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The Element Factor. The Concept of ›Character‹ as a Unifying Perspective for the Akihabara Cultural Domain

Author: Luca Bruno
[published in: IMAGE 29 Special Issue/Themenheft (Januar 2019)]

This paper presents a developing perspective on characters within Japanese visual novel games and their connections to their host cultural domain of Akihabara. The cultural domain comprising Akihabara and its connected fan industries (cf. SUAN 2017: 64) have been alternatively described as a ›database‹ for a ›grand non-narrative‹ (cf. AZUMA 2009: 33–34), as a ›fantasy-scape‹ (cf. RUH 2014: 171), or as an ›imagination-scape‹ (cf. KACSUK 2016: 277). These viewpoints are concord in their vision of the Akihabara cultural domain as being in a continuous flux, lacking any fixed perspective or origin. This paper will propose characters as the unified perspective of the Akihabara cultural domain. While their design elements are not static and subjected to conventional re-performances (cf. SUAN 2017), ›characters‹ themselves, as hierarchical sets of information, remain recognizable and render their host media as belonging to Akihabara. This activates expectations (as well as related rules and procedures) associated with the domain, which in turn require additional conventional re-performances. Conceptualizing ›characters‹ and their associated conventions as a peculiar type of an intersubjective communicative construct (cf. THON 2016: 54), the paper argues that characters presented in visual novel games are representative for the wider tendency of Akihabara characters to exist prior to all media and narratives. The re-performance of conventions precedes media specificities, narrative peculiarities, or subjective reception.

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03_IMAGE 29_Themenheft_Bruno.pdf