About 10 years ago, a fuzzy brown raging... something hit the TV screens in Japan. As the mascot for NHK-TV, Domo was an animation sensation whose misadventures endeared him to fans all over the world.
In recent years, Domo has been invading America. His animated shorts are shown on Nickelodeon and online at DomoNation.com. Dark Horse has Domo toys in a rainbow of colors. Domo was the Halloween mascot at Target stores nationwide, and featured on Slurpee and coffee cups at 7-11 stores almost everywhere. Recently, TokyoPop put together a collection of full-color comics featuring Domo -- giving him his first manga stories ever.
Probably no one finds all the Domo activity more fun and exciting than Tsuneo Goda, the animator, director and creator of Domo. Goda-san was recently in Southern California to meet fans at a Borders Books and Music store, and to be the featured guest of a TokyoPop Insider webcast.
TokyoPop Senior Editor Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl interviewed Goda-san, and took online questions from fans, including the one question that has been on everyone's mind for a while: What is Domo anyway?
Q: How did you come up with Domo?
Tsuneo Goda: It was about 10 years ago. I was up late working on commercials. I hadn't come up with characters before this. One night, I was up late, and I started drawing circles, squares, general shapes. As I was looking at it, a story came up in my head. That's how Domo came about -- just a bunch of shapes put together.
Q: Domo is the mascot for NHK-TV (a major Japanese TV network) Did you come up w/ the idea before NHK approached you?
Tsuneo Goda: NHK approached me first, and then I started drawing.
Q: Why does Domo hate apples?
Tsuneo Goda: There's actually a Domo side story, the setting is in prehistoric era. In this side story, there's a bunch of characters that look like Domo. Back then, they ate fruits that looked like apples, and they all became extinct. That carried over to modern times, so that's why Domo doesn't like to eat apples. He doesn't want to have that happen to him!
Q: That's a very sad story!
Tsuneo Goda: Yes, that's sad, isn't it?
Q: What do you like most about Domo?
Tsuneo Goda: The part I like most is that he doesn't speak. The only thing he says is 'Domo!' So you never really understand what he's saying. It's up to the audience to figure out what he's saying. I think that's really interesting.
Q: Why do you think Domo has become so popular all over the world?
Tsuneo Goda: Of course, I'm very surprised at the success of Domo. I'm very pleased. It's not as if Japan went to every country and pushed Domo on people -- people found it by themselves.
I'm very grateful to Domo fans who have bought him worldwide fame. Even before I realized that Domo had become really popular, it seemed like all of a sudden people all over the world just got into the videos. It's interesting that it's not just anime and manga fans that love Domo.
Q: What is Domo's mission? Is he out to dominate the world, or is his goal to bring world peace?
Tsuneo Goda: Domo doesn't have plans for world domination as many of us thought. He's just very cute. He just thinks that he's hungry, that he's sleepy -- he just wants to be happy.
Q: Today's a good day.
Tsuneo Goda: Yes, I think that's how people should live everyday.
Q: We heard you went to 7-11 to see the Domo Slushees & Domo coffee cups. Did you get to try a Slurpee?
Tsuneo Goda: Yes, I did drink it!
Q: How was it?
Tsuneo Goda: The video that's on the 7-11 website shows Domo drinking a Slurpee and getting a brainfreeze. Right before I tried it, I was worried that the same thing would happen to me. 'Would it hurt?' I thought. But I tried it and it's very good. Please drink it!
Q: I like Slurpees and all, but I'm disappointed that the American 7-11's don't have onigiri (rice balls) like they do in the 7-11's in Japan.
Tsuneo Goda: That's true. Japan 7-11's do have rice balls. But Japan doesn't have Slurpees, so I'm kind of jealous of you!
(pauses, brings out a Domo doll)
This is the actual Domo that I use for the videos. I can pose him any way. (demonstrates how the poseable limbs work)
Q: The videos are about minute or two long. How long does it take to create them?
Tsuneo Goda: For each 24 frames, we get 1 second of footage. We can work on it all day, morning to night, and it'll only create 5 seconds of video time.
The Domo you see on NHK, they've been running for 10 years. They're a great staff to work on this.Goda-san does a quick sketch of Domo, then is presented with a brownie cake made by a former intern in shape of a Domo face.
Tsuneo Goda: Wow. Thank you!
The floor is opened to questions from fans.
Q: How does it feel to have Domo being so popular in the US now, especially since it's been 10 years since Domo has been out in Japan?
Tsuneo Goda: In all, I'm very happy. Domo is very Japanese in a sense, so to have him in America is pretty amazing. I grew up watching American movies like Star Wars, etc. so I'm very pleased to see Domo become a part of America.
Q: Is this your first trip to the US? What are your impressions so far?
Tsuneo Goda: This is my 4th day in the US this time around. This is not my first time in the US -- I've been to New York. I've been to Target (headquarters) in Minneapolis to do a Halloween promotion. I've also been to Portland, and a few other places. Dallas is where 7-11 is headquartered.
I just came off of the plane from Dallas, from the 7-11 headquarters. It was a little sketchy that I'd even make it here today.
Q: Are you a baseball fan? Do you watch American baseball?
Tsuneo Goda: I don't really watch American baseball, but I like the Seibu Lions, because Seibu is the sponsor. They have Seibu trains, so I ride those trains every day.
Q: Who would win in a fight? Domo or Astro Boy?
Tsuneo Goda: There's no way that Domo could win against Astro Boy -- but he has his ways around things. Somehow, some way, he'll make things happen.
Q: What is Domo exactly? Is he an animal? A plant? Is he a chocolate bar?
Tsuneo Goda: He's not a chocolate bar. You might want him to be, but no! He's not a plant. When you look at a dog, or cat or a cow -- I want it to be like that. Cat. Dog. Domo.