Author: mokxii

Portrayal of Antagonism in Naruto Shippuden & Death Note

I decided to introduce these concepts as I recognise their intertwinement with Anime, especially with the portrayal of antagonists as the way they came to be normally derived from their conflicts with their own. The mentioned concepts are what I find relevant to this autoethnography and act as my analytical framework. Contemplating which anime series should I choose to be the case studies for my autoethnography, I went with “Naruto Shippuden“, since it was my first Anime encounter and the global renown “Death Note”, as this series is short and concise (in case you intend to watch it after my blog, there’re only 37 episodes compared to that 500 of Naruto Shippuden, so you’re welcome xx).

Why is deviance considered normal and essential for a healthy society?

In order to maintain the stability of a society, shared beliefs of social standards, morality, which is known as collective conscious, must be established. Functioning based on these social facts, there’re behaviours that are deemed deviant and unacceptable for society. Durkheim (1958) has stated that deviance isn’t just something that only belongs to certain individuals, but it is “an integral part of all healthy societies” as crimes are universal phenomenons that can be found in all kinds of societies and that the significant decrease or increase of crime rate would indicate a malfunction in the organism of society as a whole.

Additionally, propositions regarding the function of deviance in a community were proposed by scholars including Durkheim (1960), and Erikson & Dentler (1959). Propositions being resembled in animes are discussed below:

Deviation helps to strengthen the bond of the community 

In one of his timely work “The Division of Labor in the Society”, Durkheim stated that when an individual violates the social standards which are followed and respected by the entire community, the mutual opposition against such acts can be seen among the people. And it is this common response being provoked by deviant behaviours that develops a tighter bond among the entire community.
“The excitement generated by the crime, in other words, quickens the tempo of interaction in the group and creates a climate in which the private sentiments of many separate persons are fused together into a common sense of morality.” – Erikson, 1966. 

Deviant behaviour functions in the enduring groups to help maintain group equilibrium

According to Erikson and Dentler (1959), to maintain the balanced state for a society, deviance has a role in different aspects such as group performance, rewards, but the one I find to be most relevant is its role in maintaining the social boundaries. In, day-to-day setting, we as members of a society can sometimes lose sight of such boundaries, and, hence, the interaction between the “control agencies and the deviance can effectively locate and re-illuminate these social boundaries (Erikson 1966)

There’re conditions for the change in deviance rate

Now that we have understood the essential existence of deviance for society, I would also want to introduce Durkheim’s theory regarding the conditions in which the change in deviance rate is caused. These conditions are:
(1) Forced division of labor
: This is common within a society where social and occupational positions are still developing, resulting in rapid change or where people are positioned bellow or above their capabilities.

(2) The development of anomie: this condition refers to when an individual’s needs and desires can not be fulfilled within the framework of the collective conscious which lead to that individual feeling lost and alienated within the society.

(3) When the cult of the individual runs amuck when individualism is pushed to an extreme, an individual would disregard the entire community to follow and fulfill only their desires and personal goals.

Madara Uchiha – Naruto Shippuden’s Ultimate Antagonist


Madara Uchiha was born and raised in an era of war and eventually named as the leader of his clan – Uchiha. The clan had been at war with their long-term rivalry, the Senju, and it was so severe that even children were to be sent to the battlefield. While nothing was achieved from this constant bloodshed, Madara’s three brothers were killed under the enemies’ hands. Losing all of his loved ones had caused Madara great agony, and he started questioning the functionality of the society he was living in, resulting in his utter desire to establish a new system – a village, where children can live in peace without being sent to war. Such a dream was also aligned with the one of Hashirami – the leader of Senju clan at the time – and they had called a truce to build the village of their dreams, together.

Although this may sound like the ideal ending for an era of constant purposeless fights, the underlying motives of these two leaders were rather different. While Hashirami purely wanted to stop the bloodshed of children from both clans, Madara’s motivation was more personal, as he mainly wished to protect his last surviving brother, who was severely injured during the previous fight. Additionally, the Uchiha clan considers this truce as a loss and expressed hatred and suspicion towards their own leader. Hashirami’s brother also resented Madara, as he believed that Madara was too pessimistic and skeptical and would eventually turn evil because of that. And what had finally led Madara to became completely alienated was when he found out that the resolution of forming a country with different clans only led to the bigger fights against alignment.

wordswag_1506418790327.pngAll of this tragedy and contradict has made him believe that the only way to gain the absolute peace, was to create an illusion and since then, he has bred many more antagonists, manipulated them to agree with his ideology and eventually led to the ultimate destruction of the world.

The society upon which the entire storyline of Naruto Shippuden was built has all three of the conditions that cause the change in deviance rate, and this change was massive. A shinobi (ninja), was forced to be in a position of a leader of an entire clan, and to face a significant change from knowing only of war to the vague introduction of peace (1). And ever since the beginning of reforming the social structure towards a peaceful world, there has been a great conflict between the leaders’ ideology of a peaceful society, as well as disbelief against one of the founders, Madara (2). And finally, when everything just didn’t feel right anymore, Madara has taken upon himself a mission to “rescue” the world and has bred this idea into many more villains later on (3). Madara’s sense of community has been damaged throughout his life, after having to witness the deaths of his many loved ones, and his own people doubting him, Madara seemed to feel like he has no reason to trust people, and he’d only use them to fulfill his own desire.

Light Yagami of Death Note – The journey to becoming the God of the new world

Unlike the case of Madara, the giphy (1)description of the society in which the global renown antagonist Light Yagami, also known as Kira, was rather a brief one. However, understanding the entire scenario is important to comprehend Kira’s perspective, why he believed in his ideology to an extreme, and why I consider Light as an antagonist, not an anti-hero.

Light Yagami was portrayed as a bright high school senior with a promising future. But right at the first minutes of the series, he was all gloomy and disappointed, especially at the world he lives, as crimes are reported daily. Soon after that, he saw a notebook with the title “Death Note” which was dropped by Ryuk, a spirit of darkness who draws people towards death. Realizing the supernatural ability to inflict death by writing someone’s name in the notebook, Light has decided to use Death Note as a tool to cleanse the society, and it all went downhill since then (for Light I mean, but definitely an uphill for anime fans).

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“Someone has to do it so why not me? Even if it means sacrificing my own mind and soul it’s worth it because the world can’t go on like this, Is there anyone out there other than me who’d be willing to eliminate the vermin from the world? […] eventually, no one will ever do anything evil again. The world will start moving in the right direction. It will be a new world, free of injustice and populated by people who I’ve judged to be honest, kind, and hardworking.” – Kira, 2006.

While Naruto Shippuden where the scenario was different from the reality we live in, Death Note resembles modern life, and to see such a reaction and despair from Light was indeed confronting. That crime happens every day seems to be something that we have accepted but definitely not disregarded (due to the fact that we have an entire system of laws to be reinforced) makes me feel less sympathetic towards Light as we understood and could relate to his world. In the case of Light, the change in deviance rate was mainly caused by condition (3), the rise of individualism. Putting this in the perspective of Japan’s actual society, when it is considered to inherit both individualistic and collectivistic characters, Kira’s desire to be the world’s ultimate justice is not mainly conditioned by the society, but rather the specific situation created by his own acknowledgment of his intellectual ability, his despair towards criminality and the killing tool – Death Note. His motive was personal, with the desire to be the only one with the right and power to judge people and their worth. Condition (2) is also relevant here because instead of working alongside with the current system, Kira disregarded its role completely and eventually fought against them. This also explains why I consider Light Yagami as a Villain, because anti-heroes, despite having their own method in dealing with crimes and being resented by the established system, their goal wasn’t personal.

The inevitability of Antagonism

Throughout my experience Anime, I have been repeatedly amazed by how the producers can portray social philosophies in a way that is approachable for all ages. With Madara Uchiha and Light Yagami, the producers have done an incredible job in showing that deviance also a crucial part of remaining the balanced state for society and for the establishment of collective conscious.

Madara Uchiha aimed to create a simulation of a world with no hardship and only peace, but how do we know peace without putting it in comparison with war? How do we know happiness without experiencing pain? And how do we know what’s good and acceptable without knowing all the bad and unacceptable? How do we know the boundaries without not knowing what’s on the other side? And didn’t Madara Uchiha’s extreme desire for peace derives from all the pain he endured?

The fact the Light’s desire for a world with absolutely no crime has made him become the ultimate criminal without even realising it. His justification, at the end of the day, was that he committed crimes to eliminate all crimes using a deadly weapon, so how is that for the establishment of a world with no crime at all? An ideal world created by a criminal? Does it sound like a healthy society?

Both figures show the distortion in the desire to entirely eliminate deviance, which proves the socialists’ argument that deviance is an integral part of a society, and it was mind-blowing to see abstract philosophies conveyed via such approachable means.

And so that’s a wrap! I hope it was interesting enough to keep you reading until the end and to start watching Animes.

I also love great conversations, so feel free to comment!


Durkheim, E 1958, The Rules of Sociological Method, The Free Press, New York.

Durkheim, E 1960, The Rules of Sociological Method, The Free Press, New York.

Erikson, KT 1966, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance, Jon Wiley, New York.

Erikson, KT & Dentler RA 1959, The Functions of Deviance in Groups, Social Problems, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 98–107.

Doing Autoethnography: Unpacking the process

Mokxii WordPress

Now that I have shared my many experiences with the Asian culture, particularly through filmographic production. Apart from the minor support in helping me to understand the concept of autoethnography from Ellis et al.’s article “Autoethnography: An Overview“, I haven’t addressed my own process along the way. Therefore,  it is fair to have a break and digest this process, so this blog might not be as casual as the previous ones, with more academic sources as references (not too many though). Additionally, To unpack the process I would take my latest blog about Anti Villians in Anime as my ‘case study’ throughout this blog to further elaborate my intentions. So if you want to understand why I get to do this at my university then continue with this reading.

So how does it all began?

Jayne Pitard (2017) has developed a set of questions that I find to…

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Anti-Villains in Anime: The case of Garou and Stain

Mokxii WordPress

Heroism is a common topic in anime and while it can be adapted into different forms, with different names, narratives, and ideologies. However, One Punch Man (OPM) and My Hero Academia (MHA) have decided to maintain its most original form, creating two worlds where there are people with superpowers and proper national systems, associations are established to support their heroic careers.

And of course, what are heroes without a purpose to fight, to save people? and so the villains are born.

But this is also where things started to get complicated, at least for me, when I can actually sympathize with the villains, when, actually, the presence of villains is to point out the flaws in the whole idea of being heroes, of being on the ‘good side’. And when we, as the audience, have to question their evilness, what do we call them?

“An Anti-Villain is the opposite of…

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Watching Anime: The Sub-Dub debate

The anime for this week – AKIRA – would certainly spark multiple conversations in different topics but one issue that is personal and intriguing for me is the preference between subtitles and the English dub.

Apart from learning about the Asian culture, I also have a chance to understand and practice Autoethnography, an approach that analyses personal experiences in order to make sense of the cultural phenomenon (Ellis et al. 2011). If an ethnographer were to ‘connect the personal life of the observed with their social context and their culture without ever becoming an insider herself’ (Alsop, 2002), then Ellis et al. suggest that documenting and analyzing your own, personal experience would require the acknowledgment of your own bias, emotion (2011). So this would be what I attempt to do in this particular subject.

In order to do an autoethnography, where culturally related practices such as common values, beliefs, shared experience are analyzed (Ellis et al. 2011), it is important to understand the background knowledge of the observer (me, myself and I), and why watching an English dubbed anime is an “intense situation” to be negotiated.

I was born and raised in Vietnam and ever since I could read Vietnamese fluently and know about the existence of foreign channels, almost all the shows, movies that I have watched were subtitled. The accessibility of dubbed programs wasn’t at all common apart from classic, extremely long, Asian dramas that aired on the national TV channels. My experience with online platforms was also similar, the most up-to-date films or series would be available with subtitles only.

Before I could make sense of my own preference, I found dubbed programs extremely odd and awkward as if the characters have lost parts of their identities and become more… Vietnamese. Consequently, I consciously choose subtitled programs and rarely do I compromise with the dubbed versions. Watching Akira in dub for this week wasn’t an exception, the characters’ personalities and a part of their identities are compromised, and I would watch the film again, with subtitles.

However, instead of remaining biased,  I attempted to understand the reasons behind the preference for English dubbed anime and to compare with ones of my own. And I have found one thing that is fundamentally important when ‘debating’ about these two preferences:

In the making of the voiceover, not only do scriptwriters have to know the language but they also have a clear understanding of the cultural origin. However, it’s not their purpose to strictly maintain that origin, but rather to find common ground, and to adapt that culture into the one that would better appeal towards English-audience. Sometimes, the Japanese creators demand such compromisations, in order to ‘expand the show’s marketability‘ – Debs, 2019 (2)

Some of my classmates found the English dubbed version didn’t ‘scream’ Japanese or the characters appeared ‘less Japanese’ which I could not agree more. Watching anime with subtitles, or any filmographic productions that are not Vietnamese for me is a way to informally learn a language, and how the characters use the language to express themselves. Subtitles, then, act as supportive means in this learning process, the moments of realization like: ‘Ohhhhh so that’s how they say ‘stupid’, Bakayaro’ excites me incredibly. With this unspoken purpose of mine when approaching foreign films, I can only be content with the subtitled versions.

It’s rather incorrect to say sub is better than dub or vice versa because they serve different purposes. While subtitles provide translation, giving the audience a chance to learn about culture via the language and the lingual expressions made by characters, dub can help the audience forget about having to catch up with the language difference and entirely focus on the story. On the other hand, watching with subtitles also demand the audience to put more effort into catching up with the story whereas the process of making the voice over, from the beginning. is deemed to alter the cultural context, so with each preference comes with implications.

I’m always here for a constructive discussion about everything, after all, we’re here to share our thoughts and what we’ve learned (or just to get credit points maybe???).

so follow through my social media or comment down below for a chat :).


A Rather Ordinary Observation from ‘The Host’

With a Vietnamese background, I was exposed to Asian films before getting to see the productions from Hollywood. For me, Asians films and series are something that I culturally relate to and ones from Westerns present me a culture that I haven’t experienced, both of them have always been equally intriguing.

This is not the first time I’ve seen a Bong Joon-ho’s production, and though it might not be the best one from him, I still enjoyed it. ‘The Host’ is still a special piece, not because it doesn’t have has a twisted, brain hacking plot like ‘Memories of Murder‘, or directly discusses prominent issues like animal cruelty in ‘Okja‘, class discrimination in ‘Parasite‘, but because the movie has shined the light on the Asian family-oriented culture.

I came across this tweet about how South Korean film characters expressing ‘extended emotion’ in the movie as people were screaming, and they talked so loudly and all expressions seem to be overly dramatic. This observation intrigues me because I’m told pretty much the same thing from my foreign friends when they hear or see me with my family, I’m louder and I’m definitely more dramatic than normal. Having never actually questioned such behavioural patterns, the tweet triggered me to dwell into every detail in ‘The Host’ that reflect those behaviours and I was left feeling more nostalgic than ever.

Gang-du’s family is rather exceptional, as the firstborn, he is a bit mentally challenged and is a single father, taken care of by his own father, his brother is drunk most of the time, and his sister is a gifted athlete. However, they are surely not dysfunctional, especially when it comes to protecting their family. Each individual has the same motive and tried their best to perfect the puzzle pieces in the making of a whole picture, and it was all thanks to the love they have for each other, for their F A M I L Y. Although the process was messy, definitely loud, and there are deemed to have some sacrifices, in the end, the picture was completed, with a spark of hope for a new beginning, such a classic Joon-ho’s ending.

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The Father’s Act 

All families are problematic and to make it even more complicated, we Asians tend to turn an individual’s issue into a whole family one (though it’s fair enough when your daughter is captured by a river monster). Living in a world where individualism is strongly embedded you might find this ridiculous, and admittedly it can be a nuisance at times, but it can also bring out the best in people for the greater cause, which, in this case, is to rescue their beloved granddaughter/daughter/sister. The love is visible in the most ordinary, comedic details like giving your own daughter a beer or imagining giving her your own food because she was dearly missed by every family member.

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Despite the obvious dramatized and fictional elements, ‘The Host’ was surprisingly, pleasantly ordinary and extremely Asian!