As its title makes clear, Japanorama was a BBC television show that focused on pop culture from the land of the rising sun. Hosted by Jonathan Ross, the first 6-episode series aired in 2002 followed by another two in 2006 and 2007. Being filmed at the turn of the millennium, when Japan truly earned its reputation as a robot kingdom, it wouldn’t be complete without a segment on real robots. But with less than 10 minutes of footage split between two episodes, it’s probably not worth tracking down the whole series unless you’re a serious Japanophile.
It begins with a look at robot pets starting with SEGA’s silly Nekoro (neko being the Japanese word for cat). Priced at £1,000 ($1,600 USD), Nekoro may well be a double-entendre for “necro” since it has all the charm of a zombie kitty. SEGA continues to market cheaper versions of robot cats, dogs, hamsters, and more. A quick chat with Dr. Toshitada Doi (head of SONY’s defunct robotics division) about his beloved AIBO and QRIO follows. Of all the television shows and specials we’ve reviewed so far, this is the only one to feature QRIO, but sadly it’s a very short clip. It’s unclear if the numbers are official, but the show claims that QRIO would be priced at around £20,000 (approx. $33,000 USD). They also claim that Honda had spent approximately $60M on their humanoid robot project.
The segment concludes with brief soundbites from Dr. Kitano and Dr. Tatsuya Matsui. Thankfully things don’t end there, because there’s another segment on robots in the first episode of series two. It quickly covers a few major changes from the intervening years (such as AIBO’s cancellation and ASIMO’s new abilities). Unused footage from their interview with Tatsuya Matsui rounds out the segment. When asked when we can expect to have robots in the home or work place, Matsui predicts 5 to 10 years. He is arguably correct, if you consider the current state of affairs in South Korea. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was this show that got Posy her cameo in Lost in Translation.
Frankly, it’s light fluff that barely scratches the surface of things, but it’s still entertaining to watch. The segments on robots can be viewed together in the following video.
- Japanorama at IMDB