Japanese Culture, Universal themes… Akira continues to Transcend Cultural Boundaries.

Anime. What do you know about it? If you had have asked me three weeks ago, I may very well have moaned at the prospect of watching it. Why is it I am so far removed from this phenomenon? Geographically, Australia’s closest neighbouring continent is that of Asia. A vibrant, culturally diverse, politically influential region of the world. I think I so readily align myself with Western culture that I forget to ‘build appreciation of and connection with culturally diverse peoples’ (Leong et al. 2017, pg. 7).

Deconstructing the idea of autoethnographical research over the past three weeks has led me to be far more self-reflexive in understanding how my cultural background has significantly influenced my interpretation of Asian culture. As per the definition I provided in blog one, Ellis et al. (2011) defines autoethnographical research as the process of ‘retrospectively and selectively writing about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or possessing a particular cultural identity’. Thus, it is my responsibility as an autoethnographer to not only analyse my experience, but also consider how my culturally driven interpretation may differ to that of others (Ellis et al. 2011).

Described as the ‘most notable apocalyptic narrative in Anime history’, Akira’s (1988) storyline is one of ‘apocalyptic destruction, societal breakdown and carnivalesque surrealism’, clearly influenced by war and political upheaval in Japan. Throughout Akira I was highly self-reflexive. As I documented on twitter, I have minimal understanding of Japanese political history, thus my interpretation of the film would be in some respect impacted (Pitard, 2017). However, as the film progressed, I had an epiphany, an aspect of autoethnographical research Ellis et al. (2011) believes to be fundamental. This film, along with ‘The Host’ were highly political films conveyed through animation, thus as a researcher it became apparent that the themes represented in Akira were in fact universal in nature.

akira

Neo-Tokyo is suffering from fascism, political corruption, bureaucracy and police militarisation. The rise of resistance groups in the face of such turmoil is a theme that is highly relevant no matter one’s cultural background. My preconceived concept of Asian films as being disconnected from my cultural context has been dramatically impacted by this revelation. However, the way in which I interpret such political turmoil is heavily determined by my cultural context, thus as an autoethnographer it is important I acknowledge that my assumptions, values and context will influence my research. It is this distinction that creates a collaborative journey between’ myself as the author ‘and the reader in understanding and knowing the culture studied’ (Pitard, 2017).

Beyond acknowledging one’s own bias, it is important as an autoethnographical researcher to determine the style we wish to communicate through. The choice or fusion between evocative or analytical autoethnography is crucial in determining one’s methodology. Coming from a sociological background, Anderson’s (2006) analytical style resinated with me. Thus, my research communication will not be limited to ‘informative description’, instead I agree with Anderson (2006) that ‘… the value and vitality of a piece of research depends on it providing theoretical illumination of the topic under investigation’ (Anderson, 2006, pg. 388).

References:

Anderson, Leon 2006, ‘Analytic Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.

Chen, L 2017, ‘Looking at Akira as a guide to surviving fascism’, DAZED, https://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/34643/1/looking-at-anime-film-akira-as-a-guide-to-surviving-fascism, viewed 13/08/19

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Leong, Susan and Woods, Denise (2017) “I Don’t Care About Asia”: Teaching Asia in Australia, Journal of Australian Studies. Special Issue. pp.1-13

Pitard, J 2017, ‘A Journey to the Centre of Self: Positioning the Researcher in Autoethnography‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 108-127.

TheArtifice, 2018, ‘Akira: An analysis of the A-bomb and Japanese Animation’, TheArtifice, https://the-artifice.com/akira-analysis/, viewed 13/08/19

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