Week 3

An Unlikely Love Story

One cold winter’s day, a twenty-year-old Australian university student met a sixty-two-year-old Japanese film, Gojira. It was not love at first sight. It wasn’t even love thirty minutes into the meeting. The student was heard to whisper, “If I only had a half-hour to live, I’d put on Gojira, because watching it feels like an eternity.”

That student was me, just over a week ago, wondering what I had done to deserve watching the treacherous, boring film that Gojira is. My opinion of it changed along the way, however. I’m not a massive fan of watching movies that aren’t in English. Mostly because you have to pay attention to what’s actually happening, rather than staring blankly at a screen with no intelligible thoughts running through your head.

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Third Rock from the Sun

 

Once I found my autoethnographer’s hat (there was one underneath everyone’s seat. It was a blessing, a gift – it was like being on Oprah), I realised I had to analyse my personal experience to understand the cultural experience (shout out to Ellis, Adams, and Bochner (2011) for the insight). I was worried, initially, because studies into culture usually end up with white people pointing at people who are culturally different to them and shouting “HEY, LOOK AT THESE WEIRDOS!”. Ellis et al. explained that autoethnography is actually more socially conscious and “gives way for different points of view”, and generally, it’s more accessible. So basically Autoethnography > Ethnography.

When I endured Gojira, here’s a few things I noticed:

  • The couple that were together at the beginning of the movie continue to be together at the end of the movie, which was very strange for my Hollywood brain to get around, but quite pleasing afterwards. The couple are also culturally different to how Australian couples are – albeit, they’re probably different from how modern Japanese couples are, but I haven’t seen any modern Japanese films to have an informed opinion on that. The couple in Gojira hardly have any physical contact, which is different for Australian cultural norms. The couple does not seem cold to one another, but more like it is not their place to display any affection or grieve in each other’s arms.
  • The film doesn’t have a lot of spoon-feeding for the viewer (as opposed to Hollywood where there’s a voice over at the beginning of half their modern films saying ‘my name is John Doe. I’m the protagonist and leading man.’), although it did become clear later on that there was indeed a leading man, a damsel, a mad scientist – archetypes that you can’t escape across culture and time.
  • War and fear leave scars and the arts are always there to represent the mood of the citizens. This is clear throughout the film with the constant reference to warfare and the human condition. In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the film if it didn’t have the message of “We need to stop nuclear testing. We need to stop this madness” at the end.

All up, I enjoyed examining the film from my perspective. I’m looking forward to my future romantic encounters with Asian media.

Pretence is a fool’s game

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There was never any pretence.

As I was researching Japanese filmmaking in the 1950s, I found Philip Brophy’s postcolonial article on the Godzilla franchise. He makes the argument, “As puppet, doll and prop on a stage of special effects, his theatricalised unreality is never hidden.” As silly as it sounds, during my whole time watching Gojira it never occurred to me they never meant the monster to be realistic. The reality of a human-in-a-suit is in fact meant to be indicative of the cultural story that Gojira represents. Since humans meddling with nuclear testing caused the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, why would a 50 foot nuclear lizard destroying Tokyo be any different?

For some reason, discovering the monster is intentionally false legitimises Gojira in my mind. I suppose the experience is like trying to analyse literature and realising the metaphor was never meant to be believed in its entirety.

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Pretence is a fool’s game

There was never any pretence.

As I was researching Japanese filmmaking in the 1950s, I found Philip Brophy’s postcolonial article on the Godzilla franchise. He makes the argument, “As puppet, doll and prop on a stage of special effects, his theatricalised unreality is never hidden.” As silly as it sounds, during my whole time watching Gojira it never occurred to me they never meant the monster to be realistic. The reality of a human-in-a-suit is in fact meant to be indicative of the cultural story that Gojira represents. Since humans meddling with nuclear testing caused the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, why would a 50 foot nuclear lizard destroying Tokyo be any different?

For some reason, discovering the monster is intentionally false legitimises Gojira in my mind. I suppose the experience is like trying to analyse literature and realising the metaphor was never meant to be believed in its entirety.

Brophy’s realisations about Godzilla stem from the experience of visiting the Toho pool that acted as the shrunken down version of Tokyo Bay in the films. Comprehending the scale of the falsehoods lead to his further understanding about Japan on a cultural level and the inherent vulnerability that comes with being an island nation. Brophy observes Japan as having a “technologically compensated concept of fortification”. This is reflected in the Toho pool’s edges being lined with “giant gas tanks” and “electrical power stations”, as though cocooning themselves in a shell of technology will protect them from the forthcoming threat of Gojira. The irony inherent in that technology will protect from other technology boils down to the fear of human against human. This is something I can relate much better to than a giant lizard monster.

By breaking down the film to a metaphor about postcolonial struggle, Gojira makes a lot more sense to me. I suppose in this instance, the technological limitations of the time were a benefit in order to have the discussion about the regret of human intrigue and inquiry into technology we do not understand. If the monster were believe to be a simple monster this discussion would never take place.

I’m just kicking myself because this should have been common knowledge after all the anime I watch. Japanese story-telling has always been symbolic.


References:

Brophy, P 2000 ‘Monster Island: Godzilla and Japanese sci-fi/horror/fantasy’ in Postcolonial Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 39-42.

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Adrian's AE86

 

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

 

Takumi

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

AkinaHaruna

 

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

 

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

References:

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

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

Tom Nook and ‘Animal Crossing: Wild World’.

Animal_Crossing_Wild_World_Game_CoverReleased in 2005, ‘Animal Crossing: Wild World’ (known in Japan as ‘Animal Forest: Come on Over’) is a life simulation game for the Nintendo DS, where the player is a person who lives among animals. The game happens in real time, with time progressing even when it’s turned off.

My experience with the game was tinged with excitement as I’ve wanted to play it since it came out. It was quite different to what I was expecting; especially the ‘real time’ aspect. I suppose I was hoping I’d get to be an animal. Alas, my character was a cute little girl with bubblegum pink hair and big googly eyes.

I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t enjoy playing ‘Animal Crossing’ as much as I thought I would. On the surface it’s the sort of game I should love, as I’m a big fan of life sims. But this love of other life sims could easily have influenced my experience as I looked for certain factors which are usually present in the games I play.

Was I perhaps heaping a stereotype of Japanese life sims onto ‘Animal Crossing’ without even realising it? I certainly wasn’t experiencing the game with a clear mind. I was playing it and thinking about all the things I should be paying attention to; like game tropes, areas which could cause miscommunication, any aspects which could be considered typically ‘Asian’ (but seriously, what does that even mean?!).

For the next couple of weeks I will need to try and separate myself from the whole reflective aspect until AFTER I’ve played the game. Otherwise I won’t be able to really get to the core of what I’m experiencing, and I won’t be able to give anything a ‘thick description’.

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One of the most popular characters in the ‘Animal Crossing’ series is the racoon, Tom Nook. He’s a bit of an a-hole, and people really like making memes and fanart about him (check out the Tumblr tag, it’s golden). He continuously torments the player’s character. In fact, you begin the game in debt to him as he loans you money for a house. He then makes you work for him to pay it off, and according to Stephen Totilo (2013), he “seems to be laughing at you all the way”. Seriously, if you look him up on Urbandictionary.com you’ll find that he’s defined as both a “cheap bastard” and a “slumlord” (while I think the first applies, the second is a bit harsh).

‘Tom Nook Will Rule Us All’ by Pickassoreborn on DeviantArt

He’s become the face of ‘Animal Crossing’, and is one of Nintendo’s celebrities; though not quite up there with Mario or Link. He has appeared in both ‘Super Smash Bros. Melee’ as a trophy and its sequel ‘Super Smash Bros. Brawl’. He is also in the Nintendo Collector’s Edition of Monopoly. In other words, he’s a drawing card for the ‘Animal Crossing’ series, and has a fairly large presence within the fan community. Mutual loathing has produced a lot of online content, including a number of dedicated twitter accounts.

Also, I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to present my final findings, and I think I might try to create a video, or YouTube playlist. I suppose we’ll see how I go.

– Gabi

References:

Totilo, S 2013, “Nintendo: Tom Nook is ‘Misunderstood’”, Kotaku, accessed 11th August 2014, here: kotaku.com/nintendo-tom-nook-is-misunderstood-506751609

Creator vs. Creation

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When challenged with the task of writing about a celebrity from my field of study, my problem was not of coming up with a suitable subject, but trying to decide which Pokemon-related celebrity was best to write about. So I’m going to talk briefly about two different, yet all equally brilliant examples of Pokemon celebrity.

Let’s start at the beginning with the father of the franchise. Satoshi Tajiri (Japanese: 田尻 智), is the creator of Pokémon, responsible for the initial concepts which would lead to the “metaseries” as it exists today (Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, 2014). Currently the CEO of Game Freak, Tajiri first came up with the concept for Pokémon in 1990. He worked on the original games for almost six years (Larimer, 1999). Since then, the Pokemon phenomenon has taken the world by storm, with IGN naming Tajiri one of the top 100 game creators of all time, mainly for his ability to turn Pokémon into a “worldwide phenomenon” (Ign.com, 2010). His success with the Pokemon games has made him an icon both in Japanese and gaming cultures. Tajiri has acted as executive producer, game designer or director for almost all of the released Pokemon games for Nintendo consoles (Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, 2014).

Perhaps even more famous than the creator of the franchise, is Pikachu; the electric mouse critter, which for those of you who are unaware, is a species of Pokemon from the media franchise (Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, 2014). Celebrities organise our emotional investment, which is exactly what Pikachu does. He features across the collection of video games, anime, manga, books, trading cards, and other media created by Satoshi Tajiri, and has held a special place in my heart and Pokemon team since childhood. Even though he is quite weak in comparison with other Pokemon in the games, the character has become a mascot for the franchise. Pikachu has made multiple appearances in various promotional events and merchandise. He was  ranked as the second best person of the year by Time in 1999 and most recently Pikachu was chosen as one of the mascots for the Japanese side in the 2014 FIFA World Cup (Borboa, 2014).

Reflection

While we owe the franchises existence to Tajiri, I think that the celebrity that is Pikachu has been far more prevalent an ambassador for the franchise because he stimulates a greater emotional response. Pikachu has certainly held a special place in my heart. I remember desperately asking my parents to buy me one for my sixth birthday, because I wanted a small fuzzy best friend like Ash had. It was much easier for me as a child to identify with a cute character and the allure of a fuzzy pet monster than it would have been for me to identify with a Japanese game designer. There must me something to be said about this emotional response that Pikachu and the rest of the Pokemon generate. Thousands of people from across generations engage with the Pokemon celebrity in the form of art, forums merchandise  and games to this day. While the Tajiri’s genius and success as a game developer can be appreciated by adults, the concept is a little difficult for young audiences to grasp. Pikachu’s fuzzy body, red cheeks and, pun intended, electric personality resonate with both children and adults, either evoking a sense of wonder and imagination in children, or a sense of nostalgia or engagement with popular culture in adults.

References

Borboa, S. (2014). Pikachu Named Japan’s Official Mascot In Brazil 2014 World Cup. [online] Soccerly. Available at: http://soccerly.com/article/salvadorborboa/pikachu-named-japans-official-mascot-in-brazil-2014-world-cup [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].

Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, (2014). Pikachu (Pokémon) – Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pikachu [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].

Bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, (2014). Satoshi Tajiri – Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Satoshi_Tajiri [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].

Ign.com, (2010). IGN – 69. Satoshi Tajiri. [online] Available at: http://www.ign.com/top/game-creators/69.html [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].

Larimer, T. (1999). TIMEasia.com | Pokémon: The Ultimate Game Freak – Page 1 | 11/22/99. [online] Web.archive.org. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20110629022758/http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/99/1122/pokemon6.fullinterview1.html [Accessed 18 Aug. 2014].

Image: x.jpg from http://desainbebas.wordpress.com

 

The Karl and Shin Project

Shin Tanaka’s Paper Art

Tougui, of France, and Cubeecraft, of USA, are well-regarded international Papercraft artists. They’ve collaborated with corporations, celebrities and artists from around the world, and these collaborations reflect the nature of the Papercraft industry. Beyond its historic connections with Japan and Origami, Papercraft is an international communal collaboration. I’ve participated in this culture with other fans by building, redesigning, and circulating paper models across digital networks. But Shin Tanaka does not participate in this network. Shin Tanaka, of Japan, is a notorious Papercraft artist because he elevates his work above his fans and peers, and disassociates himself with my understanding of the community.

I’m not suggesting Shin’s designs are terrible, on the contrary I love them. His models closely resemble modern art: simple and angular like the basic shapes that form a drawing. They’re also quite intricate and detailed and printed with designs that reflect Shin’s affinity with America, urban design and street art. Shin also has a close relationship with fashion with models often featuring an article of clothing, like a jumper (seen in his numerous T-BOY series); a hat; or one of the 96 smiling shoes from his Ws series. He’s also worked with over 200 brands and designers, including Nike and Scion, in collaborations and promotional projects. Most recently he collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld, a European man with white hair who is a prominent celebrity in the fashion industry. The KARLxSHIN project was created in 2013 for the Parcours Saint Germain, an annual event where art installations are exhibited in luxury boutique cafes and hotels in Paris. Karl and Shin’s partnership may be surprising but not unlikely. Shin’s work transcends Asian culture because its simplicity is inclusive, and his work with Karl only strengthens that observation. International fans, like myself, can find relevance in Shin’s work because street and urban art has influenced art disciplines across many cultures.

One of Shin Tanaka's T-BOYs with a hood

One of Shin Tanaka’s T-BOYs with a hood

The consistency of Shin’s works reminds me of people building paper cranes over and over, design after design. However, while a paper crane is thrown away after its constructed, Shin’s is showcased. His site is run by publicist and photographer Mily Kadz who runs other high-end artist pages. This association of Papercraft with other high forms of art and photography is unique elevating his work to a high degree. Perhaps this is why his designs are displayed like an art gallery. To be seen not touched. It’s not distributed freely by the artist. You can only download his work for the first two months, anything older is deleted (and some are only released for 24 hours!). But the worst aspect is you can view his entire collection – all 200+ designs. I feel awe and discomfort towards Shin. He’s constructed a high profile image by elevating his work beyond its usual form. I want to make his works but there’s no access. Let me make them, I say. You can’t have it, someone translates. But I want it!

You can’t even buy his designs. I’ve attempted to find links to his work through caching sites like Way Way Back Machine (a cataloging site that I use to find ‘download links’ that have been removed)  but it doesn’t work if they’re removed from the server. Here, this is why I love Shin. I’ve developed a compulsion towards Shin’s works. I resemble a younger me who wanted to collect all the Squirtle cards from Pokemon Trading Cards, or all the Crash Bandicoot toys from Tazos. I don’t know quite why I want these things, maybe because it was unlikely I could collect em’ all. But I wanted to collect and build these models. But I can’t because I’m too late. This is remarkable for a Papercraft artist to do. This is Shin Tanaka’s notoriety. I now regularly return to his site to get his new models because I refuse to miss out.

Besides his collaborations, Shin is not connected internationally with his fans. He has no social media presence, at least not on American and European platforms (maybe he’s active on Asian social platforms), but as an Australian audience member It’s hard to search beyond my English limitations. It doesn’t help when nothing is linked to Shin’s website. He has no personal connection with his audiences except for our connection with his work. You can find a small amount of his work everywhere. But most of it is hard to find. Yet, even though his designs are temporary, there are sites and Shin ‘devotees’ that have archived potentially all of his work. I have them all now. It is perplexing that an artist, influenced by urbanism, only communicates through his collaborations. In an industry that is driven by connections, Shin Tanaka is the least connected participatory.

Follow (and reblog) your Heart.

I want a redo my week 2 post, as I feel like my direction has changed somewhat considerably since I started. I want to have a closer look at Pokemon fan generated content.  While I have enjoyed playing TPP, I feel like it’s a bit of a novel concept. Sure, the gamely might describe utopian democracy, I’m not so interested in political phenomena or collaborative gameplay. I have found myself more and more browsing the inter-webs, particularly Tumblr looking at fan art, fiction and Pokemon fan theories than watching TPP progress rather tediously. While this change may make me appear fickle or that I’m uncommitted, I’d like to think that this change has been more  of a process of self discovery, in that it’s shown me what I’m really interested in!

Like most of my pioneering online experiences, I first stumbled upon Tumblr.com alone in that family study at the recommendation of some school friends. One of the boys at school had written his Tumblr URL down in the corner of one of my exercise books. I remember copying the link into the address bar and scrolling through his blog and thinking Holy crap this is so cool!  There wasn’t much actual writing, more just content that had been ‘reblogged’ from elsewhere, which I remember thinking was weird, as my previous experiences of blogging were written articles.The art and content that users create (that I have found thus far) ranges in form from GIFs, comics, fan art, shared YouTube videos, photos and the occasional textual post.

A few years on and Tumblr has become part of my daily routine. The kinds of humour and cultural mash-ups that appear on my dashboard not only illicit nostalgia, laughter and cynicism for popular culture, but also as a scholar, invite me to ask questions of my own political and cultural views of the world. How does this relate to Pokemon? Let me just share some of the awesome Tumblr user generated art:tumblr_n9pu4gJw0w1t7b5qro2_500tumblr_myfanqBYXN1rf9weto1_500tumblr_naem0sexxV1sv7wvqo1_500 tumblr_lvnzmySrhA1qhi51bo1_500

The curation and generation of Pokemon fan content is unbelievable, as people from around the globe share their ideas and draw on the best content from other sites show different aspects of the Pokemon universe, both real and imagined. While Tumblr.com was created in the U.S, there are any users from all over the globe. As much as l love Pokemon, I haven’t ever been too involved in the fan culture that accompanies the anime series or the games, so I’m keen to explore more, and delve deeper into understand the who, how and why of Pokemon fan cultures as I did when I first found Tumblr.

Links to some Pokefan Tumblogs!

http://pokemon-personalities.tumblr.com

http://alternative-pokemon-art.tumblr.com

http://pokemongifs.tumblr.com

http://pika-chu.tumblr.com

An Exploration in Anime

Anime was a word I was only introduced to in the last couple of months. It was introduced to me to mean Japanese cartoons, which is great because I love cartoons. They’re silly, funny, easy to understand, just a bit of light entertainment.

My introduction to anime was a show that has gathered quite a bit of popularity (to a the best of my knowledge) called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Set in an alternate world Edward and Alphonse Elric are two kids who want to learn alchemy so that they can see their mother again. It only gets more intense from there. Anime are not necessarily silly and light entertainment.

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Pictured: not for kids

This is not a kids show. Don’t get me wrong, kids can certainly watch but a lot of the tension about right and wrong might be lost on them. And that’s where this is super different from what I was expecting. Japanese culture is something that gets made fun of because of the chibis and the extensive cosplay and the tentacles so naturally anime should be just as, well, Japanese. Something weird and incomprehensible from the outside.

But I loved it. The show was amazing. It made me giggle, it made me angry, it made me cry. For anyone into fantasy drama, seriously, check it out. It’s not just some silly cartoon for kids. It’s so much better. It had a better story than the shows I’ve been forced to watch at school with just as much artistic vision if not more.

What surprised me though was that Fullmetal wasn’t written to be a show first, it is based on a manga (if anime are Japanese cartoons then manga are Japanese comics). I did a little research and it turns out that this is incredibly common. Even the shows from when I was young, like Sailor Moon (which turns out to be another anime), were based on a manga. That doesn’t happen much in the western culture. If a show is made it’s usually just a show that might have some toys for the kids. Fullmetal has a show, a manga, a line of toys and collectors edition DVDs. There’s almost a world to immerse yourself in and its what’s starting to happen on the west here with the comic universes (you know how they’re working to comics into movies and games and toys Avengers style).

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Gotta catch'em all! Wait... Different show...

All in all I quite enjoyed my first foray into the world of anime. I wonder what I should watch next.