KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 — Inside a dark and dusty warehouse tucked away in Bukit Kinrara Industrial Park, there is a mad rush to grab copies of Majalah Doraemon, the Malay version of the famous Japanese manga series about a robot cat from the future.
For the past week, the warehouse has been bustling with Malaysians trying and secure the last copies of the famous comic.
Some have even taken time off work to do so, and for a very good reason. Just last month, Tora Aman Publishers, the company which has been translating and printing Doraemon, Slam Dunk and Detective Conan comics locally for 24 years, announced that they are shutting down for good due to severe financial constraints.
The local publisher then decided to hold a warehouse sale to clear out its remaining stock of the comic books at just RM2 per copy, which led to a flurry of Malaysians visiting the warehouse in hopes of procuring them.
Growing up with 'Doraemon'
For some like Sabahan Johnny Cheah, Doraemon comics played a vital role in helping him improve his Bahasa Malaysia when he was growing up.
“I'm a comic book fan but not of all the versions. My favourite has always been Doraemon.“I'm actually sad that this is happening and I haven't even completed the series yet,” he told Malay Mail Online when met at the warehouse.
For others like Mark Arsene, comic book characters like Doraemon brought back nostalgic memories of his childhood.
He said that although he was saddened to hear Tora Aman was shutting down, the warehouse sale was a good opportunity for him to complete his personal Doraemon collection.
“When you are a kid you don't have money to buy entire series. This my only chance since now I'm working and I can afford it,” the 28-year-old Mark said when met.
Completing the collection
The news of Tora Aman’s closure has hit Doraemon fans hard, even those residing as far away as the UK, with one Malaysian living there telling his father back home to go and grab whatever remaining copies of the comic books he could find.
“This is for my son, he is in UK. When he was young he was very interested in these comics but didn't manage to buy most of them.“He saw online that this place was closing down and he directed me to immediately come here and grab as much as I can,” said the man who identified himself only as Lim when leaving the warehouse with a box full of comics.
Another Doraemon fan, Said Alif from Ampang, said that printed copies of comic books were fading from existence as people now could read them online for free instead of purchasing them.
“This is nostalgia, when I heard about this I was heartbroken. My family and I quickly rushed here but sad la, kids nowadays they depend on online (versions) instead of holding a book,” he said.
Cheah added that the current generation would prefer to watch the Doraemon cartoon series instead of indulging in the comics.
“I think the next generation will only see Doraemon on TV. The comics are going to be permanently gone,” he painfully said.
‘Demand for comics not really high’
Tora Aman's Chong Chian Wen said she was shocked with the response they received since announcing that they will not be printing copies of the popular comic book series anymore.
The company started by her parents has seen more customers in the past week than it has seen over the past few years, she told Malay Mail Online.
“Nowadays the market has not been very good, the demand for comics like these has not been really high.
“We didn't expect this crowd to turn up suddenly, mostly are adult,” Chong said.
The ready availability of comics online has killed the traditional paperback business and has limited the number of Malay translations of popular Japanese comic book series.
Chong said this, in the long term, would be a great loss for local readers as the company would be also giving up the licence to translate the Japanese comics to Malay.
“Most of our readers are Malay, they can't find Malay comics like Doraemon online. Other type of comics they can find but rarely Malay translated ones. It's quite sad to return back the licence.
“We were among the last ones in South-east Asia to still do this,” she said with tears in her eyes.