"Medium Specificity: Theorizing Japan’s Media Mix"

Presented By: Satomi Saito, Clemson University

When the global success of Japanese animation is discussed, it has become a common practice to refer to the term “media-mix”; the key word used in differentiating Japanese media ecology from foreign counterparts. In such a discourse, Tezuka Osamu is often named as the pioneer who developed an effective risk management system where different media producers and distributors are interconnected to disperse a loss in costly animation production with the hope of making greater exposure of media content through the national television network (Steinberg). Although we may be tempted to treat such a media ecology as the system unique to Japan’s media culture, it is at the cost of downplaying its similarities with American franchise models as well as differences within the various media-mix models. On top of that, the terminology itself diverts our attention from each media incarnation where media would rather not simply mix and instead have “each medium does what it does best” (Jenkins) with creators experimenting on media specific presentation through remediation. In my presentation, I’ll revisit Tezuka’s role in Japan’s TV animation history and recontextualize it against a more recent media ecology such as Kadokawa’s Haruhi Suzumiya franchise by employing key concepts of media theories such as “remediation” (Bolter and Grusin) when the movement of media content across different media platforms is concerned, and “world-making” (Wolf and Jenkins) when the attempt of media producers to synthesize characters/stories/worlds is concerned. Rather than extrapolating a uniquely Japanese mode of media culture, I’ll reexamine key theoretical discussions on Japanese animation and attempt to make anime studies a site where scholars/creators from different disciplines/nationalities can engage in productive dialogue on changing media environment.