Week 10

Case Study: Intertextuality between Dragon Age: Origins and Final Fantasy XII

Intertextuality isn’t a term used much outside of literary essays, but it is a word that describes the phenomenon of taking influences from a particular text and making a new text that pays homages to the original texts. Loosely it refers to the origins of certain ideas or concepts that worked their way into other content.

Using this as a base, I will be showing how a Western RPG, Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) is intertextually bound to the earlier Final Fantasy XII (FFXII). DA:O is a game I picked up this semester to give myself a grounding in the modern WRPG. I was looking for a game that was immediately accessible, and was blown away by how easy to was to pick up and play. Many weeks later I finally found that the gameplay had been heavily built on FFXII, similarities that I had picked up much earlier. While FFXII was rated well by critics, the player communities took issue with the passiveness of the game, they cited the new, self programmed AI system as taking away a core element of gameplay. Which was true, but definitely played in to the aims of a great JRPG. By taking away some of the gameplay involved in grinding, the developers had taken a core pain and turned it in to a passive experience that was easily forgotten and able to be set aside as you did other things.

And yet, this system that was criticised by audiences found it’s way, exactly, into a WRPG. I personally, loved it. I have always been drawn more to the focuses of JRPGs and for a western RPG to exhibit these values meant that I fell in love with DA:O. I previously looked at what I feel stops Visual Novels from being JRPGs and cited gameplay. And here we have a WRPG exhibiting the gameplay not of it’s genre. Of course, the next logical question is, “Do you think DA:O is a JRPG made outside Japan?”

Let me take you quickly through the areas I’ve already defined as setting apart typical WRPGs and JRPGs, namely style, gameplay and structure. The grey area is thick but together they create an ambiance that befits either a WRPG or JRPG.

The stylings of DA:O befit both genres. The focus on relationships and speech interactions is something seen more commonly in WRPG staples as the way to progress story in which you choose your character which is the element not available in JRPGs for the most part. However the art style and creatures have a realism that shies away from the extravagance of the JRPG. The characters themselves and their personalities fit many of the tropes of RPG history both JRPG and WRPG origins.

The structure is where things get interesting. There is a multifaceted storyline that is typical of a WRPG, but it’s pacing isn’t. In fact, the pacing is ripped entirely from FFXII and befits the epic nature inherent with JRPG. On the flip-side, the party system is much more common in JRPGs, but the recruitment and dialogue that results is almost unheard of in the JRPG scene.

I already know what the conclusion would be when I started writing. DA:O is most definitely a WRPG. It values the same values throughtout all parts of the game, however, it is tied intrinsically to JRPGs, and benefits from throwing away the worst part of both and hand picking positive qualities from both worlds to create a bridge between them, I felt that as I was playing this game I was playing a multicultural RPG.

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To wrap it all up…

Even though this will be my last written post in this series on hentai, it’s certainly not where my role as autoethnographer ends. Or at least autoethnography as I’ve come to know it, which is as tool for engaging with social and cultural phenomenon underscored by cultural reflexivity and a reflection upon one’s own experiences to frame one’s understanding of that phenomenon. While this is a research process that involves writing down your thoughts, I think that this form of self-reflection is also a very useful exercise in mindfulness.

Throughout this study I’ve confronted many of the paradoxes and challenges I’ve often come up against as a student, woman, human being. Let me explain. I went into this study as a student of DIGC330, and only that. I wanted to investigate hentai as a weird and quirky subject matter, based on the fact that I didn’t understand the appeal of animated pornography when real porn is so abundant. Shortly into my investigation I was approaching the work as a feminist, then as a kind of feminist-historian, but always as an outsider, never quite coming to terms with the subject matter I was seeking to engage with.

The way women are portrayed in the videos and pictures doesn’t shock me, but I still feel affronted by it. I feel that it warrants attention as part of a global trend toward the fetishisation and objectification of women’s bodies. As the autoethnographic process necessitates, I could not simply research as a student of DIGC330, I had to take ownership of my values, beliefs and understanding about the way gender and sexuality functions in this world and apply this to my study. My reflections were always punctuated by a variety of other sources, however my interest always piqued at information pertaining to gender representations and changing gender roles, as opposed to, say, information about how the internet has affected the proliferation of hentai or hentai fandoms online. I admit that in the end this probably obscured or overtook more hentai-specific research paths I could have been taking, however those were the avenues more relevant to me.

Indeed I think if I had a broader scope for research I would delve more deeply into the online culture of hentai, i.e. how hentai consumers interact with each other online. In relation to this I barely touched the surface, yet one comment I will venture to make, because this surprised me, is that the language used by participants in the few forums I visited seemed quite tame, reasonably respectful and didn’t contain any degrading remarks about women, be it in the videos or real life.

My own little soapbox

So all this information that I’ve been working on is great and all but how will I show it off?  See there are a couple of different ways I could do it.  As you might have noticed, a few of the other contributors on this site are working on digital artifacts (something online) that are relevant to their topic.

I thought about doing that but I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to use.  I could make a blog about my experiences, but that’s what this is, isn’t it?  I don’t really want to have to write everything twice and nobody wants to read it twice (least of all my uni professors who will mark my work).

I could have done a twitter feed about my experiences but that’s not really my style.  And part of my research would have been conducted rudely if I was going to talk to someone and keep tweeting the experience.

Maybe a YouTube video or videos but that involves having a decent camera which I definitely do not.  I don’t even have a microphone to record interviews and my phone was not going to cut it.

In the end there were plenty of options but all involved things that either I didn’t have or wasn’t comfortable doing.  At all.  So what’s left?

I guess there’s nothing to it but to write a decent essay on the topic using actual research and my own research.  But that leaves you guys, who may have been interested in this, a little out of the loop.  Not to worry!  I’m decent at writing, not great as you can clearly see but decent, and I plan to upload it once the all clear has happened.  I probably won’t put it here but over on my personal blog so that it’s less empty and to let those people know I haven’t died yet.

Reflection time!

Ok boys and girls it’s that time again, it’s time to reflect on what we have learned this session once again. After all the post and all the research it is time to reflect on what we learned. So what have we learned? Well I have been looking at Dragonball Z and things that surround the Anime culture with this show.  Turns out there was a lot to learn from this culture and show that I never knew existed when I first started to watch the show.

The Auto-ethnographic style of the research has been a new experience for me. I never realised how much one could learn by reflecting on ones experiences and critically analysing the experiences. Take for example the parodies post I did, I never realised that seeing Dragonball Z the story with different dialogue could dramatically change how I remember the show. I think the Parody show is a lot more memorable because of the humour involved rather than the story that is taking place.  It is also crazy to experience Dragonball Z in a subbed format, after being used to the English dubbed voices. Learning that Goku sounds like he does in the Japanese version crushed my inner child. The Goku who was always so manly and so awesome in the English dubbed version now sounded like a timid person.  It is amazing how the change in the voice was all it took to take this larger than life character and destroy the image I had of Goku as a kid.

There is just so much that I have learned from this study and it’s been fun learning about all this stuff. I definitely feel more comfortable with auto-ethnographic studies after completing these blogs.  Also re-watching and re-experiencing the Fights I watched of Dragonball Z brought back memories and feelings I had thought were lost to time. I felt like I was 10 again after re-watching some of the fights in the show and even though my experiences differ from when I was 10, that doesn’t mean they were any less enjoyable.

Case Study – Avatar The Last Airbender

Today I was posed a question that presented itself as an excellent blog post for this week. I was posed the question “Would you consider ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ as an anime”. As I did not have experience with the show, I took a quick look at videos online, and came up with my own opinion to this statement. In this post I will explore this question and also provide my defining criteria to back up my response. Caution – the video below may contain spoilers.

At first glance, it appears that Avatar: The Last Airbender harbours the makings of an anime production. First and foremost, my argument is based on the idea of an anime as an art style, and not based on its geographical location, so the basic response of “No, it’s an American cartoon” is not enough. There are a number of small criteria I have observed to help me come to my own conclusion on the matter. The first is by looking at the eyes of the character, and observing the character during emotional stages. Secondly I took a look at the mouths of the character, and whether the mouth was synchronised with the words spoken. Finally, I considered the concept of tabula rasa, and the evolution of character.

AvatarTheLastAirbenderWallpaper800

At a first glance, if you’ve never seen the show, Avatar: The Last Airbender gives the illusion of being an anime production. The art style, based on the image provided, almost appears detailed enough to be considered as anime, but when you watch the cartoon you will quickly realise there is little emphasis on the eyes when showing emotion, and there is no iconography present in the cartoon. The emotion from the characters is shown by use of the mouth and the face as a whole. This indicates that there is a good chance that it is not an anime production.

Another noticable difference between cartoons and anime is the mouths themselves. In most cases, anime productions are produced in two or more forms, the Japanese speaking version with English subtitles (sub) and the English speaking version, produced by an American company (dub). The difference between the two versions is that the voice acting is different across the two versions, and the visuals remain the same content. The speech patterns of the anime characters can easily be manipulated as the animation style for mouths in anime is to simply open and close, and not to track speech patterns in the way other forms of cartoons do. This allows for two separate narrations to appear to be the words of the character, and not a badly edited reproduction of the anime. The character’s speech patterns in Avatar: The Last Airbender appear to match the movement of the mouth, and that the cartoon was made with the characters intent to say those exact words. As cartoons are produced for individual languages, it would seem that Avatar follows the cartoon’s format for speech patterns, allowing me to conclude to that point.

To it’s credit, Avatar does present some themes that could potentially deem itself as an anime. The concept of Tabula Rasa, or blank slate, is a concept that is evident in most cartoons, and is not seen in anime. Anime productions often involve character evolution and story arcs that span multiple episodes. The concept of Tabula Rasa in cartoons leads to a reset of the experience for the cartoons, and each episode has its own story. Tabula Rasa is evident in cartoons such as The Simpsons and Looney Tunes, where the overall character progression is minimal and each episode is its own separate entity. Avatar is like an anime in the way that it possesses a progressive and linear storyline that heavily features character evolution and experience. It is in this way that Avatar appears to be like an anime. This however is not a defining feature of anime, and based on the evidence previously stated, it is my understanding that Avatar: The Last Airbender, while it exhibits certain features of an anime production, it is by definition a cartoon, and not an anime.

Myth Busted.

반성 (reflection)

What has studying the Eat Your Kimchi community taught me throughout my study? How does Eat Your Kimchi fit into the South Korean context?  How does my experience of the EYK community and South Korea fit into the international fandom of EYK?

I have learnt to see Eat Your Kimchi as a window. A portal. A way to access something new and exciting (South Korean culture, being part of an international fan community) while still being comforted and accommodated by something familiar (English language, YouTube as a medium of expression and community). The key to stepping into the rabbit hole has been using the autoethnographic method to serve as a gentle helping hand in forging a connection with my subject, bridging the distinction between personal, immersive experience and scholarly study (Doty 2010). It is the human aspect that has been very fascinating for me, the fandom which supports EYK/Simon and Martina like a boat, often physically and metaphorically ferrying EYK to new shores (for example, they have now twice travelled to Scandinavia to meet with fans and attend festivals/conferences, and have travelled to Australia for SBS and to see their Aussie fans).

Each post has been an extra push into participation in the EYK community. 한류 (korean wave) gave me perspective on how I saw EYK when I first discovered them; as a white South Korean couple, a strange revelation, which has shown me that cultural identity is not necessarily something tied to nationality or ethnicity, but from my perspective, something that is generated by passion for, assimilation within, and recognition of a distinct cultural identity. 유명인사 (celebrity) brought me to terms with my identity as an actual ‘fan’ of EYK rather than a viewer/consumer of EYK content, and further expanded on how Simon and Martina are a conduit into South Korean culture. 외국의 (foreign) brought me face to face with my cultural assumptions surrounding South Korea and prompted a revelation: EYK have become part of the ‘soft power diplomacy’ used by South Korea to break into new media markets. 공동체 (community) allowed me to come to terms with how valuable the EYK fandom has been to EYK, yet also challenged me to tackle with the question: how DOES an autoethnographer effectively represent their research? I needed an way to represent this relationship that was immersive yet gave perspective to the author. 장애물 (barrier) demonstrated my engagement with the autoethnographic technique of reflexive ethnography; attempting to interact with South Korean culture and entertainment, while also reflecting on barriers which caused the process to stutter and start, such as language barriers and the media via which we consume a culture. 제공 (contribution) brought the EYK community back into focus, and my research revealed to me the medium for my Digital Artefact, while also allowing me to investigate what makes digital fandoms different: the amplification of participatory culture and the complimentary nature of a producer’s relationship with their supporters. 참가 (participation) revealed to me the importance of place, communication and culture in the exchange between fandom and the subject of fandom, and how perspective and the audience’s position in relation to the subject augments the exchange of meaning involved. My research also zoomed in upon the interaction of fans internationally, brought together by the flexible space that is the digital, and came to terms with how my Digital Artefact could fit into and accentuate this symbiosis.

This is what my autoethnographic experience of Eat Your Kimchi and South Korea has taught me. The digital has brought Asia, especially South Korea, closer into focus for those living in cultural isolation from their culture. Eat Your Kimchi not only provides the diffusion of South Korean culture into a simpler, more easily consumed dimension for people all over the world via language, medium, inclusivity and physical and digital spaces, but has also created a valuable exchange between people of differing cultural and social perspectives with a passion in common: South Korea.

External reference:

Doty, R. L. 2010, ‘Autoethnography- making human connections’, Review of International Studies, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 1047-1050

That time of the year…

So now comes the time where I take a long hard look at everything I’ve researched, and try to narrow it all down into a singular topic. This part is hard. I feel as though the information I have collected can equally contribute to what I would like to express within my research essay. The hardest part will be coming up with a question to really narrow my focus. Hoppes (2014) believes that “the research question may not be evident to the writer and is one of the last puzzle pieces to fall into place.” (pp.66) Which has certainly become the case for myself. Judging from what Hoppes has said I need to look closely at all the information I have collected, and brainstorm a number of questions that could be relevant to the topic.

Looking back at my previous posts I can most definitely see a connection. Each aspect of Sailor Moon I have looked at from a Western perspective in comparison to the Eastern perspective. Whether that be the changes within in content, the exportation of both the anime and manga, and the globally accepted female characteristics.

I feel that having watched the anime as a child provides me with an advantage when looking at it from a Western perspective. However I also feel that my nostalgia may affect my ability to look at the show from a critical level. The one thing that may play to my advantage is that I have watched the original dubbed version as a child, and I am now watching the new re-booted Japanese version (with subtitles, because I am unfortunately not that talented) as an adult. This experience is allowing me to garner a whole new out-look of the series as a whole. I eventually plan on reading the manga, but unfortunately that won’t be for a while, because – you know – assessments, and stuff.

So to finish off this series of blog posts I leave you with an article explaining pretty much everything you need to know about Sailor Moon, and a comparison of both the original and new and improved anime. Later Sailor Scouts!

sailor-moon-old-vs-new-usagi

Hoppes, S 2014, “Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity”, New Directions For Higher Education, no. 166, pp.63-71

Reflecting on my research

On my post from last week about live music in Thailand, I received a number of comments suggesting I should look into some other Asian nation’s live music industry, and evaluate how these were either similar or different to that of which I have already learned about Thailand. I found this very interesting – it was something that I hadn’t really thought about doing myself and I think it could give me an added level of insight into my overall topic of Thailand’s music industry, in terms of an added context of related countries.
However, it happens to be the last week of required blogging for this subject – meaning I have little to no time to explore this topic before getting started on my final research project (in the same topic). That being said, I have decided to focus on this issue in this project a little more than I would have done otherwise – so thank you for the suggestion, fellow bloggers!
In this post, I have decided to merely wrap up what I have been discussing over the semester, and discuss with you what I think I have learned over the course of completed DIGC330.
First of all, this was a really interesting assessment to complete due to its methodology of autoethnography. It was enlightening to constantly give my own opinions and perspectives on whichever topic I would be talking about, especially in terms of secondary and academic research – which is something that I have never really done before at university.
This methodology really allowed me to engage with the research material in a way that I had never been able to achieve previously.
In terms of the topic I chose to look into, I feel as though I really learned some new information that I’ll carry with me for a while. Being an avid music lover, it was an easy topic to research due to my own personal interest.
However, that being said, I primarily listen to only Australian music (for no particular reason – all my favourite bands just turn out to be local), which means my knowledge did not really span past this.
Overall, I found this blogging assessment to be really beneficial to discovering what DIGC330 is all about as a subject, and gave me a really good idea into what I wish to be researching in my personal project a few weeks from now!
Catchya on the flipside, all you dedicated readers.

The Birth of Sina Weibo

Differing from the creation of Facebook and Twitter, these being the most used social networking sites in the Western world, Sina Weibo was established as a spin-off from another already successful company, rather than a start-up. Sina Weibo was created and owned by Sina Corp, China’s tenth most grossing Internet Company, earning 620m yaun in renvenue in 2012 (China.org.cn 2013). Sina Corp is a multimedia online company that owns sites sina.com and sina.cn and now social network site weibo.com., giving users access to both professional and user generated content (Sina.com 2009).

Sina Weibo’s main competitor is Tencent Weibo, which is owned by China’s top ranked Internet company Tencent Holdings, with Tencent Weibo having 580m registered users and Sina Weibo having 556m (China.org.cn 2013; wearesocial 2014). Tencent Holdings isn’t the direct competitor for Sina Corp, however after the buzz created by Sina Weibo at its launch in August 2009, directly after the blocking of Twitter, Tencent Holdings chose to leverage its user base to create its statistically more popular social network Tencent Weibo (Epstien 2014).

“Chao hopes his Weibo’s market-topping success will one day remake Sina…into a dominant social networking platform like Tencent” (Epstien 2014).

The premise behind the creation of Sina Weibo was to create something that replaced Twitter and the Chinese Twitter clone Fanfou, but wasn’t Facebook as China already had RenRen. Charles Chao, Sina Corp’s CEO, came up with Sina Weibo just at the time when the government most feared microblogs, however it was approved and this fact arguably contributed to its success (Epstien 2014). Also much like its Western counterparts, Sina Weibo is free to use, given that I was able to sign up for an account without any prompt for money, however you could argue your cost is your privacy, as it is with most social network sites, the data you place on the site can be mined by marketers and developers through the sites API (Bamman et al 2012). However it is important to note that Chinese citizens don’t have the same concept of privacy or freedom that us in the Western world do, so whilst we as users of Western social networks have an issue with Facebook owning our content (even though we signed it away upon registering), Chinese users don’t seem to have the same qualms, rather they have found ways to avoid being censored through memes and jokes (Anti 2012). Interestingly, the opposite has happened, and the rise of weibo has changed the Chinese mindset and enabled them to have a public sphere and realise the importance of freedom of speech, whilst Western users of social networks have come to realise what it’s like to have that birth right taken away from them (Anti 2012).

Sources:

Anti, 2012, Behind The Great Firewall of China, online video, June, TED Talks, viewed 5/10/14, <https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_anti_behind_the_great_firewall_of_china>

Bamman et al, 2012, ‘Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese Social Media’, First Monday, vol. 17. No. 3-5, viewed 12/10/14, http://public01.library.uow.edu.au/refcite/style-guides/html/

China.org.cn, 2013, Top 10 mobile internet companies in China for 2013, China.org.cn, viewed 12/10/14, < http://www.china.org.cn/top10/2013-09/17/content_29998503.htm>

Epstien, G, 2011, ‘Sina Weibo’, Forbes, 3 March, viewed 12/10/14, < http://www.forbes.com/global/2011/0314/features-charles-chao-twitter-fanfou-china-sina-weibo.html>

Sina, 2009, SINA, Sina.com, viewed 12/10/14, < http://corp.sina.com.cn/eng/sina_intr_eng.htm>

wearesocial, 2014, Social, Digital & Mobile in China 2014′, wearesocial, viewed 4/9/14 <http://www.slideshare.net/wearesocialsg/social-digital-mobile-in-china-2014&gt;

Pokemon and Soft Power Part 2: Kawaii and Consumption.

I came across an article this week that discussed the concept of Kawaii and how this seemly abstract notion that best translates as “cute” in English is incorporated into Japanese consumerism. For this blog post, I will briefly discuss a section of this paper and do my best to link the concepts Allison describes to my research into Japanese soft power and Pokemon.
This topic could be an entire essay in itself, and there is a part of me that would love to research this topic much more thoroughly, but alas, I’m short on time and words!

Allison (2003) describes the concept of kawaii  as a notion that combines “the qualities of amae—sweetness connected to dependence—and yasashii—gentleness”. While kawaii is linked to girls and girlishness, it is not exclusively ‘feminine’ (Allison, 2003). Someone’s personality can be called kawaii, for example, and so can a boy’s face. This definition aligns with my understanding of the concept of cuteness.

Interestingly, Allison notes that “Yasashii” or the gentle aspect of cuteness is the word Japanese producers use to describe the marketing of Pokemon in Japan:

If there is something soothing and appealing about a Doraemon or a Pikachu, the aim of marketers has been to extend and expand this emotional relationship into more and more vistas of commodifiable existence. As the Japanese toy company, Bandai, articulates this principle, a child’s happiness can be maximized by spreading her favorite character on everything from PJs, backpacks, and lunch boxes to breakfast cereal, bath bubbles, and galoshes – Allison, 2003.

The comments that Allison makes on what kawaii has come to mean and its relationship to how Pokemon has been used as a commodity speaks to the notions of soft power. It is my understanding that it is the combination of Pokemon’s cute factor, and the way both game and toy companies have capitlised on the cute appeal of Pokemon that have helped to popularise the  franchise internationally, as thus increase the appeal of Japanese culture internationally.

 

References

Allison, A. (2003). Portable monsters and commodity cuteness: Pokemon as Japan’s new global power. Postcolonial Stud., [online] 6(3), pp.381-395. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1368879032000162220 [Accessed 8 Oct. 2014].