Holding Out For A Hiro
by Henry Jenkins — Massachusetts Institute of Technology
October 24, 2006 – 18:51
Hiro Nakamura, salary man, otaku, “superhiro,” superfan, has emerged as the most popular character on NBC’s new Heroes. Here are a few reasons why.
Hiro represents a role model for the series fans, who are more apt to recognize themselves in his giddy excitement, goofy enthusiasms and recurring references to Godzilla, Star Trek, Kitty Pride, and Peter Parker, than in the depressed and anxious responses of the other characters. Fans in American popular media are often represented as immature, out of touch with reality, and psychotic, yet Hiro is so far one of the few characters who grasps the big picture and he does so because he reads comics. Pay attention to the advertisement for X-Ray specs he flips past here, a reminder of the empowerment and transformation fantasies comics have long offered readers.
Hiro enjoys the power to cross cultural borders. Hiro embodies Japanese “soft power” — that is, the global influence of Japanese cultural goods. By some estimates, manga outsells American comics by a 4 to 1 margin in the United States market. (Similarly, Mohinder Surresh appears on the show at a moment when India is engaged in a concerted effort to open the American market to its own comics and animation.) What do people make of the use of a Bhangra-inflected score underneath the scenes of Hiro running through Manhattan?
Hiro also enjoys the power to cross media borders. NBC chose this character as the first person narrator of a fictional blog that provides back story for the series. Just as he can read about his own experiences in 9th Wonders, fans can read more about his back story by reading online comics at the official NBC website, one of Heroes’ many extension strategies.
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