The second is the anime media merchandising of Kadokawa Books, one of Japan’s largest publishing companies. Kadokawa has long been a vigorous promoter of its cartoon characters in manga and both television and theatrical animation. “The impetus for the introduction of American-style marketing was the September 1955 trip of top management executives from Japan to the United States for the purpose of observing and learning from the business practices of U.S. companies.” (pgs. 136-137). After a brief study of the Tetsuwan Atomu
comic books and official fan club of the small Mushi Production Company of the 1960s, Steinberg tells of Kadokawa Books’ inheritance in 1975 by Haruhi Kadokawa, the founder’s son, and of his expansion of the company into a modern media empire with live-action and animation film and TV production, not to mention the publication of one of Japan’s largest lines of manga; and of the takeover of the company by Haruhi’s brother Tsuguhiko in 1993.
Steinberg’ emphasis here is not on the merchandising of any of Kadokawa’s individual cartoon properties, but on the corporate attitude toward promoting the popularity of its characters with their fan base versus the restrictions of copyright law. The fans, especially in Japan, have long practiced the unauthorized production of their own amateur comic books, novels, and magazines featuring their favorite characters in incredible combinations, often mixing the characters of two or more copyright holders. There has been a popular semiannual Komiketto (Comic Market) fan market-convention in Tokyo since the 1970s in which literally hundreds of thousands of amateur comic books, some featuring original characters but most featuring the unauthorized use of copyrighted characters, are sold. In the U.S. this would result in the fans getting cease-and-desist letters from the copyright holders’ lawyers. In Japan the corporate copyright holders try to strike an uneasy balance between protecting their copyrights and encouraging their usually-adolescent fans to produce their own self-promotions of their characters. Some publishers have struck up friendly relations with fans that have led to those fans later becoming professional cartoonists for those publishers. (A personal aside: About the only times that the publishers sic their lawyers on the fans is upon their publication of amateur pornographic comics starring the copyrighted characters. You haven’t lived until you have seen the Pokémon
or Sonic the Hedgehog
anthropomorphic animals engaged in XXX-rated bondage activities.)
There are a few illustrations of pre-1963 media advertising for children’s products (including one of Donald Duck), and lots of images from the 1963-66 Tetsuwan Atomu TV animation and the advertising for its licensed candies, stickers, and inflatable toys. There are over a hundred pages of Notes, a Bibliography, and an Index.
Anime’s Media Mix is invaluable for pointing out that anime characters owe much of their popularity to the advertising of their commercial tie-ins. Some examples of advertising and tie-ins besides the 1963-66 Tetsuwan Atomu would have been nice – the barely-mentioned Hello Kitty or the completely unmentioned Kidō Senshi Gundamu, for instance. I would have also like to have seen some specific examples of Kadokawa Books’s relations with its characters’ fans instead of just talking about them in abstract terms.
Fred Patten has been a fan of animation since the first theatrical rerelease of Pinocchio (1945). He co-founded the first American fan club for Japanese anime in 1977, and was awarded the Comic-Con International's Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom. He began writing about anime for Animation World Magazine since its #5, August 1996. A major stroke in 2005 sidelined him for several years, but now he is back. He can be reached at email@example.com.