Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Condensing the Media Mix: Multiple Possible Worlds in the Tatami Galaxy

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Condensing the Media Mix: Multiple Possible Worlds in the Tatami Galaxy

Article excerpt

Résumé: Cet article identifie quelques unes des distinctions générales dans les pratiques narratives transmédiatiques plus précisément entre ce qui, en Amérique du Nord, a été appelé la culture de la convergence des médias et ce qui est connu au Japon comme le media mix. Rédigé à partir d'une lecture de la série d'animation La galaxie Tatami (Yojöhan shinwa taikei, 2010), cet article illustre les différentes approches de la cohérence diégétique à l'intérieur de chacune de ces formations industrial-médiatiques. L'article s'inspire des concepts leibnitzien de compossibilité et d'incompossibilité pour dresser un cadre théorique permettant de comprendre les différences dans la création de mondes médiatiques. En lisant La galaxie Tatami comme un méta commentaire sur la pratique du media mix, l'article vise aussi plus généralement à développer les termes pour l'analyse d'oeuvres transmédiatiques.

For it cannot be denied that many stories, especially those we call novels, may be regarded as possible, even though they do not actually take place in this particular sequence of the universe which God has chosen1

Is it a coincidence that stories of multiple possible worlds proliferate in a world of proliferating media forms? Is it a coincidence that multiple possible world narratives are on the rise in an era of the intensified migration of works across media? It would seem not. Yet here is the rub: contemporary discussions of transmedia storytelling tend to presume a necessary unity and consistency across media. In part this presumption is informed by a focus on Hollywood media productions; in part it is informed by the absence of a more nuanced understanding of transmedia narratives and the worlds they presuppose. Hence, we need to rethink what a world is, and what it means to discuss the consistency of a world, in order to develop a more adequate theoretical model for what is going on in the multiple possible media worlds at present. One place to start is to look at a particularly poignant, metacritical reflection on multiple possible media worlds in the Japanese context, undertaken by the television anime series, The Tatami Galaxy Yojöhan shinwa taikei, literally, The Mythical System of the 4.5 Tatami Mat Room, 2010), offered up by the enfant terrible of Japanese commercial animation Yuasa Masaaki.2 The uniqueness of The Tatami Galaxy is that it condenses the logic of the transmedia movement of the so-called "media mix" into a single series. As such it presents attentive viewers with a visual theorization or parable of the function of the media mix.

The media mix, broadly defined, is the popular and industry term used in Japan to denote the multiple media formation developed across a single franchise. In its most typical form, a given property begins as a comic or novel, is adapted to a film or animation series, spawns soundtracks, toys or figurines (for children or adults), video games and production notes, along with the requisite newspaper articles, magazine features and advertising. The term media mix originates in marketing discourse of the 1960s, but in the 1980s it comes to designate the anime and film franchising with which it is currently associated. It names the entire phenomenon of transmedia storytelling that Henry Jenkins and others have, in the North American context, called "convergence culture."

Important questions of a comparative nature arise here. Are there significant differences between the terms media mix and media convergence, as well as the practices they designate, that prevents them from being collapsed into a single phenomenon? Are there notable differences between the Japanese media mix and North American media convergence such that we should make efforts to distinguish them? Do the different terms designate the same phenomenon, or are there differences not only in terminology but also in the practice of transmedia storytelling, from Japan to North America? The position I adopt here is that, on the whole, there are significant differences between the practices these two terms designate, and that these differences should be noted. …

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