In the weeks following my viewing of Grave of the Fireflies, I had, almost obsessively, ruminated the story over and over in my mind. The only thing I wanted to do was talk to other people about it. It was like an awful secret I was keeping that had to be told, or an uncertainty that I wanted peer-approval for. So I told my family about the film. I wanted to see their reactions even from what I retold of the story. Dad shuddered, my sister grimaced; and my friends thought I was sadistic for finding such a strange Japanese “thriller”.
I thoroughly questioned my work colleague; a rather cynical divorcee who spends his life doing “as little as possible”, and is the source of my entire (pirated) collection of films and television shows. Seeing as he had put me on to Ghibli initially, and had given me the copy…
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It was easy to revisit Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies for further analysis this week. The film had not left my mind since I had closed my laptop in disbelief as the credits rolled. I thought about Setsuko and her young skin scarred by rash. Remembered Seita covering his ears as Setsuko cried. Their mother in blood soaked bandages. I couldn’t be sure wether or not I had in fact watched a Japanese horror film by mistake. Even now as I type I pause in between sentences, quietly picturing the emaciated bodies of two children lost to the incredible pressures of a war that was fought from within Japan.
When I thought the film could not emotionally cripple me any further, I discovered it was based on a 1967 short story of the same name, written by Nosaka Akiyuki (Goldberg, 2009). To my complete horror, the story Akiyuki wrote…
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Grave of the Fireflies (1988) is a Japanese anime drama written and directed by Isao Takahata, animated by the World-acclaimed Studio Ghibli. I was drawn to this film via the Ghibli brand as well as a fascination with Japanese war-oriented films.
Red. A young Japanese boy in uniform, depicted in a blood shade of red. A ghost; his voice opens with “September 21 1945, that was the night I died”. I feel uneasy. I know I’m in for it.
He stares at the emaciated body of his past life, lying in a train station in Kobe. Travellers voice their disgust at the “bums” of the train stations. Hollow, rasping breaths. A fly rests on his face, exhaustion cripples his ability to swat it away. A janitor pokes him with a mop…”another one…this ones a gonner…you can see it in their eyes”. Fireflies dance around a tin thrown away by…
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As if chosen at complete random, I stumbled upon the 2012 short film 1630, by Vietnamese filmmaker Trần Dũng Thanh Huy. The film is available via YouTube and has a modest 65,000 views, yet I was intrigued by its nationality. I had never seen or experienced Vietnamese film before. I didn’t know what to expect when typing Asian Short Films into the search engine, and certainly didn’t know what I would see from a Vietnamese production.
This film explores the global phenomenon of a lottery from the context of an urban Vietnamese landscape, which acts as a tumultuous background to the events of the short film. Television stations broadcast the results at 16:30, but for those without a television, the results are sold as strips of paper. These small, photocopied pieces of paper become currency for the street children who must run across the city to provide the anticipated…
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It has dawned on my autoethnographic conscience this week that I have, like most of my exposure to media texts, tried to consider how Gojira would have been seen by generations that precede my own. Any contact with black and white film nostalgia and particularly foreign film immediately makes me think of what it would have been like to see such a film from an Australian screen, during a time when the Australian-Japanese relationship would have been greatly different and particularly, the average Australian young woman would have not the access to Asian digital texts and cultural artifacts that I do know. Gojira, in its original form, not the US release King of the Monsters! was in fact not seen in Australia until 1998.
So I usually do the “what would Boo think and do” rhetoric to expand my evaluations of media content. Boo is my ever-loving grandmother…
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Enjoying a movie afternoon with a Japanese classic is but the beginning of the autoethnographic practice. Analysis of the thoughts I scribed for the first blog post reveal a number of thoughts and subtle stereotypes that have embed themselves, no doubt, from my interaction with largely Western media. Admittedly my consumption of Gojira (1954) was not entirely ‘authentic’, there was no couch, popcorn and the need to think of things to blog about took my concentration from the big screen to the keyboard.
Writing for an audience meant opening with a description of the tangible experience felt necessary, describing the sound of food wrappers and soft chatter, all details to give the reader a relatable atmosphere. Perhaps this is “storytelling (by) showing and telling” the audience that Ellis et. all (2011) have described in their ‘bible’ of autoethnography. However the real autoethnographic discovery lies in my reaction to Gojira’s
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Wasn’t it just the best when the teacher said today’s class was a movie-watching event? Even at 22, perhaps even more so as a very tired 22 year old student, this darkening of the room and ability to just absorb film and not speak is quite tantalising. For a Thursday afternoon, it was heavenly.
It is just like a cinema, there is a rustle and bustle of someone’s overly-noisy food packet struggling with shaking hands, people are chatting, and faces are lit by the fluorescent glow of phone screens. This time, the use of personal devices is a must. For autoethnography, the researcher “seeks to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience” (Ellis et. al, 2011), so we need to type as we view to record these experiences.
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