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.