Autoethnography

Akira and Asthma

After signing up for BCM320 I saw we would be watching Akira as part of our assessment which of course made me happy! As a fan of Anime and the dark gritty future of Cyberpunk, it had me excited to share this experience with my peers (even though I was too busy watching the film).


In this week report the focus is on Autoethnography. According to Ellis et al., (2011) Autoethnography is the approach to research and writing in a way that describes and analyze personal experience to understand cultural experience. It challenges standard ways of research and takes bias, political, social and culture into consideration. The process of Autoethnography draws on past experiences to help write as well as epiphanies to remember moments that had significant impact on a person.

When I was younger, I was never a big fan of anime, but had seen 1995 Ghost in the shell (Anime > Live action), Neon Genesis Evangelion, and of course Dragon Ball. I never really did reconnect with anime until a few years before when my friend forced me to watch Koe No Katachi with them and it made me seek for more anime with great feels.

1988 Akira is a Cyberpunk anime directed by Katsuhiro Otomo which sets plays in Neo-Tokyo of the year 2019 (This year!). It’s a dark gritty film with superpowers, corrupt “governments” (we all know corporations run everything in the Cyberpunk world) and the desire of power.

I must admit, I did not pay too much attention to the live tweeting during the film, but I did go through what the class was tweeting at the time. There was a lot of comparison with films such as stranger things and blade runner. Having not seen films such as Stranger things it has left me with my imagination of people with superpowers in a real-life setting. Blade runner would be closer comparison due to the Cyberpunk setting, but I do believe Akira is a much darker Cyberpunk setting that is still trying to rebuild after the events of WW2.

In the film there is an exploration of religion and the need for power/independence. Throughout the film Tetsuo claims that he does not need saving and that now he has powers others could beg for his help. My interpretation of these multiple scenes is that it explores the desire to have power in a world where you are surrounding things that will continue to push you down. Crime, corruption, hate continues to pull you down in an already broken-down world. (Hey that’s how i feel).

Another interesting point I would like to bring up is that during one many of the intense scenes during Akira a song would be played which has a similar sound to dark chanting. The Akira’s soundtrack is called “Battle against clown”. Coming from a religious background and having to been a monk for a week, these chanting from the film rings a few bells. My interpretation is that the citizens of Neo-Tokyo has a burning desire to see their lord Akira return. Or you know… it could just be that it reminds me of my Asthma after a run.

Before writing this report, I did some research on how some viewers felt about the film and it was a mix response. Some say they loved it and others say Akira was too violent with sexual violence. Akira explores themes from a dark fictional Cyberpunk world which contains violence of all sorts such as terrorist bombings, killings, and sexual violence. In a Cyberpunk setting, there is little to no laws and crime is infested within the streets as we see in Akira.

Cyberpunk and Anime has been rooted within me and is now a big part of who i am. Because of Anime I’ve taken up studies of the Japanese language and made new friends through anime. The Cyberpunk setting has always interested me and if i was given the option to swap into a cyberpunk like world i would. (Maybe not the Akira’s Neo-tokyo but rather Ghost in the Shell universe)

Akira has made history and will always be regarded as one of the best films ever made.

Reference

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

AKIRA & AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

BCM320 has opened up a wholeness experience within the last couple of weeks in class. We have been consistently watching films of differing genres and cultures to what I am used to and live-tweeting our thoughts and reactions to each film. The reason in which we are partaking in such behavior is to explore a form of auto-ethnography. 

Before beginning this class I was unaware of auto-ethnography as a concept, however through class content, but more specifically the reading ‘Autoethnography: An Overview” I have established a better understanding of not only the concept of autoethnography but also how evidently present it is in everyday life. Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) describes the concept of autoethnography as ‘an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno) (Ellis, 2011)’. Essentially it is a method of research that uses personal experiences to facilitate a better understanding of culture through differing cultural experiences. 

This week in BCM320 our film we were to watch and live-tweet about was Akira. A highly-acclaimed Sci-Fri action anime film directed Katsuhiro Otomo and written by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto. Akira is a film about A secret military project that endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychic psychopath who can only be stopped by two teenagers and a group of psychics

This film was unlike anything I have previously watched, with anime being a new experience both culturally and visually with animated movies not being a familiar genre. I found the film hard to follow due to the viewing being dubbed rather than the use of subtitles as I found the English didn’t line up in certain parts and that the film lacked the Korean/Asian inspiration I was expecting. However, watching the film was adventurous and I thoroughly enjoyed the visuals and the vibrant psychedelic colors used throughout the film.  While participating in the live-tweeting I was researching into the film to find that the film serves an inspiration for many people such as Kanye West’s music video ‘Stronger’ and ‘Stranger Things’

I found the film, Akira to be a positive introductory experience into the world of Anime and while I found my lack of Asian influence and experience in the anime genre affected my viewing slightly, I am open to experiencing further the world of anime extending my cultural experience with such Korean films and genres. 

The exploration of ‘Akira’ (1988)

The original post can be found here.

Throughout the course of BCM320, the autoethnographic approach to study will encourage my personal cultural framework to be challenged by cultures and media I am unfamiliar with.

This week in BCM320 I visited unfamiliar territories by watching my first anime in many years. It has been around 9 years since I voluntarily watched ‘Deathnote‘, with subtitles that I read vigorously as I don’t speak Japanese. In this classroom setting, we watched the English dubbed ‘Akira‘ and my viewing experience was incredibly different now as an autoethnographic student. I believe the reason for my interest in ‘Deathnote‘ whilst in primary school was directly influenced by the social atmosphere I was immersed in. With most of my friends being of Vietnamese background, they encouraged me to dive into the deep end and without their encouragement, I probably wouldn’t have watched any anime at all. This had the power to breakdown cultural boundaries and opened an inclusive conversation in the classroom amongst friends.

The live-tweeting experience (or lack thereof) is reflective of my disliking towards the Sci-Fi genre, for some reason I have never been able to enjoy this genre of film, which made this film hard to follow 99% of the time. I found myself reading a summary of ‘Akira’ on various webpages to develop some kind of relationship to the film. And at this point, I still identify as a ‘cultural stranger’ (with much to learn) in the world of anime as I was left unscathed by its culture. On the other hand, I could admire the pleasurable cyberpunk aesthetic, and this is credited to my excitement for the upcoming ‘Cyberpunk: 2077′ video game to be released in April of 2020. I’ve hyperlinked the cinematic trailer for all the Keanu Reeve’s lovers out there. Upon discussing this with my partner, we both came to the agreement of enjoying ‘real’ actors, humans in film and realistic gameplay on gaming consoles (‘Detroit Become Human’, ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’), as we can create a stronger emotional connection to the content.

Image result for akira anime logo

What also intrigued me about ‘Akira‘ was the external impact of the anime, and how it intertwined with elements of Westernised culture that I am familiar with. Kanye West himself proclaimed his love for the film via Twitter and direct commentary throughout his 2009 music video for ‘Stronger‘. For many people Yeezy is their favourite artist, so a natural response is to also view what inspires his artist development. This acts as a form of intercultural communication through popular media and artist trends. West’s publicised love for the film can encourage his 26,749,938 Spotify listeners and 29,180,671 Twitter followers to watch ‘Akira‘. Similarly, the director of the film collaborated with the ‘Supreme‘ label in creating various merchandise from t-shirts to skateboard decks. These pieces of merch were available for purchase in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, London and Paris which continued to spread anime culture across American and European cultures.

Thanks for reading,

Caitlin

 

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

Week One Screening: The Host!

Now I may be a bit bias when it comes to ‘The Host’ but when I found out we were watching it in BCM320 I was ecstatic and not just because we were finally watching a horror film in class. I first watched this film one day when I was bored at home and craving a horror film, at first, I was going to sit, and half-watch it while on my phone I found it hard to ignore this fast-paced action-packed film.

This isn’t my first experience to live-tweeting having previously experienced it in BCM325, which helped significantly, as I found I was less hesitant to start and continue conversations with the rest of the class. The fact that I had previously watched ‘The Host’ also helped as I had previously looked at articles about this film, so it wasn’t difficult to find these articles again to share. It also helped when I missed parts of the movie, I wasn’t completely lost due to missing the subtitles.

Both my parents come from Australia with an English and Irish background so growing up there wasn’t really any Asian films, I had to seek these out on my own. Though I did get into anime at a young age most of them were English dubbed, I grew up watching dubbed Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura and One Piece only seeking out the subbed ones later in life. Most of the time now I will even watch dubbed over subbed since I don’t want to miss key points in the story since I’ll be on my phone.

‘The Host’ was a rare occasion for me when I just wanted to sit and watch a movie, which I’m glad I did. Apart from anime, my experience with Asian films are either horror or the ‘banned’ ones which also usually end up being horror. From an autoethnographic view, Korean horror films are some of the best. My pool of knowledge might be a little limited, but I love the small comedic value they bring into their horror films. In ‘The Host’ it was the main character Park Gang-du and his family who brought the comic relief with their poor choices (there must have been at least 5 or more bad choices) and remarks throughout the film.

The Host will always be a movie I recommend to people if they’re looking for something good to watch. Even though it’s 13 years old, it’s the perfect mix of horror, comedic relief gorgeous filmography and a story that won’t leave you bored halfway through.

averagefamily

Reading {J}ournal—contextual essay

View the Digital Artefact here: https://miasreadingjournal.wordpress.com/

Previous blog posts: (1) (2)

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Contextual essay

In the “Modern Life and Other Nonsense” section of the Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories (2018), Jay Rubin has curated a wonderful, though small, collection of what is labelled in Japan’s literary theory as “popular literature” (Shaw 1935, p. 292). Marking the fourth turning points in the country’s literary timeline—the nineteenth century (Sanderson & Kato 1939, p. 211), these stories offer a refreshed view of the rich and diverse literary landscape of Japan.

(more…)

Luk Thung and the Sound of Siam – Digital Artefact

My digital artefact can be viewed here: https://soundcloud.com/appltones/luk-thung-and-the-sound-of-siam-digital-artefact

Contextual statement – task 3

Given the heart of this project being around the meaning and feeling of traditional Thai music and how I react and relate to it, it seemed only necessary to undertake an auto-ethnographic study in the form of a podcast.

Auto-ethnographic methodology

“When researchers write autoethnographies, they seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience.” (Ellis et al, 2011)

For the sake of authentic auto-ethnographic research, it was deemed fitting that reactions to the music, or at least some of the reactions, had to be fresh or live.

To achieve this, two things were ensured:

  • The podcast was done in one take
    • Although this was difficult and took planning to ensure timing and structure was well established prior to recording, it was an essential way to keep the methodology authentic, “aesthetic and evocative”.
    • Songs were chosen at random from the record to be listened to during the podcast
    • Another effort to ensure the listener was able to grasp how I, the auto-ethnographer was reacting to the music.

Epiphanies

“When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity.” (Ellis et al, 2011)

Epiphanies are what make auto-ethnographic research so valuable. This experience was highly intriguing due to the observation that before beginning the podcast, only one epiphany had been thought of for discussion, however as the recording took place and the previously unheard songs were heard, more came to mind. This can be attributed to the personal and concurrent style of auto-ethnography, where the research relies on the ongoing reaction and feedback of the reader.

A perfect example of an auto-ethnographic epiphany is best seen in the reflection towards the end of the podcast where it’s discussed how it seems these songs have strong psychedelic influences, and it’s questioned whether this can be put down to the past drug culture of South-East Asia, or its simply the listener’s interpretation.

Personal touches

Auto-ethnographers “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)

Although this podcast was planned to be in a live, or fresh setting, it was always intended to keep in touch with a personal connection. While it often contains commentary on music features, much of the reflection is based on my own persona as a passionate music fan. Heavily reflected also are the links I find between my own common listenings, and the unheard, fresh sounds of Luk Thung, an important part of keeping in touch with personal, auto-ethnographic research and presentation.

References

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. [online] Volume 12, No. 1(10). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 22 Oct. 2018].

A Crack at Cosplay: Contextual Essay

DA: https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/10/26/a-crack-at-cosplay-autoethnography-and-digital-asia/ 

Contextual Essay 

Over the course of my time studying Media and Communications, it has been made abundantly clear to me that the power of autoethnographic research is unmatched, and will always result in otherwise unattainable insights. As a methodology, it accesses a range of data that one would not consider in formal methods for the risk that it might bias their results. Ethnography flips this ideology and says yes, your cultural framework will always alter the way you react to a topic, or at the very least shape the way you interpret it.

I think one of my past blog posts summarises this reflexiveness in a way I couldn’t put any better; “I quickly realised that by immersing myself into the experience I felt vulnerable and certainly out of my comfort zone. Whether that be the idea itself as a daunting action, concealing your own identity as another’s for costume play, or whether it be the unfamiliarity with the field site itself, I was acutely aware that I was letting my feelings, thoughts, and vulnerabilities influence the way the project was migrating (Ellis et al. 2011, 14.1.3)

I found myself incredibly inquisitive about this area of research, and as a result, ended up picking up my old past time of sewing in my spare time. I thought this may have something to do with Ellis’s notion that autoethnography and writing “personal stories can be therapeutic for authors as we write to make sense of ourselves and our experiences” (Kiesinger, 2002; Poulos, 2008), highlighting the empowering nature of research that allows you to fully submerge yourself into. A project like this giving “…people a voice that, before writing, they may not have felt they had” (Boylorn, 2006; Jago, 2002). Interacting with cosplay and participating myself allowed me to be much more involved in the area, and in some ways relate to the area of study that I could not by simply reading papers on.

While I did go into the project with an open mind, I found my own understanding of what cosplay is was challenged and morphed as I tried to be reflexive in my process. I discovered that is in fact much broader than previously thought, and I guess that was a poor and incorrect assumption I had gathered in my previous state, and know now that cosplay encompasses a large demographic of people, with different interest and craft levels, who cosplay characters from a mass range of sources and cultures. In reflection, this perhaps would be a good topic to look at transculturally, as it is a much bigger global phenomenon than I had realised – a result of my upbringing with no friends who were ‘into’ cosplay; “Autoethnographers also recognize how what we understand and refer to as “truth” changes as the genre of writing or representing experience changes.(Ellis et al. 2011, 14.2.25)

I do believe the scope of this project could have been a lot wider, with so many avenues to find yourself down. I often found myself discovering new elements of my field site that I wanted to expand on, and felt limited with the project constraints. Developments for further research would include the flow of the practice globally, partly missed because of my own self-involvement in the project. This perhaps is a limitation of autoethnography, in hindsight, whereby self-obsession on involvement in the project maybe narrows our scope down too much, focusing on hidden insights rather than bigger picture issues that other methodologies uncover.

 

Contextual Essay References

Boylorn, Robin M. (2006). E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). Qualitative Inquiry, 12(4), 651-680.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14.1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Jago, Barbara J. (2002). Chronicling an academic depression. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 31(6), 729-757.

Kiesinger, Christine E. (2002). My father’s shoes: The therapeutic value of narrative reframing. In Arthur P. Bochner & Carolyn Ellis (Eds.), Ethnographically speaking: Autoethnography, literature, and aesthetics (pp.95-114). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

Poulos, Christopher N. (2008). Accidental ethnography: An inquiry into family secrecy. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Grand Finale Anime Food Project

insight

After a month of anime exploration, Japanese history lessons, kitchen decimation, and editing mishaps the illustrious Anime Food project has finally come to a close. This project which came about from my desire to learn more about Japanese food and pop culture was riddled with failures and minor successes. None the less the research project still resulted in what Ellis et al.(2011) would hopefully describe as an ‘aesthetic and evocative thick description’ of my own personal experience with the field site – or at least my attempt at doing so.

The process of conducting this project far outweighed my original expectations, as the time and effort needed to holistically research and interact with my field site quickly overcome what I had originally planned. After days of researching and watching anime, I then needed to conduct further research into the specific Japanese dishes and how they would realistically

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A Crack at Cosplay: Autoethnography and Digital Asia

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/10/26/a-crack-at-cosplay-autoethnography-and-digital-asia/

Hey hey there, if you have somehow stumbled upon this blog post and are wondering how to find your way back, please, do sit for a minute and I will walk you through something you might be interested in. You see, for one of my third-year classes – Digital Asia BCM320 – I was tasked with exploring a segment or part of a culture that I had little to no history with and use the experience to shape an account online detailing the process. Sounds odd, but trust me, you’ll want to read on.

There were several topics that interested me, including aspects of Asian culture such as anime, traditional cuisine, meditation, the JDM car scene, JRPGs, and Chinese floristry. None, however, that interested me nor fit this task as well as cosplaying did. And so, here we are. In a previous blog post I detailed the reasoning behind my interest in the area; “I have always been aware of its existence and acknowledged its seemingly large following purely from interactions online, but with friends recently getting into it and my club having several interactions with the Universities’ Cosplay society, my interest has been peaked.”

What resulted was an in-depth study into cosplay through primary and secondary research, both looking into its origins and identification and attempting to form an understanding through participating in the activity itself. Detailed in my second blog post, I quickly realised the uneasiness I felt heading into this project – sure, I wanted to have an authentic go at my field site and wanted to detail the experience through @cosplaystudies – but I was quite nervous about the whole scenario; “As I went on to have my first swing at cosplay, or whatever it was that I deemed a variation of it, I began to realise that the research project was as much about myself as it was about the topic; “..autoethnographies offer a diverse body of works, with many often producing essentially autobiographical accounts of the self as both researcher and the researched” (Kien, G. 2007).”

Armed with determination, the Internet, and the benefit of employee discounts on clothing, I set out to collect primary data to collate on @cosplaystudies and bring it together with more formal understanding right here on my blog.

Previous to this study, I had little to no interaction with cosplaying whatsoever. My very narrow view of the area was limited to a far-off activity that was popular in Korea(?), and some distorted view of a very white-washed and watered down Marvel costume convention that was an iteration of the practice. I’m sure you can see why it intrigued me so much. I was moved to combine the field site with my fondness for Studio Ghibli, as a quick search of popular Cosplays revealed several familiar characters from the anime studio.

Cosplay was originally coined in Japan, first appearing across magazine pages in the 80’s; whereby the practice spread globally, taking foot most firmly in North America. A global craft nowadays, there is a strong subculture in Japan for cosplaying, which I discovered has unique in the sense that there is a stronger focus on aesthetics rather than authenticity (Lee, C. 2015); “The origin of cosplay was in those really old sci-fi conventions or renaissance fairs, where people started making their own costumes,” “Asian cosplay has been a lot about face value, makeup and looking good, looking pretty. But western by comparison has always been an emphasis on creating costumes, elaborate props, creating gimmicks and innovation in what you wear.”

Creators like Anya Panda, HerszloCast, and this special from the Try Guys (this, in particular, came across as a trusted source which is a component of the makeup for my cultural framework of understanding), gave me the starting point I needed and encouraged me to cosplay. This video in particular from Anya Panda was a fantastic starting point, and a warm welcome of encouragement to start somewhere.

My first attempt for Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle was somewhat poor in terms of authenticity upon reflection, however, I was so intimidated by the whole notion of going out to take photos in character that I felt this was a good starting point. Being in front of the camera and the whole process of coordinating my roommate to come out and take photos was very daunting, and I have an enormous amount of respect for those cosplayers friends and family who are behind the camera for them whenever they need. This was a valuable insight into a part of cosplay that I had previously never considered before.

My second attempt was much more driven and had a purpose beyond the project, whereby I had a cosplay-themed event to attend. The event saw many people cosplay western superheroes from the Marvel and DC universe, and very few anime/manga costumes. There were three as far as I could tell; myself, as Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, a friend as No-Face from Spirited Away (!) and a friend who arrived as Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender (arguably, an Americ-anime). Even though the majority didn’t recognise me and No-Face (not for authenticity, but for lack of knowing the films themselves), it was the most heartwarming thing when people who did recognise us, fanned over our choice of cosplay. The feeling was quite indescribable, and many of them said they had wished they would have thought of doing something similar.

In many ways I could relate to Adam Savage’s Love Letter to Cosplay, in the sense that it truly is an extension of the characters themselves, and I fawned over the potential of a metanarrative and alternate universe where maybe, No-Face and Kiki might be friends, as we joked around and got into character; “...We are all of us on that floor injecting into a narrative that meant something to us, and we are making it our own.” I can definitely see how there would be a grand sense of community, particularly at conventions and online. There is, however, quite a bit of tension amongst the cosplaying community that I became rapidly aware of in my research.

Youtuber Akidearest summarises this unrest that is rampant throughout the cosplaying community, begging for the community to reign in their criticism and encouraging them to not be so hypocritical by welcoming so many to the world of cosplay, only to shame them for poor efforts or drag them down in envy. I also stumbled across several unpopular opinions on Reddit showcasing this attitude; where users criticised the practice for moving down a more accepting route of those at all levels and condemns those who have strayed from traditional cosplaying forms;

 

I hate cosplay “culture” from r/unpopularopinion

 

“Wearing a costume allows a person to tap into confidence they didn’t know they had” Mindy Weisberger from LiveScience states, studying the psychology behind cosplay and the ability for it to be empowering – an idea also raised by HuffPost. I can completely see post-project how it does, in fact, empower and is a fun and creative outlet for both young and old, that in my own opinion, is a safe and prosperous past time. There are dozens of resources that reiterate the enabling power of cosplaying and is a direction I would have liked to take this project further if given the chance.

This project was the very tip of the iceberg I believe, and I can see myself more invested in the idea more so now than ever. It became clear to me the true value of an autoethnographic approach to researching a topic like this, in the sense that I have experienced emotions similar to those in practice that I never would have been able to purely from secondary sources. I can see how the practice of cosplay has become a global phenomenon, not bound to a singular culture but a subculture in itself. My lack of knowledge in the area let me try it out with an open mind, not without first breaking down some – very nervous – barriers. This layered account (Ellis et al, 2011), as I said in my earlier post, allowed me to utilise my own cultural framework to gain a better understanding of other cultures around me, and in turn, was a reflexive and malleable research project that melded to time constraints, personal limitations, and new directions as I saw fit.

 

References