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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pokémon – a friend or a foe inside your house?

Duke cultural anthropologist in Japan studying the Pokemon phenomenon says the children's game that has exploded into a mass merchandising success is viewed differently in Japan than it is in the United States.

"I've seen almost no reporting [in Japan] of the hysteria and worry over trading cards and their potential for promoting gambling or a New York stock exchange mentality that you have seen in the U.S.," Anne Allison says. "Rather, the general view is that Pokemon is innocuous or even positive. [People say] it encourages intellectual skills in learning how to distinguish all the Pokemon, that it helps kids in forming friendships. Mothers say that it fosters communication at home."

Allison, an associate professor of cultural anthropology, is a specialist on mass culture in contemporary urban Japan. In Japan on Fulbright and Social Science Research Council senior fellowships, she is researching popular Japanese heroes and super heroes that get circulated through comics and television programs, are mass marketed through toys and other merchandising, and are exported around the world as global commodities. She has now turned her attention to Pokemon.

Pokemon began as a game and has exploded into a mass merchandising opportunity, she says. The game was picked up as a serialized comic, or manga. Next came an animated television show, a movie, trading cards, and associated merchandise--everything from Pokemon toys to Pokemon curry. Rather than regard Pokemon with suspicion, Allison says the Japanese embrace the fad.

She calls the marketing of Pokemon brilliant, a campaign that crosses media and products to create an interdependency. Children watch the TV program to get hints on how to play the game, for example. "One form of Pokemon bleeds into another so kids are surrounded by Pokemon in their everyday lives."

Brief and to the Point:

Pókemon is far from being the foe. The real foe is surely hidden in other kids-oriented products you are not aware of.....


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