Hidden Values in Pokemon

My interest in Pokemon dates back to the day when, I read that hundreds of children all over Japan had been rushed to hospital with seizures. All hell broke loose in the news room and over the next few days, we were plunged into not only a world of having to know what Pokemon was and how big it was, but into a world where the Western media were having a field day having got something concrete on Pokemon: a craze that they didn’t really understand and certainly didn’t trust.

Following this, I became interested in creating a television programme – “Gotta Watch ‘em All!” – on Nintendo and Pokemon. The plan was to look at the media coverage of the Pokemon phenomenon, interviewing Pokemon producers in Tokyo, and looking at how young consumers react to the Pokemon television programme.

We were interested in such questions as:
What kind of values are there actually in Pokemon? What does the brand actually promote?
Why was there such a moral panic about the programme? Was it justified?
Who determines the content of the Pokemon TV series and movies? Is it audience-driven, creatives-driven or company-driven?
What effect does the programme have on the young consumers who watch it? Do they absorb any of the content? Do children, in fact, absorb foreign values through television, or is Pokemon turning our kids Japanese?

How big is Pokemon?

It involved the largest combined phenomemon of consecutive releases of software for games (the most successful ever), a television show (one of the most successful ever), trading cards (the most successful ever), and movies (top-selling ever, among the top five world-wide). Additional goods came in the wake of the big four. The Pokemon phenomenon was actually coordinated by a number of companies, including Game Freak (the game), Creatures, Shokakukan, Television Tokyo.

In Japan, actually the phenomenon unrolled over a period of time: but by the time it got overseas, the companies had learnt from the Japanese experience that they could unroll it all at once, and thus the time between the rollouts became very much shorter and the craze very much intensified as a result. In its first big year, Pokemon made US $5 billion dollars around the world, almost as much as the entire US games industry makes in a year.

Actual program was:
1996 onset of the craze.
2000 beginning to die down
2001 slowed, but still by this time Pokemon had become the most popular toys and games of all time.
2002 declining sales

The Moral Panic

A number of well-heeled uppercrust mothers doing their Christmas shopping at Harrods had got into a fistfight at the Pokemon counter while trying to buy the coveted goods for their kids for Christmas. Yet the media blamed, not the mothers, but Pokemon for creating the desire in the first place.
The media condemned Pokemon for corrupting children, for making them greedy, and for causing them to act in uncharacteristics ways. Incidents where children were found lying and stealing to obtain Pokemon cards were blamed on Pokemon itself.


But not all the media were damning. The Pope came out to endorse Pokemon at one stage in the debate.


The Research

Focus groups with young consumers I chose were children in a country region of New Zealand, very isolated from other forms of Japanese culture.
Intensive interviews with New Zealand kids, observation of their Pokemon and anime worlds (cards, videos, books). I took notes while they explained the TV series to me.

Interviews with Pokemon producers about their intentions for the programme.

Academic Discourse on Pokemon

Academic discourse on Pokemon has centered around the structure versus agency debate (Tobin 2004).

Two main scenarios are posited by Tobin:

1. the first views Pokemon as a sinister Althusserian plan, according to Tobin, which by means of a highly coordinated marketing plan, set out deliberately to con children. In this scenario, the children are seen as easy influenced dupes and the company is assumed to have succeeded in its marketing goals because of its power vis a vis the consumer. Giroux 1999, Fiske 1989.

2. The second scenario posits Pokemon as successful because it was able to identify the desires of children and respond to those desires. The love of children for collecting creatures is global and Pokemon merely tapped into this inherent desire by creating a series of creatures that children could collect in a modern city context.

But there are two additional scenarios that must be considered too.

3. A lucky combination of creative input. The creator of the game, Satoshi Tajiri liked to collect beetles as a kid, and just found a modern outlet for this centuries old enthusiasm.

4. Different products that complemented each other perfectly combing to good affect. Cross-merchandising has been proven to be successful in other contexts (Kinder 1991). And we know the effectiveness of commercials with kids programming (Gomery 1994: 71-86). Pokemon was, from the beginning, designed as a multi-dimensional product.

Why is Pokemon interesting to us? As Cook (2001) has said:
“…the Pokemon craze stands as the clearest crystallization of hyperconsumption and hypermoralising to date.”

This debate has been explored in the context of the Nintendo computer games and especially the cards. But little work has been done looking at the television and movies. Questions that are interesting to raise are:

What is the content of the television series and movies?
Is the content itself deserving of the moral panic?
How these have impacted upon children?
Whether Nintendo’s marketing strategy was deliberate or whether it responded more to the desires of consumers?

The lack of interest in the Pokemon TV series is somewhat surprising considering that the sheer impact of the Japanese anime market, and of the Pokemon series is huge. The Pokemon movies at their peak

And even now, my content analysis of the Pokemon television series and movies sees the series as surprisingly moral: in fact, much more so than many comparable series in the West.

The values in the Pokemon series stress friendship and loyalty, endurance and persistence, hard work and effort. The trainers care for and nurture their creatures.

There are also many universal values that appeal to children. The story is one of a hero on a quest. He seeks to capture the Pokemon along the journey that he is taking whose collection will allow him to become a Pokemon master.

In fact, to an anthropologist, Japanese cartoons represent a fascinating insight into Japanese values. The cartoons show stories about self-improvement through determination and desire to become the best. They tell of the importance of following one’s secret desires and one’s heart. To get success, it is necessary to learn self-control and to learn from experience. The idea of gradually developing in strength, power, determination and wisdom through hard-fought experience is central. There is always room for improvement and, for “bad” characters, repentance. With wisdom, also comes compassion. Striving leads to deeper character: an idea reminiscent in Japanese mythology, samurai ideals, and martial arts. It contains BOTH the values of fighting and enduring, AND the values of protecting and nurturing. It also teaches important lessons about looking after creatures in a weak and helpless position.

This is all strikingly different to many Western cartoons where heroes are born and not made. Many Japanese cartoons, and particularly Pokemon, borrow much from Buddhist-oriented ideas of self-improvement.

In particular, it is a success in this task that will make Ash a man. It is by not only acquiring external experience, but conquering inner demons – wanting to take an easier route, indolence, immaturity, over-emotionalism – that will make Ash mature. Conquering oneself – or attaining self control – is paramount (as Buckingham and Sefton-Green have noted) .

Interestingly, Pokemon is very simple in content in itself. It is not technically advanced like many Japanese anime. It acts as a trigger to gain access into an entire imaginary world (xx from yellow book).

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Examples of characters:
Wise Mentor in Professor Oak
Ash: weak character becoming wiser, stronger through developing
Misty: balanced between being a tomboyish character and a cute character

An example of one programme:

The Road to Johto


The programme begins with Ash and friends continuing on their journey to Johto where ?? is to take place. On the way they meet ?? a girl. Relations are friendly even though she challenges them to a match. Fighting a match doesn’t mean that one hates the opposition: it is a game, not war. But once the match begins the atmosphere is very serious and emotions high. Among each team of friends, there is serious discussion on strategy: “first we should xx and that’s when we xx.” The first job is to choose the creature with the best skills to do the job. Ash chooses his Totodile, who he expects will achieve success over his opponent by his special skill: digging ditches with his water gun attack. As back-up he has chosen Cyndaquil, who can xx. The emphasis is on strategy: winning by experience, thinking and planning. Luck plays little part. Neither do the battles get won on strength alone.

The battle is underway and things are not looking hopeful. Xx has happened.

“Ash can’t’ win!,” his friends are despondent. They want him to not do the same things he did last time. Ash is shouting encouragement to his creatures as they battle. But Ash comes up with a new strategy that, this time, is successful. As his creatures put the heat on the opposition, his opponent calls to him that her creature can’t take it. “Hold your fire!” she says. She calls her creature back and comforts him, assuring him that he doesn’t have to battle anymore. Hurt creatures are asked after with real concern; there is no blame.

The battle is over, and Ash crosses the lines to Whitney. “How’s Milbank,” he asks, full of concern for the creature that has lost. And his own creature, Pikachu, is lying in a sorry state full of cuts and bruises. It is off to the Pokehospital for both of them, where Nurse Joy and her Pokemon helpers await the injured. After a sound sleep in the Pokehospital, the Pokemon are as good as new.
With the battle concluded, Ash gets the coveted badge from this round of the contest that will enable him to continue on the road to Johto. He holds it up full of pride, saying, “Take a look, guys, we did it!”

The final song sums up the goals of the contest.
“I want to be the very best. Like no-one ever was. To catch them is my real test. To train them is my cause. My whole life has led to this. Time to test my skills.”

We can sum up a number of things from this episode. It is firmly a team effort. It begins with a group of friends and concludes with recognition for the team effort. There is an ultimate goal, and determination is needed to get here in uncertain circumstances. With the appearance of seemingly insurmountable odds, renewed determination and team strategy is necessary. But the match must be fairly won, and once victory determined, compassion shown for both one’s own creatures and for the opposition. Creatures can only fight to their strengths; faced with annihilation, defeat must be conceded and the Pokemon allowed to recover.

Not all is positive. There is much emphasis on having to get to a destination while the reasons for needing to get there so badly are somewhat muted. And a lot of emphasis on how training Pokemon is a “cause” without the reasons for needing to do that too explicitly outline. One might say that this is true of many of the pressures of the expected path in Japan.

Meanwhile, with the conclusion of the battle, Team Rocket, the bad guys have appeared. “We’re going to grab those Miltank, and those Pikachu too!,” they declare at the outset. They go on to break into a pantry and finding food, they devour it.

The bad guys don’t mind whose Pokemon they are stealing. They have no clear goal; stealing is a goal in itself. Faced with having to put in effort they wimp out. They have no endurance. Faced with needing to devise a strategy to get themselves out of a tight spot, they make the wrong decisions. They jump into a car and once it is hurtling along they realize they can’t steer it. Faced with accusations of stealing, they immediately deny everything. Once in trouble, they start to bicker. Faced with having to put in effort to acquire something, they immediately resort to the short cut, “Let’s just take it!”
Inevitably, they get themselves caught by their own stupidity and lack of foresight, and inevitably Ash sets Pikachu on them with his thunderbolt attack. Fried by the lightning, they cry out, “We’re blasting off again!” as their silhouettes get smaller and smaller as they hurtle off over the horizon.

The values we can see in the bad guys are greed, being impetuous, lack of harmony, lying, taking advantage of people. But even in the battle between the good guys and the bad guys, no-one is permanently hurt, no-one dies and no-one gets what they do not clearly deserve from their own behaviour. They are not inherently evil regardless of their actions. The bad guys do not get bad treatment as a matter of course; they always take some action that directly results in consequences for that behaviour.

An example of an American series popular now:


One excellent example, albeit tongue in cheek, of the kind of values the Western media attributes to Pokemon are in the following excerpts from “Chinpokomon”, an epside from South Park parodying Pokemon:


• TV Announcer: Hey, kids! Do you love Chinpokomon?
• Cartman: Yes!
• TV Announcer: Well, now you can buy your very own!
• Commercial singer: (sings) I’ve got to buy Chinpokomon! I’ve got to buy it! I’ve got to buy it!
• TV Announcer: Collect them all and you can become Royal Crown Chinpokomaster!
• Cartman: Royal Crown Chinpokomaster! Holy Shit!
• Chinpokomon Girl: (pops on screen) Chinpokomon is super universe toy number one!
• Commercial singer: (sings) I’ve got to buy it! Chinmpokomon!
• Cartman: Mom! Seriously! This thing at the toy store, Mom! Hyna! Must go! Toy store!

• Cartman: Mine!
• Kenny: {Mine!}
• Cartman: Mine, Kenny! Let me have it!
• Kenny: {Mine!}….
• (pan to cashier’s desk of the Toy Store with the Toy Store Owner behind the counter. Sharron and Mrs. Cartman are talking)
• Sharron: Honestly! I don’t see what they find so amusing about those things!
• Mrs. Cartman: They’re so strange! Where are they from?!
• Owner: Well, it’s some new big thing from Japan! I tell ya! Those Japaneese really know how to market to kids!
• Mrs. Cartman: Well, I’m letting Eric go to the camp! I mean, it seems to me this Chinpokomon thing is just another harmless fad!
• Sheila: Yeah! We told Kyle he could go if he did all his chores and he did!
• Randy: No, I’m not sure this blaitant commercialim is good for our boys!

• Stan: Dude, if you collect Chinpokomon, you can complete the Primary Main Objective!
• Kyle: What’s the Primary Main Objective?!
• Cartman: You don’t even know what the Primary Main Objective is?!
• Stan: The Primary Main Objective is to destroy the Evil Power!
• Kyle: Well, what’s the Evil Power?!
• Stan: Aw!
• Cartman: Oh, my God! The identity of the Evil Power won’t be revealed until all Chinpokomon are collected by a Royal Crown Chinpokomaster!

• Cartman: (singing in his sleep) I’ve got to buy Chinpokomon! I’ve got to buy them! Must buy Chinpokomon! (Cartman’s Chinpokomon ChuChuNesbi emmits an antenna from its head and flashes a signal. View from the neighbourhood of South Park. All houses emmit the same signal, fuse in one place in the air, and travel to a space satalite which sends the signals to the Chinpokomon Company in Japan. Cut to Chinpokomon Company.)
• Hirohito: Hamari kamo kodom winuvuts simpo komomo daimada! Feitzu taisu kabida! FEKIPASO! (Soldiers ready their guns) The time has come! We will take Pearl Harbor!

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• Hosek: Attention! Attention! (Everyone is quiet.) This is Chinpokomon Camp!
• Everyone: Chinpokomon is what we store between our hearts!
• Kyle: Our hearts! Kenny?!
• Hosek: What is the Primary Main Objective?!
• Everyone: To destroy the Evil Power!
• Kyle: Power!
• Hosek: Yes! And, what is the Evil Power?! (Pause) The Evil Power is…the United States Government! (Pause)
• Cartman: Ooh!
• Hosek: United States Government is an Evil Power! It has commited Japaneese murder crime! It has broken Japaneese spirit! And, what do Chinpokomasters do to the evil power?!
• Everyone: Destroy it!
• Kyle: Destroy it?!
• Hosek: That is correct! Now, it is a great honour to present…your Chinpokoleader! Emperor Hirohito!
• Hirohito: (enters as Emperor Hirohito) Walkaminto kampura isrosa hanas! Jusresu Japan! Isinit history! And it is based on Jap history! Jap mission again race to the dominate part whore! (Everyone pauses in confusion.)
• Cartman: Is this cool or not?! I can’t tell.
• Hirohito: It is again time for the rising sun to ship tall in the sky! One Japan! One society! (leaves)
• Hosek: (Claps) We will begin with language and exercise skills! Hajemeka! (Two Japaneese Instructors enter wearing gold.)
• Instructors: (doing exercises) Hitch nee! San chi! Hitch nee! San chi!
• Everyone: (doing the same exercises) Hitch nee! San chi! Hitch nee! San chi!

The cartoon excepts attribute a deliberate marketing campaign to Nintendo and not just to sell the products, but to achieve a hidden further objective. Cartman’s response to the TV ad is to begin to hypnotically chant his desire to buy and obsessively demand to be taken to the toy store. There is no attribution of original desire on the part of the children: Nintendo achieves its aims by brainwashing the children. The cartoon picks up on the ill-defined nature of the objectives of Pokemon, but assumes that an unclear objective must hide behind it a hidden objective, which must be evil. Key words are blatant commercialism.
Nintendo is a rather traditional company with strong vertical integration. At the time Pokemon came out, it was facing increasing competition on games products from Sony.
How do the producers of Pokemon see the values in the TV series?
Masakazu Kubo, the Executive Producer of the Pokemon TV series and movies, lists the characteristics of Japanese anime as follows:
1. Characters catch the hearts of children…
2. Stories have a good temp and are full of surprises
3. Packed with enchanting world views
4. Strong links to merchandising of character-themed toys, games and apparel.
5. Many Japanese anime are easy to be accepted internationally, beyond the differences of language, culture, religion and politics.
6. New anime series and ideas are being produced continuously.

In interviews with the producers of Pokemon, from the movie producers to the TV series producers, to the creators, it was striking how emotionally involved they were with Pokemon. One executive clutched an soft toy the entire time he was talking with us. Every one of them knew all of the Pokemon by heart and all their metamorphoses.

The TV series producer said:
“…it is a special characteristic of Japanese animation…the hero has to grow and mature. If he develops fully already, you have to bring out even stronger enemies…you start to think this can’t be possible…:
The producer stressed their desire to keep Ash from getting too strong and making the series unrealistic as a result. In a long-running series like Pokemon, Matsuyama stresses that this is the point in the series over which they have the most trouble.
“…we try to make it so the hero doesn’t get too strong. So that he doesn’t become a god, we try to keep him down sometimes, so that he looks like he is growing somehow despite all his troubles.”

They had a genuine desire to make people like Pokemon, and I can testify to the fact that they did feel genuine affection for Pokemon themselves.
“There are 380 Pokemon but each and everyone of them has something cute about them. For me, even the scary Pokemon are appealing.”

It was in the interests of creating affection between the audience and the characters that the producers of the TV series created Pikachu as the main character. In the game, the creatures are all equal and there is not a single main character.
“…we figured that if the creature that the kids liked best weren’t chosen (in the TV series) then they might get upset…So we chose Pikachu to be the main character. Pikachu is a special character…it has special weapons of electricity, but it’s cute too…”
So how about morals? To my view, Pokemon, and indeed other Japanese anime too, are full of moral issues, moral stories, moral conclusions. None of the producers of Pokemon saw this.

On the contrary, the fact that there is not much discussion of good and evil in Pokemon was, in itself, seen as a virtue.
(Mori) “In Pokemon there is not much good or bad…that is one Asian value…the idea that humans are fundamentally bad as against fundamentally good.”
But the stress on communication is seen as a prime positive value in Pokemon.

“There are all kinds of Pokemon that are different to ourselves but we can all communicate. That might be something that has communicated around the world.”
Another key element is seen to be the way that Pokemon deliberately tries to incorporate characteristics of other TV programmes into itself: the battles are reminiscent of sports dramas, the jokes are like comedy shows, there are science fiction stories among the episodes, or disaster stories like ships sinking. So that the producers attempt to make it a variety show inside a cartoon.

Matsuyama said, “We are not conscious of putting morals in…we don’t want to be like a school teacher. I actually want to put in more stimulating things. But my ideas get cut out…maybe that’s because we make it all together.”
In actual fact, Pokemon TV series content is decided in a weekly meeting which is attended by as many as 20 different people involved in the creation of the series. This includes the Executive Producer, Producer, and a number of scenario writers. Each conference goes over about ten different plots.

In other words, even in the exciting world of Japanese popular culture, the creative effort is guided by group creativity, group decisions, and group effort. The Producers of the Pokemon series told me that although they put thought into storylines and ideas individually before their group meetings, at the meetings they would think over these ideals collectively and in the end it was a collective decision as to what content would be retained. There were even cases where they tried to get agreement for ideas – in a classic case of nemawashi- before the meeting began.

The Pokemon producers had very little awareness of their foreign audience, or indeed, very little knowledge about them. They were not able to think about what elements in Pokemon might be Japanese: they had never considered the matter.

“Pokemon’s Japanese characteristics? Hmm…I wonder what they are…Well, to tell the truth, I’ve never lived abroad or talked with foreign children…”

The producers had not predicted at all that Pokemon would be a success: nor did they understand why it had become such a success.

(Y) “Until then there were few Japanese animations that had made it overseas and we didn’t think it was possible. Because our animation doesn’t look and move like reality, we had been told that it wasn’t real animation. And with the characters, for example, there is a character called Takashi, who has very narrow eyes. His expression isn’t strange at all in Japan, but overseas we were told that he looks as if he has his eyes shut, so couldn’t it be re-done? Before we were always told things like that, so we had the impression that Japanese characters wouldn’t become popular overseas.”

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(M) Before I was involved in production it became really popular overseas. To tell the truth, I wondered why. I couldn’t really understand it….Of course, the games and cards and TV show were all connected. And that went overseas successfully. But frankly, the Pokemon stories are very oriented to a Japanese audience….So I wondered why Pokemon would be popular overseas. I really didn’t understand. And to tell the truth, I still don’t understand, I really don’t.”

(Mo) “At it’s biggest Pokemon had an 18% market share (1997)…when it got into the double figures we thought that’s great…were we surprised? Well, more than surprised things got really busy…the viewer ratings got bigger and it was a success…we were really excited.”

(Yo) “Some people have said that they thought it was going to be big overseas, but quite frankly, I think that is a lie. At the time nobody even dreamed it was going to be so big. At the time when we made it nobody thought, hey, this one is going to be a hit overseas…
…one time I was watching a programme on TV…showing soldiers in the deep countryside in Vietnam, in a really remote and beautiful place, and I saw that one of the kids in the background was wearing a Pikachu shirt. That is when it was really brought home to me, that is when I really thought that this was amazing…Overseas, in America, wherever you go, the word Pikachu is understood, but in a place like that; a remote place where there are soldiers, I really thought that was incredible.”

Adaptations to foreign audiences were only even thought about years after the programme began. And when they were done – in Japan, at least – solely on a practical level. Guns in Pokemon have been cut in Japan because the programme was going to the US, for example. Tatami mats are not drawn in because it destroys the international atmosphere for a Korean audience and situates the programme firmly in Japan. The producers were not very enthusiastic about some of the changes – such as drawing the characters with their shoes on inside the house – an unthinkable travesty in the average Japanese home.

So how much did Nintendo manipulate it’s audience?

Buckingham and Sefton-Green (2004) say: “While drawing on Japanese mythology, Nintendo clearly set out to devise a product that could be exported and adapted to local needs and traditions…Described in this way, Pokemon appears to be distinctly “calculated”, both in terms of its relation to Nintendo’s broader commercial strategy and in terms of its inclusive appeal to the child market. On this account, the corporation is seen to engage in a deliberate – even cynical – form of manipulation.”

My discussions with the producers of Pokemon TV series and movies show that the overall strategy of Pokemon was unexpected and undeliberate. But further to that, in deciding the content of the Pokemon programme, consensus decision-making plays a big part, accounting for why the programme – despite the need for it to cater to international audiences – ends up with very Japanese moral content and moral messages.

Cook (2001) looks at Pokemon card collecting. He sees children’s leisure as an activity informed by commercial relationships from the outset rather than an innocent activity that becomes corrupted subsequently by commercialism. But he also sees card trading as a new phenomemon in that it privileges the realisation of economic exchange value as the goal of collecting the card. Moral panic has ensued about Pokemon because Pokemon contains a “threat to something held sacred by or fundamental to society” (Thompson 1998). The sacred view of childhood as something innocent and outside of commercial activity, and childhood leisure inherently being without monetary involvement is brought under attack by the commercial nature of trading cards. The moral panic has mostly been directed towards parents and educators’ fears that the trading cards would encourage children’s interest in money over friendships. Capitalism – valued as an activity in adulthood – is abhorred as an activity in childhood. The attacks are against the organisations that have allowed capitalism to operate in childhood, rather than directly against capitalism itself as Cook points out.
“The ambivalence is about capitalism itself –what it has wrought, what it teaches, the posture toward self and other it favors.”

Cook notes that there are two ways generally used to soften the tensions around capitalism in childhood. One is for parents to argue that the activity is “good for children.” The second is to justify the activity by seeing children as knowing what they want: as mini-consumers in their own right.

Perhaps this can explain that attacks on Pokemon in Japan have invariably been on educational grounds, and rarely on the grounds of money exchange. Perhaps capitalism poses less of a threat against fundamental values in Japan and there is greater acceptance of the child as consumer.

Perhaps it can also go some way to explain why criminal behaviour associated with Pokemon cards was more common and more of an issue in the US Press than it was in Japan. And perhaps it can help us explain why criminal behaviour around Pokemon cards in Japan was seen as a moral failing on the part of the child like any other incident rather than seen to be an issue attached to the cards themselves.

Ironically, when we look at the actual content of the Pokemon programmes we see that the content is quite moral. But in particular, the moral values expressed about money in the programme are very clear. Greed, avarice, hoarding, stealing, possessiveness of material goods, is all condemned and all such behavious is attributed to Team Rocket, the bad guys.

In New Zealand I conducted some two hour talk sessions with New Zealand children of 7-9 years old in their homes around the subject of Pokemon TV programmes and cards. I asked them a number of questions around:

Values – training: What do people need to do to achieve what they want to achieve? Is it more important to win, or more important to try your best?

Values – good/evil: What kind of characters are good or bad? Do bad characters become good?

Values – benefits: Do you think Pokemon is just about fighting or can it teach you something too? What do you think you can learn from Pokemon?

To my surprise, the children were quite aware of moral issues in the programme. They were quite capable of identifying the concept of continual improvement found in the programme. They told me that continual effort was important in winning, and that it was more important to try very hard than to win in the end. They were fluent in recounting the various lessons that can be learned from Pokemon, and these coincided with my own analysis and with the producer’s view of the good points of the programmes.
Although the peak of the Pokemon “craze” was certainly short-lived and sudden, the longer-term and steadier popularity of Pokemon is far from vanishing. A Pokemon movie held the second highest box office record in Japan as recently as 2003 (Motion Producer’s Association of Japan figures), and the Pokemon TV series market share still stands at 8%. The audience, of course, has changed, and it is a new generation of Pokemon viewers watching the show. In the US, Pokemon is in the top 5 programmes for boys and girls aged 2 – 11 on prime-time Saturday am.

Furthermore, Japanese anime in general is securing a wider and wider market. The number of half-hours of Japanese anime shown in Europe weekly (JETRO compilation) were Germany RTL2: 43, Italia 1: 29, VT4 Belgium: 21, Sky1 UK: 20. More importantly, overall, a staggering 60% of television animation world-wide originates in Japan, making anime Japan’s largest ever cultural export.

My tentative research in New Zealand has shown that children are very aware of Japanese values, and are able to articulate the lessons inherent in anime. If ever there should be a moral panic, surely it should arise around the question of how non-Japanese children are taking on Japanese values?

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About the author

Nadia Petrova

I'm running this blog because I love Japanese culture, especially the art of geisha. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of becoming a geisha myself. In my spare time, I enjoy watching good anime and reading some manga.

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