There’s a unique problem that the producers of anime-to-live-action adaptations face. Even if the casting director can gather a group of actors that look just like the source material’s human characters, what do you do about the non-human characters?
Using practical effects and animatronics for all those loveable robot companions and magical creatures limits the variety of movements they can handle and the angles you can film from. On the other hand, using post-production CG effects leaves the actors in the difficult position of having to perform while imagining costars that aren’t really there, which often leads to less-than-convincing results.
Maybe that’s why an upcoming Chinese live-action version of Doraemon has decided to go with the obvious solution and just use a real cat for the titular feline robot.
Doraemon may just now be making his first real big push into American pop culture, but the character has been beloved in Chinese-speaking regions for decades. As a matter of fact, Fujiko F. Fujio’s story of a robot cat that comes from the future to help out kind-hearted but bumbling elementary school student Nobita is so popular in China that a Chinese-language live-action version is being produced for release through the Mobile Taobao shopping website.
The title translates to Please, Doraemon!, and once again it looks like Nobita will be the primary human character.
Instead of a young boy, this version’s Nobita looks to be a full-grown man (although one that lives in a level of squalor most mature adults would be uncomfortable with). But as this preview video shows, Nobita isn’t the only one who looks different from what we’re used to.
Instead of the 2-D animated Doraemon who’s appeared in hundreds of TV episodes and dozens of movies, or the CG model from 2014’s hit theatrical feature Stand By Me Doraemon, the robot cat will be portrayed by a real one.
Perhaps realizing that the anime Doraemon’s bright blue hue wouldn’t look right on an actual furry cat, the Please, Doraemon! version appears to be a much more mundane gray. We’re not sure why it has a knit pseudo-bell on its collar instead of an actual tinkling piece of metal, though.
Joining our two leads will be human versions of gal pal Shizuka, bully/adventure companion Gian, and classmate Suneo.
Oh, and those who are worried that using an actual cat instead of a robot one will leave the film with a super-power sci-fi-deficiency will be happy to know that, for some inexplicable reason, Mother of Ultra, the pigtailed mom of tokusatsu star Ultraman Taro, is part of the cast.
Japanese Internet commenters have been similarly baffled.
“I’d never have expected they’d use a real cat.”
“What is the director thinking?”
“I wonder if they actually got the rights to make this.”
“I want to watch this!”
“That cat is cute and moe.”
We have to admit, surprising as the choice of feline lead may be, that kitty does look pretty cute, doesn’t it?
▼ Well, most of the time at least.