Author: therussianblue

Anthony | 23 | Great Sage | Grand Duchess | Shooting Star | Dressing Gown Enthusiast | Dreamer | Creative | Romanticist | Optimist | Admirer of Authenticity!

My Digital Artifact

Link to my YouTube Playlist:

Link to my Reddit Account.

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Philosophical Anime: Ghost in the Shell

For my final post, I thought I’d go back and experience a classic anime film which I had never seen before. I finally decided on the 1995 film, Ghost in the Shell, a film which would serve to influence the future of both Japanese and ultimately, global science fiction. Additionally, the reason I wanted to watch the film was that I was aware it had significant overarching philosophical themes messages and wanted to see how they were communicated. Once again, I filmed a vlog which allowed me to give a proper overview of the film, communicating how I felt about the film, and sharing some of the trivia and interesting facts from behind the scenes.

Ghost in the Shell follows the government agency Section 9’s hunt for a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master, following lead android characters, Motoko Kusanagi and Batou. The overarching philosophical themes prevalent in the text include the themes of sex/gender identity and self-identity in a technologically advanced world. Personally, I found that these themes and messages were extremely relevant in our society where we are still struggling to achieve and define privacy laws in our digital age, and also as we attempt to save our planet from the destruction it’s suffered from human hands.

I admit that the film wasn’t what I expected. I didn’t expect it to be so mature, and in fact I learned that the film itself takes on a significantly more mature design than the manga it was based on which shows comedic facial expressions and situations. The mature design certainly assists in allowing the audience to take the plot and ideas presented more seriously. In addition, although I didn’t mind, there wasn’t as much action as I would have expected. Instead the plot was driven by human conversation, and a lot of the world was described through lengthy scenes illustrating the environment. In an interview with the Onion, director Mamoru Oshii describes the reasoning for this in a statement which awarded me a lot of respect for the man,

“…a lot of audiences and producers and companies are expecting me to make films with a lot of action. They all know that I’m very good at action scenes, but I tend to not use many, so they’re all frustrated with me every time I make a movie. But I do that intentionally. Yes, if I do a movie with a bunch of action, it’s going to be a lot more successful than the types of movies I’m making right now. The producers often say, “Instead of using all these philosophical phrases, why don’t you change this into an action scene?” But I don’t do that. I intend to continue to make these movies.”

My experience on Reddit this week served to cement my findings, allowing me to demonstrate how to properly make use of Reddit. Firstly, in a similar fashion to last week,  when sharing my vlog with r/anime, the community downvoted the video. When examining twhat content I’ve posted which has succeeded, the original content which succeed were the cosplay photos I took, the Totoro photo achieving over 200 upvotes. In addition, the other posts which have proven to be successful were my discussion posts, something which I served to prove again this week when I asked r/anime, in relation to Ghost in the Shell, to share and suggest the anime they believe had the most poignant messages. The post received 35 upvotes and garnered over 80 comments.

Thus, once again, I believe an effective idea to reflect on in conclusion is Sheridan‘s question where he prompts that autoethnography asks, “will this research help others cope with or better understand their situations?” My experience on Reddit, and in addition my experience as a new YouTuber allowed me to examine both situations. Ultimately, I learned that Reddit is a fabulous place to spark conversations, find new ideas, and discover new content, given that there are so many communities filled with people able for discussion. However, when it comes to posting original content, I found that images which are easy to consume succeeded, where my vlogs did not attract much traffic. Additionally, when posting content, I found that you have to pick which sub-reddit to post your content wisely. I also learned that the best way to garner attention to my vlogs was through my pre-established social media sites which allowed me to share my content with a network who was already aware of me. I personally found that my weakness was that I could have posted content more regularly, something I will attempt to rectify in the time before the Digital Artifact is due. I personally didn’t anticipate how much time it would take to make the videos, editing usually serving to take up a whole day. Only as I continue to use Reddit, and continue to make more content for my YouTube channel will I learn more about these online platforms, bringing forth Julius Caesar’s famous quote,

Experience is the teacher of all things.

– Anthony.

References

Robinson, T, “Mamoru Oshii”, A.V. Club, Pub. Sep 15, 2004, http://www.avclub.com/article/mamoru-oshii-13890

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

Ecchi: Gender & Gender Representation in Japanese Anime and Manga

Before discussing the topic, I was inspired by the idea from my last Cosplay article, where I plan on filming a vlog to supplement my blog posts. The vlogs allow me to further discuss these topics, discuss my experiences, and then finally provide content to share with Reddit. Furthermore, it allows me to additionally briefly examine the experience of an emerging YouTuber, however Reddit will still provide as my main platform of interest when discussing my autoethnographical experience.

Aware of the issues prevalent in the representation of women in anime, I decided to look closely at the development of the anime sub-genre titled Ecchi. I was inspired by Flomu’s article “Female Empowerment in Kill la Kill,” which I discovered whilst traversing Reddit, an article which claims that the anime Kill la Kill, rather than communicating lewd images as deviant fan service, rather communicates sexual empowerment. In order to conduct an auto-ethnographical study of the topic, I decided to watch the first episode of Kill la Kill, documenting my thoughts in the following YouTube vlog where I additionally discuss the theory behind Flomu’s argument.

Ecchi is a Japanese slang term which often refers to lewd and lascivious conduct. Fandom communities use it to refer to softcore or playful sexuality, unlike ‘hentai’ which connotes perversion or fetishism, often incorporated in anime and manga as ‘fan service‘ which, as the term suggests, refers to content intentionally included to please the fan base.

Kill la Kill, is an anime television series produced by Trigger which first aired in 2013, directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and written by Kazuki Nakashima. What brought controversy to the show, is that the characters, by donning an extremely ‘skimpy’ uniform, they are transformed and gain amazing powers.

I was fortunately able to legally access the anime online via the anime streaming website Crunchy Roll. I hadn’t heard much about the anime, but I was aware of it’s popularity. Given that I’m already a fan of anime, I didn’t approach the text with any negative bias, and I was expecting to enjoy the show.

As expected, and as expressed in my vlog, I really enjoyed the first episode. I didn’t experience the open sexual imagery in the show as negatively confronting, largely since I knew what to expect, and additionally since I’ve grown accustomed to sexual imagery in anime, given that it largely permeates the media environment. Interestingly, an image created by tumblr user skaboyjfk, titled “Kill la Kill: A Visual Guide to Understanding Female Empowerment and the Male Gaze,” allowed me to see the anime in a new perspective. I look at the topic more in depth in my vlog, but ultimately he argues that the sexualisation in the show serves a function beyond ‘fanservice,’ stating that the uniforms empower the female characters, highlighting the quote,

“You cannot control the lens through which people view you, but it should never ever be a cause for shame. In fact, you are stronger because of it.”

This article certainly fostered a new understanding, and I personally grew to agree with the argument. I decided to take the argument to Reddit, sharing my vlog and posing the question to r/KillLaKill, ‘do you believe that the show is trying to empower women, specifically teenage girls?’ I finally experienced what I thought was inevitable from the start, my post was downvoted to hell, only 17% of users upvoted it. One user commented, stating that “the show was written by a middle-aged Japanese man who has said in interviews that he wrote Ryuko and Satsuki as males… So no, that doesn’t seem to be an aim of the writer or the show.” Alternatively, I posed a question suitable to the topic to r/anime, trying to find out some of the user’s favourite female characters, the post was mildly successful, receiving a few comments.

What I felt should be highlighted as it will serve to both help me, and others learning how to properly use Reddit in order to maximise their chances of having a successful post, was a comment by user Niernen, who instructed the importance of including a message body:

Self-posts without a message body are likely to be removed. If you want your post to stay and succeed, spend time to write a message-body to go along with it. We’ll permit such threads to stay around if we come across them and they happen to have generated a discussion, but better safe than sorry.

Ultimately, as Sheridan provides, autoethnography asks, “will this research help others cope with or better understand their situations?” this experience serves to inform those who are attempting to better understand Reddit. I believe the reason my vlog was downvoted was the fact that I posed a question which most users found didn’t feel was important, supplemented by the trend that they might have downvoted my self-post given that it could have been seen as self promotion. Hopefully this experience will allow me to be more successful in my future experiences with Reddit.

References

flomu, “Female Empowerment in Kill la Kill,” flomu.net

skaboyjfk, 2013, Kill la Kill: A Visual Guide to Understanding Female Empowerment and the Male Gaze, Tumblr, http://i.imgur.com/DpG1VIk.jpg.

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

Oz Comic-Con: The Culture of Cosplay

Last Saturday I attended Oz Comic-Con in Sydney. I’m planning on both vlogging about the experience, and will then be creating a short film documenting the experience of myself and my team as part of our group assignment.

In this post I’ll be discussing my experience with cosplay on Reddit, and at the convention. However, before I begin I’d like to share a simple plan of my research and post plan for the next few weeks:

  • Week 8: Cosplay & Convention Culture – Oz Comic-Con
  • Week 10: Gender Representation in Japanese Anime and Manga – Kill La Kill
  • Week 11: Political Messages in Utopian/Dystopian Anime and Manga – Ghost in the Shell
Cosplay

Anime Inspired Cosplay at Oz Comic-Con: Levi, Attack on Titan (TR,) Piccolo, Dragon Ball Z (TL,) Asuna and Kirito, Sword Art Online (BR,) Ira Gamagori, Kill la Kill (BL.)

The Japanese term cosplay, short for costume play, (costumed roleplay,) originally referred to period dramas and historical plays which required period appropriate clothing. The term gained currency in Japan since the 1970s to describe the practice of dressing up as characters from anime, manga and pop culture. The subculture was inspired by the practice of masquerade which featured prominently at U.S. Science Fiction Conventions. Japanese academic Daisuke Okabe explains that cosplay took off in Japan with the introduction of hit series such as Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979, and Urusei Yatsura in 1980. Today the subculture has been gladly embraced by communities all around the world, fans donning colourful purchased pre-made, or handmade garments in order to publicly express their love and commitment to their fandoms. For a full timeline of cosplay, follow this link.

I witnessed and participated in this subculture last Saturday at the Sydney Exhibition Centre – an event which certainly can be seen as one of the highlights of 2014 for me. I created a Flickr album where I posted all of the photos I took of amazing cosplayers. It was simply inspiring to see so many people who had gone through so much hard work in order to bring these characters to life – the woman dressed as Levi in the above image explaining that the accessories she made for her costume took over a day and a half to assemble. Inspired by the cosplayers I witnessed earlier in the year, I too decided to put some time and money into my costume, assembling an outfit of Oswald Cobblepot, The Penguin. I personally felt the effort was rewarding, the positive looks, smiles, and kind and flattering words that I received from the crowd on the day were priceless.

This week on Reddit I chose to both examine the sub-reddit r/cosplay, and participate in it. Before posting I read the submission guideline’s carefully, afraid of being criticised for misconduct. Earlier when I initiated my venture, I quickly learned that r/cosplay was updated frequently, and that posts could get lost quickly. I posted one image which received 12 upvotes, contenting me. Despite sharing that image with r/cosplay, I chose to share an image of my favourite cosplayer of the day, a woman dressed as Totoro, with r/ghibli in order to see how the niche sub-reddit focused on Ghibli would receive the image. I was absolutely surprised to receive over 200 upvotes, the image receiving over 1900 views on Flickr, quickly climbing to the top page of the sub-reddit, demonstrating the perks of posting decent content to the right sub-reddit.

Have you ever been to a convention? Did you cosplay? Leave a comment and let me know, and also, please feel free to suggest any anime or manga you might know of that might suit my future topics.

– Anthony

 EDIT: (Later Addition) Here’s my vlog where I describe my experience in more detail. A short documentary will be created soon with the footage we compiled for our group assingment.

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An Autoethnographical Investigation of Anime, Manga, & Reddit


Before I continue to detail my experience on Reddit, I’d first like to outline the methodology involved in my approach, detailing how my research of Japanese Anime and Manga corresponds with, and is guided and framed by, the concept of autoethnography.

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience… Thus, as a method, autoethnography is both process and product.

– Ellis, Addams, Bochner, ‘Autoethnography, An Overview.’

As Ellis explains, autoethnography combines the forms of autobiography, and ethnography – the process encouraging me to describe my personal experiences with Japanese Manga and Anime, whilst sharing the experience with other members on Reddit, my chosen site of interest. Thus, my investigation will incorporate two cultural experiences, the cultural experience of Japanese texts, and the cultural experience of participating in Reddit.

In order to successfully apply this method into my investigation I’m making the effort to participate weekly in the cultural experience by both watching anime and reading manga, and then by participating in discussions on Reddit I have also been posting questions in order to spawn discussion, allowing others to share their experiences, a process which also helps to expose myself to brand new texts. I’ve so far been successful, I’ve asked r/manga about the worst manga they’ve ever read, the post receiving 108 comments, and also asked r/anime about the most emotional anime they’ve ever seen, receiving 38 comments with many interesting contributions.

In my future reflective blog posts I plan on adhering to Sheridan’s “autoethnography prompts” questions which serve as a useful way to frame my process of investigation across the next few weeks, and a useful way to prompt a deeper response to my experience. In the coming weeks I plan to generate more discussion on Reddit, and plan to look into some of the texts suggested to me in the discussions, writing about my experiences with them.

Finally, this weekend I’m going to Oz-Comic Con, an interesting experience which I’m sure will serve to inspire me during my investigation.

References

Ellis, C, Adams, T & Bochner, A 2011, “Autoethnography: An Overview”, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, accessed 11th Sept 2014, found: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, accessed 11th Sept 2014, found:http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

Reddit, Embarking on a New Journey

As part of my auto-ethnographic exploration of anime and manga, I’ve decided to base the majority of my experience on Reddit, “the front page of the internet.” This will give me the opportunity to not only interact with the communities discussing these topics, but also make a bit of an experience for myself, exposing myself to new content, and furthering my understanding of the platform, helping me to assist others to understand the platform.

The reason I chose to look into Reddit is because I believe it’s a valuable platform to understand. As Tornoe states in his journal article, Reddit 101:

“Reddit, with its large readership and thousands of user-controlled subcategories, is quickly becoming an important tool for journalists to understand and master. Not only is it a potential treasure trove of human interest stories and local news leads, it should also be part of every newsroom’s social media strategy to drive Web traffic.”

This week I took that dive into Reddit, and I can freely admit that I felt mildly apprehensive doing so. This was because firstly, although I’ve ‘lurked’ on Reddit for a few years, I’ve never actually properly participated. Secondly, I was aware that on Reddit, if you don’t share content that the community likes you can both be ‘downvoted’ to hell, or receive colourful criticism from anonymous community members.

My first step was to make an account. I named it “OneSummersDay,” named after the beautiful opening theme from Spirited Away. I then searched for a range of sub-reddits, subscribing to r/anime, r/manga, r/japan, r/otaku, among a few others.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender – Is it an Anime?

Searching around for an interesting peripheral figure or group to look at regarding anime, I came across the above video from the PBS Idea Channel, hosted by Mike Rugnetta, a successful YouTube show that “examines the connections between pop culture, technology and art.” The YouTube Channel, and it’s videos boasting millions of views, demonstrate how many people are interested in these niche investigations. Furthermore, the video brought to my attention the discourse about the genre classification of anime, and the question of, is “Avatar: the Last Airbender” an anime?

As Mike Rugnetta informs us, anime is simply the Japanese word for animation. Outside of Japan, the term specifically only refers to animation from Japan, although in Japan, it refers to every type of animation. With this applied logic, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” can be classified as American or Western Anime. Chris O’Brien from the Escapist leads an interesting argument, stating that “anime has been around and popular for so long, its influence now stretches far outside the confines of the tiny island country in the Pacific from which it originates.”  Thus certainly, this information surely calls for the discussion and perhaps a rethinking of our often rigid genre classification system.

The question, I think, is what is gained by excluding works that meet major stylistic criteria from a genre?

Are we maintaining the usefulness of the word anime, having it mean a very specific thing?

There is a usefulness in having anime communicate equality or a set of qualities, but is a disservice done when it starts excluding things that admirers of the form might appreciate regardless of it’s “authenticity?”

Or speaking of which, maybe it’s about protecting the sanctity or quality of the genre itself?

– Mike Rugnetta, The Idea Channel

Personally what I’d like to find out by investigating fandom communities, is how fans of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and it’s sequel series, “The Legend of Korra” feel about Anime. I personally find the two shows to be extremely fascinating, as not only do they combine the styles of anime and American cartoons, they also communicates cultural imagery, adult intellectual themes, mythology, and theology of various East Asian, Inuit, Southeast Asian, South Asian and New World societies.

What are your thoughts on the subject? I’d love to know!

References

– Rugnetta (2014,) “Is Avatar: The Last Airbender Anime?” PBS Idea Channel, Accessed 28 Aug 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRfv5a9QFu8

– O’Brien, (2012) “Can Americans Make Anime?” The Escapist, Accessed 28 Aug 2014, http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9829-Can-Americans-Make-Anime

Hayao Miyazaki, Domo Arigatou Gozaimasu

When pondering influential figures of the Japanese animated film industry, one name stands above them all, “Hayao Miyazaki.” Miyazaki’s career as a director, animator, manga artist, producer, and screenwriter has spanned over fifty years, sharing his success with his work partner Isao Takahata, the co-founder of influential film and animation studio, Studio Ghibli.

Hayao Miyazaki art portrait by C3nmt

‘Hayao Miyazaki Art Portrait,’
by C3nmt

His award winning films have captured the hearts of a global audience. In fact, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, his film Spirited Away (2001) is currently the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, having grossed over ¥30 billion, (equivalent to over approximately $310 million AU.)

Spirited Away was actually what introduced me to the world of Ghibli, seven years ago at the end of the school year in a French class. Ever since that fateful ‘bludge period,’ my love for Miyazaki and his films has since grown exponentially. Yet, why have these films captured our hearts? Perhaps the secret lies within one of the master’s famous quotes, “in order to grow your audience, you must betray their expectations,” a motto which certainly applies to my experiences with his films. Each of his films, without fail, have both surprised and delighted me, the wonderful characters, artwork, stories, and soundtrack enchanting me.

Researching his online presence, I discovered that he wasn’t publicly active on any social media site. However, it appeared that his work had a life of it’s own. Everywhere I looked I found fans sharing and creating original content related to Studio Ghibli, just look at the tumblr tag.

I’ve personally participated in this celebration of Ghibli as a fan. In fact, reflecting on past instagram posts, the photos I’ve posted which garnered the most likes were all related to Studio Ghibli. Furthermore, another instance demonstrating the pervasive nature of Studio Ghibli, at the recent Sydney Supanova I attended a few months ago, perusing through stalls I discovered a plethora of Ghibli merchandise, even running into cosplayers dressed as Chihiro & No-Face from Spirited Away.

Chihiro & No-Face spotted at Sydney Supanova 2014!

Chihiro & No-Face spotted at Sydney Supanova 2014!

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Introductions to Anime – A Reflection of the Human Condition?

Making the decision to study anime, I went back to the moment where my love blossomed.

Three years ago I stumbled across a video called “Every Anime Opening Ever.” At that stage in my life I didn’t identify myself as an otaku or much of a fan of anime. I had watched bits of Sailor Moon and was a fan of Akira Toriyama‘s work, however, since Dragon Ball Z was so popular in the “West,” I didn’t exclusively associate it with Japan. It wasn’t until I watched this video, where I exclusively remember saying to myself, I really love anime.

Three years later at my computer I open my browser, click on the YouTube icon in my bookmarks bar, and search “Every Anime Opening Ever.” I find it automatically, it’s the top hit. The video has amassed over 2.2 million views, a testament to both the video’s popularity, and the popularity of the genre. My lips curl into a smile as I open the video. Now familiar to me, my smile widens as Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Euro Mega-Mix” begins to play alongside fast and colourful cuts from a range of different anime’s, some familiar to me, some alien. It’s incredible to see how many conventions permeate the opening credits. I wonder what initially inspired these conventions?

Derek Lieu, the creator of the video, states that the repeated imagery that exist in anime opening credit sequences has “always amused me.” He first became aware of these permeating conventions when watching the X-Men intro made in Japan to replace the American one. He states, “the part that especially hit home was Wolverine, and Cyclops standing on some nondescript land mass,” (pictured below.)

Xmen

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Ohayou Gozaimasu!

Hullo!

I’m Anthony Rewak, a reader, writer, gamer, lover of laughter, and mild otaku. I’m currently in the third year of my Arts/Communication and Media Studies double-degree at the UOW. I’m studying English Literature (Major) and History (Minor) in Arts and studying Journalism (Major) and Digital Media (Minor) in BCM. I also manage a Blog and Facebook Page both titled “The Russian Blue,” (inspired by the breed of my feline companion, Tasha,) where I write and share content predominantly about Philosophy, Spirituality, and occasionally, Geekery. You can also find me on Twitter.

In the future I plan to pursue my passion for writing, perhaps one day becoming a professional teller of stories, and releasing my first novel. As such, I spend a lot of my time reading and watching a wide variety of content, absorbing and studying as many narratives as possible in order to gain more experience (my favourite genre is Fantasy – love Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Patrick Rothfuss, and Jim Butcher, currently reading through Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy.) As such, in this subject I’d love to focus on either manga or anime, and perhaps explore how ‘Eastern’ narratives differ from ‘Western’ narratives, perhaps even going further to study fandom communities.

Fighting the Colossal Titan at Sydney Supanova, (cosplaying as Arthur Dent - Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.)

Fighting the Colossal Titan at Sydney Supanova, (cosplaying as Arthur Dent – Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

I plan to focus on Japan specifically since they enjoy a brilliant and colourful fascination with pop culture, which I adore. My love of Japan blossomed in my childhood where I obsessively played Pokemon and watched Dragonball & Dragonball Z, my love strengthening over the years. I’ve actually been watching quite a lot of anime recently – Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, The Devil is a Part Timer, Soul Eater & Love Stage. I’m also in love with manga and have been reading Attack on Titan, collected and read Akira Toriyama’s entire DB & DBZ series, read a bit of Naruto & Dr. Slump, and am currently reading an amazing manga called Vinland Saga which is about Vikings, is extremely brutal, and extremely amazing! I also love Japanese video games from Nintendo’s Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, and Animal Crossing titles, and am an absolute massive fan of Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts. I’ve also been playing a quirky Japanese game for the 3DS called “Tomodachi Life,” where you create a host of characters (fictional characters, celebrities, people you know,) who all interact with each other. To top it all off, I’m a massive Studio Ghibli fan, my favourite’s being Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke & Spirited Away!

I’m looking forward to the subject, and am looking forward to working with you all over the course of the semester!

Anthony.