Well its been a while since I last blogged on here. Its been a super busy couple of months dealing with two near enough full time jobs in the teaching industry here in Japan, but things have finally started to wind down. Grading is nearly finished and the prospect of a twelve hour flight back to the UK is looming on the horizon for Sunday morning. Normally I would check out what kind of brain candy the in flight movie schedule is offering, but it appears that I'm going to be reading the final Harry Potter novel that is released tomorrow - the final cycle of a multi-media cash cow unseen in both the literary and movie world. An exaggeration? Well, no, I don't think even Star Wars has had this kind of Global penetration on so many levels. Working as an English Lecturer here in Tokyo you can see the broad appeal of Rowling's series by how students wanting to read the adventures of Harry in its original form motivates them to study English more, not even Star Wars has managed that. What's more its not just boys reading her novels but alot of girls too.
Where am I going with this? Well that's a good question I'm really just brainstorming here, but on Gallifreyone.com message boards Paul Cornell, writer of some of the finest Dr Who material in the modern period, asked the question about the nature of Dr Who fandom in Japan. Its a good question and several other posters mentioned the same as me - there isn't much of one. Apart from going out on NHK earlier this year, there is very little awareness of our Time Travelling hero, which got me thinking - why is that? I mean Dr Who has been around longer than Harry Potter, ostensibly Dr Who is one of our most enduring literary/visual heroes, having been around continuously for nearly forty five years. Why hasn't the good Doctor had the same breakout appeal in Japan? The obvious answer to that is quite simple - marketing. I sometimes wonder about the BBC don't they realize the enourmous marketing potential in this country? Do they realise that the current style of Doctor Who totally fits in with alot of Japanese anime? Just from a financial point of view you would think it would be a no brainer to push Who more in Japan. I for one have attempted to introduce Who in to my class rooms; one of the benefits of being a University teacher is the fact you can inflict your passions on students, on the whole feedback was positive. The only sad thing being that they didn't have the awareness or the access to watch more. The DVD here is like 18 000 yen to buy, not exactly within the budget of anyone in the target audience.
On the flip side Harry Potter here has soared like the Dumbledore's phoenix. The books are widely sold and awareness of the characters and situations are huge here - unusual for a British product, considering the Japanese market is inundated with American TV and movies. Why is this the case? Is it that Dr Who is too British perhaps? Harry Potter is after all written by an ex-English teacher who is no doubt far savvyer to the tastes of international English culture? Certainly her vocabulary and language is far friendlier. This brings me to another point. The Guardian this week had a book reviewer tearing apart her writing style, saying it would have been elegant prose for a writer if they were aged 9, well, I'd like to defend Rowling here. Her writing is written clearly, simply and starkly in some ways. Her prose flows like machine code, allowing the reader to build up a vast visual vocabulary that renders the filmic topography of her world in an efforlecent and efficent manner. This is precisely why so many people who are second language speakers have warmed to her prose and filled Rowling's coffers in the process. Furthermore her character architypes are familiar, because they delve the heroic literary and movie mass consciousness that has become so ubiquitous in the fantasy genre these days.
Hmm seem to have answered my own rambling question - its all about who you've written for - Harry Potter takes place in a parallel world with enough of an international flavour in content and style to win over non native speakers. Dr Who on the other hand in some ways and it feels bizarre to say this is perhaps too weird and to Anglocentric to be appreicated? Let me expand on that.
What is the concept of Who? Basically a time travelling alien with two hearts who has a space ship in the shape of a curious blue box bigger on the inside than the outside and picks up good looking twenty something women and puts their lives through hell of a regular basis, hmm. Difficult to relate to if you haven't been brought up on it. Now contrast it to Potter.
A lonely boy with glasses with no friends finds out he has a secret destiny and special ability - he is eleven years old and he's about to start the adventure of a life time quickly becoming friends with two other social misfits who have difficulty fitting in because of class, status and race.
There you go - Potter is an easier sell. Who, while more imaginative and barmier it takes alot of investment before the viewer can totally buy in to the concept.