Pocket Monsters, AKB48 and Tribes

Image: Flicker CC Pokemon via 'search for images on FlickerCC '. The attribution comes from 'Piplup, Pikachu and Charmander welcome you into+the+store'

Attribution: By mutantlog Ryan Bayne on Flicker. Image: Piplup, Pikachu and Charmander welcome you into+the+store'

As soon as I learned about the concept of a tribe, AKB48 and Pocket Monsters came up to my mind that they have gained popularity because of that idea behind it. The origin of Pocket Monsters, whose concept and cultural products had been developed by Satoshi Tajiri was introduced to the game industry in 1996, and since then thanks to the media and communication they have attracted consumers all around the world in various forms of media since 1996. All kinds of pocket monsters refer to more than 670 characteristic animate lives or tribes, which seem to be idols raised by their fans, who enjoy sharing their own pocket monsters with each other via playing game.

AKB48 via Flicker CC

Attribution: By kalleboo Karl Baron. Image: 'Got my 2010 Weekly Calendar'.

Similarly AKB48 is one of Japanese idol groups, which was produced in 2005 by Yasushi Akimoto, who seems to have conceptualized how the group could become as popular as they are now.

Attribution: By PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE on Flicker. Image: PhotonQ-Seth Godin on the power of Tribes.

However both idols are different from any kinds of objects, to which ‘a tribe’ attributes in the sense that the former is driven by the business of media entertainment whereas making a profits is not any incentives for the prosperity of the latter. Have Mr. Akimoto and Mr. Tajiri already recognized such difference in the first place? Have they exploited the concept of a tribe as the secret code before they started selling their ideological entities to the market? Have two of them(, whom their followers or fans see as their leaders) been made into a tribe(, which is a group of people sharing the same concern or passion) by their fans or tribe? Have they anticipated that their idols would drive our culture dramatically?

My personal interview with people, who more or less have been interested in Pocket Monsters since 1996 was about their direct feedback of those (intellectual)entities’ popularity. One lady said to me that ‘Pikachu( one of tribes of Pocket Monsters) is so adorable

Attribution:By satanslaundromat No real name given on Flicker. Image: 'Pikachu'.

animate life that I could tell why its popularity has dominated the public.’  The other lady said that ‘the popularity does not lie in its movie or graphic animation but its additional supplements such as collecting information, playing game, exchanging cards and raising their own only one Pocket Monsters.’ Pocket Monsters appear to be the media themselves that connect people since they are incomplete animate characters, whose values could be attached or arranged by their followers or fans. They even don’t need any promoters to be introduced or addressed to the public because Pocket Monsters make their fans proactive.  Since it is said that the popularity gets bigger and bigger by word of mouth, the followers or tribes of Pocket Monsters could play a role of the most efficient advertisers. According to the book called ‘The secret’by Rhonda Byrne, the universal law is that as long as the concept attracts people, the followers of the ideology seem to go for it and it does not matter even if the idea attributes to its non/profit organization.

Thanks to the hyper-linked society there are all media ready for any possible ideas to be spread over to the public more quickly than ever, and the idea itself will be selected and evaluated by each follower more directly, spontaneously and simultaneously. My personal thought on contributors such as Mr Akimoto and Mr Tajiri to this information society is that they seem to know how communication tools could aid people to share their interests in cultural entities and inspire their imagination.

In 2011, Mr. Akimoto released his press conference that the concept of AKB48 as a product was going to be sold to other countries, one of which was Jacarta. He has already created the group called JKT48 in Indonesia. In addition to JKT, SKE(based at Nagoya in Japan), NMB(based at Osaka in Japan) and  HKT(based at Kyushu/Fukuoka in Japan) tribes had followed AKB48 one after another.

I think this phenomenon reflects the present social network community itself in the way that sharing each other’s view online (in the social network sites) happens in offline communities (in the physical communities) as well. Tribes as the fans and the leaders are the media that could share their views and create something together, which tell me that each of us is after all an essential unique communication tool or device to deliver or influence his/her view to his/her follower one after another.

3 thoughts on “Pocket Monsters, AKB48 and Tribes

  1. I am a part of the Pokemon tribe thanks to my kids, Chie. The ability now to “connect” at different locations around Japan (Pokemon store, movie theaters, fast food shops, etc.) and download new characters is a bonding activity for the tribe. The search for new and mysterious Pokemon unites tribe members when they go to purchase a new set of playing cards or when they play an analog or digital version of the game. Thanks for posting on an interesting piece of culture.

  2. I think the point of the concept behind Tribes is that:

    a) yes, there are brands that can develop Tribes – like Pokemon. This is the most effective way for a brand to be profitable, because as you describe above people become part of the brand themselves.


    b) you can create your own Tribe. It doesn’t have to be for profit. There are enough people in the world that are connected that we can all find a Tribe of our own. This can be seen as a new form of currency.

  3. The power of social media and social network continues to amaze the curiosity in me. With that power comes the responsibility to make positive change and contributions to our societies. I like the idea of finding alike people to form tribes which lead through a manifesto. My wish is for my students to understand that with leadership comes the responsibility to support, manage and get things done.

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