Entry updated 5 August 2020. Tagged: Author, Film.
(1942- ) Japanese producer, director, poet and businessman, instrumental in many prominent movie releases and publishing fads of the 1980s and 1990s. His early successes in the family firm, Kadokawa Shoten (a market leader in sf and many other genres), included a decision to publish Ties to American movies far ahead of the cinema release, beginning with Eric Segal's Love Story (1970, trans as Aru Ai no Shi 1971). Arguably, he arrived in the movie business backwards, after realizing that Cinema releases based on his company's own books would lead to each advertising the other. As such, he is remembered, partly through his own self-commemoration, as one of the pioneers of the synergistic strategies of what is now called the media mix or contents industry.
Kadokawa's dabblings in the movie world have met with wildly mixed success. As producer, his Fukkatsu no Hi (1981 vt Virus) was a flop. His edgier achievements include his exploitation of mae-uri ["pre-selling"], a marketing tactic in the Japanese media to aggressively push advance sales of cinema tickets to augment opening-day attendances. In the hands of Kadokawa and his rivals, this was industrialized to ludicrous levels, with tickets handed out in lieu of bonuses to company employees, or pushed on colleagues as compulsory obligations for continued business. The critic and reader might like to contemplate the implications of a Media Landscape in which a single company controls not only the film that plays to empty cinemas, but the Magazines that still report it as a roaring success. At the peak of such madness, the samurai epic Ten to Chi to ["Heaven and Earth"] (1990) cost six billion yen, but somehow pre-sold 4.8 million tickets, before anyone could see it. Kadokawa was also deeply influential on the company's continued support both of traditional prose sf and of lighter, more ephemeral fare linked to anime and computer Videogames; Newtype magazine, one of the leading journals of anime Fandom, began publication under his watch.
His tactics were less effective in the American market, where Ruby Cairo (1992 vt Deception), in which a man fakes his own death to conceal his smuggling lifestyle, failed to find a distributor. Shortly afterwards, Kadokawa was, perhaps unsurprisingly, himself indicted on cocaine smuggling charges, and served two-and-a-half years in prison. His incarceration generated intensely adverse publicity for the corporation that bore his name, caused Rex: Kyōryū Monogatari (1993 vt Rex: A Dinosaur Story) to be pulled from cinemas, and led to his dismissal, amid fears that the eccentricities of the company's self-styled "Manga generation" son would threaten its more lucrative blue-chip school textbook business.
Released from jail, Kadokawa seemingly still had the ability to find money somewhere, and embarked on numerous high-profile endeavours, including sailing a replica of Christopher Columbus's ship, and directing one of the iterations of Toki o Kakeru Shōjo (1997; vt The Girl Who Leapt Through Time). The Kadokawa company continued to work in the contents industry under the control of his younger brother Tsuguhiko, and can be found behind many landmark works of modern, fan-friendly Anime and its ties, such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (see Nagaru Tanigawa). Kadokawa's autobiography, Wa ga Tōsō: Furyō Seinen wa Sekai o Mezasu ["My Struggle: A Delinquent Youth Aims at the World"] (2005), has a title that deliberately recalls the Japanese translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (1925-1926), an allusion made in bad taste, but seemingly with a heartfelt appreciation of his inspiration's ability to manipulate the media and tell the largest of lies. It also features a fantastic cover by Annie Leibowitz, depicting its author in samurai armour on a Tokyo overpass, artfully imparting his flamboyant charm and playful vainglory. [JonC]
born Tokyo: 8 January 1942
- Wa ga Tōsō: Furyō Seinen wa Sekai o Mezasu ["My Struggle: A Delinquent Youth Aims at the World"] (Tokyo: East Press, 2005) [nonfiction: hb/Annie Leibowitz]
about the author
- Marc Steinberg, Anime's Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2012) [nonfiction: pb/Brad Norr Design]
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