I am Mumako.
I emerge from your dreams, and I fade into your dreams.
Dreams are illusions of the heart. I will project your true self.
I am Mumako, the enabler of your dreams.
I am Mumako.
Fujiko Fujio A’s Mumako is a TV Special from 1990 that comprises three short stories, presumably adapted from the source manga simply titled Mumako (literally “Dream Devil Child”). Each story features its own protagonist, who suffers from some kind of stress caused by societal pressure, and a corresponding antagonist who is the primary source of the aforementioned pressure. The only shared character across the stories is the titular side character Mumako, who by the end of each story grants a twisted interpretation of a wish which physically transmogrifies the main character. At the end of each story, the protagonist’s new ghastly form is discovered by the corresponding antagonist. The titles of each story are an allusion to the nature of the transmogrification. In order of appearance, the stories are titled Castle 〔城〕, Transformation 〔変身〕, and Slough〔脱皮〕.
Upon seeing a tweet from the great Knc_AnimeVHS account, I decided to check this out on a whim. I walked into it knowing nothing besides the cover image. After the initial narration (shown at the beginning of this post) from the titular Mumako, the first story began and the immediate thing that came to mind was “Boy, these sure are some Doraemon lookin’ character designs”.
For those not in the know, Doraemon is a children’s manga that is extremely popular across East Asia, but is hardly known in the West. Somewhere buried deep in my childhood memories growing up in Hong Kong, I can vaguely recall watching some Cantonese dubbed episodes of the Doraemon anime but it’s not something to which I ever grew much of an attachment. I’ve never had any fluency in Cantonese so it doesn’t surprise me in retrospect that elementary school me, with no idea what was going on with this robot cat and his weird bread pancake things, never got consumed by this Doraemania. Said Doraemania was observable by all the merchandise sold in nearby malls. Although I was aware it was Japanese, it long preceded my awareness of the term “anime”.
With my limited experience and knowledge about what the child-friendly manga Doraemon is about, the juxtaposition of these character designs with the adult and grim nature of the stories came off as quite the surprise to me. Given the heavy emphasis on adult society obstructing the desires of the main characters, two of which are grown adults, it’s puzzling that the source manga was published in a magazine aimed at children for learning. I guess the lesson here for the youth of Japan is that adult society sucks so much that you’re better off being transformed into a terrifying pseudo-human being? (The transformation of the second story Transformation is not really ghastly even though it is implies this is the case) The aforementioned bizarre juxtaposition was enough to keep me engaged for the full running length.
The titular Fujiko Fujio A is the pen-name of the author behind the original manga. Although Mumako was a solo endeavor, for a long time Fujiko Fujio A paired up with Fujiko F Fujio (another author’s pen-name) to create manga series that would be credited towards simply Fujiko Fujio. Doraemon is the most famous title created by this collaboration. So whew, I wasn’t just imagining things when Doraemon came to mind!
This has unsurprisingly never been fansubbed. Given its unknown nature and the non-stereotypical (well, as far as modern Western audiences are concerned) character designs, it’s unlikely that it will ever be released in English. As of this writing, a raw encode can be found on YouTube. If you’re knowledgeable enough about Japanese culture then you may be able to get enough of a gist of what the stories are about without knowing what is being said. At the very least you get to see a weird ending illustration for each story. I have provided per-story synopses below that should give you enough of an idea of the plot should your curiosity be piqued.
Castle: A man with no aspirations is assigned to work in an office, made possible by family connections. He does nothing at work which upsets his coworkers, and his mother keeps pushing him towards this undesirable salaryman life.
Transformation: A manly rugby captain, unbeknownst to his teammates, performs all the housework duties while his wife goes off drinking. He can’t stand up to his wife’s loose and reckless behavior, so he comforts himself by letting his inner woman do as she pleases while his wife is out of the house.
Slough: A schoolkid wants to do nothing but draw and paint. Although he is praised by his peers, his dad disapproves. His dad does nothing but scold him for wasting his time with art, instead of studying to get into a top university and eventually enter a stable salaryman life.