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Inside the Media Mix: Collective Creation in Contemporary Manga and Anime

  • Author(s): Hartzheim, Bryan Hikari
  • Advisor(s): Caldwell, John T
  • et al.

Japanese creative media – particularly, its comics, animation, and video games – has found success globally, but it is primarily a product made for and by a domestic audience. What characterizes the success of its various creative industries on the domestic level, before they reach out to global spheres? This dissertation attempts to provide an answer to this question by examining the logics of franchise media production in Japan. I conduct ethnographic fieldwork into Japan’s manga and anime industries, as well as close analyses of concomitant transmedia texts, in order to demonstrate the collective authorship that surrounds the production of contemporary media in these industries today.

By focusing on the production of texts in commercial outlets such as Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump and Toei Animation Studies, I show how large-scale, franchise media in Japanese production is organized, managed, and distributed through small networks of mangaka, assistants, editors, and readers, as well as large networks of professionals including animators, directors, scriptwriters, voice actors, and producers. These networks produce texts that are then open to “multiple use,” dispersed into the hands of other producers through “element databases,” or converge in a “media mix,” spun through committees and centralized through “product-portals.” The resulting transmedia reflects the similar creative preoccupations within manga and anime: an ability to construct worlds through “character management”: the multi-authored process of constructing compelling characters with a variety of industrial functions.

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