Fujiko F. Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto), the creator of Doraemon, the most widely recognized manga in Asia, passed away on September 23. It was the most depressing news I had heard in a long time because Doraemon had meant so much to me.
Doraemon was a roly-poly robotic cat from the future, sent by a boy in the 22nd century to help Nobita, his pathetic 10-year-old "great-grandfather." Except Doraemon didn't look much like a cat, since his ears were chewed off by mice. As a result, he was deathly afraid of them. He also had a fourth-dimensional pocket from which he pulled out countless fantastic gadgets, like the door that opened to wherever you wanted to go or the dumplings that tamed any animal; not to mention the time machine parked in Nobita's desk drawer. Every kid wanted a Doraemon. He was the greatest friend you could have: he was compassionate and always eager to have fun with you; yet he was stern about homework, a little vindictive and sensitive about his ears; but he could never refuse a sweet bean cake. Reading Doraemon was a big part of my childhood and probably of most children in Japan. A moral message was sometimes subtly included (not overtly pushy like in American cartoons, but in a way that made you sympathize with the characters so that you had no choice but to care about the issues), but there was a lot of science fiction. There were many references about dinosaurs, ecological issues, and natural phenomenon - information that I eagerly took in and later boasted to the adults (I was in grade school) that I had learned it all from Doraemon. Doraemon was probably one of the few manga that all parents would allow their children to read. I'm certainly saving all 40-odd volumes.
Fujiko's imagination never ceased to amaze me. He and his childhood friend and work partner Motoo Abiko ("Fujiko A. Fujio"), who used the pen name together, created dozens of manga series of the same caliber. Most of them were animated - Doraemon has been on TV for over 20 years. There is no doubt that it will continue to air - it's so much a part of life there that it was a given that Doraemon would always be there for us to fall back on. Japanese TV without that familiar opening song would not be the same. It's a tragedy already that such a significant contributor to the world of anime and manga, like Tezuka, is now gone.