Month: August 2017

IRON CHEF

So, I’ve decided that I love cooking and eating too much, and have decided to pursue the two in a video series for my independent project. Here, I watch the Japanese show Iron Chef, and compare it to Australian and American cooking shows. Enjoy!

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Hatoful Boyfriend

I’ve never had much experience with digital games, especially ones of Asian descent. Which is why this is an area I wish to explore for my independent research project.

Initially my idea was to analyse the well-known game ‘dance dance revolution’ however, I found it almost impossible to get. The download.jpggame has slowly died out due to the introduction of new technologies, such as X-box Kinect where sensors don’t require the classic dance pad anymore (and without a dance pad what’s the point?). Nowadays the game is almost strictly found at game arcades. Unfortunately, my closest arcade is located an hour away from where I live. Too far to dedicate an hour a day, which was my initial goal.

From this I was stuck and was almost about to turn to Pacman but was instead recommended a game called ‘Hatoful Boyfriend.’ The game is a 2011 Japanese visual novel video game that is known for being vastly different. It’s based on the story of a human who attends an elite high school for talented birds.  As the only human in attendance, the game focuses on the in-depth stories and relationships that they share with classmates and teachers.

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To be honest I didn’t do much research on the game before I played it. One thing I did research was ‘strangest Japanese video games‘ and surprise, surprise ‘Hatoful Boyfriend’ was number one. From this I knew I needed to play this game.

I downloaded the game from the Apple App Store for $14.99. The game was downloaded onto my laptop, however, if I were to get it on my phone it would have cost me $8.99. Thinking it might have been easier to play on a larger device I decided to spend the extra $5.99 (I do not recommend this). Pretty quickly, it was up and running and I was able to begin my new life as a simple human trying to find a pigeon boyfriend.

The game introduces you to a number of different characters, both students and teachers. As an added feature the game gives you the option to see these characters in bird form and in human form – is this meant to make it less creepy? Who knows? You follow the storyline until you find out which bird you end up with. Throughout the game you are given options that lead you to alternative paths ultimately deciding which bird boyfriend you end up with. All up there are eight potential boyfriends. To name a few there is the mysterious French transfer student, the childhood friend, the popular upper-class guy and the quiet introvert.

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I’m not going to lie, the game gets boring quickly. Unless you’re invested in the storyline it’s not very entertaining. All up it took me over an hour to finish. You have the option of skipping through text which is a helpful hack if you are playing the game for a second time. Despite the entertainment level, the concept of a visual novel is very cool. The graphics are also extremely beautiful. Each persona is done with traditional Japanese anime characteristics as you can see below:

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While the game itself is not ground-breaking, or something I would even play again, it definitely has me intrigued in the concept of visual novels. Before this game I hadn’t heard of them nor experienced one. This had me asking the questions: How popular are visual novels? Which countries are they popular in? How successful are they? Is it a thing of the future? These questions I hope to explore further in my independent research project.

Through this experience my whole topic for my digital artefact has shifted. Now instead of just exploring Asian game culture I have decided to focus on the impact of visual novels on different societies/ cultures. At the moment my plan is to present my found data in the form of a research essay. I look forward to applying this experience to the background research I will be conducting in my next blog post.

Stay tuned!

Femininity in Japanese Anime.

Growing up I had always had an interest in Asian culture, specifically anime.
In other words, I am this kid:

Not really, but I understand his enthusiasm. 

Just like any child my age I loved watching cartoons and the way each character had its own individual style and personality.
In fact, I remember favouring certain cartoons over others based on their aesthetic quality e.g. ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog‘ > ‘Cow and Chicken‘.
I remember eagerly anticipating Cartoon Cartoon Fridays with my siblings. On a few occasions we spent the whole day in our pyjamas, eyes glued to the TV.
Disgusting, I know.

When I was around 11 I started watching anime that would appear on TV such as Sailor Moon and Mew Mew Power.
Prior to them the only cartoon I had ever watched that was relatively ‘Asian’ was ‘Samurai Jack‘ which is for starters, an American animated television series.
The difference in styles between these animations was pretty distinct; the Japanese animations were beautiful and noticeably more detailed and seemed carefully thought out, where each character had their own unique theme that distinguished them from the others. The animations I was used to were more simplified and were often not depicted in a fantasy world. 

 

One night, when I was 12, Hayao Miyazaki’s animated movie ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) came on TV. Immediately I was captivated. Everything from the music to the clothing, the architecture, the way the people were depicted and the food, it was all so unfamiliar to me, and that was why I loved it so much.
For me, they were the most lifelike cartoons I had ever seen. Compared to the anime TV shows I had previously watched, Miyazaki’s characters did not have the typical ‘big-eyed, anime look‘. I remember thinking how mysterious and brooding, yet feminine, the character Haku was (in my 12 year old, pre-pubescent mind I would have probably described him differently). I also really liked the character Lin (Rin) who is cold and unmotherly to the main character, Chihiro, at first but then eventually warms up to her. I thought that was unusual of a female character to be that way to a young girl, but I liked it as it taught Chihiro to be independent and strong. 

After viewing these Japanese animations I was intrigued by them.

Looking back on the films I grew up watching as a child, the disparity between Disney films and Studio Ghibli films was noticeable, particularly in relation to the portrayal of femininity. 

Out of the studio Ghibli productions I have only watched ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997), ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) and ‘Howls Moving Castle’ (2004). However, despite my limited exposure to Miyazaki’s films, I noticed the portrayal of strong, powerful female characters whose actions would either result in the demise or triumph of their male counterparts e.g. Chihiro and Haku, No-Face and Chihiro, Sophie and Howl. They are ‘complicated, flawed and independent figures.’ Prior to this, the majority of animated films I watched were quite different, with the male typically rescuing the female from her seemingly doomed existence e.g. Cinderalla, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel etc. I think this is because such films revolve primarily around romance and the prospect of marriage, especially the older Disney films. Studio Ghibli seems to portray the lead male and female characters as equals with a mutual respect for one another.

In Miyazaki’s films, the female leads  have separate stories from the male leads, stories that usually highlight their independence, power and intelligence. After recently watching ‘Princess Mononoke’ and reflecting on ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Howls Moving Castle’, the female villains (Lady Eboshi, Yubaba and Witch of the Waste) are portrayed as powerful and intimidating characters. However, their story lines are explored and, consequently, reveal them as complex characters with understandable reasons behind their actions. So what does this do to traditional notions of femininity? It expands them, and creates characters with more dimension and less stereotypes attached to them.

I am also really interested in the notion of cosplay and I additionally want to explore femininity in cosplay and how participants choose to interpret a character in a certain way through their costumes; does it make them feel empowered and confident? What made them decide to cosplay this particular anime? Do they admire these characters?
I am attending the Sydney Comic Con this year in September so I hope to answer these questions there.
I also want to visit the ‘anime station‘ and ‘artist alley‘ to look at how femininity is represented.

For this reason, I am interested in pursuing an independent research project in the form of an essay based on notions of femininity in anime; from films and art to how these animations are translated to real-life scenarios through cosplay.
Contacting online fan clubs to initiate discussion on this topic would also be beneficial and interesting to my research.
To provide more background on my research I may also look at the historical depictions of females in Japanese styles of art and literature.

 

Not Just For The Broke Uni Student Anymore

i am conor oleary

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I have to admit I did a good bit of flip-flopping around about my digital artefact.  At the beginning of the semester I thought I knew what I wanted to look at; the way that Japan more or less stole aspects of American culture to make it their own (Denim/ Workwear, Cuisine, Jazz… etc.).  It was a matter that I had looked into in previous subjects, but the more I considered the assignment at hand the more I knew I needed to move towards a different topic.

That brought me to the humble instant noodles.

Noodles… Asia… Great, how very original.  I get it, it doesn’t seem like a massive leap towards any real cultural experience or immersion, but I think in some ways that’s the point I’m trying to make.  A true Asian experience (at least culinary) doesn’t have to be this far reaching thing, but is readily available.

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Shinto traditions portrayed through modern anime films

krisesandchrosses

I have always had a fascination with Japanese shrines and temples. It always intrigued me as to how Japanese faith and Christian faith could be so different, yet had the same principals such as prayer, reflection and spirituality.

I wanted to explore a topic such as religion with the focus on spirituality as I had an unusual spiritual journey throughout my own life.

Born to one parent who was of Greek Orthodox faith and one who was Catholic, it was a difficult choice to baptise me in the Catholic church. My family has always had a contentious relationship with the Greek Church as my mother is not Greek but my father is. To compromise, their first child would be baptised into the Greek church. However, not without one last act of defiance, in which I was not baptised into the Greek church properly.

christening-photographer-sydney-G1Greek Orthodox Church in Sydney. Source

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Hatsune Mik-who?

From day one of this subject I knew that I was more than excited to research into Hatsune Miku and the entire concept of who she is and why she exists.

I’ve been fairly interested in the entire concept of holographic idols in Japan ever since I began this degree. However, my interest always sat at me thinking it was exciting and revolutionary, whereas this subject has definitely opened my eyes to the very real issues and social panic that come up due to the influences of this holographic obsession.

In case you have actually been living under a rock and don’t know who Hatsune is, she’s a humanoid persona in Japan. She performs as an animated projection hologram and is voiced using a synthesizer application created by Crypton Future Media. Her name actually was made by combining the two Japanese words for first (hatsu), sound ( ne) and future (ミク miku). Meaning her name is “the first sound of the future” which makes sense seeing as she was the first part of Crypton’s “Character Vocal Series”.

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It’s insane to realise that Hatsune is a huge trend in Japan. She has toys and endless amounts of merchandise as well as literally selling out stadiums for her concerts where thousands of people watch a hologram perform for hours. She is adored by the majority and while it seems exciting and fairly innocent, there are definitely some issues that come along with this.

My experience with Hatsune began a while back when I was very much involved in the anime world and fandoms online. Friends I had made online started introducing me to her music without actually telling me she was the holographic animation that she was. And instantly I was hooked, and playing her music all day every day while thinking how great her and her voice was. So then I looked her up on youtube, and found myself watching a video of her performing at a concert. There and then I realised I had been praising an animation for the past few weeks and adoring a synthesized voice.

Linking this to what I was learning in my digital media studies, I instantly starting thinking, is this an issue? Should I be worried that I’m so heavily invested in the music of a hologram? Should I be questioning the fact that she sells out stadiums?

I think the first thing I realised when looking into Hatsune, was how this relates greatly to the downfall of population in Japan. Already in the last 5 years, Japans population has fallen by 1 million and is projected to fall to about 83 million by 2100. Researchers are almost certain it atleast will fall somewhere below 100 million. Now this drop can be explained by a few things however we can’t ignore the social panic towards the lack of human interaction in Japan and other Asian countries which can be influenced by the demand towards “fake” personalities or holographic idols. As most of us know, Asia is well ahead in technology than we are, quite specifically when it comes to mimicking human connections. Holographic entities aren’t new to Japan, in fact they’re very common and are always becoming more and more normalized.

It was only a few weeks ago that I found a post on facebook advertising a “friend” you could buy in Japan, she is a holographic animation stored in a little box. She can text you, talk to you and comfort you the way a friend would. You can hook her up to your phone and have her text you all day long, receiving warm, friendly and relatively emotional responses. This devise is called the GateBox. The goal of the creators was to give people the opportunity to “live with their favourite character” but it’s clear that it’s unintentionally caused some other concerns.  (Feel free to click this if you’re interesting in learning more)

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The main concern is if this will replace human contact or the demand for human connections. I never really considered this a concern until I realised how badly Japans population was dropping. This can definitely be somewhat explained due to people having a lack of human connections, never meeting a partner and therefore not producing offspring. I personally refuse to believe that humans will never need that face to face connection. We are smart enough as a species to know it is vital and necessary, at least even a little bit. However I won’t lie and say that I am slightly worried to how common these “friends” are getting. It’s interesting to watch my opinions change the more I read about them.. and I expect my opinions to keep changing the more I look into it. I’m excited to see where I end up and what my conclusion will be regarding my thoughts on this phenomenon in Japan.

I plan on working my final project around this, I just need to figure out exactly what angle I want to work it. Possibly maybe even a review? A personal experience? If I can manage to get my hands on the Gatebox, or something with a similar concept then I can record my own experience and document my opinions over time, assuming I would be involved with it for a few weeks. That’s the plan. I have already explored the world of video and podcast quite a bit during my degree, so the next task will be deciding what media platform to use. Hopefully I will have this all sorted and ready to propose to you all next week!

 

 

 

 

Pale Beauty – Izel

I am undeniably fortunate to have experienced what I have in some of the countries within beautiful Asia. First of all (if my name doesn’t bluntly give it away) I’m half Turkish; which although is technically part of both Europe and Asia, is geographically more Asian. I visited family there twice when I was very young, unfortunately since then I’ve lost that connection, however I still have many memories and experiences that have made a pretty large impact on my life and the way I view things.

 I was also lucky enough to do exchange in China for 4 and a half months in 2016, followed by a month travel in India and two weeks in Sri Lanka. I can’t describe how lucky I was to have met the amazing friends I did along the way and how much I learnt from them; about themselves, their country and their culture. Finally, as a common holiday destination for Australians, I have been to Indonesia on multiple family trips. I learnt so much across all these countries that I could easily fall back on for my autoethnographic research project, but the point was to focus on something you knew nothing about. Now that I reflect, one thing that was common in all those countries (except Turkey) that I never really investigated was the desire for whiter skin.

I still remember when I first discovered the trend for myself in Bali when I was young. It was 30 plus degrees and I was suffocating in the heat and melting in sweat while the local women were casual in their jeans and long sleeve sweaters.  Being a shy kid I asked mum first; and, trying to teach me to no longer be shy, she told me to ask them myself. “Aren’t you hot? Why are you wearing long pants and a long shirt?” The woman I’d chosen to ask laughed at me and lifted the sleeve of her sweater revealing a distinctive contrast in skin tones amplified at the wrist where her sweater reached. “I want skin like this” she said pointing to the previously covered lighter flesh, then she pointed to me “skin like yours, so beautiful and white.” My turn to laugh, “No way, I want a tan!”

I never really questioned it from then on, I always viewed it as something mum used to tell me, “We always want what we can’t have”. Like in Primary School when I wanted my friend’s curly hair and she wanted my straight hair. Little did I know then that the beauty and status associated with pale skin in Asian culture is a tradition that dates much, much, further back than the Australian culture of tanning.

So, as you’d suspect by now I’ve decided for my Authoethnographic research to learn about the history of skin whitening in Asia. Although the previous story was in Bali I’ve decided to specifically focus on India and China and a single skin whitening brand for each. I chose these two countries specifically because I have friends I can contact there who can help me identify what the most popular brand is. From there (with my background research) I will search for and experience advertisements to see how they promote the product, and try the product out for myself.

My friend in China explained that although she doesn’t use skin whitening herself, all her friends use Olay, SK-II and L’Oréal because “they are not so expensive and the quality is good.” These are all brands recognisable in Australia and shouldn’t be so hard to come by; for this research project, I’ll focus on just Olay as representative skin whitening brand for China.

When I asked my friend in India what the most popular product was, she suggested Fair and Lovely. This product is new to me and so far, but I’ve managed to order it for less than $15. A few advertisements for each product are accessible on youtube and honestly, I’m kind of weirded out by how excited I am to find out more on the subject, such as how far it dates back, and if it causes any harm to your skin.

I think this is going to be exciting and interesting studying using autoethnographic practices on a cultural tradition that is polar opposite to what I’ve known and practice myself.

The current state of dating in Japan

In search of a topic for my autoethnographic study, I was toying with ideas around the significance of dolls in Japanese culture. Naturally, this lead me to become absolutely perplexed by the rising popularity of sex dolls as an alternative to human companionship. As I read blogs and and listened to interviews, I found myself face by an even more interesting issue, that being the reasons why such a trend has developed in Japan and the subsequent current state of dating in Japan.

As a 23 year old girl, dating has been a significant part of my adolescence. If I’m being completely honest, throughout my schooling years I would have been labelled as “boy crazy”. The dating landscape for a Sydney private school girl of the age of 16 were altogether too complex for anyone to remain unscathed and it was through the politics of these experiences that we, or I, learned how better to navigate dating in the adult world.

More often than not, it would be my school friends in tears over a broken heart than the boys of our train group. While steeped in generalisations, it was oft thought that the boys had the power in this treacherous game of dating. As we looked out the window to see if the Newington boys got on at Redfern, they would waltz on the train with their sports bags and suffocating stench of Lynx Africa. A bizarre, yet important signifier of said power.

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The devil wears Lynx Africa

Fastforward seven years and we find ourselves in a world of Tinder, Bumble and Grindr; a country obsessed romance and dating. Unlike of course, that of Japan who, as a country, have been described as a place where “romance is on the rocks“.

In a podcast called My date with a doll man in Japan, Steve Chao from Al Jazeera’s 101 East examines the state of dating in the country of Japan. Over a third of young Japanese have never been in a relationship and nor do they intend to be. The majority of this number are men, with the buzz term ‘”herbivore man” coining these men who as young, shy and who show no interest in romance or of course, human flesh as the term would suggest.

Throughout the podcast, the interview subjects speak of strong feelings of a lack of confidence, understanding and acceptance from women in the dating game. They speak very strongly of past relationships and their very real fear of rejection. To an extent, my 16 year old self could very much understand these feelings.

For Japanese men, these feelings have a profound effect and in course lead them to prefer superficial relationships. An example is provided where two men visit a cafe where waitresses dress like maids and this pleases them as their job as waitresses is to be less judgemental and accepting, subsequently making the men feel more at ease.

Another subject, Hiroyuki Nomura was a 51 year old man with a 25kg silicone sex doll dressed as an anime character, as his companion. While he would not categorise the relationship as one of boyfriend and girlfriend, the traits of the relationship appeared to be conventionally similar. Nomura too speaks of this concern for power as he says the relationship “is not a power relationship. I think that people choose dolls because reality is harsh”. The reality of real life dating, the fear of rejection and I assume, the power of women in the dating landscape, is what I assumed he meant by ‘harsh reality’.

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 4.36.17 pm.pngMazayki Ozaki putting his silicone doll to bed

After hearing Nomura’s interview, it was obvious that Japanese culture and their love for anime characters was quite unlike my own culture. However, the issue of dating in Japan was much more complicated than that.

During the podcast I learned that many of these dolls had strong girlish features, as that was the demand. Many Japanese men are said to be disappointed by women and that dolls have a healing quality and are able to make their owners smile. These ‘herbivore men’ believe that married people are unhappy. The perceived reason for this is that now women work side by side with men, they have become rivals. Furthermore, the Japanese economy is in decline, resulting in overwhelming feels of emasculation for the men of Japan. Subsequently feeding the power balance that they already perceive to exist. As a result , their population is in dramatic decline and the Government is contributing substantial funding to matchmaking schemes around the country.

As a 23 year old woman in a relationship, I found this all very difficult to understand. I had never once considered dating to be so political, nor so tied to the economy and the workforce. As a female, I will never be able to understand how this leads to such incredible feelings of emasculation and unworthiness and how this is resulting in men turning away from romantic, even human, relationships. However, I look forward to engaging in more research to obtain a better understanding of the reasons why these men feel the way that they do.

Mongolian Hiphop

Whilst I have been approaching this subject with some trepidation in regards to research projects, I am actually quite keen to be doing this assignment. I was worried about what to do, how to approach this ethnographic research project considering I have not had much exposure to media outside of my own western media influence. I am a white, middle class suburban girl who hasn’t had much of an inclination to explore much of the asian cultures outside of food and maybe some things that are just by chance. My understanding of ‘Asia’ is that it is a vast and broad area of study. Many countries are included in Asia, and I wanted to choose one that maybe wasn’t an obvious choice. Mongolia came to mind immediately, although it was because of the Disney movie Mulan that I even thought of it.

Mongolia is more than a Disney movie, obviously. I cannot remember where the thought of Mongolian hiphop came from, but I had heard about it recently and it just struck me as something I could explore. Trying to find Mongolian music though… Not as easy as I thought. Spotify? Nope. Youtube? Yeah, but I found that I would actually need a basic understanding of whether the language the music video was in was actually Mongolian. Google translate is going to have to be used frequently if I am to make sure what I’m listening to is actually Mongolian. I did a quick search of Mongolian hiphop and found a good resource of names to look up through a piece on the documentary ‘Mongolian Bling’. The documentary is something I will buy to watch, because it is not that readily available in Australia. But from this documentary information I found some people to start my Mongolian hiphop journey.

The artists Enkhtaivan, Quiza, Digital and Tatar have been my first venture into this cultural phenomenon. My experience with listening to them have been only through youtube, and I will admit I had to check on google twice to make sure that they were actually Mongolian, because there’s no translate function in youtube (which I feel like there should be). I want to make sure that what I’m listening to is actually what I have intended on finding. The first song I listened to after I searched “Mongolian Hiphop” into google ( I know, very imaginative) was a song from the film “Time of the Middle Emperor”, and the song is ‘Mongol’ by the Mongolian rap band Fish Symbolled Stamp. One of the things that stood out to me is the title of the youtube video is “Mongolian Traditional Music Throat & Long Song (Mongolian Rap Hip Hop)”. So from this I can already tell that the selling point for music like this, is not the band but the idea of the Mongolian throat singing with rap music is more exciting for those who aren’t of the culture. Listening to the song, I was hooked. I loved it. I showed my mum, and she loved it. It’s throaty, it’s raw and it’s so different from the music we hear in on the radio in Australia. This is something that is so different, but so similar in a way. The beat is catchy and makes you want to move but the words and the way that the artists sing and spit their words makes you feel like you’re in another world. The way that the traditional throat singing is sewn into the song is a stunning mixture of traditional and modern culture. 

Mongolian hiphop to me makes me so aware of the fact I am so uneducated with outside cultures. I don’t understand the language, and I am sure the themes of the videos and music are important, and I won’t immediately understand the significance of them together. Through this project I want to be able to find a way to understand and relate to the content, and enjoy it while I do it.

The goal of this project is to eventually have an understanding of the cultural significance of Mongolian hiphop in a modern Mongolia, the reach it has in the wider global community and explain how I relate and engage with the material I am researching. I want to explore it, and I want to explore how I engage with the music as a cultural event and a media. I will endeavour to explore how the use of which platforms I use to watch and listen to this music changes my experience and how the cultural significance of the music changes with how you listen to it and from where you find it. 

 

Aljazeera.com. (2017). Mongolia’s hip hop rappers. [online] Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2012/10/201210483547210889.html

Mongolian Traditional Music Throat & Long Song (Mongolian Rap Hip Hop). (2014). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8h_hS0d4vqg [Accessed 29 Aug. 2017].