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Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan

    Japanese animation in marketing terms exploded like a silent mushroom in 1963 with the advent of Astro Boy. The world was unaware of the animation richness that slowly transmitted into Saturday mornings a few years later on American airwaves and brought Japan into the good graces of the world. They charmed their culture into the minds of impressionable young eyes that ate the science fiction laced fantasy realm of robots and monsters. They inadvertently exorcised their involvement in the previous World War with this explosion of fantastical escape. They became fully animated and captured many generations after the late sixties with shows like Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets.

    In Anime’s Media Mix, Marc Steinberg convincingly shows that anime is far more than a style of Japanese animation. Beyond its immediate form of cartooning, anime is also a unique mode of cultural production and consumption that led to the phenomenon that is today called “media mix” in Japan and “convergence” in the West.

    According to Steinberg, both anime and the media mix were ignited on January 1, 1963, when Astro Boy hit Japanese TV screens for the first time. Sponsored by a chocolate manufacturer with savvy marketing skills, Astro Boy quickly became a cultural icon in Japan. He was the poster boy (or, in his case, “sticker boy”) both for Meiji Seika’s chocolates and for what could happen when a goggle-eyed cartoon child fell into the eager clutches of creative marketers. It was only a short step, Steinberg makes clear, from Astro Boy to Pokémon and beyond. (more)