EXTENDED DEADLINE: Pikachu’s Transmedia Adventures: The Continuing Adaptability of the Pokemon Franchise
While we have received many excellent abstracts, we are currently soliciting abstracts which directly engage with
- critical race theory
- race and representation
- the global south
We are especially interested in soliciting chapters featuring non-Western perspectives and work by scholars of colour.
We hope to include work from both established and emerging scholars; junior scholars & graduate students are also encouraged to apply.
Pikachu’s Transmedia Adventures: The Continuing Adaptability of the Pokemon Franchise
In 2021, the Pokemon franchise celebrates the 25th anniversary of its debut in Japan and the fifth anniversary of its popular worldwide AR cellphone game Pokemon Go. In fact, Pokemon is arguably experiencing something of a resurgence and renaissance within the current cultural moment. When a pop-up Pokemon Centre store was opened in London in 2018 to mark the release of Sword and Shield, queues for entering the retail space frequently had to be closed due to demand whilst product lines regularly sold out on a daily basis. In 2019, when the long-running cartoon’s main character Ash Ketchum finally won a Pokemon tournament, major news sites humorously deemed this victory a newsworthy event (Bissett 2019). More recently, a revival in Pokemon card collecting has left retail shelves bare and scalpers running rampant whilst mint-condition ‘graded’ cards have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction (Koebler 2021). Meanwhile, the games themselves continue to be adapted to Nintendo’s console platforms, with the Nintendo Switch releasing both remakes of previously popular titles (Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Let’s Go! Eevee, Pokemon Snap) as well as new titles exploring hitherto unknown regions (Pokemon Sword and Shield). Much more than a franchise intended to commercially target and exploit children, the Pokemon franchise represents an enduringly popular intellectual property that continues to attract interest across generations.
Despite this, in-depth and continuous academic study of this hugely popular intellectual property has been infrequent at best. In fact, the last time that a dedicated collection of essays exploring the franchise in a holistic manner was published was in 2004, with many of the contributors positioning the property as a ‘fad’ whose cycle of popularity was apparently at its end (see Tobin 2004; N.B. the augmented reality game Pokemon Go (Niantic 2016- ) has bucked this trend by generating considerable academic attention - see Kulak, Purzycki, Henthorn and Vie 2019; Saker and Evans 2021). Where Pokemon has attracted infrequent academic discussion, this has occurred in the context of assessing how wider cultural flows from Japan to the West have impacted on children’s media (Allison 2006; O’Melia 2020). What is absent, then, is a volume that takes the Pokemon franchise on its own terms and which situates the property within a much-changed media environment. Thus, a study is needed which considers Pokemon in terms of multiple contemporary debates within media and cultural studies. These include - but are no way limited to - cultural, technological, and media convergence (Jenkins 2006), discourses of transmediality and media mix (Steinberg 2012; Williams 2020), paratextuality (Gray 2010), licensing and/or (transgenerational) media industries studies (Santo 2015; Johnson 2019), material culture (Geraghty 2014; Bainbridge 2017) and fan cultures (Scott 2019; Stanfill 2019). Whether approached as a transmedia franchise, corporate intellectual property, system offering ludic possibilities, fan community, or otherwise, academic scholarship should better consider how the Pokemon franchise has engaged with, adapted to, and challenged the contours of the ever-evolving transmedia environment.