Week 6

Slightly Immersive Experience in Kwaidan (1964)

That digital output of Japanese movies is to say the least pretty extensive, so in choosing the horror film from Japan that I was going to view I went straight to an internet list. You might say that was callous, and that if I was serious about trying to find a scary Japanese horror film I would do more research than an internet top ten list. And you would be correct.

The first eye opener on this journey is; if you want to watch a scary movie, get a few more confirmations than an internet list before deciding to deem it scary. OK that being said my live tweeting experience of  the film Kwaidan was enjoyable, but not scary. #Ifellasleep

The main reason I opted straight for Kwaidan is that it was made in 1964 and as you probably know the 60s was a pivotal political period, so I was hoping the film might indicate what Japan was facing politically. Looking over my tweets, which you can see here, from my brief overview of them it seems to me that political tensions concerning gender and possibly more can be found in the films content. However I will be looking into this more deeply for my digital artefact to see where exactly the film stood politically and if there was any social and political controversies that could be noted to add more depth to the picture I have.

Tweeting the experience did feel exciting and it gave me more of an appreciation for the film, the process though was stifling, I didn’t feel that I got fully immersed in the what Kwaidan was trying to convey. I had to stop the film sometimes to tweet what I was seeing/feeling and it felt like a detachment from the event each time.

Not as immersed as I would like to be, it seems from the tweets that I liked the film mainly for its aesthetics and knowledge. The dialogue appears to have particularly burdened me. What I did get though, was a new found interest in Japan’s very rich history. And when I say rich I’m talking thousands of years, compared to little baby Australia’s 300 years or so recorded history, Japan’s is epic, and glorious… samurais, battle scenes, samurai clans, baby emperors, it’s thrilling! which would be an indication as to why their films are so good. My digital Artefact will investigate this theory more.

My main problem though throughout the film was pacing, I had real trouble remaining focused. There were so many beautiful images on screen, they just didn’t seem to be leading to anything quick enough for me. For my digital artefact I want to unpack this, the pacing of films has changed quite a bit over time, I would like to research what experts have commented about this and develop more of a clearer understanding of its social, cultural, and political implications.

Reference

Kwaidan 1964 by Masaki Kobayashi

A Look into the Eyes of Anime

As a continuation of my latest article on what defines an anime, I have decided to continue the discussion, focusing on the concept of Anime Eyes as the subject of exploration for this task. As I noted last week, an anime character’s eyes are a distinct and unique design unique to the art form, and differ in characteristics and importance to other types of animation. In anime productions, a character’s eyes are often quite detailed, depicting not only the pupil, but the orbit, eyelid and eyelashes aswell.

Eyes in anime are used as a device to express character emotion, as well as a way to show one’s personality. Flickering eyes can express sadness and pain, particularly if the character is on the verge of tears. In some cases, the eyes can simply be a defined shape, with no internal definition of the pupils, which is used to define anger, and is used extensively in fighting sequences or when a character is yelling in anger. The image below details Fairy Tail’s main character, Natsu fighting a tree, showing his “anger” at his friends, Gray and Erza.

Untitled

In my studies I have discovered that another defining feature of Anime Eyes is their size, which is not only used to define “cuteness”, but also youth and innocence. The following example contains minor spoilers of the anime series Fairy Tail, so if you wish to avoid spoilers, skip this paragraph. Drawing another example from Fairy Tail episode 20, we meet a young character named Lisanna in a flashback. She is a close friend of Natsu Dragneel, and considered a romantic interest of the young Natsu in these flashbacks. Lisanna shows little in her time on screen but kindness and pure innocence in terms of her character development throughout the episode and her eyes reinforce the innocent and youthful nature of the young girl. Lisanna, who was previously assumed to be deceased, returns in episode 79 of the anime series, alive and noticeably older than the young girl we know from previous episodes. The older Lisanna, also pictured below, maintains some of the characteristics that remind you of her younger self, with the exception that her eyes are not as large as her younger self, which reinforces the idea that her eyes are used to show her age and innocence in her youthful self.

Untitled

So far my study on anime eyes has begun to take shape, and so for the remainder of this session my autoethnographic study will be exploring this concept. In my next blog i’ll continue to explore my work on expressionism. See you next time!

장애물 (barrier)

Autoethnographers strive to use language and methods of interaction to find themselves in the crosshairs of ‘autobiographic impulse’ and the ‘ethnographic moment’ (Spry 2001), but what if there is no convergence of language and access points, such as may be the case when using social networks in other languages (Sina Weibo). I have experienced this struggle when attempting to derive further external cultural experience from the learning and curiosity which the EYK community and content has fostered within me. It became important to me to reflect on the ‘interactional textures occuring between self, other, and contexts in autoethnographic research’ (Spry 2001). Thus, I ventured out from the protective wings of the EYK community to explore the wider context of their content through consumption of pop music throughout Asia without the lens of EYK and ‘KPop Music Mondays‘ (their weekly KPop review) filtering what I see and like.

The creation of a personal narrative and the ability to recognise the occurrence of reflexive ethnography allows an autoethnographer to identify the cultural baggage which we bring to a personal experience and subsequently reflect on the reflective changes which result from our participatory cultural experiences (Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). In order to examine my cultural baggage in an environment where a detailed personal narrative could develop, I decided to start at home (Australia) with SBS PopAsia. SBS PopAsia is a comprehensive source of Asian pop content from many different countries (particularly South Korea), in the format of a television show screened on SBS 2 and a 24/7 live music stream.

Reflecting on my first impression of the SBS PopAsia television show screened on Sundays, I can see an unfortunate and unexpected mirroring of MTV and the Top 40 countdowns of my childhood, with the hosts standing in front of a cheesy green screen background while introducing slightly 1990s-feeling segments such as ‘what do all these videos have in common’ (this time it was ‘rain’ and ‘mobile phones’). In the first few minutes I notice a complete lack of interaction with artists and fans. Immediately I feel the deprivation of the freedom which digital platforms such as YouTube have given me when exploring new forms of entertainment, as I can’t skip any of the content that I’m not interested in. Similarly, the 24/7 digital radio stream forces the listener to experience the whole song being played, and there was no cultural context offered e.g. country of origin of the music, or information about the band. Ironically, the part of the SBS PopAsia experience which I struggled the most with ended up being related to language barriers (considering it is an Australian program); I expected the music videos to have a subtitle option, particularly in English, to explain why they are so popular amongst their regular viewers, as I have found a barrier to my enjoyment of KPop is that I don’t understand the lyricism or cultural context of the songs. However, there were no subtitles, and very little explanation of each video, so I ended up turning off the television 20 minutes before the show ended. This drove me back to digital platforms.

This time I attempted to involve myself in the weekly Korean show Music Bank. Immediately I was drawn into the show, as there were English subtitles for each KPop act’s song, and I found myself really enjoying the experience of actually seeing major KPop idols dance and sing to a passionate (and very loud) local audience. I hadn’t realised until now what a big fan of KPop I had become until I realised I was ‘fan-girling’ over Taemin and his performance of ‘Danger’. I really loved looking through the comment section and seeing others feel exactly the same; after all, ‘fandom is not just about expressing to the object of your fandom that you love it — it’s also about connecting with other fans (Miller 2014).

Upon reflection, I could see how incredibly important my research of KPop bands and idols and observation of online fan communities had been in fostering a genuine connection within this cultural context. This experience has shown me just how valuable the EYK community is to me and the breaking down of barriers to participation in the wider Korean entertainment context, and how digital platforms allow much more inclusive access to the enjoyment of new experiences, particularly in comparison with traditional media forms.

Week 6: Moving Forward

In light of last week’s worrying conundrum in deciding the mode of interaction with my digital artefact I am happy to have found an article which has confirmed a starting point for the community. Yoshitaka Mōri (2009) provides an interesting look at the evolution of J-Pop, it it is through his discussion of the “genre” that it is made apparent that J-Pop is not a genre but a signifier of a process of it’s evolution. Mōri summarises this in the quote “the success of J-Pop, it’s petty nationalist tendency and hybrid quality of music are definitely an effect of, and a response to, globalization and it’s consequent anxiety” (2009, p.485). On reflection on this point it seems as if I have somehow subconsciously been drawn back to my interests as discussed in my very first post. J-Pop ultimately serves as a response to an Imagined Asia, a response to fears of the diluting effects of western content. J-Pop is described by Mōri as a descriptor of appropriations of western music first encouraged as a response to forcing the popular radio station J-WAVE to play Japanese music as it was initially a western music only station (2009). They didn’t want to play more traditional Japanese songs but instead sought out songs that sounded like they had been made in Europe and the US but had been made in Japan, ”J-pop was the genre that filled the gap between Japanese popular music and western music at that moment“ (Mōri 2009, p. 476)

 

By looking at the idea of J-Pop more widely as opposed to what I feel was too intense a specificity, a community has the opportunity to be developed. What I am proposing is simply turning the ideas I had last week on their head. Instead of there being a single producer everyone is, which will further promote an open engagement. As J-Pop was an appropriation we can replicate this process by going back to an original idea of making simple sound packs maybe one instrument or texture for the community to use in the creation of new songs, using as many or as few as they want whilst retaining the freedom to mix in new sounds that they feel compliment. It will be interesting to see if a new genre or sound is perpetuated by this free interaction, though it might be slightly ambitious considering the time frame of the project.

References:

Mōri, Y 2009, “J-pop: from the ideology of creativity to DiY music culture”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol. 10, no. 4 pp 474-488

Can you talk the talk?

I realized at this stage in my research I needed to start digging a little deeper because I have only really scratched the surface of a topic that has many offshoots. I came up with some blog ideas to investigate over the next few weeks that should help me achieve two primary goals: a) learn more about the active hentai community through reading a wide range of forum threads and b) uncover the historical and cultural roots that have made hentai what it is today. As Ellis et al. says, “when researchers write ethnographies, they produce a “thick description” of a culture”. I feel that comparing and contrasting literature on the subject with my own interpretation of how this is reflected in participants’ interactions online will facilitate my role as autoethnographer in discerning patterns of cultural experience and synthesizing them to produce a meaningful and engaging text on the subject.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 8.46.19 am

My initial reaction to trawling the forums was how difficult it is for an outsider to familiarize themselves with the hentai vernacular, which is littered with translated, abbreviated and appropriated Japanese phrases describing a variety of hentai phenomenon. I have talked about Ecchi in a previous discussion, but Ecchi is only the beginning. This Wiki page shows some of the other hentai subgenres, but I don’t think it’s a comprehensive list. More comprehensive is this page – a glossary of hentai terms (the sheer volume of terms is slightly overwhelming to me as newcomer). I was pretty surprised when I stumbled upon one forum thread titled ‘What do you most like in hentai?’ and one user answered ‘shimapan’. Of course Google gave me some answers: shimapan is an abbreviation of shima-pantsu, meaning striped panties, most commonly blue and white. And yes, before you ask there ARE a plenty of blogs already dedicated to appeasing the shimapan fans. Funnily enough there is also a Japanese term to describe people in anime/manga fandoms with obsessive interests: Otaku.

While Otaku is the word used in this specific context, I would relate this phenomenon more broadly to fetishes, which emerge from all cultures globally. From a psychoanalytical perspective, a fetish is an “object providing sexual gratification… among the objects frequently sought as fetishistic are shoes, bras and panties, etc.” (Lowenstein 2002: 135-136). The idea that some hentai fans have a preference for shimapan fits neatly into this definition. After contemplating it more deeply and reflecting on this further research, I feel more empathetic towards those discussing their fetishes in forums in such a forthright manner. I certainly don’t believe it’s anything to be ashamed of (unless of course your fetish is liable to cause harm to another person), and it’s great that the Internet has produced a platform for people to discuss what might otherwise be considered ‘oddities’, save for the fact that they now form part of a community with similar interests.

Maybe I am part of the in-group now, cause I get it!

Maybe I am part of the in-group now, cause I get it!

As I touched on before, a lot of what constitutes this community is underscored by the language used. Scholars attests to the relationship between language and (sub)cultural identity (Jaspal 2009: 17), and it seems to me that knowledge and usage of all these terms by Japanese and non-Japanese speaking participants is the marker that binds together an otherwise potentially diverse group and expresses the unique character of the hentai community.  Of course for me contributing to the forums at this stage will draw attention to the fact that I’m from the outgroup as I still don’t possess the proper lexicon that would show me to be a bon-fide member, nor am I familiar with any of the hentai series under discussion. I’ve always been interested in language and etymology but the research led me to start thinking more about the language of identity and the way language becomes a kind of currency within a subculture. You use it to communicate with others, but you also use it to gain access, acceptance and credibility within a specific community. If you can’t talk the talk, you definitely can’t walk the walk.

Ellis, C., Adams, T. E. and Bochner, A. P. 2011, ‘Autoethnography: an overview’, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, viewed online at http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Jaspal, R. 2009, ‘Language and social identity: A psychosocial approach’, Psych-Talk

Lowenstein, L. F. 2002, ‘Fetishes and their associated behaviour’, Sexuality and Disability, vol. 20, no. 2

A (Digital) Paper Trophy

I was listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour, a weekly podcast commenting on everything popular culture has to offer, and it discussed the method of self analysing why you’re a fan of something and why you might be avoiding other content. I related this to my interest in Papercraft and I started listing reasons why I chose to create some models and not others. I found that most of the models I have created were of Japanese anime characters, but the revealing find was half of these designs I didn’t know what they were from; I had chosen them purely for artistic reasons. However, now that I had chosen them I was interested to know more about them, and from this process of research I revealed that my Papercraft models were a digital catalog of new interests in content I was not familiar with.

I’ve discovered through my methodology that Papercraft is a digital and physical communal practice. Papercraft models represent a physical symbol of a cultural icon you cherish, and you create the model as a paper trophy. You assemble a design of a character or symbol of the content you’re a fan of. But before the final paper trophy, Papercraft models are digital designs that connect and distribute fan culture. Most of the Papercraft models I’ve made or collected are based on anime characters from Japan. My collection builds a catalog of “digital trophies” that connect me to different Asian content forming a familiar cultural bubble. While some of the designs are unknown to me, I want to challenge my familiarity. I want to challenge my cultural “rut” and find designs of other Asian cultural elements, from India, South Korea, Thailand to China.

gdragondrummerpapertoyFrom my first search I discovered official Papercraft merchandise of Kpop band 2PM that you can buy. It comes with pre-cut designs of each of the 6 Korean band members. So if there’s official Papercraft, there has to be unofficial designs of Kpop stars. And there is; Pandabobo designs models from the KPop band ‘Big Bang‘ as they’re depicted in their music videos and live events. At first, I didn’t understand the appeal of models designed off real people and not characters, but after watching Big Bang’s music videos I found them do be very creative and an appropriate choice for Pandabobo to design from, like his “Pinochio” costume from G-Dragon’s song ‘Crayon’. The idea of creating your own papercraft designs on something you love interests me and has sparked an idea about my digital artefact project: why don’t I create Papercraft models of digital Asian content?

I’ve been collecting, downloading, printing and folding Papercraft models for years, but I’ve never analysed my interaction with the community, and asked my self: why don’t I design models? Sure, I find it a little intimidating, but designing and remixing Papercraft work is half of the process of the Papercraft community and there are programs that are engineered to help with making models. Creating a model based on a piece of digital content is a simple way to communicate and distribute culture among my peers. I could use the research DIC330 is providing and design cultural models of each of the students research sites. If that’s too hard a task, I could chose KPop videos and design models from them. I could utiilise Papercraft as a means to communicate and display an unfamiliar aspect of Asian digital content to an audience.

Boy, Was My Face Red

What are my feelings toward HyunA, and what are the possible reasons for my reactions? (Sheridan)

I have been aware of the popular Korean solo performer HyunA for a number of years now. HyunA (yes, it’s stylized that way) has a reputation and image in Kpop circles tied up in being sexy, raunchy, playful and fun (Willis 2014). But despite her notoriety I have never really gotten into HyunA, simply because I have never found her particular blend of hip-hop/pop particularly catchy or fun to listen to. A lot of the appeal to me seemed to be in the in the sexualized performances rather than strong vocals or interesting tunes. Not wishing to pass judgement, it’s just not what I look for in either music broadly or Kpop specifically. However last week when I live tweeted along with the #SBSPopAsia hashtag I was exposed to the new HyunA song/music video “Red” and I actually really like it. So this week I thought I’d direct the autoethnographic method towards HyunA’s new song.

What were my reactions and feelings in response to HyunA’s “Red”, and how did they change? (Sheridan)

My initial reactions were a mix of pleasant surprise at how good the song sounded compared to previous HyunA hits and a sort of tired bewilderment at the provocative nature of the video clip itself, which felt excessive even for HyunA. It wasn’t as though I found this hyper-sexualized imagery particularly offensive, more just hyperactive. It was an onslaught of monkey butts, twerking, underpants, glitter and riding giant bananas. At the end I couldn’t help but feel like it was riding the coat-tails of music/dance trends popular in the U.S.A. lately, such as the aforementioned twerking. There’s even a reference to Miley’s infamous Wrecking Ball film clip. As a fan of Korean pop I felt a little apprehensive to see it apparently recycling the American trends and memes of 2013. It made me realize that I partly enjoy Kpop as escapism from the American pop culture I find myself constantly exposed to, which I will admit is selfish of me as a cultural outsider. That’s not to say I think Kpop should remain pure and untouched by American influences, but rather that I have a bias that tends to favour Kpop when it feels less co-opted by American culture. After some repeat watching I shifted my perspective and started to see these references as cheeky nods to American pop culture rather than hapless imitations of it. Pictured below are some comments from the YouTube video that show experiences similar to my own.

HyunA reactions

What did I learn from this? (Sheridan)

As is always the case with Korean pop music, the meaning of the lyrics is completely lost on me due to language barriers. Whilst trying to bridge this gap I discovered that some of the lyrics were appropriated from a Korean nursery rhyme. The nursery rhyme goes “monkey butts are red, red is apple, apple is delicious, delicious is banana, banana is long.” Whereas the lyrics in Red go “monkey butts are red, red is HyunA, HyunA is…”, which to Korean audiences is supposed to evoke the provocative idea that HyunA is delicious (SBS PopAsia HQ 2014). It also explains the seemingly (to me) random imagery of bananas, monkeys, and HyunA stabbing the apple with her high heel that appear in the video.


 

References

SBS PopAsia HQ, ‘My Korean Husband’s Nichola explains the meaning behind Hyuna’s song “Red”‘, SBS PopAsia  http://www.sbs.com.au/popasia/blog/2014/07/30/my-korean-husband-nichola-explains-meaning-behind-hyuna-song-red

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 31 August 2014 http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

Willis, H 2014, ‘K-Pop Double-Take: Why 4Minute Rapper HyunA’s Solo Track ‘Red’ Should Be A Hit Single In The U.S. [VIDEO]’, kpopstars, 4 September, viewed 6 September 2014 http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/105703/20140904/hyuna-red-4minute.htm