Television: Dogtato

My two young children enjoy an animated show called Dogtato. It's in Japanese, and even though I turn on the subtitles for them they are not yet readers, so I'm not sure how much of it they really understand.

If you haven't seen Dogtato—and I'm going to err on the side of assuming you haven't—it's a show about a dog potato and his other half-animal, half-vegetation friends (like Croconion, who is a crocodile onion, and Dogtato's girlfriend who is part hedgehog and part sweet potato). It's strange, but my kids find it weirdly fascinating, maybe because they can't understand the dialogue and so are exercising their minds by trying to follow the action. I'd like to think they'll come out of repeated viewings (they ask to watch it pretty often) with a smattering of Japanese, but that's probably hoping for too much. I speak a rusty smattering of basic Japanese and French, but the kids haven't seemed to catch on to any of it, except to figure out that I slip into French when I'm really, really angry.

Anyway, the thing I want to focus on here is an episode of Dogtato in which a group of the characters visit Straight Land. The king of Straight Land insists everything and everyone be, well, straight. The citizens of Straight Land go so far as to gather in the streets and shout, "Hooray for being straight!" It's more than a little disconcerting.

I know, of course, that even if my kids could understand the Japanese being spoken, they would not make a connection between the Straight Land episode and any kind of indoctrination regarding sexual orientation, but still . . . It's so in your face and over the top as to be simultaneously hilarious and unconscionable. (You can see it for yourself by downloading it here. I have a DVD, but I'm guessing since this site caters to English-speaking viewers it will have dubbing or subtitles?)

I'm not saying a discourse on homosexuality was the agenda behind the episode; I don't know enough about Japanese culture to editorialize on that. I'm just saying—if that wasn't the intent of the writers and animators—sometimes things really do get lost in translation.

As the kids get older and more savvy, I'll probably need to prepare myself for the questions and comments . . . But then again, as they get older they're less likely to want to watch Dogtato anyway. I suppose there will always be something, though, some show or pop musician keeping me on my parental toes. They've shown some interest in Card Captor Sakura . . .

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