Tamagotchi: The Prosthetics of Presence
Book abstract, Millennial Monsters Within the past decade, the currency of made-in-Japan cultural goods has skyrocketed in the global marketplace. From sushi and karoke to martial arts and techno-ware, the globalization of Japanese “cool” today is being led by youth products: video games, manga (comic books), anime (animation), and cute characters that have fostered kid crazes from Hong Kong to Canada. What precisely is it about the fantasies enjoined by these goods and about the conditions of life that inspired them (and the everyday lives of consumers who adopt them) that accounts for such global popularity are the issues taken up in Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination. Delimiting the scope to two places, Japan (as producer) and the United States (as a burgeoning market for Japanese youth goods today) where the author conducted ethnographic fieldwork, the book examines four waves of entertainment properties in terms of their crossover traffic from Japan to the US. These are Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (a live action television show featuring a team of high schoolers who morph into cyber-warriors), Sailor Moon (a comic and cartoon about female super-morphers), tamagotchi (an electronic toy that hatches virtual pets), and Pokémon (a media-mix of cartoon, Game Boy game, movies, comic books, trading cards, and tie-in merchandise driven by the pursuit to “get” endless pocket monsters). Arguing that part of the appeal of such dreamworlds is the polymorphous perversity with which they scramble identity and mix (up) character constitution (bodies with recombinant parts, cyber-powers, morphing capability), the author traces the postindustrial milieu from which such fantasies have arisen in postwar Japan and been popularly received in the United States. From Godzilla—a prehistoric lizard mutated by nuclear testing—to Pokémon—wild monsters that get “pocketed” by their owners—Japan has been a monster-producer, whose commercialized fantasy-fare has gone from cheesy to cool. Currently infusing national coffers with much needed capital, both real and symbolic, Japanese entertainment goods carry a global imagination that, decentered from Americanization, is imprinted—as this book argues—with the logic of millennial capitalism. One sentence book summary By examining the crossover traffic between Japan and the United States of four waves of youth goods, Millennial Monsters explores the global popularity of Japanese youth today, questioning the make-up of the fantasies and the capitalistic conditions of the play properties involved.