The Japanese media industry is brilliant at doing huge franchise work that saturates the imagination of its audience. Ito has called this the ‘media mix’ where media like pokemon or Yugioh! appear in a number of media platforms in a very transmedia way (TV, film, games, etc) as well as broader goods (pencil cases, etc), but importantly no single source dominates the rest. You can be a huge fan of Pokemon, but maybe you’ve never played the DS game etc. Also, they’re what Ito calls hypersocial – they require the audience to be active and engaged with the goods – swapping information with friends, battling with friend in the game, etc.
Well a great recent example of this is the new Gundam anime series which focuses on the plastic model kits. Kotaku ran an article on it earlier here.
Of course, Gundam has always been one of the best examples of a long lasting anime ‘media mix’. With its anime, games, movies, model kits, etc. So maybe the surprising thing is how long it took for a Gundam anime to revolve around building little plastic Gundam models. Of course it does get a little bit more interesting than this with a type of pokemon battle that you then do between your models and those of others.