Thursday, April 2, 2015

[DC007] Database Consumption Summary

Previous: [DC006] Azuma vs. Lukács: Affective Elements in Trendy Dramas

                Azuma's Database Consumption Model and his periodization of the 1945-early 2000s period both complements and sheds light on these other theories of post-modern consumption. While his model is built to explore the otaku subculture, its thesis is that “the essence of our era (postmodernity) is extremely well disclosed in the structure of otaku culture” (6). 

                In other words, it should not surprise us that there is overlap between the Database Consumption Model and theories that look beyond the scope of the otaku subculture. Ultimately, Database Consumption is a theory of postmodernity, not simply of otaku.

                Looked at in this light, Azuma's periodization and Database Consumption Theory becomes a powerful tool for looking at the development of postmodern consumption patterns. It is not, however, a theory without its weaknesses.

                Azuma says that there is now no true difference between stories and coffee mugs, but he does not look at any coffee mugs. This is troublesome since otaku consumption is not limited to narrative goods; many anime are produced at a loss, with profits coming only from toys, t-shirts, and other licensed products. 

                It’s one thing to say that there is no difference between Evangelion the series and Evangelion the coffee mug. It’s another thing entirely to demonstrate it.

                Azuma’s reluctance to jump into the proverbial coffee mug is understandable, given the staggering array of secondary goods currently in the market in both their officially licensed, pirated, and fan-created forms – cutlery, clothing, backpacks, portable fans, pins, paper crafts, card games, video games, cell phone accessories, stationary, cosplay accessories, stuffed animals, dakimakura, food, theme restaurants, clocks, and furniture to name a few examples. A full study of secondary goods is beyond the scope of any study. 

                Since this is the case, we’re going to look at the history and development of Kaiyodo, one of the otaku industry's premier toy companies. I’ve chosen Kaiyodo for a few reasons:

                1). Kaiyodo was founded in 1964, well before the otaku boom of the late 70’s-80’s. This will        allow us to see how the industry has evolved since its inception.

                2). Kaiyodo was instrumental in popularizing garage kit culture in the 1980s. They have not just followed trends in otaku goods, they have helped define them.

                3). Since Kaiyodo produces toys almost exclusively, we won’t get bogged down on defining and                 examining a thousand different product types.

                With this in mind, let’s look at the history of Kaiyodo and how it stacks up against Azuma’s historical periodization.

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