Author: seancoles1

Japanese Film: Horror

Pre Viewing

Ringu 1998 is arguable one of the most terrifying Japanese films of all time, and as such it is an apt case study.  Like my previous posts I do have some background information and viewing of the text.  In this case I have seen the American remake of Ringu, The Ring. From memory this film will have a lot to do with spirts and paranormal activity, which intern is relative to my previous posts.

During Viewing

The opening scene, much like my previous experiences with Japanese film, is immediately cutting to the story, there was little to no ‘padding’.  The idea of not wasting time and having all scenes being very important to the polt is upheld through the first half of the film, afterwards some scenes seem drawn out and at times unnessecary.   The film begins with two teenage girls discussing what happens after watching a particular film, the dialogue is presented in such a way that it seems to be a horror story, In reality it is a cheap form of foreshadowing.  As the plot continues I begin to get bored.  The story itself begins to become dull, as mentioned before the pacing of the film is slowed during the centre, particularly as the film uncovers the back story of Sadako through Ryuji and Rekio’s research.  For me, the plot developed in the typical story arc of rising and falling action with climax being close to the conclusion, however an issue I have found with all my research into Japanese films is that the ‘arc’ is not so prominent.  At times it is hard to tell if scenes were actually going anywhere, they seemed to run around in circles. Again the idea of gender roles crops up, with scenes of Rekio’s grandfather first being introduced featuring the males of the family being separate to the females.  This idea of gender inequality is reinforced through various later scenes where all male characters on screen are dominant over the submissive Rekio (even her young son Yoichi to an extent). As the film is reliant on supernatural themes, and the idea is discussed throughout the majority of the film however there is very little on screen time for any supernatural themes.  For the most part they are only represented in watching the ring video tape and in memories.  Lastly, for me, the film did not induce any feelings of fear.  I recognised that some scenes were created with the idea of inducing fear however I did not have much of a reaction.

Post Film

When it comes to the pacing of the plot, I mentioned earlier that the story beings rather quickly.  This itself is common in other Japanese films I have researched, however there is somewhat of a difference in Ring.  The film beings to slow down only to be picked back up in the final scenes, something that is inconsistent with other Japanese films which remain relatively constant in pacing throughout. This to me separates this Japanese film from other psychological thrillers.

For me the story became dull.  This is not an indication of the foreign nature of the film, nor the necessity of subtitles I have suspected as being the reason for my boredom with foreign films, it is more so the story.  As I had previously seen the American remake I had an understanding of the plot and a rough idea of when and where the plot should advance.  This, coupled with the slow advancement of the plot made me impatient.  Congruently, I believe that my over exposure to western horror films such as Paranormal Activity, is a significant contributor to myself not finding the film by any means ‘horrifying’.

Gender, another aspect commonly upheld in Japanese cinema is again discussed.  My initial thought were that it was a reflection on Japanese society, the females were submissive and the males domiant.  A blog on Japan as a country reinforced my ideas stating that “Men are still generally considered the bread-winners of a family and call the shots in business, while the women stay at home and take care of the children”.

Ring has a heavy association with Japanese life and culture.  As I have discussed before, spirits, ghosts and supernatural themes are common in Japanese history so it is only appropriate that they are represented significantly in Japanese media.

Conclusively, I did not really enjoy the film, for the most part this is due to my over consumption of western media influencing my preconceptions of what a horror film should be.

 

References

ushistory.org, 2014,Japanese Religion and Spirituality, Ancient Civilisations, Viewed 10th October 2014, <http://www.ushistory.org/civ/10a.asp>

Kephart, J. 2013, Gender Roles in Japanese Society, Japan A Unique Country, weblog, February 6th, viewed 17th October 2014, <http://jkephartjapan.weebly.com/blog/gender-roles-in-japanese-society>

Japanese Film: Monster Film

Warning there may be spoilers in the following text. You have been warned.

Pre Film Consumption

To frame the post I will be writing, first I will present my experience in understanding Japanese monster culture.

From a first look at this article I can understand the basics of Monsters influencing and being a large cultural aspect of Japanese life and in particular media.  The site identifies common monsters found in Japanese mythology such as Kappa, a monster child living in a lake or river. This incites memories of the Japanese film Spirited away which features a river monster for a small scene.

The article discusses further the spiritual nature of these monsters and their association with certain events. This is no doubt most prevalent in Godzilla as the well know motif of the Atomic Bomb.

Post Film Consumption

Firstly, I entered the film expecting to be bored to tears. I assumed that my attraction to modern films with large budgets and extensive special effects. But this film blew these preconceived conceptions right out the door within the first ten minutes. I have mentioned previously that my attention span has been limited when having to read subtitles rather than English speaking films, however this was quite the opposite. The film itself is black and white and subtitled, again, this is quite out of my comfort zone

The film opens with the immense display of power unleashed by an atomic bomb

First thing I notice is that the film delves right into the action rather than a slow advance. It doesn’t conform itself to the modern story arc, in a way this film could be considered fast paced. This is an important aspect as it begs the question, “is this a common theme in Japanese film, monster films or is it lending a hand to the age of the film?” I guess this question may be answered as I continue my research.

Rapid scenes uphold this swift advancement through the plot, there is no wasted time in this film, pauses are dramatic and speeches are intense.  Unlike modern Godzilla films there are not minute long scenes of the main characters wasting time.  For me, this is most exemplified by a scene roughly one third of the way through the film where Kyohei is pleading his case about Gozilla to a local court. The scene essentially goes like this:

  • Kyohei presenting his case
  • Rebuttal
  • Scientific evidence from kyohei
  • An argument between a man and a woman (this will be discussed later)
  • Conclusion of case.

That is it. Quick snaps. No wasted time.

Now I am not entirely certain why I was drawn to this but I believe it is significant as an idea within Japanese film.

I could ramble on for days about the metaphorical significance of Godzilla and the oxygen destroyer, and although it is a very important aspect of the story itself, it is not so significant from an auto ethnographical standpoint, however it does have on important aspect.

Post POST film consumption.

So now comes the reflection.

You may remember me saying previously that Japanese monsters are often created during times of Japanese hardship. Now strap in kids this may just blow your mind. Godzilla, the monster, was created as a means of representing the atomic blasts. Shocking right?

As mentioned previously, metaphors and symbolism are huge aspects of the film.  Godzilla himself (well at least from my interpretation) is a metaphor for America and in particular it’s access to the most destructive weapon ever seen, the atomic bomb.  Now radioactivity is already a huge part of the film, however the relevance lies within the United States dropping Atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The common battle between destruction or preservation of the two giant ‘weapons’ (in Godzilla and the oxygen destroyer) lends itself to post war Japanese attitudes towards weapons of destruction.  The film provides a social commentary on the struggles faced by Japanese citizens.

Thereby this film is arguably one of the best commentaries on coping with and taking responsibility for man-made tragedies. From the metaphorical Godzilla to the literal oxygen destroyer this film deals with post war attitudes towards nuclear power, from its most prominent victims.

That really important and significant aspect of the film I described earlier, the speed, pacing and waste-no-time nature of the film reminded me of something. When I take a step back and look at the film objectively and from afar a picture is painted.  To me, the film seems to be thrown together as if it were a small child recounting the story.

Seriously.

The film is almost exactly like this:

“First, you see Godzilla and then he comes to the town, and then the people find his foot prints, and then they find out his is radioactive and then they go to a court and then they argue and then… and then … and then…”

There really are no pauses; it just keeps on spewing out information. Like an excited child.

Essentially, the film holds a mirror to Japanese culture, through the use of Godzilla the monster as a means of communicating past.  Congruently the role of men and women are represented with males being dominant and females submissive, this I feel is not strictly representative of Japanese culture rather it reminded me of the general gender inequalities of the 1950’s.

On a personal level, I’ll be honest I had low expectations coming into this movie, my previous encounters with foreign language films has been… lacking, not to mention I usually don’t watch anything made prior to about 1985. But I was pleasantly surprised besides the points I have mentioned I cannot really further explain why I like this film I just do.

You should go watch it.

Japanese Film: Anime

Pre Film Consumption

Prior to my autoethnographical research into Japanese film, the extent of my knowledge was really based around certain associations or stereotypes. For instance if you were to mention to me that you were watching a Japanese film I would assume it was an animated film, or, Anime.  This ultimate association is what led me to choose this topic of Anime as a research point. As for my choice of film, Spirited Away for me is one of the most iconic anime films and as such was one of the first Japanese films I can consciously remember seeing.

Going into the film, I am aware that nine years ago (the last time I watched this film) I somewhat enjoyed the film, an issue, however was that certain themes and metaphors were too complex for my ten year old mind.  As Spirited Away is a Japanese film it obviously was first made in Japanese, however for this sitting I will be watching the film with the English voice dubs. This is in effort to coax previous emotions established from my original sitting.

During the film

The first thing I noticed going into the film was an Idea upheld in my previous post about Japanese Monster Films.  Spirited Away did not have the traditional story arc, the events flowed more evenly.  There were still rising and falling within the plot, however they were not as prominent as modern films (such as the 2014 Godzilla which has very obvious rising climax and falling action). This may be remnant of the traditional Japanese storytelling method of Rakugo, which features one person sitting on a stage with minimal props telling a story.  By looking into this method of storytelling I can discern that the method of communicating the story is continuously presenting information, there is little room for developing the rising and falling action.

Metaphors and motifs are a huge aspect of the film, most prominently Greed and Environmentalism.  Greed as a motif is established from the opening scene through Chihiro’s dissatisfaction about only receiving one rose on her birthday.  The film shapes greed into many forms, greed for power through Haku and Yubaba particularly over the golden seal, greed for food through Haku’s mother and father turning into pigs because they ate the spirit world food, as well as No-face the spirit who was overcome with greed after consuming one of the workers, lastly greed for money is greatly personified through the frog people working in the bath house being obsessed with the gold given by No-face. No character in the film is perfect; every character is consumed with greed at one stage. Animals also, are present in the film. Certain characters have traits of certain animals.  Yubaba is crowlike in appearance and possesses the ability to fly, Kamaji has long slender limbs akin to a spider congruently his initial interation with Chihiro was sneaky and intimidating.

Environmentalism, another huge aspect of the film is explored mostly through the idea of spirits.  The river spirit (spoilers) enters the scene unrecognisable due to the amount of gunk and rubbish synergised with him. After causing mayhem due to his smell, Sen was able to purify the spirit by removing the rubbish.  Congruently, during the opening scenes, Chihiro’s father comments on the fakeness of the theme park, a man made object impeding on the environment. Lastly Haku isn’t able to return home due to the destruction of his river in order to make room for housing.

Throughout the film, certain tense moments are given no dialogue, Sen’s first encounter with Kamaji is quite heavily reliant on the silence to allow the consumer to emphasise with the fear felt by Sen. This is actually contrary to Gojira, which had little to no silent moments, the story was told mostly verbally.

Lastly it is important to note that some of the most dominant characters (Yubaba and Lin) are females. Quite the opposite of the image painted by Gojira.

Post Film

Although I expected to remember and coax some previously experience emotions from watching the film, very little was evoked from my second viewing.

From the small simple size of Gojira (1954) and Spirited Away, it has become evident that Japanese films do not strictly conform to the ‘accepted’ story arc in theatrics. After consuming both these films I am reminded of Shakespeare quote from Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 17–24; “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” Hamlet is basically saying to his actors that drama holds a mirror to nature.  This is also true for the idea that drama reflects values of society. This is especially true for the metaphors and motifs explored.  It is interesting to note the similarities between modern films and the traditional way of Japanese storytelling, Rakugo as mentioned before bares similarities to the method of storytelling in Film.

Greed being a key aspect of the film again is representative of director Miyazaki’s efforts to uphold a mirror to societal values. I noticed that most aspects of greed in some way have a link to the Environmentalism.  Particularly with the river monster, Miyazaki is presenting the idea that the greed and overall industrialised nature of modern Japan is ruining the serenity and purity of nature. This is upheld through the mentioning of how fake the amusement park is. This is a direct reference to how Japan built excess of theme parks, which became abandoned when the economy tanked. Miyazaki intends to highlight the misuse of land management.

Environmentalism is a familiar motif in Miyazaki’s films, as it is an important part of Japanese culture.  The significance of the water spirit with the bicycle handle stuck in it reminded me of the story of Androcles and the Lion, where a powerful being in the lion and river spirit is in need of help which comes in the form of an unlikely being, a hunter and a small girl.

As the central aspect of the film is the bathhouse for spirits, the spirits themselves are extremely important characters, and much like the monster of Gojira, they have a cultural significance for Japan.  Spirits were integrated into Japanese history and culture as a means of explaining and personifying natural occurrences. As such I could understand that Miyazaki’s inclusion and general reliance on the spirits for the plot is a means of communicating his ideas.

Silences represented in this film are very crucial and key to the genre of Anime. The filmstyle is very artistically charged.  These silences are key to drawing attention to the genre of the film and the means of communication of the directors ideas.  When watching them I felt aware of the animation itself, every detail from the main characters hair movements to emotions. This allowed for the story to develop in silence.

The reversal of gender roles was very surprising to me. As Gojira is my only frame of reference, it is interesting to note the change in social gender values between the two films, Spirited Away features very strong Female characters and submissive male characters, (mostly in the frog people).

References

ushistory.org, 2014,Japanese Religion and Spirituality, Ancient Civilisations, Viewed 10th October 2014, <http://www.ushistory.org/civ/10a.asp>

Sparknotes, 2014, Spirited Away: Themes, Motifs, and Symbols, Sparknotes, Viewed 10th October 2014, <http://www.sparknotes.com/film/spiritedaway/themes.html>

SFPLMainStage, 2008, Rakugo in English SFPL Main Stage, Viewed 10th October 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vaf0esKLMZg>

Another Brief

From an autoethnographical standpoint, my artefact is divided into two aspects.  Writing and producing. The writing aspect is the most crucial and pinnacle point revolving around my auto ethnographical artefact.  In order to delve into this experience, I will be consuming three types of media, Japanese monster film, Anime and Japanese Horror.  Mostly the writing will rely upon the films I watch stirring up past memories and or experiences, through this I will hopefully draw parallels with the films, myself and my understanding of Japanese culture. This will be aided by the inclusion of outside sources reinforcing the notions surfaced through the self-immersion. Lastly, I will touch on possible different interpretations of the material as a means of expanding the angle of approach.

The second aspect of the project is the choice of doing podcasts rather than flat out essays.  I feel this further adds a personal touch to the artefact thus thrusting my project into the meta, where an autoethnographical project may provide an autoethnographical experience to the reader.

Genres of Research and The Basis of my Artifact.

Short of actually watching every film, as part of my artifact I have chosen to analyze and provide auto ethnographical accounts of three particular Japanese Films. Firstly so as to remain fresh and provide an air of variety the three films I choose will be from different genres. Whether the genres be created by Japanese Films, adopted into the culture or splintered into its own ‘Japanese’ sub genre. Essentially, the whole idea of gathering evidence from different genres was to display a change in Japanese cinema.

I want to start my journey with, what I believe is the most iconic genre associated with Japanese Film – The Monster Film. Most prominently, the most pivotal Monster Film ever made – Godzilla.

This idea of monster films being the epitome of Japanese films makes my first decision easy to make. The idea of giant monsters and robots destroying cities has always excited me (especially at younger ages). Through analysis of his original monster, I will understand the influence of Japanese film on my childhood excitements. Perhaps even, this new discovery will awaken a dormant monster within me, which craves entertainment value in destruction films (wow so meta).

Secondly, an obvious choice to analyze, and I have skimmed the fat off this juicy Japanese-associated genre in previous posts, I will be analyzing an anime film. Originally my love of this medium stemmed from the original Pokémon series so this may be enjoyable. Which film I will be consuming – I have not decided. However I want the choice to be as blind as possible to as to perhaps evoke inactive emotions whether it be through nostalgia or subconscious association (such as the convergence of western and eastern cartoons, leaving shreds of anime in mostly western shows). My only real consumption of Anime in film form is Spirited Away, if you have any suggestions on what to watch please let me know (but don’t reveal any of the plot, name only please!).

Lastly, a genre consistently upheld in Japanese cinema, but not confined to it. Horror. Again I haven’t chosen a specific film and am trying to steer away from the stereotypical Grudge however this short list seems to be the best bet. Now I am no horror film buff, but I will try to remain sane during the consumption… : ‘(

I am mostly interested in the horror genre so as to identify the cultural themes consistent within the film.

This is just a quick overview of each genre, I will be researching them more in depth in later weeks. It really did not take me long to decide which genres to focus on, perhaps Japanese culture is instilled within me already…

Japanese Culture in Sydney

Although not completely dedicated to Japanese film, the Japan Foundation Sydney certainly is a fringe group within Japanese cinema culture.  The purpose of this organization is to “promote cultural and intellectual exchange between Japan and other nations”, obviously this particular branch is involved in sharing culture between Japan and Australia in particular, Sydney.  This particular group attracted me due to it hosting podcasts and really best representing a peripheral Japanese organization. 

The Japan Foundation expresses their information through two forms. Firstly, through online video, this expression is mostly reliant on an interview process and therefore is more about sharing stories and ideas than spreading demands.

Congruently, although not strictly digital, the foundation also communicates their stories through online transcripts.  This is in parallel to the video interviews in that it is relying on drawing outside sources in to communicate their goal in expanding international communication.

Lastly, podcasts seem to be the major communication point of the Japan Foundation. From discussing semi-famous Japanese people to communicating the Japanese culture and lifestyle to wester audiences, the podcasts published by this group are mostly attempting to communicate the display Japanese ways of life and culture to cultivate communication between Japan and other Nations.

My first experience with this group’s website is the viewing of the video ‘Interview: Voice Actor Masakazu Morita x JPF Sydney.  I was particularly drawn to this video due to it relating to Japanese anime.  At first the video was in English however it quickly transitioned to Japanese, although it had English captions, I found that I quickly lost interest in the topic and moved onto other aspects of the site for more information.

I found the podcasts most interesting, particularly the podcasts in the last category ‘Sustainability In Japan’. This may be due to the shorter segments within each cast maintain my interest. Congruently I found the podcasts regarding Lafcadio Hearn and Ukiyo-e equally as interesting due to its commentary on Japanese pseudo-celebrities.

Maybe my attention span is not accustom to non-english dubbed clips, hence my lack of attention on the video, however it seems that if content is framed for a western audience such as myself I am more inclined to consume it.

From listening to these podcasts I have determined that my artefact will be topical within itself. By this I mean I will cover more than one topic per clip as I find it maintains attention better than drawn out podcasts.

References

Dr Eugenie Keefer Bell, 2012,Sustaining Culture in Japanese Architecture: Preservation, Relocation and Adaptive Re-Use, Podcast, May-June, The Japanese Foundation Sydney, Viewed 25/08/14, < http://jpf.org.au/podcasts/index.html>

Hayao Miyazaki

One of the first feature length Japanese films I watched was Spirited Away directed by Hayao Miyazaki. This iconic film of my childhood was perhaps the cornerstone of my subconscious love for the strange and fantastic. This absurdity is most exemplified within Japanese films, therefore Hayao Miyazaki is the most recognisable Japanese film celebrity for me.

Miyazaki (for reasons un acknowledged) is not well represented in the online world. Upon searching his name on Facebook, this page is found. Really all the page consists of is the first few paragraphs from his Wikipedia page, congruently, the top search of ‘Hayao Miyazaki’ on twitter results in a fan made page. This twitter feed is the most interesting of the two sites. This account, obviously, is fan run, the handle ‘@HMiyazaki_News’ and the third person content indicate this. What’s interesting about this twitter feed is the absence of Miyazaki himself, although almost his every move is documented. 

Why would I choose to do a blog on someone who has little social media presence? Hayao Miyazaki lived through and was involved in the golden ages of Japanese Film, and as stated before he is an important foreign film producer for me personally, so it is more of a sentimental choice. Concerning Japanese Film, my interest lies within earlier films, prior to 1990 (I know Spirited Away breaches this date, however this is merely a trigger for my research) so I chose

Through the little public persona developed through digital media (primarily secondary evidence) a picture of humility and kindness is painted.

Hayao Miyazaki is regarded as one of the greatest Japanese Directors of all time, he often collaborated with other well known directors such as Isao Takahata, Toshio Suzuki, and Hiromasa Yonebayashi. 

Hayao Miyazaki really has no personal contribution of digital content on social media sites. Although older people are becoming more likely to use facebook it may be the case that Miyazaki is not utilizing social media due to his age bracket. Due to this disconnection with social media, when researching Japanese Film, secondary evidence must be relied upon.

My artifact will be a hand-full of podcasts relating to Japanese Film. Representing information cannot be visual therefore I will rely of quotes and testimonies in my artefacts.

References

Hayao Miyazaki, Wikipedia.org, Viewed 20th August 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayao_Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki Facebook, Facebook.com, Viewed 20th August 2014, <https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hayao-Miyazaki/112164162133344# >

Hayao Miyazaki Twitter, Twitter.com, Viewed 20th August 2014, < https://twitter.com/HMiyazaki_news>

Madden, M, 2010, Older Adults and Social Media, Pew Research Internet Project, Viewed 20th August 2014, < http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/08/27/older-adults-and-social-media/>

A Taste of Godzilla

My immersion into digital Asian culture mostly revolves around television shows such as Pokémon when I was younger (including the games) and some viewing of e-sports which although are not typically Asian, have a primarily Asian audience. Despite this I chose to immerse myself into the pioneer of all monster films, Godzilla (Gojira).

In order to find the 1954 original Godzilla trailer, I needed to scroll down the searching’s on YouTube for a while. The saturation of both the 1998 and 2014 films and its popularity with western audiences makes the 1954 film trailer more elusive. This is due to the cultural gap between the eastern and western world. This gap is closing however, but there are still well defined lines.

The video starts of as many early monster films would, black and white and displaying destruction. Spliced in between action shots of Gojira are fast talking Americans on the phone discussing the immediate threat that is the God of Lizards. Military might was displayed in the one of the final scenes featuring Godzilla being barraged by tanks and various military assortments. Ultimately the advertisement concludes with a comic book-like text displaying the title of the film.

For me the trailer evoked feelings of familiarity, it seemed like a typical monster film not unlike those of today. My initial feelings and responses to this trailer was that of predictability. It seems that Godzilla was a film like many other in modern times, however it is the opposite. Modern monster films borrow certain tropes of this 1954 Japanese classic.

My initial and secondary responses, particularly the likening of Godzilla to modern monster films, is symbolic of the way in which films are developed and written today. The huge success that is the 1954 Godzilla was just the beginning of the eastern step into western film and television. The popularity of this film has warranted two more incarnations created and produced in the western world.

For my personal artifact I will be basing my work on Asian film and Television culture particularly the western interpretation and adoption of the media, hence I started with the king of them all… Godzilla.

References
Toho Studios, 1954, Godzilla 1954 trailer, online video, 20th July, YouTube, viewed 7-13/08/14. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKrj1ymJzmo&gt;

Hi i’m Sean.

Hi there.

I’m Sean Coles and I am currently studying Communications and Media in my second year, majoring in both Marketing/Advertising and Digital Media. Now I don’t mean to burst any bubbles here, but the main reason as to why I chose to do this subject is because of it being a core subject for my digital communications major. That’s the main reason, however it does seem like an interesting subject and upon reading the outline it seems there will be some engaging topics.
On a personal level, I play a lot of video games and am generally a heavy consumer of media. I love TV and Movies and all that kind of stuff. I find the integration of each of these mediums an interesting and entertaining convergence. Although I’m no expert on the topic I understand that e-sports such as competitive League of Legends and StarCraft are huge in Asia (particularly Korea), I am interested in exploring this further during this session.

I really don’t have any plans for the future after university; I’d rather just take life as it comes. That being said, there are still some areas which particularly interest me such as working on television/ movie/ radio sets, but again we will see how it pans out. I don’t really see myself pursuing a career as a researcher but I am still open to it.
Anyway, I look forward to working with you all and will see you in the lectures and tutes (Thursday 3:30).