Doraemon, the time-traveling robotic cat friend to all has been named official Japanese anime ambassador. While this story has appeared in several “weird news” sections, the purpose behind this decision is economic, as part of the government’s “Cool Japan” campaign.
The Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komura, addressed Doraemon directly at his appointment ceremony:
Doraemon, I hope you will travel around the world as an anime ambassador to deepen people’s understanding of Japan so they will become friends with Japan
Through my [work], I hope to convey to people abroad what ordinary Japanese people think, our lifestyles and what kind of future we want to build.
Of course there is a strong economic reason behind this cute interaction — but it made me think about how difficult it would be to have a U.S. equivalent for several reasons:
1. The overwhelming omnipresence of American media, making the idea of promoting American culture weird and unnessary
2. While American media is everywhere, it is also created and supported by individual companies and individuals, rather than by the government. The idea of a government culture ministry seems antithetical to the idea of American independence. After all, the National Endowment for the Arts is more well known for government criticism of its funding than the projects it actually funds. And the Smithsonian enters into contracts to lock up public domain materials for the benefit of one company.
3. Who would we select as our cultural ambassador? And would we get permission? I am assuming that the heirs of Doraemon’s creator, Fujiko F. Fujio have given permission for the use of the feline from the future. But I think that in the U.S., the concerns about control — the use of intellectual property especially trademarks by the government would get this shut down before it even started.
However, I am now awaiting the appointment of K-9, the robotic dog from the past/future/present(?), as the official ambassador of U.K. culture!