as A Part of Family

The first popular animated Japanese TV series, “Astro Boy,” English title of “Mighty Atom” by Osamu Tezuka, started in 1963. The main character, “Atom” is a humanoid robot that moves by nuclear energy. He has an emotion like human being and fights to protect people from evils. This TV series recorded the highest average viewing rate of 40% at that time. A robot-themed animation has been produced widely after the big hit from this series.
Among many animated series created from 1970’s to 1980’s, there are two common relationship human and robot has. One of them was a robot created as a weapon or a tool, an example of a character in “The Origin Mobile Suit Gundam.” The main icon, Gundam, in this animation is a strong giant robot who is kind, dependable, and protects people from the enemy, it reflects father figure in family. The other one is a buddy robot, example of “Doraemon.” This is also the story all kids watched and grew up with. The story is a robotic cat, “Doraemon” traveled back in time from future to support Nobita who suffers from being bullied by other kids and getting low grade at school. Doraemon has a pocket which connects to four-dimensional space and whatever Nobita asks for help, Doraemon finds a tool to save the Nobita in every situation. The role of buddy robot is one who never looks down on the main character, in this case it is Nobita who is a typical weakling kid. The writer, Fujiko F. Fujio, set the height of Doraemon, 129.3cm which is an average height of 4th grade kids in Japan and Nobita’s height as well. In this way, they could look at each other in the same eye level as other 4th grade kids. Buddy robot was described to be not only supports Nobita mentally but also physically.  Another example of buddy robot is “Haro” from “The Origin Mobile Suit Gundam.” Haro is created as a pet which is the size of basketball. It can barely talk, not much ability to protect other, it would rather be needed to be taken care of. It is a part of family member as pet we have and also a friend of main character.
Based on this, why do you think Japanese need to reflect robot in animation to their father or their best friends? I would say there was a reason behind in that time period. From 1950’s to 1970’s, Japan was in high economic growth period. At that time, father works late and was not around in the house. Kids reflect father figure robot in anime to replace their father. Also in 1970’s, many family moved to newly built those housing complex, which made people not having relations with other family in the community like they used to. Some kids had difficulty finding their friends, and they reflect themselves in anime characters and found friend or pet to satisfy their friendship instead.

Photo credit: tami_chan / CC BY

Japanese translation version: IT Hihyou | 日本人はロボットアニメにどんな夢と欲望を託したのか〜アニメが描いた日本の現在と未来①