Akira – Week 3

Normally, I would spend the time writing about the film itself, but through an autoethnographic approach, I’ll instead be reflecting on thoughts I had whilst watching Akira in class this week. The reason I believe in autoethnography’s value is because the concept of “objectivity” is biased towards, as Ellis et al put it, “a White, masculine, heterosexual, middle/upper-classed, Christian, able-bodied perspective.” (Ellis et al 2011) No, the irony of the nuance in objectivity is not lost on me.

This is a tweet that I had made during our live-tweeting session watching Akira. As the tweet states, I was initially going to tweet about the appearance of toxic masculinity in Akira (notably Kaneda and Tetsuo); they refuse to call for help, they seldom show emotion (other than anger or pride) and they seemingly disregard women as anything more than objects and ego-boosters. But as I was tweeting I realised that “I” saw these traits as aggressive and toxic. By making this an “objective statement” that these traits are indeed an example of toxic masculinity, I’m disregarding the nuance of how my own experiences and beliefs have led me to this conclusion. My interactions and experiences living in the US have educated me in ideologies of feminism as an example, and this shapes my own understanding of what “toxic masculinity” is, and how it presents itself. And even then, I need to acknowledge that these ideologies that I’ve learnt about feminism come from a predominantly US, highly educated background; another important layer to take into account. Again, “objectivity” and even the word “scientific” for that matter, is biased towards a certain ideal. 

Another thing to note is that we watched Akira with the English dubs, as opposed to Japanese. I believe it’s worth noting due to the fundamental, structural differences between English and Japanese. As an example, Japanese uses honorifics when addressing people. These honorifics are incredibly nuanced and come in various forms, and they show differing levels of respect and acknowledgement from person to person. There’s no real equivalent in English. Titles like “Mr” or “Mrs” don’t convey the same detail and nuance that Japanese honorifics do, in the same way that Japanese honorifics can’t convey the same detail and nuance that “Mr” and “Mrs” do. Therefore I believe English-only speakers fundamentally cannot understand Akira in the same exact level of detail and nuance that a Japanese person can. Returning to my tweet about toxic masculinity, in the English dub I noted Kaneda and Tetsuo being quite brutish towards the female characters. With the lack of Japanese honorifics being utilised in English, it’s incredibly difficult to see just what kind of a relationship Kaneda and Tetsuo had towards the female characters, and even themselves.


Keiden Cheung

One comment

  1. Keiden, I think your ability to reflect on how your perceptions when viewing Akira have formed is a prime example of an autoethnographic exploration. As Ellis et al. notes “When researchers do ethnography, they study a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture” (Ellis et al. 2011). By commenting on your experiences in the US and your interaction with feminist ideals as an autoethnographic epiphany to assess how you perceived toxic masculinity in Akira created such a deep level of understanding for your audience. I had a similar reaction to the gender representations in the film and found myself uncomfortable with quite a few of the interactions between the characters. This is most likely because I have had a very similar social and political framework that you referenced.

    Additionally, your exploration of the effects the dubbed version may have through omitting Japanese honorifics allowed me to question my own perception of the film. I think you have perfectly executed the method referenced in Ellis et al. that; “Autoethnographers must not only use their methodological tools and research literature to analyze experience, but also must consider ways others may experience similar epiphanies; they must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders.” (Ellis et al. 2011) By considering how English-only speakers would view the film, you considered the experience of a cultural outsider when interacting Akira and highlighted this gap eloquently. I would be very intrigued as to how my perception of the film would differ with those cultural and language nuances included.

    Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1.


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