Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Collect them all!

With reference to our discussion in class around TV merchandising, this clip from South Park hilariously addresses the cult around Pokemon toys. In the episode Chinpokomon (season 3, episode 11), Cartman is brainwashed by the Chinpokomon TV show into acquiring all its collectibles. He pleads with his mom to take him to the store, only to find that all the other kids from town have already got their hands on the toys. The episode posits this as a culturally inflected phenomenon,  portraying the Japanese as particularly efficient at whipping up consumerist frenzy. Anxieties around possible geopolitical shifts play out in and through the domain of popular culture as the massive explosion of objects and hypnotic quality of the Chinpokomon broadcasts threatens to subjugate unsuspecting American children into aligning with a foreign power. This sets the stage for revisiting history as Japan plans to bomb Pearl Harbour once again with its newly-minted recruits.

Ironically, the South Park creators went on to develop an RPG game based on the episode called The Stick of Truth where players go on a quest to find 30 Chinpokomon. With objects like 'Shoe' and 'Fetuswami', the game both parodies and participates in the Pokemon-fuelled culture of consumption for its own sakeAccording to this gaming website, "Collecting all 30 will reward you with a friend request from the Chinpokomon Co-orperation, this is needed for the More Popular than John Lennon Trophy / Achievement. You will also unlock Poco Chinpoko and Chinpoko Loco on your way to the 30." Divorced completely from any notion of use value, the game highlights the absurdity of it all. 


  1. Hahaha. Thank you, Debjani, for the South Park connection. I forgot about the Chinpokomon Shoe. Going through the clips you provided reminded me how much Japanese anime culture and Japanese manga actually show up in South Park throughout the series. One storyline that was used in the show and incorporated into the game was Princess Kenny, where Kenny becomes a powerful anime princess in the Game of Thrones parody episodes.

    Princess Kenny:

    And again with the episode "Good Times with Weapons," where the boys, after buying weapons from a suspect vendor, roam about town pretending to be a clan of powerful ninjas and warriors. The episode cuts back and forth from the traditional cut-out style to a more stylized anime aesthetic.


  2. Yes, apparently Trey Parker majored in Japanese from University of Colorado and incorporates a lot of those influences in his work. 'Good Times with Weapons' is one of my favorite episodes (and was voted the 2nd best South Park episode by fans in a poll), and I love the nonsensical Engrish song 'Let's Fighting Love' that Trey composed for the episode. It also featured later in the South Park musical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VILgSsesD0

  3. Posts of this nature are always of interest to me largely because they tie into the phenomenon of database consumption, something that I talked about briefly in class (as if anyone remembers). The compulsion to understand the grand narrative of an entertainment experience has proven to be a surprisingly powerful motivator in influencing consumer decisions; probably the most popular manifestation of that today can be seen with the Marvel Comics Universe. Fans are rewarded for their fandom through a growing quilt of intertextual reference, which spirals off into a horrible incestuous pattern of insular self-reference that pumps hundreds of dollars out of the most devoted until they finally grow sick of it. If they do at all.