Pokemon’s exponential growth as a transmedia phenomenon in many ways parallels Japan’s push into hyper-capitalist society. As Mcluhan predicted in his text The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century (Mcluhan, 1989), the expansion of the ‘Global Village’ has reached an exponential rate. Now formerly juxtaposing media cultures, Japan and North America, are beginning to affect one another with the closing of the global ‘media-culture divide’ (Apperley, 2007). Starting in the mid-nineties, Japanese media culture was about to become a hyper-profit driven industry. With the introduction of Transmedia distribution, the idea of the ‘Franchise’ would take priority over single market brands. Companies were reaching peak profits by create franchises that could sell books/manga, television shows, movies, video games and more. Pokemon was one of the catalysts that caused this phenomenon to occur. The text Revisiting Globalisation Through the Movie and Digital Games Industries by Aphra Kerr and Roddy Flynn discusses the full extent to which this transmedia relationship would go. As their text showed the contemporary state of transmedia as a capitalist tool, a vast amount of parallels could be drawn towards the practises that Pokemon used/introduced and the modern way franchises are marketed. Moreover they discuss the relationship that the film and gaming industries have had with one another. This relationship is in many ways symbiotic and as Pokemon showed, always had been. As the brand of Pokemon grew alongside its marketable mediums (manga, television, games, etc), the Japanese media audience grew as well as the profits. However it was upon Pokemon being distributed to Western and European countries that the true power of media globalization could be displayed.
Pokemon, shortly after reaching massive popularity in Asia, was soon brought over to be tested on North American audiences. The very nature of Pokemon’s gameplay lends itself to a capitalist audience. Pokemon’s very subtitle “Gotta Catch ‘Em all” mirrors the modern American/Japanese growing need to obtain, both in capital and wealth. The results would be astonishing and would change the course of Asia and America’s media relationship for the next decade. At the time, The United States had very little exposure to Japanese media, as Hollywood and Silicon Valley were currently experiencing massive booms in finance and cultural sway. With America’s “success” of the capitalization of media industries, the globalization of media practises was soon to follow. Western audiences were not well appointed with the true modern Japanese media cultures. Instead, because of the west’s portrayal of Asian cultures through media, the modern American audience had only really seen Asia portrait through Ninjas, Samurai, and other Asian cultural tropes that influenced the Western gaze. For the first time Pokemon provided American audiences with a real product of Japanese society instead of the “Yellowface” that had become so predominant in the West. Although it could be argued that Pokemon does still show its attempts to appeal to American audiences, mainly with respects to race and departure from more traditional manga and JRPG, it still showed a relatively true piece of Japanese culture for the west to not only observe but become a part of. So therefore Pokemon was not only a worldwide phenomenon, but more so provided the framework for how media franchises would be run, not only in Japan, but for the entire world.
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McLuhan, Marshall, and Bruce R. Powers. The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.
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