MIT Anthropology Spotlight

The Soul of Anime book cover

Professor Ian Condry examines the global success of Japanese Anime

MIT scholar's new book heralds 'creative collaboration' with the masses as the key to anime’s worldwide popularity


In early 1979, a cartoon series about giant robots, "Mobile Suit Gundam," made its debut on Japanese television. It was not a hit. Scheduled to run for 12 months, the plug was about to be pulled after just 10 months.

But then the show's creators noticed something unexpected: it had a very loyal, if small, following. Fans were creating encyclopedias about the show and creating timelines of its events. The show was given a new lease on life — and the studio producing it took notice of which elements had proven most popular with its audience. Given a new chance and some creative tweaks, the "Gundam" shows became the basis of a sprawling series of cartoons, movies, comic books, video games, best-selling toys and more.

"The 'Gundam' giant robot series was written off as a failure — except that it got picked up by a few fans," says Ian Condry, an associate professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and head of MIT's Foreign Languages and Literatures section. "Now it's an ongoing 30-year-old franchise." More

Read the introduction to The Soul of Anime here.

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