Recontextualizing Characters Media Convergence and Pre-/Meta-Narrative Character Circulation

By Lukas R.A. Wilde

This introduction to the topic of character recontextualization sets out to address a variety of character products that cannot be adequately described as ›narrative‹: Coffee mugs, clothes, office supplies, and other material objects. Fictitious entities such as Hello Kitty or Hatsune Miku have given rise to a veritable wave of literature in Japanese studies outlining a ›pre-narrative character theory‹. Characters without stories, based entirely on highly affective iconographies, often function as hubs, interfaces, or intersections for diverging ›games of make-believe‹ that are in turn often forms of an aesthetic, medial, social, and especially diegetic recontextualization. Consequently, every pre-narrative char-acter could also be addressed as a decontextualized, trans-fictional, trans-world, or »meta-narrative nodal point« (AZUMA). Often, these recontextualizations take place within the collaborative networks of participatory culture, highlighting the decontextualized character state as central to what is known as ›media convergence‹ or ›media mix‹. I will situate these discussions within the field of international character theory, arguing that a systematic divide runs through existing literature on how to deal with decontextualized, trans-fictional, trans-world entities. My article closes with some indications on what a discourse often seen as specific for Japanese studies, might contribute on a variety of international phenomena and perspectives.