Shizuka Minamoto is the female lead for the Japanese Doraemon manga and anime. Doraemon is one of the best known cartoons in the world, and Shizuka is perhaps the most widely recognized girl in cartoons and comics today. Before we get into detail about Shizuka, let’s give a brief account of Doraemon.
Nobita Nobi is the protagonist of the stories. He is a lazy boy of about ten years of age who is constantly getting into trouble and being bullied. Gian, a nickname derived from the English word giant, is a boy of the same age, but much bigger, who bullies Nobita. Suneo is an arrogant rich boy. Gian and Suneo are sometimes Nobita’s friends, and other times his adversaries, depending on what is needed to make a funny story. Shizuka is Nobita’s love interest, and is always his friend.
Doraemon is a big robot cat sent from the future by Nobita’s descendent, Siwashi, to attempt to help Nobita succeed in life. One of the things Doraemon will do is to ensure that Nobita will marry Shizuka, not Gian’s bratty little sister Jaiko, when he grows up. Nobita questions if this will be a problem because Siwashi is descended from him and Jaiko; if he marries Shizuka, will Siwashi cease to exist? Siwashi assures Nobita there will be no problem; different routes can lead to the same future. The manga pages in this article were originally in Japanese, so they are to be read right to left.
In a typical Doraemon story, Nobita will have a problem. Doraemon will provide Nobita with a high technology gadget from the future that works like magic to help solve the problem. Nobita misuses the gadget and ends up worse off than he was at the start.
Of the five main characters; Doraemon, Nobita, Shizuka, Gian, and Suneo; Shizuka is the only female. She is also the only human character not primarily defined by a major fault. Nobita is a loafer, Gian a ruffian, and Suneo is pompous. Shizuka is hardworking, sweet, and always loyal to her friends. She can get angry at times, when necessary for the story; and she is obsessed with cleanliness. Her worst shortcoming, which is common to all Doraemon characters, is that she never realizes until it is too late that there could be a downside to playing around with supernatural future technology. Were it not for this shortcoming, there would be no Doraemon stories.
The stories covered in this article are the mangas (non-animated comics) created by Fujiko Fujio from 1969 through 1996. Fujimoto Hiroshi and Motoo Abiko collaborated under the penname Fujiko Fujio to make Doraemon. Hiroshi died in 1996, and the canonical stories thus ended then. There were 1,345 stories published in 45 volumes from 1970 to 1996. In addition, 16 long stories (Daichōhen Doraemon) were written and drawn by Fujiko Fujio from 1980 through 1996. More stories and animated cartoons were written and drawn by others, but this article does not focus on those. The dates given in the captions to the illustrations are the dates of publication for the book in which the story appeared. Often, the story may have been written a year prior. Several stories written but not published during the lifetime of Fujimoto Hiroshi were published years later as Doraemon Plus. The Japanese Foreign Ministry designated Doraemon as Japan’s anime ambassador in 2008.
If you read reviews of Doraemon, you may get the idea that Shizuka appears nude in most of the stories. This is not true. Shizuka has no nude scene in the vast majority of the stories, but reviewers tend to dwell on those stories that do have nudity. I will also emphasize these stories, because in doing so I hope to provide some insight into the controversies about nudity in art. Most of the illustrations used in this article contain nudity, but only because I specifically chose them for that reason. They are not a random representative sample of Doraemon pages.
It is interesting to note the time periods in which nude scenes occur in the manga. Volumes 1 through 17 of the Doraemon books were published 1970 through 1979. Nudity is very rare in this period, and when there is a naked character, it is one of the boys more often than it is Shizuka. Shizuka’s first “nude scene” that I could find is in the Bypass Spyglass story of 1974. You may question if that is really a nude scene; even though Shizuka is in the bathtub, only her face is visible. Shizuka also has an imagined undressing scene in the Over Exaggerating Overcoat story of 1977. During 1970–1979 Nobita does not intentionally try to spy on Shizuka when she is naked. Her nude scenes are accidental.
Two things are peculiar about the undressing scene in Over Exaggerating Overcoat. The first thing is Nobita’s reaction; he panics more at Shizuka’s undressing than he did earlier in the story at their encounter with a dinosaur, a giant snake, and a pirate. It is as if he is more disturbed by the idea of Shizuka without clothing than he is by the idea of Shizuka being eaten by a giant snake. The other peculiar thing is that Shizuka wears a slip under her clothing so she can be shown undressing without exposing any more of her body than if she were fully dressed. The boys in Doraemon on the other hand, were depicted fully nude occasionally in the 1970s. My opinion is that Fujiko Fujio were trying to follow what they thought were societal norms of decency. Later they learned that these norms were defined by a small minority. They were vocal enough to create the illusion that many people shared their views, but they were actually so few that Fujiko Fujio could not cater to them and sell a lot of comics to make the optimal amount of money.
The next period begins with Volume 18 in December 1979 and continues through Volume 38 in 1986. Daichōhen Doraemon stories began in 1980, and by 1986, eight Daichōhen stories were published. During this period nudity was very much more common, and it was usually Shizuka who was nude. If it was not Shizuka, it was likely to be another female character, although the boys continued to have occasional nude scenes. Also during this time, Nobita intentionally sought opportunities to see Shizuka naked. Some nude scenes during 1979–1986 seem to be gratuitously added for fan service.
In the 1983 story Ten Minutes Delayed ESP, Nobita has an uncontrollable ESP that allows him to see through Shizuka’s clothes when he was actually trying to see into Gian’s pocket. Compare this scene with the one from 1977’s Over Exaggerating Overcoat. in 1977 Shizuka is in underwear, but in 1983 she appears naked. Nobita is alarmed by Shizuka’s lack of clothing in both stories, because it adds humor to the situation. In stories published after December 1979, however, Nobita is more often pleased than alarmed by Shizuka’s nudity.
An example of a story in which Nobita seems happy to spy on Shizuka is the 1984 story Later Album. Look at the faces of Nobita and Doraemon; they appear delighted to have an album of nude photos of Shizuka. Their dialogue tells a different story. Nobita can choose any person, date, and time; and the magic photo album will produce a photo of that person as he or she appears at the designated time. Nobita wants a clothed photo of Shizuka that he can use as a model for his art homework assignment of drawing his best friend. Whenever he designates a date and time for a photo of Shizuka, she happens to be taking a bath at the time. This is, at least superficially, a satire of Doraemon critics who claim that Shizuka is usually in her bath, even though actually she is rarely shown in her bath. The bath scenes are not common, but they are remembered, by both fans and critics, more than other scenes.
Can we view Later Album on another level as satirizing Nobita for using a contrivance to obtain nude photos, when he could have found some clothed photos for his assignment if he had tried? Is Nobita only pretending to be frustrated because he can find only nude photos? I think the author intended for us to see that in the story. Unfortunately, I am not an expert in the subtleties of Japanese humor, so I can only offer this as a suggestion.
Another 1984 story, Ventriloquist Robot, is interesting in that a robot, speaking through Nobita, tells Shizuka that nudity is artistic and innocent and she should not be annoyed when Nobita sees her naked. The robot has the power to make people believe anything it says. A page from the 1985 story Water Cycle Medicine is illustrated here to show how the scene was later changed for anime versions.
No Doraemon book was published in 1987, and from 1988 through 1996 there is significantly less nudity than 1979–1986. In the story Blind Spot Star (1989), Nobita uncharacteristically refuses to spy on Shizuka in the bath when he has an opportunity to do so. In the end, he gets blamed for peeping even though he did not. Nobita spies on Shizuka in the posthumously published story Indoor World Travel Set, but we don’t know when this story was written. The decline in the number of nude scenes is less evident in the long stories. Note two things about Shizuka’s shower in the long story The Kingdom of Clouds (1991). First, the shower is pure fan service; it does nothing to advance the plot or to add humor. Second, note that Shizuka’s body is drawn more curvaceous in the shower than when she is clothed.
Why did the frequency of Shizuka’s nudity fluctuate, increasing to the mid 1980s then decreasing? I can only offer an hypothesis. Perhaps there was very little nudity of Shizuka in Doraemon during the first years of publication simply because the author did not think of too many plots that would involve nudity. Like any successful author of a multi-year series, Fujiko Fujio listened to their fans. People who bought and read Doraemon wanted more nude scenes for Shizuka, so that was what they got. This made Doraemon even more popular, but eventually it became too popular. Doraemon was so well-known that it was known even to busy bodies who did not buy or read the manga, but who fancied themselves to be guardians of public morals with the right to decide what others should be able to buy or read. Pressure was put on Doraemon to decrease the nudity, and so it happened.
Doraemon has inspired a lot of fan art. Sometimes it is obvious from the art style that it is not an original Doraemon illustration. An example of this is the picture by Omasomas of Nobita and Doraemon with Shizuka in her bathroom. Sometimes it is not obvious, as in the original (but translated into English) and fan art versions of a picture from Little Star Wars. This is interesting because earlier in the genuine adventure, a shrunken Shizuka tries on her doll’s clothing, then takes a bath in the dollhouse, then hurriedly grabs some clothing (her own) as she gets out of the tub. Later in the story, when she returns to normal size, her clothing also returns to normal. In the fan art version, Shizuka grabs a set of doll clothing as she leaves her bath. Then when she returns to normal size, she bursts out of the doll clothes which were already normal size. I get the idea that Fujiko Fujio originally intended for Shizuka to burst out of her clothes, but changed his mind. If that were not his intention, there would be no reason for Shizuka to try on doll clothes earlier in the story.
In the fan art version of a picture from Little Star Wars Shizuka says, “The effect of the small light [shrinking ray] has expired!” Perhaps the fan artist changed her dialogue when he edited the picture to remove Shizuka’s clothes. Perhaps the translator of the English version of the authentic story changed Shizuka’s speech.
Anime is harder to study than manga, because there can be several different anime versions of the same story. We may not know who made or edited a particular version, when it was done, in what country it was done, and whether it was done by a professional studio or an amateur. Compare the page from the Water Cycle Medicine manga story with the last two illustrations. One shows two versions of the scene from the 2005 anime television series. The bottom picture is the artist’s reconstruction of the original anime, which apparently no longer exists. In 2006 the studio succumbed to the critics and added steam to censor the cartoon. The top picture is the censored 2006 version. The next illustration is the 2019 version of the anime with only Shizuka’s head and shoulders visible.
One might think that after 2019, the proponents of censorship would be celebrating their victory over Doraemon. Instead, a petition was started in December 2020 to demand that bath scenes from older anime stop being shown on television, and that a warning notice be attached to animes informing the viewer that peeping in bathrooms is illegal.