#Japan

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.

Wait, you want MY opinion? The research methodology of autoethnography

 

 

Biggest-bias

(Bastian 2016)

During my time at university I have been meticulous in keeping my personal views, opinions and experiences separate from my research. The second my rear end was planted in my seat in DIGC330, everything changed. Now before you ask, no, the Fire Nation didn’t attack. Rather, I was introduced to the practice of autoethnography, a research method that combines the well-established fields of autobiography and ethnography. The aim of autoethnography is to produce “meaningful, accessible and evocative” research that is grounded in one’s personal experience (Ellis et al. 2011, p. 2). The resulting research product seeks to deepen our ability to empathise with people who are different from us (Ellis et al. ibid). ­­

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(Hayen 2014)

As interesting as autoethnography sounds, how does one actually go about doing autoethnography? First of all, it is important that one understands the research methods that have been combined to create autoethnography – autobiography and ethnography. Autobiography, at its core, is an account of a person’s life in which the author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences” (Ellis et al. 2011). On the other hand, ethnography involves a researcher becoming a participant observer in a culture that is different to their own and “studying the culture’s relational practices, common values, beliefs and shared experiences” (ibid).

My understanding of autoethnography, essentially the lovechild of these two practices is that an autoethnographer draws upon their personal epiphanies stemming from their own culture, and telling these experiences whilst simultaneously analysing them. Analysis is an absolutely crucial component of autoethnography because without it, the researcher is basically just recounting their life and experiences without any further examination or introspection. And let’s face it, anyone can give a bland and boring account of their life.

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Don’t be that person – analysis of your personal experiences and bias is critical (Julie2233212 2014)

Analysis further authenticates autoethnography as a research method by forcing the researcher to exercise self-reflexivity and introspectively examine the reason why they feel or think the way they do about a culture that is different to their own.

By recounting and critically examining one’s own personal and cultural biases and applying this knowledge to how one understands another cultural group, autoethnography can serve as a therapeutic method of seeking to better understand ourselves and our relationships. Autoethnography can also assist with reduce prejudice and promote cultural change (Ellis et al, ibid). What’s not to love?

I am excited to engage in my own autoethnographic research journey when I complete my major project. I would like to examine how my active participation in cosplay and the subculture in Australia has shaped my understanding of Japanese culture. I also plan to interview my grandparents, who know very little about cosplay, to gain a deeper understanding of how understanding and perceptions of Japanese culture can be shaped through exposure to the cosplay subculture in Australia.

 

Reference List

Bastian, H 2016, The biggest bias we have to deal with is our own, image, hildabastian.net, viewed 18 August 2017, <http://hildabastian.net/index.php/33-march-2016&gt;

Ellis, C, Adams, TE, & Bochner, AP 2011, ‘Autoethnography: an overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 1-12.

Hayen, T 2014, Empathy, image, Hayen Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling, viewed 18 August 2017, <http://www.toddhayentherapy.com/empathy-in-relationship/&gt;

Julie2233212 2014, Yes, yes…please keep taking about yourself. I always yawn when I am enthralled, image, SomeEcards, viewed 18 August 2017, < https://www.someecards.com/usercards/viewcard/yes-yesplease-keep-talking-about-yourself-i-always-yawn-when-i-am-enthralled-0ad18/&gt;

 

 

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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Gojira, an Understanding

When I first realised I would have to do this subject on Digital Asia, I must admit I was wary and disappointed. I am not really one to watch anime, or read manga, or really I’ve never been interested in it at all. I was again surprised that the first movie we were to watch would be Godzilla. I’ve never watch the original, although I have watched the latest one (Gareth Edwards, 2014), and the one where the bad hair over took the story line (Roland Emmerich, 1998). This subject is heavy on the autoethonography methodology, and it is necessary for me to relate back to the subject matter in a way that explores my own connection and contextual understanding of it. My cultural background is limited, at best. I have no real understanding of Asian media, other than the cartoons dubbed for Cheese TV back in the ’90s-00’s.

The way I have watched, understood and disassemble the movie Gojira from 1954 is through the discussion in class about the contextual and historical location Godzilla has in the film world. I never really put much thought into the big lizard, and through the discussions over twitter and in class I have learnt a lot more about where it stands as a movie.

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The movie came out at a time where Japan had lost its sense of self; the Japanese culture had lost a part of its identity due to the clashes with the West. Not so subtle inferences to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fall out of nuclear war are echoed throughout this movie. Godzilla himself, with his nuclear breath, is the metaphor for a time where the possibility of being wiped off the map, was a reality some thought would happen. The sentiment of antiwar and anti-nuclear weapons was a powerful message to be sending out in a post-war Japan. Godzilla was symbol and exploration of the people’s fears, encased in a rubber suit.  To my understanding, Godzilla was a call for the end of this type of destruction. Godzilla speaks louder than roars, as even in modern times, the monster can be the symbol for whichever man-made disaster is occurring at the time.  Global Warming, war, nuclear power – all of these topics are easily interchangeable as a new Gojira.

My understanding of the context and importance this film has all stems from discussions in class and a larger memory of history than I thought I had. The subject matter is much richer than just a monster in a rubber suit. It is a movie that speaks up about what an entire country felt at the time and that is powerful.

The Good, The Bad and The Godzilla

Upon my arrival to digc330, I expected to see anime posters lining the walls, cosplayers sitting all around me and (hopefully) other like-minded otaku‘s and Japanophiles who enjoyed everything Japanese. Oh boy was I wrong. Reflexivity in the context of research practices would be the main focus of this week, in relation to a film […]

via The Good, The Bad and The Godzilla — krisesandchrosses

An ethnic’s realisation that she doesn’t know much about anything, especially Godzilla

Memories of my childhood include sitting on the floor of my Nonna and Nonno’s place, attempting to interpret the classic Italian film ‘La Dolce Vita’, or watching RAI Italia and completely zoning out due to having no clue what’s going on. Throughout my life, this kind of experience had been the extent of which I had been exposed to foreign films. These experiences with my Italian family are memories that I hold dear and believe shape the beliefs I have today.

Yesterday, I experienced a Japanese film for the first time.

I went into class not knowing anything about the Godzilla films at all, let alone Japanese films. Yet I came out of the experience mildly confused but extremely intrigued. I should be completely honest here too, realising I was going into class to watch a 1950’s Asian film at the beginning of the semester didn’t make me too excited, and why was this? Is it purely because I’m not exposed to other movies of this genre? Or I am exposed to this media, yet have really felt the urge to indulge?

As the movie began, and the live tweeting process was underway I noticed a few things that were different to the movies I usually watch. The over-dramatic acting was something we’re not used to in Westernised media and movies. Although this was weird to experience, it was understandable as it was a movie created in the 50s, and with little to no CGI enhancements, reacting to the monster ‘Godzilla’ was quite over the top.

The transitions between scenes were also quite dated, reminding me of the transitions between powerpoint slides back in the day when funky powerpoint slides gave you +10 marks for your presentation.

Something that was also surprising to encounter and also quite uncomfortable and awkward to experience was the lack of sound in some of the scenes. Why were there no ambient sounds? Why was there no bubbling when they were underwater at the end? I was truly thankful to the live-tweeting as the typing made up for the awkward silences.

I’m going to be quite honest with you. I had no idea that this Godzilla film had any relation to what Japan went through post WWII. And other than general knowledge, I haven’t actually been exposed to much of Japan’s history. I gave up History as soon as I could in High School – I was not a fan. I study Speech and Drama out of uni and once had to study a poem named ‘No More Hiroshimas’ by James Kirkup. The poem explores a town in Japan following the horrors that unfolded the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The final two stanzas of the poem are as follows:

The other relics:

The ones that made me weep;

The bits of burnt clothing,

The stopped watches, the torn shirts.

The twisted buttons,

The stained and tattered vests and drawers,

The ripped kimonos and charred boots,

The white blouse polka-dotted with atomic rain, indelible,

The cotton summer pants the blasted boys crawled home in, to bleed

And slowly to die.

Remember only these.

They are the memorials we need.

After watching Godzilla, the parallels between post WWII and the movie soon unfolded, with the symbolism of power being quite clear throughout the movie and especially in the ending. Unfortunately, I believe if it weren’t for the experience of studying the poem, I wouldn’t have put together that Godzilla was representing the trauma that Japan as a country dealt with after the war.

Not only the metaphor, but the make of the film in general was definitely a worthwhile experience, and being 100% honest, I believe that if it weren’t for taking the Digital Asia class, I probably would have never exposed myself to this type of media. It’s really opened my eyes to the differences in culture and what I’ve been taught through the westernised media that I’ve grown up and am fond of watching. It’s definitely opened me up to being excited for more experiences throughout the Digital Asia subject.

GODZILLA

Before this week’s seminar, I have never really watched a Godzilla movie or found anything to do with it interesting. I knew they existed and that there was a movie franchise produced around them but I have never watched one.

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However, I have to say that watching the Godzilla movie this week was quite interesting. I enjoyed it to an extent. The most interesting part of the movie I think was seeing how different the scenes, dialogue, acting, graphics and even sound effects were. When comparing these things to this day and age there is a dramatic difference between them. It’s quite awesome to see how far film has come.

 

My high school gave us the opportunity to learn and study Japanese language, culture and history. The class opened my mind to this very different cultural identity and gave me the opportunity to explore the art of manga and Japanese films. I found that the film Godzilla gave me a different view point of Japan and especially their stance on nuclear energy. I think, however, because I was able to study Japan, I was able to make sense of the film text a whole lot better.

 

Godzilla in the film becomes a metaphor for the nuclear bombing nightmare that happened in Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the time. Images shown the film depict a raging Godzilla producing destruction in the form of a sea of flames, smouldering buildings and apocalyptic ruins. Director Honda explained “I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla” in an attempt to portray the atomic bomb and the effects that it produced on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the attack. The portrayal of the character to this day can still be adapted and evolved in an attempt to portray the ideas of climate change and especially the problematic missile tests in North Korea.

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Overall I think that the film was very interesting, it brought up topics that I hadn’t considered or thought about before. Depicting the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima through Godzilla was a great way to emphasise the destruction and fear individuals felt during this time. Let’s hope that the devastation of the bombing will be enough to stop this from happening in the future.

 

Understanding the ‘Enemy’ through Gojira

When I was eighteen years old I visited the Vietnamese war museum with my mother. We saw actual traps the Viet Cong had used to kill members of the ‘enemy’, including Australians. We heard stories, absolutely barbaric tales of what ‘American’ (which, in this context, was defined to be everyone fighting against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War) soldiers had done to Vietnamese forces. Inside the museum, graphic images of mutilated and dead children were displayed like art. We left the building after only fifteen minutes; it was too confronting to stay.

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Brutal images such as this one were displayed at the Vietnamese War Museum. In my school education of the Vietnam War, I wasn’t given the opportunity to consider that the other side suffered too, and maybe soldiers fighting for us were brutal also (image: AWS).

 

The way in which we partake in any attempt at research on a group we are a part of holds a necessary bias known as reflexivity. This week in DIGC330: Digital Asia, we became familiar with this idea through making sense of the film Gojira (1954). This film is the original Godzilla. It’s Japanese, black and white, and extremely different in content and structure to the Hollywood blockbusters we see today.@Although I did not realise this at the commencement of the film, Gojira was heavily influenced by the events surrounding World War II. Prior to this realisation, I was pretty confused at the story of the film. This is probably more due to my trying to live-tweet the film as I viewed it; the attention economy is apparently one where I struggle to function. I wasn’t alone, much of the class seemed fairly light-hearted and the resulting Twitter conversation was rather humorous. It contained a variety of memes, puns and literary reference, some of which were clever and others downright cringy.

Once it became apparent that the film carried a darker message, conversations about the second World War and the artistic relevance of the film were established. What resonated with me was the power of human emotion, the brutality of war and how my school experience provided me with a very one-sided education on World War II. It’s also interesting to note that the Japanese school curriculum contains very little 20th century history, with a particular absence of Japan’s role in not only World War II, but other notable conflicts in Asia and beyond.

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Source: Twitter @c_lair_e_96

 

I always learned that Japan fought amongst the enemy and with brutal force. The Australian soldiers, I was told, fought bravely protect our country. Maybe this is true, but there’s so much more to the story. Viewing this film showed the passion, patriotism and agony of the War as part of the Japanese story. We forget that our side fought with brutality too; US forces dropped nuclear weapons on two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 129 000 people were killed. It is argued by some that without this action, the war may have ended with worse destruction, but we will never know. Nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare again (thus far).

Scenes including the one where a woman clung to her small children, promising they would be reunited with their (presumably dead) father, were absolutely heartbreaking to watch. This was never an image I would have conjured in my mind when thinking about the Japanese WWII experience.

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Human suffering is universal. Why is this not represented in history books? (Image: Shenanitims)

I have ancestors who fought in wars such as these; this affects my attitude towards the conflict portrayed and my experience of watching the ‘enemy’ suffer. Viewing this film reinforced to me that, aside from political differences, the human experiences of love, pain, suffering and loyalty are very much coherent across different cultures. Even viewing this piece through poorly-translated subtitles, black and white film and almost comically inept special effects gave me this valuable insight, despite being some fifty years and 7902 kilometres away from the intended Japanese audience.

-Claire

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.

Hello Asia, My New Friend.

Okay, I’ll be honest.

When I say I’m interested in Asian culture, I mean I’m interested in the Asian culture that has been presented to me through Western media. More specifically, cinema.

In the case of Japan – the first country that comes to mind when I think of the term “Asia” – most of my exposure has come specifically from a Western viewpoint. Films like Lost in Translation (2003), The Last Samurai (2003) and even Kill Bill Vol. 1&2 (2003-2004) have all evoked a sense of unrequited nostalgia and sentimentality within me for a country and culture I’ve never experienced.

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Terence Young’s Red Sun (1971), an example of the hybrid Eastern influences I’ve grown up with.

This sense of the exotic “other” has only been emphasised by my cultural context. Growing up in Australia, the product of English and Scottish ancestry – a heritage of which I often joke makes me “the whitest guy ever” – I leap at any glimpse of a different culture.

In this sense Ishiro Honda’s cult classic Gojira (1954) is both an intriguing revelation and stark reminder of my unawareness of Eastern film. First and foremost, despite being an avid film fan who would choose to take their stack of Blu-Ray’s to a deserted island over food and water, this was my first complete experience with an Asian film. I make no secret of the fact that my previous attempts to power through Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) have been less than successful, and my promise to explore the catalogue of Hayao Miyazaki has gone unfulfilled.

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Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954). Previously my closest brush with Eastern film.

My predetermined assumptions that I’d feel like an outsider, desperately attempting to piece together intertextual references to a culture I’d never experienced went unfounded when watching Gojira. The film is not only an allegorical masterpiece, using Godzilla as a big and scaly metaphor for nuclear war, but the characters and themes are universally relevant today. If anything, this film felt more like a reflection of the world I am acquainted with than the spandex-wearing demigods of modern Hollywood.

Even from a filmmaking perspective Gojira rejected my assumption that 1950s science-fiction films were all low-budget B-grade schlock. While Godzilla is somewhat ridiculous in appearance, and the acting is occasionally a little over-the top, the film also represents some cinematic breakthroughs. The set design for one is jaw-dropping for the 1950s. My mind jumps to the climax of the film where Godzilla is crashing through the streets of the city. When you realise this wide scope of carnage and destruction is actually small-scale models mixed with footage of the actors, a technique which is still adopted by Western filmmakers today (i.e. Batman Begins), you realise that the tropes and techniques we are acquainted with all owe a great debt to this film and it’s ilk.

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The legend himself, the original Godzilla.

Gojira is a mere drop in the ocean of the Asian media I am yet to explore, but thanks to the film the floodgate is now well and truly open.