#Japan

WHY AM I LIKE THIS?

After watching the first couple of episodes of any television show, I will usually make the decision to continue watching the show, or remove it from my Netflix list and never think about it again. Unfortunately, for Terrace House, the latter happened. And it has also been quite a while since watching the show. Whilst remembering what I thought about the show, I’ve somehow forgotten what I actually witnessed. University and an excessive amount of alcohol will do that to you I guess (also a large amount of procrastination, lol help).

Now, Ellis et al defines epiphanies as “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life, times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyse lived experience, and events after which life does not seem quite the same”. This definition is quite intense, yet there are definitely moments in my reaction to Terrace House that made me think differently about Japanese culture.

Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City (テラスハウス ボーイズ&ガールズ イン・ザ・シティ) is a Japanese reality television series. It premiered on Netflix as an original in September 2015. Basically, people that are just like you and me are literally just thrust into a position where they need to live together. To be completely honest with you, just seeing people live their lives seems quite boring to me – I mean, if I wanted to do that, I’d go upstairs and sit with my family every once in a while, right?

 

I made it clear in my video response to the show that I had never seen an Asian show before Bianca introduced me to Terrace House months ago. Although watching Terrace House: Aloha State was quite a different experience to Boys and Girls in the City, as it was set in Hawaii, and some of the people involved were mainly American students. This meant that much of the show was westernised and easy to understand. While watching Boys and Girls in the City, the culture was extremely different to shows I am used to watching.

My personal understanding of reality television (I made this very clear in the video, a little too clear maybe, oops) made me believe that reality television is all about drama and winning a competition. I believe that Australia (and other westernised shows) has a large focus on the drama in a reality show due to the issue of ratings. I also believed that although the reassurance from the ‘commentators’ that the members of the house didn’t have scripts, it felt painstakingly scripted and to be fair – all around boring. I dismissed Terrace House as purely cultural tourism, but I didn’t really understand at first what the show did that set it apart from others of its kind.

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“In a reality TV landscape cluttered by fame, hungry pseudo-human caricatures, Terrace House stands alone by simply letting actual humans be delightfully, heartbreakingly human.”

Although there isn’t a large amount of drama in the show and the conflicts are on a much smaller scale, it is to my belief that the Japanese culture would react to this show much better than I did. Since watching the show, and conducting some research, I learned that the Japanese are generalised as being quite polite, and this is also expressed in their body language. An example of this is in the second episode when there are quite extensive scenes dedicated to resolving issues calmly, such as the issue of unwashed dishes.

Justin McElroy coined an article for Polygon that explored the differences between American Reality TV and Terrace House, claiming that reality aims at perverting people “into creatures of perfect ambition, whose every move is a calculated step towards getting what they’re after. Terrace House shows people as they are, big, dumb wads of conflicting, unexamined emotions just trying to get by.”

Although I believe this to be true, I am also fully understanding to the fact that the Japanese are generally quite polite, genuine and friendly people. Instead of blowing up over unwashed dishes, they will clean the house, and resolve the conflict in a mature and adult manner.

I definitely lack the cultural familiarity that is required to 100% understand Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City, yet I can appreciate the traits in some of the cast, such as impulsivity, compassion and the sense of realness that is portrayed.

The show’s cultural differences are large, and one that I realise now that I don’t think I did before is the fact that it takes several episodes for there to be any kind of physical contact between any romantic partners. There are dates, the girls help each other get ready, yet the physical connections aren’t there. This show is a large view into Japanese culture and how it perceives itself, yet it is nothing that I am used to having on my television screen. I believe that now, I know what it’s like if I were to ever come into contact with Japanese people, it’s a truly refreshing look at the world.

I believe that Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City is an accurate portrayal of young, modern, Japanese people and how they live their lives: chasing ambitions and dating people that may lead to something more, but generally just fizzle. There’s also laundry responsibilities, so that’s fun too.

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Japanese Visual Novels

After experiencing the Japanese visual novel and dating simulator game, Hatoful Boyfriend, I have found myself intrigued by the popularity of these types of video games. Before playing Hatoful Boyfriend, I had never heard of a visual novel. While it is true that most video games do hold an element of ‘visual novel’, this game in particular purposely lacked a lot of gamer control that I’m used to. This surprised me as it technically is categorised as a video game, yet your options to manipulate the game itself is very little. Now and then there would be an option to choose, for example, which High School Club you were going to join, which would essentially shift the story’s direction. This means to uncover every aspect of the novel the game would have to be played at least ten times, revealing each possible play. Personally, unless you were invested in the game’s storyline the whole thing can become a bit tedious at the start. Wondering if it was just me finding the game boring after reading several reviews online I turned to Reddit where users shared their own Hatoful Boyfriend perspective. Each user’s experience actually differed from one another depending on the route they followed. While some ended up with the expected outcome- a boyfriend- others ended up down a darker path. This path involved the protagonist’s murder and player’s having to continue the story through the eyes of one of the pigeons trying to discover the truth. Reading each player’s experience made me reinvest in the game and its surprisingly complex structure and storyline.

After so many Reddit users taking an interest in the game and sharing just how unique the storyline actually is, I found an interview with the Japanese creators, Hato Moa and Damurushi, to uncover the intent behind the pigeon dating simulator. It was actually created as an April Fool’s Joke, a parody of another Japanese dating simulator, which explains the game’s humourous tones. The creators met through an internet community and were both highly interested in creating their own JRPG (Japanese role playing game). There was less thought behind the choice of using pigeons, as it was discovered Hato Moa has quite the fascination with birds.

The overall interest of the game has made me fascinated in the popularity and history of visual novels in Asian culture, specifically Japan. My initial idea for this blog post was to research both visual novels and dating simulators in the Asian market, however, after finding out that majority of dating simulators are in fact rated X, I’ve decided it best to just focus on the visual novel element.

The history of visual novels backtracks to 33 years ago when the Japanese video game publisher, Enix came out with an interactive mystery game called Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. It follows the murder of the highly prominent banker Kouzou Yamakawa. The game relied on text-based inputs and dialogue scenes essentially introducing the visual novel format – onscreen visuals and dynamic character interaction- to the Japanese industry. From this, most visual novels still remain mostly in Japan however the introduction of the platform to the western world has increased. One reason for this introduction is the fan groups that have pushed the transition of certain games into the western world. Fans contacting game creators for an official translation and localisation making it available for western countries.

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Regardless of visual novels in western society, in Japan they are still hugely popular. One reason for this is because the Japanese tend to be huge on reading. In a lot of their games text is already very much integrated. This is another aspect which I’m interested in. For my research project I hope to further examine the key characteristics that make up typical Japanese video games. At the moment my experience with them is still limited so I hope to also branch out into different genres. My starting point could be the mystery game Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. I do not know yet how difficult this 33-year-old game will be to get my hands on but I have already found YouTube How to Play videos on the game. Along with this I still hope to investigate the visual novel trend in Japan further.

Reference:

https://www.gamespot.com/forums/games-discussion-1000000/visual-novels-could-they-work-in-western-market-28997195/

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/games/video-games/255200/the-rise-of-the-western-visual-novel

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2016-03-30/.100434

Iron chef ethnographic

Iron Chef is a Japanese cooking competition where guest chefs battle one of the three Iron Chefs in a timed cooking battle which is built around one specific ingredient. The series premiered on October 10, 1993 and ended on September 24, 1999. Iron Chef is regularly broadcasted on SBS.The host of the show is the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga. The Japanese version of Iron Chef has a back story, which is recounted at the beginning of every episode.

  • A title card, with a quote from famed French food author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin first appears: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Then, it is said that Kaga “realized his dream in a form never seen before” and specially constructed a cooking arena called “Kitchen Stadium” in his castle. There, visiting chefs from “around the world” would compete against his Gourmet Academy, led by his three (later four) Iron Chefs.

Chairman Kaga himself is a showpiece, always dressed in outlandish examples of men’s formal attire. This brings me to my first point. The costume details in the Japanese Iron Chef is something I have never witnessed or experienced before. For a typical cooking show, the hosts are often dressed conservatively. However, the Japanese have dramatic costuming which can be seen as crazy for people who have never experienced it before. Comparing this to italian cooking shows which I watched growing up, they are more similar to Australian shows costume-wise. So, watching this show was a shock to me.

Moving onto the actual ingredients which Iron Chef uses, they were crazy and nothing that I had experienced before. Ingredients like whale and river eel are common on the Japanese version, something that I never plan to eat in my whole life.  But these foods are common and not unusual for people from the Japanese culture, which is the same concept for Australian cooking shows. We tend to use basic proteins like chicken, beef and pork and incorporate vegetables which are considered unusual. This is the basis of each challenge.

Iron chef has a lack of dramatisation through music, and utilises the ambient sounds well. This makes the show more enjoyable because the dramatic sound effects constantly playing over in the show can be annoying over time. I really enjoyed how you could hear what the chefs were doing, particularly when they were cutting things and you could actually hear it without some obnoxious squelching sound interrupting it. This is a major difference to the Australian and American shows. The sound effects are used to build unnecessary drama and create tense moments when they aren’t even needed.

Overall, Iron Chef has provided a large comparison to western television shows, which showcases the rare aspects which we aren’t commonly exposed to. For example, the crazy key ingredients are something i’ve never thought about eating, yet this is a common practice in the Japanese culture. The costumes are outlandish in the show, as well as the unrelated backstory, and is an interesting way to provide something interesting. However, this is considered to be something ‘normal’ and sometimes traditional. The differences between the shows and from what i’m used to is vast, however i’m excited to continue exploring the Japanese culture, whether it be through television, food or music.

 

 

 

Stand Up Comedy in Japan

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I was at a bit of a loss when deciding on a topic for my digital artefact. We were asked to try not to look at anything we were familiar with, and for me that ruled out a lot of the ideas that had come to my mind for my topic. I’m not saying I’m an expert in Asian culture or anything, far from it. I’ve just dipped my toe into more aspects of Asian culture than the average Joe. What was I going to look at then? My first idea was to look at Japanese cooking shows, I like cooking so why not. One night though, while watching a Hannibal Buress stand up special, I had an epiphany. Why don’t I look at Japanese stand-up comedy?

So I did.

 

I guess I’ll start by letting you know that I love stand up. I’ve been watching stand up since before I should have been watching stand up. The first time I can remember watching stand up is when I was about eleven or twelve, and I was watching Billy Connolly on a VHS tape that we had at home. I thought he was hysterical, and from there my love for stand-up has only gotten stronger. Now at twenty one, I probably watch five or six stand up specials a week. It is safe to say that I have watched a lot of different stand up, but never stand up from Japan.

So, it was time to find some Japanese stand up, and not really knowing where to go, I went to my old faithful Youtube. Something I quickly realised when looking through the search results, is that I had a picture of what ‘Japanese stand up’ would look like in my head, and I didn’t see it, nor could I find it. I don’t know where the image I had in my head came from, but what I expected to see was that Japanese stand up was just, the stand-up that I’m used to, but with Japanese comedians performing in Japanese, to a Japanese audience. What I found was a whole different range of stuff, so let’s look at some of it.

One of the things I saw a lot of was Japanese comedians performing stand up in English to either, a majority foreign audience in Japan, or Japanese comedians performing overseas, mostly in America. I was the most familiar with this type of routine. It followed the same formula I was used to, and besides a few little things like the use of a clip board in a routine, it was the same style of comedy that most of us would be familiar with. I didn’t feel like I was seeing ‘actual’ Japanese stand up watching these. They were admittedly funny shows, but it felt like the stand-ups I watched were just copying what they had seen other foreign comedians do.

The other type of act that made up the majority of the videos I watched was the double act. My experience with double acts in stand up is definitely not as extensive as with single performer acts, and I think I’d be right in saying the reason for this is that there just not as popular in our culture. There are certainly some great comedy duo’s in stand up, I mean even in Australia we have the likes of The Umbilical Brothers, Lano and Woodley, Sammy J and Randy, there all amazing acts. I just think there are less double acts than there are singles, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Japan, at least from what I’ve seen.

The acts and how I watched them were all different as well. There’s one duo named Gamarjobat which seem to have done both in Japan and internationally. I’m just assuming this because a lot of their videos show them performing on different television shows from around the world. Gamarjobat remind me of The Umbilical Brothers in their routines. They don’t use their voices as much, for speech or noises, but the use of props and their bodies is very similar. The other acts were a little more foreign (please excuse the pun) to me. They did use some techniques I’d seen before like one guy playing the straight man and the other the zany/stupid/different character. Most of the double acts also seemed to use slapstick in their routines. Watching these acts, I felt like I was getting something different to what I was used to, and I think it was because I could see the audience was Japanese, it also helped that some of the acts were in Japanese, which was interesting when some of them didn’t include subtitles.

It was an interesting experience watching and then writing about Japanese stand up, reading over I feel a little slack saying one didn’t feel authentic, who am I to say that? Hopefully doing some research on the topic will help me understand a few things.

Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 2.

Over the past decade, manga, along with other quintessential elements of Japanese pop culture, have had a souring increase in popularity within the western world. Reflecting back on my own upbringing, what once was considered a niche source of entertainment for very few children, is now being used for discussion on pervasive social issues, as well as within academic research. This overwhelming increase in recognition and application has led to a wider interest in Japanese culture through the apt appropriation of these cultural materials as a source of poignant socio-cultural information. Manga has always presented itself as something that I am curious about, but I lacked both the urgency and connection to the medium to pursue this curiosity further.

As discussed within my initial auto-ethnographical account, Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 1, my interactions with manga were both encountered by initial chance, and self-directed curiosity on the issue.

What’s interesting to me is the way in which constructing my narrative, for the purpose of discussing my initial interaction with manga, prompted epiphanies regarding the topic. Through following Ellis et al’s suggested narrative methodology in order to ‘bring readers into the scene – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions’ provoked an awareness of occurrences and intricacies which heavily influenced my motivation on the topic.

My first epiphany was with regard to my own privilege. Although the concept of privilege, and its function within society, is highly systemic, it is also exceedingly relative to the country in question. Japanese culture operates not only culturally different to Australia, but also socially on a lot of issues. Due to these socio-cultural biases and my lack of interaction with manga, I came to view manga as a revolutionary tool before seeing it as an entertainment medium.

The history of Japan is completely separate from what we know as the West. Its evolution regarding distinctive philosophies, socio-cultural structures and religious authority, understandably built Japan into the country it is today. Although there is no law against homosexuality within Japan, there is little discussion of LGBT issues at all. Topics and representations of homosexuality are frequently kept silent, and gay rights, including marriage, receives very little political discussion. This poses itself as a stark contrast to my own experiences within Australia, and this knowledge has prompted me to view Japanese LGBTQ+ culture as repressed and systemically discriminated against.

As evidenced within my initial account, I opened the post with an account of a marriage equality rally in which I attended. This comparison was done with clear intention and motivation, so as to reveal the glaring differences in culture, and the experiences of the respective LGBTQ+ communities to the audience. Focusing on the phenomena of ‘patterns of cultural experiences’ discussed by Ellis et al, we can witness repeated stories and happenings of similar minority groups (i.e. acts of discrimination and erasure), albeit at different points in time. This awareness promotes curiosity into the different cultural structures that facilitated the difference in evolution of this social groups acceptance. But also, because of the dual presence of queer communities in both cultures, it raises the question of how LGBTQ+ communities navigate their domineering culture through the appropriation of untraditional modes of communication.

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This epiphany highlighted, as well as indirectly structuring the way I would address the function of manga as not only a source of entertainment, but as a source of queer liberation in a culture that traditionally objects to the ‘unordinary’. This dual function is pertinent to its success as an escapist and revolutionary medium.

Manga provides audiences with a merging of visual and literary examples of Japanese culture, thus allowing manga the potential to be a rich and enduring source of cultural information (Dudley, 2012, p. 2). Emblematic of most cross-cultural texts however, manga’s ability to serve as not only a vehicle for Japanese culture, but also an important tool for social activism, depends on the way in which it is translated. Branching off Ellis’ comments regarding the ‘comparing of personal experiences with existing research’, it was evident that Japanese texts had the capability to operate in much the same way that Western socio-political inspired texts operate, an example of which being film. Traditionally, most manga sources are translated for the purposes of entertainment. Within the pages of manga, you are able to be anything  that you like- a supernatural being, super hero or a person of another gender identity. The narrative structure of manga assisted in easing my struggle with reading this text, especially regarding the lack of prior engagement I had with it.

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Within the imaginary world constructed by manga, concepts of gender and sexuality are often quite fluid, so it is no shock that many LGBTQ+ people are turning to manga for sympathetic representations of their lived experiences. Within my initial account, I referred to two manga- Wandering Son (2002) and Bokura No Hentai (2012). Although both address similar topics regarding trans* identity, their execution varying drastically. Wandering Son, due to my own perceptions regarding trans* identity, was read with intense contempt. I unfortunately could not finish the text, revealing the way in which my own cultural framework influenced the way in which I viewed the text. As opposed to viewing the story as the starting point for queer representation on an evolutionary timeline regarding the acceptance of these identities, I viewed it as highly repressive contrast to what I am accustomed to in my own cultural space. However, reading Bokura No Hentai directly after Wandering Son however heightened my affinity for the latter text, due to the fact that it aligned more consistently to the social codes that I am used to, as well as my own moral compass.

References:

Bokura no Hentai, Mangafox, viewed 3 September 2017, http://m.mangafox.me/manga/bokura_no_hentai/

Dudley, J 2012, Manga as Cross-Cultural Literature: The effects of Translation on Cultural Perceptions, viewed 9 September 2017, https://scholarship.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/bitstream/handle/10066/14759/2012DudleyJ_thesis.pdf?sequence=1

Ellis, C 2011, Autoethnography: A Review, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, viewed 10 September 2017, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Nicolov, A, 2016, How Manga is Guiding Japan’s Youth on LGBT Issues, DAZED, viewed 11 September 2017, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32647/1/how-manga-is-guiding-japan-s-youth-on-lgbt-issues

Wandering Son, Fantagraphic, viewed 4 September 2017, http://www.fantagraphics.com/wanderingson1/

Undergoing research into Japanese hair trends

On both sides of my family lineage, I am British. Way, way, way, way back kind of British. There’s enough family trees and ancestry tracing in my family to tell you that. I’m very generic in that blue-eyes, blonde-hair Australian stereotype way, and it always felt nice to fit in with that narrative in an easy way. While I’m not a sun-kissed surfer babe, as I grew up in the country, hours away from the nearest beach, it felt like I belonged in the typical Australian backdrop.

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Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 1

Closing my eyes, I focus on the booming, crackling voice heard over the sound systems which had been strategically placed around Town Hall. Surging waves of cheers and applause heavily laced every remark made by opposition leader Bill Shorten, pre-empting the reaction of his words with a slight raise in his tone.

“All I see is a community filled with love and support for one another…” he exclaims, his words cradling the crowd within the temporary auditorium we have created.

Eyes open, I am overcome by a symphony of colour, as placards printed with ‘Love is Love’ and ‘Vote Yes’ obstruct my view of the stage.

I had been standing at the station for no more than 10 minutes when the train came bounding seamlessly towards us on the tracks. Headphones in, blasting a Spotify playlist entitled ‘Love is Love’, I was more than ready to engage with the rally occurring in a few hours’ time. More and more people arrived just in time for the train doors to open, donned with rainbow flags, shirts and faces.

The symbol of the queer community was being worn so proudly and unapologetically, which solidified both my own resolve and excitement for the rally.

Leading up to the rally, I naturally ease my overwhelming anticipation by engaging with queer theory and representation- not that common? Ok, moving on.

I remember reading a HRC report titled ‘The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down- LGBT Bullying and Exclusion in Japanese Schools.’

The opening narrative read as follows:

“In the world there are some weird people,” my high school health teacher said to introduce the lesson. Then she said sex between boys was the main cause of AIDS so we should stay away from homosexuals. That was the only time I heard about LGBT people from a teacher—except when I overheard them making gay jokes.

–Sachi N., 20, Nagoya, November 2015

Caught up in the cacophony of political debates, and social battles, I was completely blinded from my own privilege. In a country where we are campaigning for marriage equality, at least we have the representation to warrant a campaign.

Completely at a loss as to how Japanese society engages with queer culture, I took to google to find out. As someone who is a proponent of equality and representation, I was upset as to how little I knew about this side of the world. Enthralled by the litany of online sources on the topic, I took notice of a familiar, recurring word; manga.

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But if manga were a destination, it would be the north pole and I would be the south. I knew nothing, and that only furthered my curiosity.

For those who are asking similar questions I did, manga are essentially Japanese comics which have their own specific drawing style. Manga lends itself to a variety of topics from historical narratives, fantasy, and superheroes. Although manga has a very specific and unique style, it is not so much a genre as it is a format.

Japanese youth can find themselves seriously lacking in accessible information on LGBT issues, so they turn to alternative, escapist, fantasy literature to enter a world where queer people exist openly. Both manga and its animated version, anime, are places where transgressive behaviour is allowed or lauded and they’ve long been places where gay love stories are portrayed.

Although manga has been revolutionary in providing an escape for LGBTQ+ youth seeking out alternative narratives to the ones that they routinely see, there was one key issue that became rather abruptly apparent.

Seated within the quiet section of the library, already a whole Reddit thread deep I stumble upon a new word; yaoi.  Apparently emblematic of quintessential queer manga, I click the link in a haste, eager to find out more.

With a page closed fast enough to warrant a Guinness World Record medal, it was apparent that overtly sexualised ‘boy love’ content was a firm part of queer manga.

This issue is something that I am curious to address.

Although shocking, I did not let this deter me. Surely the queer community was not packaged into a fictive recreation of a pubescent boys mind (?!). Before long, I stumbled across Wandering Son (2002) and Bokura no Hentai (2012).
The similarities between the two were endless- manga form, tackled concepts regarding trans* identity in Japan, and completely foreign to me.

Growing up, I was never introduced to comic book culture. The bridge between comics and manga was not all too long, but I had never accessed either side. The images, text, composition and flow were so unlike any book that i have ever read that at times I was forced to pause as i decided which text bubble I were to read next. If my initial motivation were to have not taken place, it would be safe to say that i would have never interacted with the medium.

However, there’s no denying the enormous popularity of manga – an industry valued at $5 billion in annual Japanese sales. The fact that it’s read widely at every level of Japanese society and that people have respect for their manga heroes makes it a really effective vehicle for delivering positive messages and giving LGBT issues substance and respect. In fact, manga and anime provide such accessible media for young people to explore an alternative world free of society’s prejudices that the Human Rights Watch has created its own manga series.

This style of queer expression, in a context that often subverts the ‘unordinary’, has positioned itself as a stark contrast to my own experiences. With regard to the queer representations that I am used to, its positioning within a culture that often shrouds it in stereotypes which are rejected, and even my own (non-existent) interactions with comic/manga culture, it is obvious that I am stepping into uncharted waters.

My digital artefact will aim to investigate the role and function that manga has in facilitating queer representation, culture and improving general queer ideologies within the country.

References:

Ashley, K 2015, An Introduction to Manga, Greek & Sundry, viewed 2 September 2017, http://geekandsundry.com/an-introduction-to-manga/

Nicolov, A, 2016, How Manga is Guiding Japan’s Youth on LGBT Issues, DAZED, viewed 2 September 2017, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32647/1/how-manga-is-guiding-japan-s-youth-on-lgbt-issues

Peterson, B 2015, Japan’s Trans-Friendly Comic Book Revolution, Foreign Policy, viewed 3 September 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/30/manga-transgender-rights-japan-lgbt-anime-comics/

Utagawa, T 2016, Japan LGBT Manga 2016, Human Rights Watch, viewed 3 September 2017, https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/photo-essay/2016/05/04/japan-lgbt-manga-2016

Wilson, B 2003, “Boys’ Love,”Yaoi and Art Education: Issues of Power and Padegogy, Visual Cultural Research in Art and Education, viewed 3 September, 2017, https://www.csuchico.edu/~mtoku/vc/Articles/toku/Wil_Toku_BoysLove.html

Femininity in Japanese Anime.

Growing up I had always had an interest in Asian culture, specifically anime.
In other words, I am this kid:

Not really, but I understand his enthusiasm. 

Just like any child my age I loved watching cartoons and the way each character had its own individual style and personality.
In fact, I remember favouring certain cartoons over others based on their aesthetic quality e.g. ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog‘ > ‘Cow and Chicken‘.
I remember eagerly anticipating Cartoon Cartoon Fridays with my siblings. On a few occasions we spent the whole day in our pyjamas, eyes glued to the TV.
Disgusting, I know.

When I was around 11 I started watching anime that would appear on TV such as Sailor Moon and Mew Mew Power.
Prior to them the only cartoon I had ever watched that was relatively ‘Asian’ was ‘Samurai Jack‘ which is for starters, an American animated television series.
The difference in styles between these animations was pretty distinct; the Japanese animations were beautiful and noticeably more detailed and seemed carefully thought out, where each character had their own unique theme that distinguished them from the others. The animations I was used to were more simplified and were often not depicted in a fantasy world. 

 

One night, when I was 12, Hayao Miyazaki’s animated movie ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) came on TV. Immediately I was captivated. Everything from the music to the clothing, the architecture, the way the people were depicted and the food, it was all so unfamiliar to me, and that was why I loved it so much.
For me, they were the most lifelike cartoons I had ever seen. Compared to the anime TV shows I had previously watched, Miyazaki’s characters did not have the typical ‘big-eyed, anime look‘. I remember thinking how mysterious and brooding, yet feminine, the character Haku was (in my 12 year old, pre-pubescent mind I would have probably described him differently). I also really liked the character Lin (Rin) who is cold and unmotherly to the main character, Chihiro, at first but then eventually warms up to her. I thought that was unusual of a female character to be that way to a young girl, but I liked it as it taught Chihiro to be independent and strong. 

After viewing these Japanese animations I was intrigued by them.

Looking back on the films I grew up watching as a child, the disparity between Disney films and Studio Ghibli films was noticeable, particularly in relation to the portrayal of femininity. 

Out of the studio Ghibli productions I have only watched ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997), ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) and ‘Howls Moving Castle’ (2004). However, despite my limited exposure to Miyazaki’s films, I noticed the portrayal of strong, powerful female characters whose actions would either result in the demise or triumph of their male counterparts e.g. Chihiro and Haku, No-Face and Chihiro, Sophie and Howl. They are ‘complicated, flawed and independent figures.’ Prior to this, the majority of animated films I watched were quite different, with the male typically rescuing the female from her seemingly doomed existence e.g. Cinderalla, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel etc. I think this is because such films revolve primarily around romance and the prospect of marriage, especially the older Disney films. Studio Ghibli seems to portray the lead male and female characters as equals with a mutual respect for one another.

In Miyazaki’s films, the female leads  have separate stories from the male leads, stories that usually highlight their independence, power and intelligence. After recently watching ‘Princess Mononoke’ and reflecting on ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Howls Moving Castle’, the female villains (Lady Eboshi, Yubaba and Witch of the Waste) are portrayed as powerful and intimidating characters. However, their story lines are explored and, consequently, reveal them as complex characters with understandable reasons behind their actions. So what does this do to traditional notions of femininity? It expands them, and creates characters with more dimension and less stereotypes attached to them.

I am also really interested in the notion of cosplay and I additionally want to explore femininity in cosplay and how participants choose to interpret a character in a certain way through their costumes; does it make them feel empowered and confident? What made them decide to cosplay this particular anime? Do they admire these characters?
I am attending the Sydney Comic Con this year in September so I hope to answer these questions there.
I also want to visit the ‘anime station‘ and ‘artist alley‘ to look at how femininity is represented.

For this reason, I am interested in pursuing an independent research project in the form of an essay based on notions of femininity in anime; from films and art to how these animations are translated to real-life scenarios through cosplay.
Contacting online fan clubs to initiate discussion on this topic would also be beneficial and interesting to my research.
To provide more background on my research I may also look at the historical depictions of females in Japanese styles of art and literature.

 

My Story of Japanese Marketing

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I was sitting in my bedroom on the morning of the 24th of August, It was a thursday and I had my DIGC 330 class in a few hours. I realised it was now or never for me to get a start on my research project before class this week (something I had been planning since the previous lesson but had been too busy obviously…). I was already on my computer and looking at the class plan for the day while importing cd’s onto my itunes (yes a little old school) and this may seem irrelevant but it was part of the experience all the same.

I started by first doing a simple Google search for Japanese marketing. Now this was definitely not the best way to start as it just came up with 100’s of Japanese marketing strategy documents from the way they do their marketing plans to why it is different to marketing elsewhere in the world, even why it is more successful. This is something I care about due to having a marketing degree so it was hard to not get distracted by all the information but I stuck to my task and changed from Google to Youtube in order to find what I’m looking for.

Youtube proved to be a much better way for me to access Japanese advertisements . A simple search and numerous advertisements appeared but in exactly the manner I didn’t want them to. Headings such as the ones seen in the picture below of “Weird, Funny and Cool Japanese Commercials #2”. This automatically puts the view of us ‘vs’ them on the video being displayed and this is something that I want this experience to minimise. Although a little research almost completely disregards this as a justified view but this is something I will talk about next week.

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Anyway disregarding the heading I clicked and entered. Ok so the first thing I see on this video yes a little weird. There was a Human sized dog talking to a child, the child looked just as confused as me with the situation. But then a spaceship appears takes the dog and he is back with some crisps. Now all is right with the world and the little girl starts dancing along with the dog. So ok this one maybe a bit strange but more on that later.

Then the next one comes on. It’s a dog in space and this one can talk (little trend here). So far the experience has been a bit strange but then all marketing can be a bit strange just look at the example below. I am still not 100% on what this advertisement is about but I think it might be for a bank.

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I skip a few and then a familiar face appears its Bruce Willis. He is there advertising Daihatsu. So celebrity endorsements still commonplace in Japanese advertisements a little something that transcends culture. Although this celebrity endorsement does not make that much sense to me unless you are planning on saving the world in a Daihatsu but it’s still there.

After these few I thought I would change videos and see what some other examples that are available on Youtube are like. I go to one titled “Japanese Commercials, Special,The Very Best Of 2015”. I don’t know what to expect after what I just watched but the first ad that comes on is just awesome. It features school children performing tricks with everyday objects and is pretty mesmerising to watch. I am so curious to see what it’s about and its… noodle soup. I thought it was going to be a talent show or some kind of sport but this assumption was just so wrong. This is where I realised it was time to stop as I have so much to analyse about the advertisements I’ve seen and my reactions to them already.

So that was it, It didn’t take long and I already realised this experience has so much involved in it for me to look at and study. Something Chris has been saying the whole semester “Just choose something small”. Which he then reiterated to me when I went to class after having this experience. Informing me that one advertisement is probably enough so with this being the case I will most likely choose the last advertisement I mentioned as I think it was the best.

Throughout the experience I kept a written journal to closely document my experience. Now that I have chosen just one I will use what I have written on it to further analyse next week. Stay tuned for more.

If you want to watch the advertisement that is the main focus the link is included below: