DD 1

While some anime attempt to realistically show the passage of in-show years, this isn’t always the case. Much like with their western counterparts, the events of many of Japan’s biggest mainstream animated hits seem to take place in a world where time stands still. So just like Bart and Lisa Simpson have been in elementary school for decades, so too have Nobita, Shizuka, and the rest of the core cast of Doraemon.

But while the anime’s characters never age, the voice talent playing them does, and the franchise’s generations of fans recently received the sad news that voice actress Nobuyo Oyama, the voice of Doraemon himself, is suffering from dementia.

The 78-year-old Oyama’s condition was made public by her husband, Keisuke Sagawa. An actor and media personality in his own right, Sagawa was interviewed on May 13 as part of TBS Radio’s Yuri Osawa Yuu Yuu Wide program, where he spoke of his wife’s medical struggles.

Sagawa described his wife’s ailment as ninchoshou, a Japanese word that can also refer to senility. When Oyama first began to show symptoms, they were initially thought to be aftereffects of stroke the actress suffered in 2008, but upon further examination were concluded to be a separate condition.

Thankfully, according to Sagawa, Oyama is still physically healthy, despite her mental issues. He also explained that the symptoms don’t necessarily manifest themselves every day. As such, Oyama is in good enough health that there is no need for hospitalization, with Sagawa, the couple’s housekeeper, and Oyama’s manager all helping to care for her at home. However, Sagawa says his wife’s memory is such that she forgets things she herself has said, is no longer able to cook dishes she once easily could, and that she also requires assistance bathing.

The sad announcement is the latest piece of unhappy news in what, to some fans, feels like an increasingly rapid flow of anime icon illnesses and deaths. But while the harsh conditions of the Japanese animation industry have been drawing increased attention in recent years, it’s also worth noting that even in Japan, anime is a relatively new medium that in many ways is still on its first generation of major stars. While there were a few scattered hits from earlier eras, it wasn’t until the 1970s that anime achieved the sort of mainstream popularity where people took much notice of industry members other than original series creators. Four decades later, we’re seeing what’s really the first time significant numbers of artists and performers who’re recognizable by name are falling victim to age-related medical ailments.

Oyama’s talent agency says she has made public appearances since the onset of her dementia, although the actress, who is aware of her condition, says the mental focus required by such engagements, as well as voice recording, is sometimes tiring. Nevertheless, she currently has no plans to retire, and intends to continue voicing the beloved robot cat Doraemon, a role she’s now been filling for the past 42 years.

Source: Nikkan Sports via Itai News
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