Author: melstje

SAINT☆ONIISAN – What is going on?

In my last post, I narrated my first time watching Hikaru Nakamura’s Saint Oniisan. From the get go, I found it hard not to express my reasoning for interacting with this text in a certain way. However, I now have the freedom to acknowledge and accommodate my subjectivity, emotional response, and my overall influence on this text through further research (Ellis et al., 2010). For this post, I will address the epiphanies I had during this experience.

My first epiphany was that not ALL anime is for my demographic. Maybe not a huge shock, but I genuinely wasn’t familiar with the style of drawing used. I wasn’t aware that there were different drawing styles for different audiences. Saint Oniisan is respectively ‘seinen’. Directed at an older male audience, seinen is characterised by more sophisticated and mature nature such as story line and realistic character proportion. During my teenage years, I spent a lot of time watching a particular type of anime… *cough* shoujo *cough*. My lack of familiarity with the seinen genre was prompted by the fact that it isn’t particularly aimed at a young female audience. Seinen shares many similarities to shoujo with an emphasis on character and plot development. However, shoujo is centralised around romantic relationships.

Looking back at my post, the whole ‘I’m atheist, but these are my opinions on religion’ seemed like a contradiction I was trying to justify. In recent studies, over 60% of people in Japan identify as atheist. This statistic makes me wonder what percentage of atheists make up Saint Oniisan’s overall audience. Japan is also characterised by syncretism; meaning, most people practice more than one religion, sometimes even combining them. Therefore, Christianity and Buddhism’s relationship throughout Saint Oniisan reflects Japans secular society.

tumblr_n59dqySt7G1spsdgwo1_500

Christianity x Buddhism (Source)

Another point I found particularly interesting was the way characters interact with Christianity. Only a small percentage of Japanese people identify as Christian. However, many of its customs have become popular among the non-Christian population in modern-day Japan such as Christmas. Buddha even comments on how nobody in Japan really knows what Christmas is about.

Japanese Christmas Cake (x) Jesus’ Birthday Cake (x)

This knowledge comes with distinguishing religion from culture. In Saint Oniisans case, I believe that licensing it in some countries could be restricted, even without the language barrier. This is due to the contentiousness surrounding satirical texts based off religion. While the series plays light-heartedly on our affections towards the characters, fan culture can emphasise certain parts of the series. In this case, it is though the persistent, widespread phenomenon known as shipping.  Shipping knows no boundaries of age, demographic and gender. I am not new to the concept of ‘shipping’ or placing the label of ‘One True Pair’ (OTP) onto my favourite personas. With such lovable characters, fandoms sometimes have the tendency to overlook certain cultural sensitivities so I can understand why this was particularly heated. Even manga sites could help but highlight that these two were ‘like an old married couple’ or place them in hypothetical romantic relationships.

saintyoungmen0927_main

Saint Oniisan Fan Art (Source)

Fan culture can be wonderful because much like auto-ethnographers, they draw from their own experiences to understand different texts. I found this reflection by a fan on Saint Oniisans’ manga.

‘Two who have seen every possible form of human happiness and unhappiness in the world and have now gone beyond it, and now seeking vacation in this world… just there feeling what it means to be happy by living an ordinary human life’ – Cited in Prohl and Nelson (2012)

Within my narrated response, one of my major epiphanies was the materialism perpetuated in the modern world. Specifically, around religious pursuits. This quote provides a different perspective, which is surely due to their own experiences. They emphasise that the interactions of the characters are not so much not superficial but genuine to modern culture. This comment also touches on my opinions on the slice of life genre. Which I liked to blame for my sleepiness during my narration. This genre focuses on how the character is shaped by the world.

During this process of research, I couldn’t help but read other blogs and their narrative experience with the anime. I found it particularly interesting understanding the different perspectives or points they highlighted. Whether it be the cinematography traditions or specific tropes  which are explored. Auto-ethnography has allowed me to reflect on my own experiences in the context of others.

(more…)

Advertisements

Saint☆Oniisan – What Did I Just Watch?

When you’ve been a die-hard anime fan for a while, you come to realise that there is something for everyone. You name it, there is probably an anime about it. For my original digital artefact, I wanted to focus on the depiction of the Chinese Zodiac across mediums. However, when I stumbled upon this GIF while scrolling through Tumblr, I found myself intrigued by ‘Anime Jesus’. Why had I never seen him? Where was he from?

tumblr_n2gz8cDbSt1t8ugizo1_500

Saint Oniisan (Tumblr)

After some investigation (A.K.A googling ‘Anime Jesus’), I discovered that the GIF was from a slice of life/comedy manga series called Saint Young Men (Saint Oniisan).

‘Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, the founders of Christianity and Buddhism, are living together as roommates in a Tokyo apartment while taking a vacation on Earth. The comedy often involves jokes about Christianity, Buddhism, and all things related, as well as the main characters’ attempts to hide their identities and understand modern society in Japan.’ – MyAnimeList

Why did I decide on this anime? Well, growing up my primary education on religion was through scripture, which was spent as a bludge more than a time to practice Christianity. Religion is often something I would sweep under the rug as ‘complex’ and ‘unnecessary’. As someone who identifies as atheist, I am not tied to any form of religion. However, a common theme I have noticed in many anime, are the references of spiritual manifestations or religious entities. This theme is always something I passed as a spectacle and paid no mind in understanding it’s deeper context. For this experience, I thought to understand how Saint Oniisan touches on the influence of religious beliefs in Modern Japan.  Spending most of the anime discovering if it trivialises the relationship of the two religious worlds of Christianity and Buddhism when they collide.

Scouring the streaming sites, this series was adapted into both a 2 part OVA (Original Video Animation) and a Movie. I decided to watch the Movie, due to being easier to access on online sites such as KissAnime, Gogoanime and Crunchyroll. There were only subbed versions available and as it was later in the night and I had my fingers crossed that I could stay awake for the length of the animation.

Within the first few minutes, I could already notice that Saint Oniisan’s drawing style, especially of the characters, was quite different to what I was familiar with. Think a more proportioned, ‘realistic’ depiction. Despite their ethnic backgrounds being of foreign decent, Buddha and Jesus have predominantly Japanese features. Their ‘foreignness’ is emphasised in other ways during the animation. For example, the scene where Jesus is mistaken for ‘Johnny Depp. I found this scene particularly interesting, as in this reality, Japanese girls were more likely mistake Jesus as a celebrity rather than a religious figure.

Although this is fictional, I believe there is some truth behind the attitude of community members such as the elderly and children towards the prominent religious figures. I couldn’t help but observe their ideas on ‘happiness’, ‘enlightenment’ and ‘revitalisation’. One of the more interesting characters in the anime, was the yakuza. We are introduced to him during the sauna scene, where his Buddha tattoo grabs their attention. Characterised by his criminal behaviour, he parallels Jesus’ historical experiences with his own.

buddha

Yakuza with Buddha Tattoo (Gogoanime)

Modern means of expressing faith are challenged throughout Saint Oniisan. Presented by events, food, places and objects scattered throughout the anime. Buddha and Jesus are continuously seen wearing different shirts which I’m assuming had relevant virtues of their religions printed on them. I wasn’t aware of this until one of the community members commented on it and I was upset that these sayings were written in kanji so I couldn’t read them.

Like its name says, slice of life commonly presents the ‘every day’ experiences of a culture. Buddha and Jesus engage with places such as theme parks and spas in the location of Tachikawa. Contextualising their experiences to a specific Japanese suburb (which I had never heard of) presented it in an almost touristic nature. Despite these new and exciting adventures for the characters on earth, the place itself was not particularly new and exciting for me. The repetitive nature of slice of life was well… boring. Nearing the end of the movie, I found myself checking my phone every so often. Even having to re-watch parts as I was distracted by thoughts of hitting pause and going to bed. The one thing that kept me watching was Jesus and Buddha’s relationship, which I couldn’t help but label a ‘bromance’. Almost feeling borderline sacrilegious, it was hard not to wonder whether or not this was avoidable.

I was surprised how much this text made me think. I’m my next post I will be having a more in-depth look at what stood out as epiphanies during this experience.

Authenticity in Autoethnography?

When Chris Moore dropped the ‘A-bomb’ in class a couple of weeks ago my face remained deadpan and expressionless. It was due to my naivety and unfamiliarity to the word that left me more or less indifferent to it’s meaning. However, within the coming weeks I would understand that  ‘Autoethnography’ is a useful tool in my research.

‘Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’ – Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2010

Exploring the ‘unknown’ is both new as it is exciting. Traditional researchers often observe without any real engagement, this leads to limited understanding of cultural context. Misunderstandings between the ‘researcher’ and ‘researched’ through cross-cultural communication can be prevented by autoethnography.

Autoethnography challenges the preconceived assumptions one makes about what is ‘authentic’. During this week’s screening of Akira (1988) there was an ongoing debate about the use of dubbing. Many saying that accommodating for a Western audience almost limits the experience. As authenticity is concerned with the truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, and intentions. When it is applied to a culture, anything that doesn’t register as ‘authentic’, is dismissed as ‘fake’ or unreliable. This perpetuating generalisations and limiting room for growth.

Language transfers knowledge. In my own experience, the use of subtitles has opened up a world of understanding. So giving them an English voice, enables a wider audience to experience, observe and question the text.

Being self-reflective is crucial as an autoethnographer. When I was learning Japanese back in first year, I found it super helpful to have peers to study with. This ensured we were engaged but also allowed us to share travel stories, anime we had been watching or food during our breaks. The more time invested in immersing ourselves in these practices, led to a better understanding of the culture. One of the highlights during this period was picking up on passing conversations. ‘Eavesdropping’ on a conversations about a ‘delicious hamburgers’ and trying to contain my excitement because I could understand the context. However, when I lost enthusiasm for the language, these experiences were less consistent.

There is a real fear of cross-cultural ‘contamination’ that comes with the practice of autoethnography. As personal experience influences this research process, it is regarded as detrimental to epistemics. Subjectivity is unavoidable, and as Chris put it, Asia is already in Australia and Australia is already in Asia (2017).

ELLIS, C. ADAMS, T.E. BOCHNER, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1,
http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

MOORE, C (2017) “Global Flow.” Digital Asia. University of Wollongong, Wollongong. Prezi.

REED-DANAHAY, D (1997). Introduction. In D. Reed-Danahay (Ed.), Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting the Self and the Social. (pp. 1–17). Oxford: Berg.

WIKIPEDIA (2017). Carolyn Ellis. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolyn_Ellis

The Curation of Kaiju

Godzilla (1954) isn’t something I usually watch on a Thursday morning. As the longest running franchise, it is uncanny how little knowledge I had on a film that still influences pop culture today. Growing up, I viewed the monster genre at face value.

giphy
Megashark vs. Giant Octopus (GIPHY)

The idea of someone dressing up as a large lizard like monster and destroying a city always seemed quite comical to me. This physical creature of fiction was something I viewed quite literally and never understood what it was supposed to represent. This experience was influenced by films such as Mega Shark vs., Sharknado or even later remakes of Godzilla. Which are often over-dramatic and created purely for entertainment value.

Due to my Western up-bringing, Asian media is largely categorised as strange and out of the ordinary. Even after guidance from Wikipedia, it is almost possible that any interpretation could be legitimate. As I watched the film, characteristics of the Japanese culture I had already been exposed to from anime and manga were normalised in my subconscious. This made it easier to understand the themes without the cultural barrier. It is understandable that terms such as ‘culture shock’ would be used to describe the film. All characters are Japanese, those who are commonly whitewashed in Hollywood productions. These characters who are usually recognised as comedic relief or bad guys, were taken seriously and sympathised with. As a previous Japanese student who finds pleasure in watching subbed anime, it was only when Tweeting was added to the equation that made it more difficult to grasp what was going on during the film.

Katakana is the Japanese alphabet used to transcribe foreign words. This means that Godzilla is a portmanteau for ‘gorilla’ and ‘whale’. Rather than a large salamander, Godzilla alludes more to it’s size, power and aquatic origin. Due to it’s context, Ishirō Honda plays on the nuclear paranoia of post-Hiroshima Japan. As a person who grew up post-9/11, strong comparisons are explored with block busters showing New York under attack. Whether it be the crying of young children and their mothers or the destruction and evacuation of homes – these themes were comparatively used to convey the devastation and create an empathetic response from the audience. I was also interested how the most unsettling scenes were filmed by the beach or even underwater. This is a motif that I couldn’t help respond to, due to my phobia of deep water. As a country without borders, Godzilla uses the feeling of being trapped to play on that fear.