Japan’s Soft Power and “Grand Fictions” in Global Venues: Japanese Pop Culture Franchises and Fictionality-based Tactics
This article discusses the notion of soft power and how Japan’s government has recently made use of imaginary characters from “manga” and “anime” to promote the country’s appeal. I focus on the official video clip for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, first released in 2016. This montage features not only Japan’s Prime Minister as well as Japanese athletes and show-business celebrities, but also fictional characters. On the one hand, this cast assists in creating a display of “official Japaneseness” as a presentation strategy for the 2020 Olympics host country, deploying Shinzō Abe as a testimonial. On the other hand, while fiction and reality are playfully displayed as a blurred continuum both through and on the figure of Abe, an association can be found between the transnational circulation of those franchises and related commodities, the presence of fictional characters meant to advertise the Olympics and its host country, and the current exploitation of Japanese animation. In fact, today Japanese animation is at a threshold between the status of an independent entrepreneurial domain and that of an industrial sector increasingly used by the Japanese government in the deployment of soft power-related initiatives.