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.
This call for papers seeks abstracts of 300-500 words for chapters of approx. 6000 words that explore topics including (but not are limited to):
- The Industrial development of The Pokemon Company and its corporate relations with Nintendo and other licensed partners.
- Pokemon and the historical development of media industries studies.
- The evolution of Pokemon: The Card Game and its relationship to industrial contexts.
- The evolution of the Pokemon computer games (e.g. games studies perspectives; remediation relating to Let’s Go!, Snap, etc.)
- Pokemon and/as character licensing.
- Pokemon and transmedia storytelling and/as transmedia text.
- Pokemon, transmedia tourismand the Experience Economy (e.g. the Pokemon Cafe; the annual Pikachu Parade).
- Pokemon Go and developments in augmented reality experiences and/or the gamification of space.
- Detective Pikachu and Pokemon’s other cinematic adaptations.
- Pokemon’s historical developments as anime.
- Pokemon’s historical developmentsas manga
- Pokemon and/as fan fashion (e.g. high-fashion licensees, jewelry, make-up).
- Pokemon and/as paratextual theory.
- Interventions concerning Pokemon and identity politics (e.g. feminism, critical race theory, queer theory).
- Pokemon and/as the global expansion of kawaii/cute culture.
- Thematic analyses of the Pokemon franchise (e.g. its ties with environmentalism).
- Pokemon’s links to Japanese ‘soft power’.
- Fan practices and transformative works related to the Pokemon franchise across multiple forms and platforms.
- Pokemon and/as children’s culture.
We are especially interested in soliciting chapters featuring non-Western perspectives as well as ones engaging with historically marginalised or underrepresented groups.
We hope to include work from both established and emerging scholars; junior scholars & graduate students are encouraged to apply.