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     Doraemon was a comic book created in the early 70's in Japan by Fujio Fujiko (pen-name of two people). The stories revolved around a bunch of fourth-graders living in a suburban part of Tokyo. Although intended for elementary-school students, this manga features characters with distinct personalities that anyone can relate to. That's more than could be said about much of children's material today, and adult material for that matter. Imagination expressed in its themes and entities reaches far beyond that of any other comic or cartoon. While Doraemon is a reflection of Japanese culture in the 70's and 80's, it nonetheless appeals to general human culture and morality.

     Fortunately, in recent years they have reprinted Doraemon in 45 volumes, which include some new ones and some old ones. Also reprinted are 19 books of adventures, the first 15 of which were published before. The Hong Kong versions come in better-quality paper and translation than the original Hong Kong publications. The adventures are also made into cartoon movies.

     I only recently acquired the 45th book of the Doraemon short stories (Hong Kong translation). This one is supposed to have been written only a few years ago. The art is not quite as good as the old ones, but the most dramatic difference is the content. The stories tend to be longer and the plots more confusing. The strong personalities seem to have left the characters, and these new stories lack the universal appeal of classic Doraemon. Perhaps they still appeal to younger children, content-wise, but I have to say, altogether, this latest and last issue is uninteresting at best.

     Along with the latest book of short stories I also acquired the translated 17th adventure story. This one is sad. The drawing is terrible compared to that of the 80's Doraemon. I'm not quite convinced it's from the same Fujio F. Fujiko (one of two original authors). The storyline is confusing and it's not very good to begin with. It is so bad I had to force myself to read it just for evaluating one of Fujio Fujiko's late offerings. Maybe it is not such a bad comic on its own, but as Doraemon it is very dissappointing. If you have also read these late comics, please tell me what you think of them.

     I would perhaps have been happier if Doraemon had ended at 44 and 15. The last volumes remind me that Doraemon, being fiction, is only the creation of another human being and thus subject to his whims, abilities, even finances. Perhaps this is only a proper reflection of the changing tastes of the audience. Somehow, the more recent comics strike me as being more catered towards a specific group, relying heavily on a few aspects to keep interest, and losing this interest with the trend of time. It would be much harder to move on from the 20 years of fourth-grade fun of Doraemon. We may never encounter another work with the same ageless appeal.

     More recently they have released a few book of short stories, all in color, not included in the original black-and-white 45. They are stories from the early 80's, which to me is the prime of Fujiko's artistic and creative career. I hope they bring out more of these treasures from the vaults!

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