“Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”: Pokémon, Cultural Practice and Object Networks

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Author: Jason Bainbridge, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Email: jbainbridge@swin.edu.au
Published: December 2014
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijas.1.1.04

Citation: Bainbridge, J. (2014). “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”: Pokémon, Cultural Practice and Object Networks. IAFOR Journal of Asian Studies, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijas.1.1.04


Abstract

The Pokémon franchise is over seventeen years old, a networked assemblage of heterogeneous elements (manga, gaming, toys, anime) that is also constitutive of new knowledges around both consumerism and commodification. This paper explores how all of the elements of this franchise, from the brand, to the various media platforms, to the Pokémon trainers, to the pocket monsters themselves (the non-human objects) as well as the designers and the consumers (the humans) function as objects in the construction of a social network. In so doing it seeks to understand not only how the franchise functions but also how the objects in this franchise (particularly the non-human Pokémon creatures and trainers) work in tandem to connect audiences to very specifically Japanese ideas of the “national imagination” (folklore, spiritualism, the supernatural) and environmental concerns (biodiversity, the struggle between conservation and containment) through the larger consumerist framework of acquisition and play structured as cultural practice. In this way, it is argued, that the Pokémon object network functions as a gateway into Japanese culture more broadly and a channel through which Japanese culture is itself mainstreamed internationally.

Keywords

Japanese culture, Pokémon, franchise, networks, popular culture