“I've been having these weird thoughts lately...”

Conspiratorial hermeneutics and reflexive depictions of fan practices in the Kingdom Hearts franchise


  • Dean Bowman Norwich University of the Arts


Kingdom Hearts, Cosplay, Transmedia Storytelling, Fan Studies, Otaku, Media Mix


This paper draws on the theory of mastermind narration developed by M.J. Clarke in the context of prestige television dramas with highly complex non-linear narratives and inconsistent characters (Clarke, 2012) to offer a reading of the Kingdom Hearts (Square Enix, 2002-) franchise in light of postmodern practices of textual consumption characteristic of current fandoms, such as those explored by Henry Jenkins (2006) and Matt Hills (2002), but also addressing Japanese theorist Hiroki Azuma’s (2009) work around the notion of the Otaku. I argue that the series’ significant deviation from Disney’s traditional approach to narrative (Wasko 2001) indicates a desire for the corporation to explore radical new forms of textual production and to negotiate emerging fan consumption practices within the safe environment of a controlled and licensed text. Just as cultural theorists like Clarke and Anne Allison (2006) argue that a textual product can often contain traces that reflect its wider conditions of production, I propose that the Kingdom Hearts franchise can be read allegorically as an extended experiment by Disney into new forms of collaborative storytelling.

Author Biography

Dean Bowman, Norwich University of the Arts

Dean is a scholar specialising in the fields of narratology, cultural studies, production studies and game studies. He teaches theory on the TIGA award winning Games Art and Design course at the Norwich University of the Arts. He has a PhD from the University of East Anglia analysing innovative storytelling in the indie games sector and has book chapters in Rerolling Board Games by McFarland Press, Crank It Up! Jason Statham by Manchester University Press and Gender in James Bond by Emerald Press. He lives in Norwich with his collections of Synthwave records and board games.


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