fan art

Pokemon and Soft Power Part 1: A Brief Introduction to Soft Power

This week I’ve been thinking about soft power. I first came across the term in my second year at university, and I haven’t really thought too much about it since until now. It can be argued that Pokemon has had a huge impact on how Japanese culture has spread and is perceived international in the past 18 years or so, and thus has contributed to Japan’s soft power.

So what is soft power exactly?

Let’s begin with the definition of hard power. “Hard power” can be thought of as the “A coercive approach to international politicalrelations, especially one that involves the use of military power (, 2014). Countries can sometimes obtain the outcomes they want without the tangible threats of hard power. This indirect method is often referred to as “soft power”Soft power rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others.  It must be noted that soft power is a difficult thing to both obtain and to measure in a sense. Unlike hard power, soft power relies on the ability of a nation to influence others tends to be associated with intangible assets such as an attractive personality, culture, political values, institutions and policies that are seen as desirable or legitimate (, 2014).

Joseph Nye could be considered the soft power Guru, and explains the concept quite well in this VIDEO.

Recently I found an article by Nissim Kadosh Otmazgin (2007) that examines the nature of the Japanese soft power that derives from the proliferation of its popular culture in East Asia. Otmazgin notes that the Japanese government has been examining ways to promote the country’s cultural exports, in order to generate economic benefits and nurture positive appreciations of the country overseas, through investing in Japan’s cultural industries including food, fashion and content production. By cultural production I refer to the Japanese television, film, music, print and gaming industries. It is no surprise that the success of Pokemon has contributed to Japan’s soft power. The franchises’ success over the past two decades has helped to change the attitudes of nations around the globe towards Japan and Japanese culture.

After reading the article, I’ve have tried to reflect by asking myself “how do I explore Japanese/Pokemon related soft power in an auto-ethnogrpahic sense?”

The more I tried to answer this question, the more difficult the task seemed. That was until I realised that I’ve been exploring Japanese soft power throughout my entire auto ethnographical journey. If soft power can be measured by the ability of a nation to influence others relations with cultural assets, like, for instance, Pokemon, then my exploration of Pokemon fan art online is in itself, an expression of Japanese soft power. Fan art produced online that is able to circulate and thus, be appreciated globally, shows the extent of the influence Japanese culture has had on my own online experience as well as thousands of others. People from around the globe who come together online to discuss, create and explore Pokemon online are participating in an expression of Japanese culture.

I’ll call this Part 1 of my discussion, as i feel like there is so much more to be said.

References:, (2014). Rapid-growth markets soft power index:Soft power defined. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Sep. 2014].

Otmazgin, N. (2007). Contesting soft power: Japanese popular culture in East and Southeast Asia. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, [online] 8(1), pp.73-101. Available at: [Accessed 27 Sep. 2014]., (2014). hard power: definition of hard power in Oxford dictionary (British & World English). [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Sept. 2014].


참가 (participation)

Upon reflecting on what I personally experience as a fan of EYK, I could see a multilayered, physical and intangible quality to the EYK fan experience, which has grown from EYK’s focus on giving fans an unique, customised insight into South Korea which recognises that “social interaction and knowledge work effectiveness depend heavily on user engagement” (Orsatti and Riemer 2012).

Firstly, it is inherently important  to define what constitutes a ‘fan’, in order to understand how important interaction with EYK is in the context of this discussion. According to Brough & Shresthova (2012), “fans are typically understood to be individuals who engage deeply with, and often assert their identity through, popular culture content.” Thus it is important to reflect on how deeply fans are permitted to engage with the content and the hosts of the channel, physically and intangibly, and how much the content creators are facilitating the integration of their culture into the identity of fans.

Simon and Martina’s approach to YouTube has changed significantly since they started vlogging (video blogging) in 2008. To once again experience this change, I took a step back in time to their archives channel. The format and filming/commentary style was the immediate change I noticed; I felt like I was intruding on personal holiday videos, a pure auto-ethnographic approach which focused on their reactions to new cultural experiences. In comparison, their current filming style is much more professional and performative, almost educational in tone, and they place a very high importance on the opinions, interests and engagement of their fans. This is demonstrated most obviously in their TL;DR videos (Too Long; Didn’t Read, crowd-sourced questions about South Korea and comparisons with other cultures/countries are answered by Simon and Martina) and F.A.P F.A.P.s (Food Adventure Program For Awesome People, videos which help viewers understand Korean traditions and culture).

The Eat Your Kimchi Studio! Credit: @leechangsun

The Eat Your Kimchi Studio!
Credit: @leechangsun

Secondly, Simon and Martina’s establishment of a permanent physical presence in the heart of South Korea provides fans a space to amplify their fandom experience and extend their learning experience. The Eat Your Kimchi studio, where Simon, Martina, Leigh and Soo Zee film videos, edit, hang out and conduct interviews with KPop bands, is a tangible space where they can meet up with fans and where they also film one of their highly interactive video formats: LiveChats. During LiveChats the EYK crew interact with fans through Twitter and YouTube comments and open fan mail. They also do this at their recently opened cafe in Seoul, the You Are Here cafe, an additional physical space for fans to engage with EYK and become part of the content themselves!

The You Are Here cafe Credit: DailyBap

The You Are Here cafe
Credit: DailyBap


Finally, Tumblr, a slightly underrated part of their digital presence, is a great demonstration of how deeply EYK values their fans and exemplifies how much EYK has become part of fans’ social interaction, hobbies, and happiness,  e.g.



1. mightaswellbeonjupiter:

So this girl walks into the lounge while I’m listening to some music and studying when I notice she has a “Soy un Dorito” shirt on. I was so excited and then suddenly, Sherlock started playing. It was drama-like fate.

EYK: Did you become bestest best friends? I hope so!




The promised fanart for EYK! 😀





Looking at examples like these clearly demonstrates the value of participation and engagement to both fans and the object of the fandom. I hope to demonstrate this relationship on the EYK Compendium, and maybe add to or amplify the role of this relationship within the culture of Eat Your Kimchi.

Net Museums Pt 2: DeviantArt

Last week I made some observations of Pokemon fan art of, as well as making some observations about the communication style on the site and comparing them with my own experience of Tumblr. As I mentioned last week, these observations are slight, and by no means exhaustive or indicative of how the websites in question operate in relation to fan art on a large scale. These observations merely reflect my personal experience and ability to navigate the sites.

So with that disclaimer out of the way, into this weeks website: DeviantArt! To be quite honest, I have only visited the site a handful of times, and never before have I specifically sought out Pokemon related fan art for auto-ethnographical purposes.  For anyone unfamiliar, DeviantArt, LLC is an online community showcasing various forms of user-made artwork, first launched on August 7, 2000 by Scott Jarkoff, Matthew Stephens, Angelo Sotira and others. deviantArt, Inc. is headquartered in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, California, United States.The site aims to provide a platform for any artist to exhibit and discuss works. Works are organised into categories including photography, digital art, traditional art, literature, Flash, filmmaking, skins for applications to name a few.

Like I did with Elfwood, keyword searched “Pokemon” and brought up a host of results.

The first thing I noticed was the difference in standard of artwork that was produced upon searching the term. Most of the artwork that I found  seemed to be digital art, or art that has been edited/enhanced digitally with visual art software, like Photoshop as opposed to hand sketched, then scanned and uploaded. GIFs and info graphics were also present and often included humour or incorporated elements of fan fiction or fan theories into the work. As I was scrolling, I noticed quite a few artworks that I had seen posted or reflagged on Tumblr, which suggests sharing of material across websites and platforms. One particular image I came across was a fan’s impression of a Tumblr -inspired poke ball which I had seen reflagged on my Tumblr wall a while ago.

The main comparison to be made between DeviantArt and Elfwood for me is the size of each website. DeviantArt evidently has a much larger user base than that of Elfwood, and thus the range and quality and quantity of Pokemon related fan art and fiction is much greater. Both sites however serve as a platform for fans of the Pokemon franchise to share their experiences and creative talents in ways that foster creativity and interaction between users. Like Tumblr, people share their both their work and their options with like minded users.


deviantART, I. (2014). deviantART, Inc.: Private Company Information – Businessweek. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Oct. 2014].

Net Museums Pt 1: Elfwood

So last post I proposed that I would make a comparison between a few of the websites where fan art emerges and comparing them with my own experience of By giving a brief overview of my findings, I hope to gain a better insight into how Pokemon fans communicate online and whether there is any distinct difference in the form of communication between sites. The fan art and communities that spring up online is as diverse as it is fascinating, as is the ways in which people discuss and discover in online environments. I took a trip to, to observe the types of art and communication on each site and aim to compare these differences with the observations I have already made of Tumblr. I have decided to split the observation of these sites across two weeks, otherwise this post with be much too long. It must be noted that these are merely surface-level observations, and I’m sure if given the time, a much deeper and richer understanding of online fan culture could be gained from a more thorough comparative analysis of online fan art communities.

I’d only heard of Elfwood in passing conversation with people, and had not visited the site until this week. For those of you who are unfamiliar, May 1st 1996 was the day Elfwood saw the light of day. Created by a man named Thomas Abrahamsson, the original name of the project was Lothlorien and mainly focused on high fantasy art made by amateurs. On Elfwoods first day it held art from three artist, and Thomas being one of them. Today,  small team of people in Swedish people run the website and the site is owned by the company Usify AB. The site is a mixture now of amateur fan art, photos and fan fiction, or stories written mostly my amateur writers. A quick search for “Pokemon” turned up 604 results, with 601 images and 3 stories. I clicked on a work of Articuno was posted near the top and read through the comments. Articuno is a legendary ice/flying type Pokemon that can be found in the Seafoam Islands in Pokemon red, Blue and Yellow, and this particular artwork of the Pokemon seemed to have been a digital creation.

To summarise in a qualitative manner, the comment section consisted mostly of badly spelled, grammatically incorrect praise for the work put into the picture, along with affirmations of the fan’s love of Articuno/Pokemon in a general sense. There were very few negative comments on that post, which for me reiterated the excitement and genuine interest fans of the genre felt towards the franchise and other amateur artists. It is difficult to tell the age and location of the commenters, but for Elfwood users it doesn’t seem to matter. The picture of Articuno th in a sense, became a symbol for me of the Pokemon franchise’s international successes a vehicle for both non-verbal and verbal communication.

What Interested me most about the site was the range and quality of the Pokemon fan art, with the inclusion of uploads of pencil sketches and hand coloured pictures along side digital artworks. The site is moderated by a “trusted member of the Elfwood team” and has seemed to have made a point of trying to feature a diverse range of artworks in the site. This site seems much smaller and more of a niche audience than Tumblr, catering specifically to amateur fan fiction and art. I feel as though it is harder  on Elfwood to generate discussion among fans than it is on Tumblr, whether this is due to the seemingly smaller user base of the site in comparison to Tumblr, or perhaps it is because of the inability to reblog or share other users works, as is the case with Tumblr.


Pokemon Fan Art as an Online Phenomenon

I found a real interesting article by a scholar named Marjoris Cohee titled “From Amateur to Framauteur: Art Development of Adolescents and Young Adults Within an Interest-Based Community. (2012)” The article describes the role that online fan art communities play in the  “developmental progression of adolescents and young adults within the cultural context of an interest-based community.”  Choee discusses a number of aspects that shape teen interactions with fandom in particular the role of narrative and sociocultural community to the development of  artistic ability. The article is quite broad in its discussion of online fan communities, as Cohee explores a plethora of concepts that describe how fan artists interact and develop in an online environment.

I found myself reading the article and applying each concept she described to the Pokemon fan art and artists I have discovered on over the course of this subject.

What was most interesting for me was Cohee’s comments on amateur artists as ‘copyists”:New fans who were not otherwise proficient art makers repeated the attractive image over and over, practicing an exactness of its appearance as a way of holding the object of admiration close and absorbing or assimilating its desirable aspect into their own persona.

I have found myself doing this (with the Pokemon Mew) as I strive to achieve an image that actually resembles how I picture Mew in my head. I find myself trying to achieve that “WOW” factor that Cohee sites from Jenkins 2006 work of fan culture.

I was also interested by Cohee’s remark on belonging to fan communities and the sense of similarity that amateurs often seek with their fellow fan artists. Cohee refers to sites such as Fan Central, Elfwood and DeviantArt. Perhaps for my next post, it would be interesting to do a comparison between how Pokemon Fan artists communicate on one or two of these hubs and contrast them with my own experience of Tumblr.


Manifold, M.C. 2012, “From Amateur to Framauteur: Art Development of Adolescents and Young Adults Within an Interest-Based Community”, Studies in Art Education, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 37-53.

Tumblr, Fanart and Immersion

A little late on the week 5 post, I know, but I’ve been super busy this week arting. Yes, arting is now a verb. I figured if I’m going to be focusing my auto-ethnography on Pokemon fan art, then I might as well immerse myself in the subject and actually have a go at making some of my own fan art, which is something I’ve never done. 

I’m not an artist by any means, but I do like to draw. The last time I did an art class was in year 10, and I haven’t really picked up a pencil (or paintbrush) since.This past week I’ve managed to do a few drawings of some of my childhood favourites and I will be posting these on my DIGC330 Tumblr blog/digital artefact


My first attempt at making fan art :’)


Without looking at any academic literature and based solely on this past week’s experience, I’m starting to understand why people might invest so much time and energy into creating amazing fan art; It’s fun! I feel that making art somehow immerses you into the Pokemon world in a way that the games can’t. As I’ve been sketching Pikachu, Mew and Dawn (from the anime series) I feel as though with each pencil line, I am translating my experience of the character into some sort of visual language, something that then other artists or fans of the Pokemin universe will be able to comprehend . Since beginning this excercise, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the time and effort that goes into making Pokemon artwork, because, not gonna lie, I’ve spent more than a few hours trying to make art myself!

I’d like to explore this more over the next few weeks and maybe have a look at a few of the genres and mediums used in Pokemon art and see if this says anything significant about the way  people interact with or perceive Pokemon content.