The Japanese are much more diverse than we usually get credit for, but if there's one thing that 99.9% of us do have in common, it is our love for Doraemon. The robotic cat from the future made its debut manga appearance in a magazine for fourth graders in January 1970. In the first installment, he appears out of the desk drawer belonging to a boy named Nobita and tells him that he will be strangled in 30 minutes and roasted in a fire in 40 minutes. Of course, it all comes true. Nobita then finds out that Doraemon has come to the present (i.e. the 70s), along with Nobita's future grandson, to help make his life &mdash destined to be full of misery, mishaps, and disaster &mdash just a little bit easier to handle. Doraemon's kind, endearing, and forward-thinking qualities led him to become Japan's first official Anime Ambassador to the world last March.
Manga artist duo Fujiko Fujio &mdash creator of Doraemon and many other manga classics from Japan &mdash also invented many of the greatest gadget prototypes known to man, some of which actually exist today. Here are a few from the first decade of the series (1970-1980):
1. Takecopter (January 1970)
The most frequently used gadget in the Doraemon series is a suctioned bamboo propeller that attaches to any part of the body and instantly scoops you up into the air. Navigable by shifting body weight or maybe just by thinking about where to go.
2. Voodoo Camera (October 1970)
Take a photo of someone, and this point-and-shoot will make a miniature voodoo doll of that person. This was a great episode &mdash not knowing its powers, Nobita takes photos of Doraemon taking a nap and of his parents, and then gives them to Shizuka-chan, who gives them to the little girl next door who is best friends with a girl who likes to torture dolls...
3. Effect-Amplifying Mic (June 1975)
Nobita gets praised by the teacher at school, but when he tries to tell his parents and friends about it, nobody seems to care. That's why Doraemon hands him the mic that makes everything spoken into it sound like the most moving speech ever made by humankind. This scene shows Nobita blushing from embarrassment when he accidentally farts into the mic after he forgot he left it in his back pocket.
4. Guided missile (May 1976)
To stop the cat that ate Shizuka-chan's pet canary from terrorizing the 'hood once and for all, Doraemon brings out the Guided Missile, a more annoying-than-deadly weapon that will follow the designated target around until its batteries run out.
5. Dream Reader (August 1977)
When Nobita has trouble falling asleep one night, Doraemon loans him the Dream TV, which lets him watch what other people are dreaming about. Neuroscientists are actually working towards making dream reading a reality &mdash some think it could happen within 5-10 years.
6. 3D Printer (April 1980)
Called the Mecha Maker, this contraption makes life-sized models of whatever you draw in an instant. It has four basic parts &mdash a slit to put a paper diagram in, a tube for the materials (in Nobita's case, old plastic figurine kits), a compressor, and an exit hole that the completed item spits out of.
Images via 45 Opening Works of Doraemon published by Shogakukan