anime

Akira (1988)

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Watching the 1988 Japanese film, Akira, was actually my very first time watching a full-length anime movie. It was also the first time I had heard about the film. Prior to this screening my only experience with anime has been watching the television shows Pokémon and One Piece, as a child. This limited experience with Asian culture has a lot to do with my Australian up-bringing where my perspective is majority western.
However, my views have been expanded in the past through my 2010 trip to Japan where I was given a sense of Japanese food, fashion, street life and traditions. In saying this, my trip was a while back and only brief, so my experience with Asia is still very lacking.

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Akira was a perfect introduction to a popular side of Asian culture I have never before experienced. Instantly I found details that differed to the movies I’ve grown up with. One of the biggest things that stuck out was the use of multiple themes and genres. It included romance, violence, comedy, war, politics, fantasy, supernatural, death, nudity, education, street racing. Akira had something for everyone and I believe that’s something rarely found in one film. It brought up so many topics within such a short amount of time and I think that comes down to the genius creativity and imagination involved in the making of the movie. It’s why I believe the film, and anime itself, is so successful across so many different cultures. There is a quote I found online from a long-term anime lover taken from her response regarding the popularity of anime:

“Anime has something for just about everyone. It’s full of cute things, scary things, and pretty things. It pulls you into the story and sometimes makes you sleep with the light on, or will put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day. But it is also full of humor and fun. That extreme change in thought can happen all in a single series.”
– Celia Mitchell

Her reaction as a long term watcher is similar to the one I received just from my first taste of anime films. Akira was a great introduction to a side of Asian culture that I have never experienced before.

Comprehending autoethnography through playing dress up

krisesandchrosses

Having meaningful experiences in life relate to your physical, mental, social and political contexts. Your past actions and decisions influence how you will take on changes, challenges and new experiences in the future.

This is what we describe as an auto-ethnographic relationship between one’s self and texts according to Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner. This paradigm of research and writing seeks to comprehensively construe and analyse social, political and cultural impacts in relation to an individual’s experience. The main purpose of this form of research/writing is to identify personal biases and prejudices and relate them to the understanding of a new culture. This may be through the route of text, technology, industry, subcultures, digital media platforms or even practice. It is through these avenues of research that epiphanies are born, creating a new direction of critical thinking or research for an individual. This methodology creates…

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Experiencing Godzilla in 2017

Sitting in a university classroom in 2017, with my phone in my hand and my tablet on the table, I can definitely say that my interaction with the first Godzilla film, Gojira was infinitely different to that of the original audience in 1954.

Being a 20-year-old woman that has lived in Australia her whole life, how I interpreted Godzilla would have also been different to those original Japanese viewers in the 50s. For one I had to experience the dialogue of the film through subtitles, and as accurate as they can be, there are always certain emotions, ideas, and expressions that simply get lost in translation.

Not to mention that I was on my phone the entire time.

The livetweeting of Godzilla by dozens of young university students must be a novel idea of @CL_Moore. This added yet another layer that distanced us from the original experience of Godzilla. It meant that I was busy trying to keep up with my fellow students’ hilarious tweets, rather than be submersed within the cinematic experience of the film.

This meant that I missed parts of dialogue of the film, and so had to rely on my own understanding of the film and its possible conventions to figure out what was happening.

However, as an Australian in 2017, I’m obviously lacking some of the cultural understandings that the original Japanese audience would have had access to in 1954.

I have watched a few black and white films in my time, but none were ever in a language other than English. I’ve also watched a few Godzilla films, but mostly modern ones that focus on action, and generally lack the overarching moral lesson that this original Godzilla was focused on.

I also fairly regularly watch subtitled animes, but even this cultural experience did not lend me any insight into what I was missing in those moments of dialogue.

So, due to my fairly large consumption of modern Japanese animated shows and films, I can simultaneously sit on my phone and watch a subbed anime, because I can easily comprehend the conventions and predictable patterns present in this medium.

But due to my lack of exposure to 1950s Japanese films conventions, I could not draw upon my own cultural or personal framework to comprehend what I was missing in those moments when I was looking at my phone and not the film.

Overall, watching the original Godzilla gave me the opportunity to reflect on where my personal framework lacks, and how I can continue to build my cultural experiences.

Godzilla – I Choose You!

Like many children of the 1990’s I started my mornings with a healthy diet of Pokémon, Sailor Moon and Hamtaro. Never did it occur to my five-year-old self that this simple morning ritual was the beginning of my life-long love for not only anime and manga, but the Japanese language and its culture.

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Me, a real-life anime

My adoration of Japanese popular culture made watching Godzilla an interesting experience. Viewing this cult-classic made me reflect on how I, a white, Australian female view and understand Japan.

First and foremost, I initially found Godzilla (the actual monster) to be a bit of a joke. Now I’m pretty accepting when it comes to mythical creatures. I’d give my right arm for Pokémon to be real. But honestly, how the heck was I meant to take that lumpy cross-eyed lizard seriously? I knew Godzilla was a pop-culture phenomenon – I’ve even stayed in a hotel in Shinjuku where Godzilla is literally climbing out of the roof.

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Hotel Gracery, Shinjuku (Hornyak n.d.)

But what I didn’t realise was that Godzilla was so much more than just an ugly puppet – it was actually a parable for the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that devastated Japan in 1945. In fact, a character in Godzilla explicitly states that “Godzilla [is] a product of the atomic bomb that still haunts many of us Japanese.”

This shocking realisation not only heightened my interest in the film’s storyline, but also caused me to sympathise with both the Japanese people and Godzilla itself. The heartbreaking visual of the inconsolable little girl screaming for her deceased mother made me contemplate the horrendous and very real impact of the atomic bombings that devastated Japan. Simultaneously however, I felt sympathy for Godzilla. The monster was misunderstood from the very beginning and was brutalised by the terrified citizens. The scene where Godzilla was being shot at whilst walking through the ocean caused me particular distress, as I realised that this scene had been referenced in Pokémon. The enormous dragon Pokémon, Dragonite, is a direct reference to Godzilla, and is described as “the biggest Pokémon ever…[who has]…travelled the world looking for friends…because it is alone.” Just like Godzilla, Dragonite is violently shot at and returns to its ocean home, friendless and misunderstood.

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Pokemon (Right) and Godzilla (Left) 

Watching Godzilla has truly opened my eyes to the importance of this monster in its Japanese context – it is an enduring symbol of the horrors of WWII. I also learnt how our culture influences the way in which we interpret and understand texts from cultures different to our own. So Godzilla, if you are out there, hit me up for coffee. I’d love to get to know you better and hey, maybe we can invite Dragonite too?

References:

Hornyak n.d. Hotel Gracery, Shinjuku, image, Shinjuku Station, viewed 27 July 2017, <https://www.shinjukustation.com/hotel-gracery-shinjuku/&gt;

Godzilla n.d. image, Den of Geek, viewed 27 July 2017, <http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/books-comics/pok-mon/46416/pokemon-the-ray-bradbury-homage-hidden-in-a-classic-episode&gt;

Dragonite n.d., image, Pikachu made me do it!, viewed 27 July 2017, <http://pokemon-made-me-do-it.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/13-mystery-at-lighthouse.html&gt; 

Bebop Box

In first approaching this autoethnographic task, the four of us had grouped together in order to determine what would be our field site. Travelling to Asia, was out of the question, and we had all experienced Asian food to a similar extent as well. What we did however determine was that we had all held differing experiences in regards to Japanese anime, ranging from the extensive, to almost nothing at all. Although this determined our media format, the plethora of anime in existence made the selection of a single series extremely difficult. However, the one that continuously entered the conversation was Cowboy Bebop.

As influenced by Ellis’ definition of autoethnography as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis et al, 2011), we decided to present our project in a gogglebox-esque format, combing clips of the show and our recorded reactions. This provided real time responses to each of the four viewers as they happened, allowing direct comparison of responses and both a visual and verbal account of individual epiphanies.

The selection of Cowboy Bebop was quite interesting in itself as we had never seen the series screened in Australia. The show is not available on Netflix, and due to its creation in the late 1990s, no advertisements are currently being used. Access then became somewhat of an issue, resulting in us borrowing a physical DVD set of the series. However, the quality of the DVD itself became very questionable after cutting on halfway through the first session. A quick search on YouTube provided us with the first three episodes in full, with English dubs and high definition. This forced us to question how these episodes were getting past the stringent copyright laws on YouTube, questioning whether the age of the series was a factor, or did the series just slip through the cracks. YouTube’s community guidelines rules specifically state that you cannot “use content in your videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary authorizations” (YouTube, 2016). Each of these three episodes was taken from a different channel, each demonstrating blatant copy write infringement. YouTube even flagged our video when attempting to upload! Further research into Anime message boards and forums provided no conclusive answer the problem, with some users stating that their posting of videos were taken down almost immediately, while others list channels hosting over 500 clips of Anime, to which they don’t own the rights.

The word-of-mouth recommendations of Cowboy Bebop by numerous individuals (both our age and older) and thus, representative of its cult following. Furthermore, research into this cult found over 46,000 subscribers to the Cowboy Bebop sub-reddit, a rating of 9/10 on IMBD, and two differing ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for the movie, 64% critics from critics and 90% from the audience. It was this cult following that led us to the conclusion that the series must be quite long such as other cult anime series like One Piece. However, we soon determined that this was wrong with the series holding only one season, and one movie. This furthermore made us question, why Cowboy Bebop had such a popular following in both Western Countries and Japan.

A particular element of the episodes that puzzled us was the music soundtrack that accompanied fight scenes as well as the theme song that played at the introduction of each episode.  Jazz has its origins in New Orleans, so it was surprising to see it use in a Japanese film.  Despite this, the music in Cowboy Bebop was composed by Yoko Kanno with The Seatbelts, a blues and jazz band.  These composers wrote the iconic Cowboy Bebop opening song titled Tank which has been embedded below if you wish to listen to it.

Interesting, the Cowboy Bebop sub -reddit has many positive comments about the inclusion of original music, supporting the ideal that the original sound track in the series is a key factor for its popularity.  Maybe the utilisation of jazz music was a way to attract audiences from more Westernised backgrounds.

Importantly, director of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe was so impressed with Kanno’s score that he was inspired to go back and re-write scenes.  Each scene essentially had its own unique score and song.

Charlotte found the use of the jazz music quite odd, as having grown up playing Jazz music herself, her interpretation of where jazz music fits in in terms of interpretation, art and self expression was not in line with the use of jazz in Cowboy Bebop.  However all four of us noted that the theme music was similar to what we had heard in more Westernised films such as Mission Impossible and James Bond which also have orchestral music in some of there scenes.

All in all, the experience of anime was different for all four of us.  Perhaps this was due to the contextual knowledge we already had about elements of the series, including how much anime we had previously consumed.  Because of this, not all of us enjoyed the episodes as much as we thought, because we had pre-conceived ideas as to what it was about.  Cowboys fighting people.  I guess we were all wrong!

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1

“What the Hell Does Kuromukuro Mean?”- Dubs vs Subs Part 2

Jesse Max Muir

Two weeks ago I provided an auto ethnographic account the Netflix original series, Kuromukuro as well as introducing my auto-ethnographic methodology in recording my live responses via Twitter. If you missed either of these links are provided:

Here: https://jessemaxblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/dubs-vs-subs-an-introduction/

And Here: https://storify.com/jessemaxmuir/kuromukuro

Now as much fun as this was, recording my reactions only became half of the exercise. In order to fully comprehend Kuromukuro as a Japanese cultural text, I needed to dig further and research beyond my own cultural understanding. Moreover, I needed to understand why I came to these conclusions, and unpack my own observations to determine how I actually met them.

One of the largest themes I found when reviewing my initial observations was in regards to access as seen through the tweets below:

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Dubs vs Subs- an Introduction

Jesse Max Muir

Being born in 1996 and growing up through the early noughties had many impacts on my upbringing; I was given a PS2 for my tenth birthday which influenced my gaming habits, heelies were a thing (which sadly has fallen out of fashion, and i never mastered), and most importantly, I got to witness the golden era of morning television that was Cheez TV. Now what’s so important about Cheez TV you ask? Well my friends, here is a short list:

  • Pokémon
  • Beyblades
  • One Piece
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Sonic X
  • Digimon
  • Yu Gi Oh!
  • Sailor Moon

As you can see through each of these shows, Anime formed a large portion of my childhood and has even influence my viewing habits to this day. In the past year I’ve managed to binge watch five seasons of the original Dragon Ball Z, five Seasons of One Piece, with Naruto slowly catching up. Studying…

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She is the One Named Sailor Moon

She is the one named Sailor Poo!” I used to sing every time the show began, just to annoy my sister who was far more invested in this series than I ever was. Well, I pretended to not like it simply because she did. And if we are being honest, I did the same for pretty much every show on Cheez TV.

However, rediscovering this classic before-school television show under the strict guidelines of an autoethnographic study has shed new light on this series and I may have judged it too quickly as a kid.

Sailor Moon is one of the most popular anime and manga series, which has sold over 35 million copies worldwide.

The series is a Japanese shōjo manga series which is a category of manga aimed specifically at a female audience rather than writing for a specific genre. Sailor Moon is about a young school girl, Serena who unbeknownst to her, is a guardian destined to save the Earth from evil and sets about establishing a team called Sailor Scouts – Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter.

I initially found it difficult to find the original, full-length episodes that did not involve me climbing over Internet walls lined with dragons ready to bug my computer at any minute. But maybe I was looking in the wrong place as many of the sites were – I assume – in Japanese and I was not able to understand where to click and where not to.

However, after many exhausting hours – in reality it was about one hour that ended in complete frustration – a quick scan through good-old YouTube lead me to Season 1 Episode 1 and it was the English dubbed version. Disappointing. But so began the nostalgia

Ellis et al (2011) suggests that autoethnography involves the interpretation of a text which is often influenced by our own personal experiences and understanding. It is then coupled with a “thick description” of a culture to help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders.

I began with the first episode to reacquaint myself with this series as it has been many years since watching early morning TV.

I had to change to another episode later in the series where she had transformed into Sailor Moon to examine the spectrum that is the character of Serena and Sailor.

From watching the first episode and episode 30 (where she becomes Sailor Moon) there were a lot of first impressions and many observations were things that I had not noticed when I was a child viewing this series

  • Theme song really catchy and bubbly – almost sickening. Also “fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight”
  • Introduction or beginning scenes are  really vibrant despite watching it on YouTube
  • Seemingly accurate portrayal of Tokyo where the series is set as the city is large and there are various malls
  • The lines of expression coming from their faces and bodies to exemplify and exacerbate the characters’ emotions are helpful. Something like the laughing tracks added to sitcoms showing you where to laugh
  • Melvin or Marvin, a male nerd who wants to help her study seems awkward and describes Serena as, “beautiful but a shopaholic”
  • Being able to pause and digest is different from initial viewings back in the days of box televisions where you were not able to pause, rewind or even record
  • Mouths do not move at the same time as their words in the English dubbed version – annoying but understandable
  • Character’s names are incredibly hard to follow – there was Queen Beryl and another Emporer of blah-blah and other names such as Chibiusa – and they are not phonetic either. It got a bit overwhelming and there were a lot of WTF moments
  • I really liked that they accurately portray a young, teenage girl who is struggling to find a way to tell her mother that she failed her Algebra test – something Serena and I have in common.
  • She is obsessed with boys and has arguments with her friends and heavily blushes when she is embarrassed.
  • She seems to be a typical teenager which enables a stronger grasp on what is happening even if you cannot figure out who we’re fighting or saving or hating – much like the roller-coaster that is teenage life.
  • Why does she wear such a short skirt as Sailor Moon? I mean, how can you possibly fight crime and the bad “guys” when your skirt barely covers your bum?

I hope to explore more of the English episodes of Sailor Moon – as finding a subtitled full episode of the Japanese television show is proving difficult – too add to the data and and examine this series through the lens of feminism with the help of Newsom (2004). Although it is not an autoethnographic article, it does examine this topic in depth and has some incredible insight into the world of Sailor Moon as well as some juxtaposition between Western female roles and Asian female roles.

I want to delve deeper into the question of whether this is a war cry to all the strong women out there or whether it is hiding the traditional, over-glossed, dominant not strong female role.

Once the creative juices have begun to flow again, I hope to present this in a research essay as I feel that this topic needs some arguing along with the autoethnographic method. But for now.. “fighting crime by daylight, winning love by moonlight….

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E., Bochner, A.P, (2011), ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Newsom, V.A., (2004), ‘Young Females as Super Heroes: Super Heroines in the Animated Sailor Moon’, Femspec, vol.5, no.2, p.57 – 81

An Experience Without Enlightenment

higurashi-when-they-cry_o_1089526

Image by flamoking1, While I wouldn’t watch gore anyway, this anime is the reason I don’t watch graphically violent or gory anime under any circumstance.

Within the subject Digital Asia, autoethnography – a type of research method – underpins the majority of our study. But what is autoethnography? According to Ellis et al, autoethnography is a synthesis of autobiographic and ethnographic techniques that allow a researcher to write about epiphanies which stem from experiences with and being within culture. These cultural engagements can be experienced within a culture itself, i.e. a researcher participates in cultures previously unexperienced, or through material cultural products, e.g. the analysis of clothing, architecture, texts such as books, movies and photos.

Ellis et al say that autoethnographers take their experiences and detail them in length as a kind of personal story that shows how something in that culture changed them or their idea of that culture. As part of this process, autoethnographers’ go further and analyse their experience with theoretical tools, methodological tools, and research literature. Without applying this academic edge to their experience, their story could be just like any other, when they are really trying to use their experience to illustrate the characteristics of a culture and make it familiar for those on the outside and for existing members of that culture.

As part of an exercise, we were asked to examine a digital text and to detail our experience with it from an autoethnographic standpoint. The text that I examined was the 1988 Japanese anime film Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo who is also the author of its original incarnation as a manga.

I’m sure there is more that could be said of this movie, but I will not be mentioning much more here. My reasoning? Because I am terrified of the internet and what it will show me regarding this movie. I have watched a lot of anime, I could probably give you a list of 80 or more anime’s that I have seen, I love anime. But I absolutely refuse to watch Akira and any kind of content like it because I cannot handle the strong, graphic, and bloody violence its R rating tells me it has.

My experience of this film began with excitement when I heard we would be watching an anime film, then when I heard it contained scenes of graphic violence that could be distressing for some viewers, my excitement evaporated and my heart rate skyrocketed out of anxiety. I opened Google Chrome and went to IMDb’s information page regarding Akira, I scrolled down to their message boards and opened one which was literally titled, “How gory is this?” and proceeded to read on in horror. Suffice to say, I didn’t watch a single frame of the movie, and instead, listened to the evocatively throbbing soundtrack and violence while imaging scenes of hyper-real violence and hyper-real representations of gore. My time was much better spent googling wallpaper images of Orange and Anthem of the Heart.

I guess you could say my experience of Akira was an experience without enlightenment. I have no idea how I am going to analyse this. If anyone has any thoughts please share them, I am honestly stumped.

And That’s The End Of That Chapter

Brendan Vs The World

Godzilla in a scene from the film 'Godzilla VS. The Smog Monster', 1971. Toho/Getty Images Godzilla in a scene from the film ‘Godzilla VS. The Smog Monster’, 1971. Toho/Getty Images

Summary time. In my first post I focused on just analysing Godzilla because I had no idea what I was doing. I just pressed record and talked for a few minutes about the movie. Luckily I came up with a point about language becoming white noise that made some sense so I thought I’d look into that.

For my second post I chose to focus on Language in Asian media using my Godzilla ‘white noise’ experience as a jumping off point. My original plan was to use research I found on language as a starting point and then go into examples of different kinds language in Asian media. But when I was recording I went off on a massive tangent about subtitles and their importance. And when I listened back to this I thought it was better…

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