Author: davidjkcarter

AUTHENTIC CULTURAL TOURISM & THE ‘REAL’ WORLD

I have just composed a post discussing cultural tourism in relation to Initial D and my travels to Japan. If any of you are studying a topic that you have either experienced first hand or that inspires fans to flock to a related location, I would suggest you check out the articles I have referenced. They are incredibly interesting and the topic of cultural tourism has a lot of meat to work with in relation to a wide variety of topics.

Initial Dave

Emerging relatively recently as an observable trend and relevant area of research, cultural tourism has rapidly reached the highest rank of popularity amongst contemporary special interest tourism (Petroman 2013). Broadly defined, cultural tourism refers to the movement of people to cultural attractions for the purpose of assimilating information and cultural experiences (Petroman 2013). When considered in relation to anime, sites of cultural tourism are largely constructed for the purpose of extending the life and value of the franchise, taking on wildly varied forms that range from theme parks to museums, but with a common commercial theme of consumerism (Denison 2010). In what seems to be a rare exception to this trend, Initial D has inspired what I believe to be a far more authentic form of cultural tourism, with the show’s geographical accuracy motivating physical pilgrimages that are neither controlled by those with…

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WHO CARES ABOUT ME, WHAT DO YOU THINK?!

As Anderson (2006) points out, it is easy for the reflexive autoethnographer to become self-absorbed in the pursuit of cultural understanding through the lens of personal experience. The prime purpose of all forms of ethnography is to cultivate understanding of complex social worlds, and as an autoethnographer playing participant-observer in an area of study, such as myself, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that they are but a part of these cultures (Atkinson et al 1999). Through a number of examples, Anderson (2006) makes it clear that analytic autoethnography is grounded in self-experience but must also reach beyond it in order to truly expand social knowledge and so as not to obscure diverse constituents of a community.

With this in mind, I’ve created a questionnaire that I will distribute amongst my peers in the drifting community in order to highlight possible gaps in my research or differing experiences with the Initial D franchise than my own. I’ve intentionally excluded the above academic justification of my practices for the purpose of accessibility, but am aware of the fact that my introduction to the questionnaire may still deter some participants, particularly those from the Japanese drifting community who do not speak English as a first language. The success of this exercise is yet to be seen, but I believe the attempt to expand my research has still been valuable, and I encourage any of you who’ve had encounters with the Initial D franchise to participate.

References:

Anderson, L 2006, ‘Analytic Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol.30, no.5, pp.373-395, accessed 17/9/2014, <http://jce.sagepub.com/content/35/4/373&gt;

Atkinson, P, Coffey, A & Delamont, S 1999, ‘Ethongraphy, Post, Past and Present’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol.28, no.5, pp.460-471, accessed 25/9/2014, <http://jce.sagepub.com/content/28/5/460&gt;

Atkinson 2006, ‘Rescuing Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol.35, no.4, pp.400-404, accessed 25/9/2014, <http://jce.sagepub.com/content/35/4/400.full.pdf&gt;

Initial Dave

As my research predominantly pursues personally reflexive authoethnography, I have been focusing solely on my own experiences with, and reactions to, the Initial D franchise. I have come to the realisation that the participant-observer perspective enabled by my personal participation in the drifting community whilst interesting, is not particularly unique, and could definitely be diversified by the input of other like-minded individuals. I may be able to articulate what I believe to be a representative analysis through my own experience, but the validity of such experience could be valuably verified and corroborated by YOUR contribution, valued reader.

To this end, I have composed a questionnaire that attempts to make accessible areas of my research through which you may offer your own autoethnographic analysis, hyperlinked where possible to pertinent posts that offer my analysis of the matter. This sounds much more formal than I intend it to be, as…

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WHO IS DAVE, WHAT IS HE RESEARCHING, AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?

In response to Chris’ request that we locate our work within autoethnographic theory, I have knocked up a post on my own blog that does so. Hopefully some of you find it useful, and if you find anything I can improve upon, by all means leave a comment in either location.

Initial Dave

Greetings valued reader, my name is Dave and I am fanatical about anything with a firing order, particularly automobiles. When offered the opportunity to autoethnographically research a topic of my choosing, I was quick to combine my passion for motorsport with the anime that has influenced an increasing inclination in my ever-inflating automotive infatuation: Initial D. Somewhat-accurately depicting drift culture, this animated series has become a cult classic in the drifting community, and as an active member of this community, I hope to at least begin unpacking features of the series that have fuelled the flames of fandom, but first, I feel I must explain the tool with which I plan to do so.

Ellis et al (2011) articulate the academic investigative method of autoethnography best through deconstruction; noting that such an approach to research and writing seeks to describe through analysis (graphy) personal experience (auto) in…

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OH SO BOUSOU: Japanese Outlaws & Digital Storytelling

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Japanese bosozoku culture has always been of great interest to me, with the wildly styled motorcycles and other vehicles representing something drastically different to any other form of automotive aesthetics. Akin to outlaw motorcycle gangs of other nations, bosozoku gangs are notorious for their rebellion against mainstream Japanese culture through the creation of public disturbance. This usually involves large groups of riders holding up traffic and generally disobeying road rules, all whilst revving their engines to create as much noise as possible.

Whilst regularly present on the streets of Japan, I would define bosozoku culture as peripheral to the mainstream, and the way in which their activities are digitally distributed through videos furthers the performative spectacle that they pursue. In this way, the bosozoku do not suffer from ‘voice poverty’ as discussed by Tacchi (2009), instead using digital storytelling to further showcase their performative rebellion. For this reason I believe that the bosozoku buck the trend described by Russo & Watkins (2005) of ‘digital literacy’ allowing peripheral communities to break free of an institutionalised cultural custodian, as this was already the goal of the bosozoku prior to the digital age, with digital media simply offering them another channel through which to do so.

What has been enabled by digital storytelling, however, is an insight in to the mindset of the bosozoku, personified by self-professed delinquent Shinichi Moroboshi in the above interview. This video in particular gave me a much deeper insight in to the cyclical nature of bousou; with the spectacle created inspiring impressed onlookers to in turn become part of bosozoku culture. The performative nature of bousou is highlighted by the styling of Shinichi-san’s Lamborghini, a car purchased to fulfil a dream inspired by a similar vehicle he had observed in his youth. This vehicle, traditionally owned by the elite, has been modified to represent the bosozoku counter-culture, with the loud exhaust and illuminated interior demanding the attention of all that encounter it, and possibly providing inspiration for those aspiring to participate in bosou.

 

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Analysing the above expression of my own understanding of bosozoku culture, I realise that language-based issues of access have largely shaped my depth of knowledge. While the second video I presented is participatory in the sense that individuals who are essentially outlaws have participated in the creation of media that offers insight in to their culture (try that with an Australian OLMC!), it is a digital artefact prepared by a New Zealand native with the intention of conveying this insight to an English-speaking audience. More authentic digital artefacts created by those within bosozoku culture, such as the first video presented, point to a community that must exist in a nation that is far more digitally advanced than my own, but a community that is inaccessible to me due to a language-based cultural divide.

 

Bike-Gang-Header

 

I do not wish to discount the absolutely spectacular work of Luke Huxham, responsible for large chunks of my Japanese cultural understanding, but wish to use a contrast of the two videos to highlight the way in which participatory digital storytelling can have varying levels of external influence, raising questions of authenticity. I believe that this specific example provides a fascinating account of the bosozoku mindset, but also understand that the gaps I have highlighted in my own knowledge exist because of my inability to further engage with bosozoku culture in its native language.

References:

Russo, A & Wakins, J 2005, ‘Digital Cultural Communication: Enabling newmedia and co- creation in Asia’, International Journal of Education and Development, vol.1, no.4, pp.4-17, accessed 29/8/2014, <http://ijedict.dec.uwi.edu/viewarticle.php?id=107&gt;

Tacchi, J 2009, ‘Finding a voice : digital storytelling as participatory development in Southeast Asia’, accessed 29/8/2014, <http://eprints.qut.edu.au/17631/2/17631.pdf&gt;

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN: Takumi Fujiwara, His Legendary AE86 and Celebrity in Anime

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Takumi Fujiwara is a quiet, humble, 19-year old young man, born and raised in the shadow of Mount Akina in Japan’s Gunma province. From an early age, Takumi has worked in his father, Bunta Fujiwara’s tofu shop. Since the age of 12, Takumi has been responsible for delivering tofu to local hotels in Bunta’s 1983 Toyota AE86 Trueno, a role that forced him to drive the treacherous Mount Akina ‘touge’ daily, regardless of weather conditions. By assigning his son this task, Bunta was able to unwittingly train Takumi in the art of ‘touge’ driving, nurturing in Takumi skills that would eventually create an instinctively unbeatable driver, only second to Bunta himself on the roads of Mount Akina.

 

 

The most famous of Bunta’s training techniques involves a cup of water placed in the car’s cup holder that must not be spilt for fear of damaging the precious tofu cargo, forcing Takumi to drive smoothly. Manipulating weight transfer to fully utilise a vehicles available grip by driving smoothly is undoubtedly a valuable skill, but the plausibility of such a training technique has been hotly debated on numerous automotive forums, and the fact that the driver filmed above was compelled to try it out on a racetrack highlights the influence Takumi Fujiwara has had on the automotive scene as a celebrity.

 

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At this point I would like to point out that Takumi Fujiwara is not a ‘real’ person, but the lead character of Initial D, and by far the greatest celebrity the anime series has produced. It is interesting to note the way in which the series has spawned two separate, yet inherently inseparable facets of the same celebrity phenomenon; Takumi Fujiwara himself, and his unmistakable AE86 Trueno.

 

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The Toyota AE86 chassis has been a cult classic, both in motorsport and the modified car scene at large, since it’s release in the early 80s. Relying on its lightweight, finely tuned chassis and naturally aspirated 1.6L power plant for pace during more spirited driving, critics viewed it as a bit of an underdog in comparison to turbocharged Japanese sports cars of the 80s and 90s. This underdog spirit is overtly accentuated in the creation of Initial D’s legendary ‘white ghost of Akina’, and I believe the reason it has become so beloved by fans of the series. In what I liken to the art of cosplay, many have been inspired to pay homage to this venerable vehicle through emulation, exampled by the somewhat faithful Australian recreation pictured below.

 

Adrian's AE86

 

The influence of celebrity does not stop at mere emulation, however, with a link between the release of Initial D in its dubbed form and the international rise in value of Japanese sports cars and associated parts in the early 2000s widely accepted as fact. Those within the international Japanese car scene have dubbed this the ‘Takumi tax’, often used derogatorily to describe exorbitant prices aimed at newcomers for parts of a known, lower value. Similar in nature to mainstream celebrity opinion leaders and their influence in fashion and other consumer trends, Initial D iconicized a number of Japanese sports cars, but particularly the AE86, in a way that introduced a wider audience to their potential, inflating demand and partially fuelling the explosion of drifting as an international motorsport.

 

Takumi

 

Takumi himself as a celebrity has also added fuel to this fire, providing a role model with admittedly impressive skills, but skills that have been learned through the proven process of practice. Adding to the well-established anime canon of hard-working yet humble heroes hesitant to boast of their own talents, or in this case initially unaware of them, Takumi is an accessible and morally aspirational character that encourages beginners and veterans alike to partake in perpetual self-improvement through constant practice.

 

 

An interesting technique used to articulate this throughout the series is Takumi’s awakening to his own talents, a process you can see beginning as he observes Iketani, the head of the Akina Speed Stars, flailing in the AE86’s passenger seat in the clip above, taken from the sixth episode. Takumi begins as a purely instinctive driver but as the series progresses, and particularly under the tutelage of Ryosuke Takahashi in Project D, he is introduced to driving techniques in a progressive gradient; moving from basic explanations of car control to incredibly advanced techniques discussed both by Takumi as his understanding improves, and others in observing his driving style. In this way, Takumi personifies the learning process all drivers must undertake and is used to both highlight key areas for inexperienced drifters to work on, and engage those with experience through accurately articulated knowledge.

 

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In researching Takumi Fujiwara for this investigation of his role as a celebrity, I found it interesting that digital artefacts dedicated to the character largely deal with Takumi as a real person, rather than a constructed identity who’s story is still being written. Imaginary social relationships with celebrities as part of a constructed reality have been well documented (Alperstein 1991), but I believe this can be much more simply explained by a relationship nurtured in audience members through physically and mechanically accurate portrayals of drift culture, with the mirrored reality easy to describe in similar ways to ‘real’ experiences.

 

AkinaHaruna

 

Reading back, I notice that after perspicuously pointing out the fact that Takumi is not a ‘real’ person, I return to describing Takumi and his car as almost a part of reality, something I can only explain as a result of my resonation with the series and the way it has informed my exploration of drift culture. Travelling to Japan last year, my companions and I felt compelled to complete a pilgrimage to the famous water tower you see above, a location recreated as the starting point of each downhill battle on Mt Akina, known in reality as Mt Haruna. In our travels, we also stumbled across an unbelievably organised street drift meeting on a hidden touge, surprised to find galleries of spectators and organised teams just as I had seen in Initial D. The deeper I have delved in to drift culture, the more I appreciate the emphasis placed on accuracy in Initial D.

 

Trying to comprehend the notion of celebrity and the consumption of Initial D by an individual external to drift culture, I realise how heavily my own experiences have informed my encounters with the series, and my subsequent analysis. Fans of the series with no interest in drifting, if such individuals exist, may enjoy Initial D from a purely performative perspective, experiencing for entertainment purposes something as purely imaginary as any other anime topic. In considering this, I now realise that my analysis of celebrity is entirely reflective of what I have taken from the show, and that others may idolise other characters, vehicles or aspects of the series that I am yet to consider. That being said, I do believe that I represent an important segment of Initial D’s contemporary audience and as such, my investigation provides at least some insight to the idea of celebrity in relation to Initial D.

References:

Alperstein, M 1991, ‘Imaginary Social Relationships with Celebrities Appearing in Television Commercials’, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, vol.35, no.1, pp.43-58

O’Mara, S 2013, ‘The Enduring Legacy of Initial D and the AE86’, Otaku USA Magazine, accessed 28/8/2014, <http://otakuusamagazine.com/Anime/News1/The_Enduring_Legacy_of_Initial_D_and_the_AE86_4941.aspx&gt;

McDonalds In Asia

After a bit of confusion and indecision, Emily and myself have decided to investigate the ways in which fast food chains, specifically McDonalds, localises their menu and practices. The above video takes a look at some of the weird and wonderful creations the corporate giant has made in an attempt to achieve cultural compatibility and for our group project, we plan to focus on the ways in which McDonalds have changed their practices through East Asia. This will include examples of menu items along with marketing strategies and general practices.

As of yet, we are undecided on how we will digitally represent our research. Chris has suggested an annotated Flickr gallery or alternatively, we could construct a Prezi and participate in a more formal class presentation.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Hearing of Initial D through peers in the drifting community, and seeing it referenced regularly on automotive forums, I became motivated to investigate the show for myself. As is the case for most anime, I knew it was unlikely that I would encounter Initial D on Australian free-to-air television, so I began tracking down torrents containing each ‘Stage’ (the term used to describe each addition to the storyline). As someone who had only encountered English-dubbed anime in the past, I was happy to find the first two ‘Stages’ in their dubbed form, and became instantly enthralled by the faithful recreation of popular vehicles used in drifting and the driver inputs required to make them do so, such as pedal and steering techniques.

After completing the ‘Second Stage’, I found that dubbed versions were no longer available; something I later learnt was due to licensing issues with TOKYOPOP, the series’ North American distributor. Initially hesitant to continue, I pushed through the language barrier and found myself increasingly appreciative of the more faithful textual translation of the Japanese language provided in subtitles. By the time I’d reached the ‘Final Stage’, I realised how important attempts at articulating the nuances of Japanese language were to my understanding of the plot, and begun questioning what I may have missed in dubbed anime I had previously enjoyed.

NOTE: Turn captions on to view subtitles

For this post, I encountered the subtitled version of Initial D’s first episode for the first time. To make any differences obvious, I watched both the subtitled and dubbed version in tandem, flicking back and forth between the two and examining the subtle differences in translation. I noticed that whilst fairly close in simple translation, the dubbed version failed to accurately communicate context, tone and the respect that is central to Japanese language, instead ‘Westernising’ character communication by adding what I can only explain as attempts at accentuating humour that I believe a Japanese audience would find rude. I found that a comparison of the two clips embedded above highlights this particularly well, with the first encounter between the Akina Speed Stars and the Akagi Red Suns taking on two distinctly different meanings.

Analysing my observations, I realise that while falling for the ingrained East-West dichotomy, I am in-fact comparing two different ways for English-speaking individuals to access a niche anime that appeals to drift enthusiasts. Having taken part in the Japanese drift culture, meeting a number of Japanese drifters and experiencing the unbelievably organised street drifting subculture first-hand, I realise that I am not only reading the subtitles for their textual meaning, but also through a lens of my own personal experience and at least a superficial understanding of Japanese culture. It is because of this personal experience that I realise I cannot quite grasp the true meaning of anime without a fluency in Japanese, so that in effect, the more I know about Japanese culture, the less I understand due to losses in translation. Due to my fascination with Japan, however, I do not find this discouraging, instead attempting to further my understanding by accessing Japanese media in forms I can understand. In this way, it may have been a blessing that I first encountered the dubbed version of Initial D, as it suited my understanding of Japan at that time, and if small alterations through translation are required in the pursuit of cultural compatibility, then so be it.

HELLO FRIENDS!

My name is Dave and I can tell already that DIGC330 is going to be the most enjoyable piece of my final semester puzzle. I’ve been working towards a Bachelor in Communications and Media with a double major in Digital Communications and Advertising and Marketing since 2010, taking a break in 2011/2012 to pursue my dream career as an automotive journalist. With my role made redundant, I returned to my studies refreshed and with a renewed fervour to finish on a high note.

This redundancy was also a blessing in disguise, providing me with the funds needed to fulfil another dream; purchasing a car in Japan and travelling to the legendary Ebisu Circuit to improve my skills as a driver. Prior to my month-long Japanese adventure, my only interest in Japanese culture had been based around drifting, motorsport and cars in general, but experiencing Japanese culture first-hand has inspired in me a fascination with all things Japanese.

Prior to my travels, I was introduced to the Initial D anime series, torrenting and powering through the first two ‘stages’ in their Westernised, dubbed forms before moving on to the subtitled versions of the later ‘stages’ that were much easier to find. While in Japan, I, at least superficially, learned about the Japanese language’s nuances and how they can make accurate textual translation problematic, let alone verbal translation. I now realise that I would have missed many storyline intricacies by watching a low-budget dubbed version, and also to a lesser extent by watching the more accurate, but still imperfect, subtitled versions. It is this language-based divide in understanding for Western audiences of Eastern media that I wish to further investigate in relation to my past and future interactions with the Initial D series.