Week 3

Auto-ethnographic Viewing: Akira

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Our third screening for BCM320 saw us live-tweeting during a screening of revered Anime film Akira. I had seen this film once before but many years ago, and had little memory of it so was essentially viewing this with fresh eyes.

But before we get to that, let’s take a look at a more in-depth definition of autoethnography. As defined in the Ellis et al reading, “Autoethnography is 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, 2004; HOLMAN JONES, 2005).

In terms of looking at this film under the microscope of authoethnography, I attempted to view the film in comparison to my own experiences and in line with Ellis et al’s (2011) methodology “When writing anautobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences.”

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AKIRA: My First Anime Experience

So far, BCM320 has proved to be a subject full of ‘first times’ for me. In week 1, our screening of The Host was my first experience with Korean film, and this week was my first time watching Japanese anime. Our week 3 screening was Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira (1988). While neither of the screenings thus far would be my typical genre of choice, I am enjoying the gentle exposure to the diversity of Asian media cultures. (more…)

Akira And The Rest

It was not a new experience for me to be watching an animated film as I have watched many previously before Akira. My Neighbour Totoro and Akira are now tied in the place of ‘oldest anime film*’ I’ve watched (film* not anime series), which still isn’t very old, yet they are both award-winning films. And I can see why, Akira was different. Definitely not the strangest anime I’ve ever watched, Miyazaki has some pretty elaborate films and some animes are known for being ‘out-there’ i.e. Elfen Lied or Goblin Slayer that both come with warnings attached.

My_Neighbor_Totoro_-_Tonari_no_Totoro_(Movie_Poster)

I’m no stranger to ethnography either. I’ve previously taken BCM241, where I studied the Esports community and the language that came with that. Ellis describes ethnography as studying “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, Adam & Bochner, 2011) Watching Akira it was interesting to think about the culture that they were portraying of Japan, many peers accounting that it was unlike the stereotypical ideas of the country they had previously seen.

Autoethnographers, however, “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, Adam & Bochner, 2011) From my understanding (mostly from what biographies and autobiographies are) Ethnography is looking in on another culture why autoethnography is being apart of the culture itself. Now I can’t say I’m a part of any Japanese biker gangs or any laboratory experiments, but I am an anime fan.

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Anime only recently drew me back in with the remake of the old anime and complete manga series Fruits Basket (which is absolutely perfect by the way), but I have watched a range of different animes in the past. I am a person who is open to any anime, but it depends mostly on the art style. If the anime is too cartoonish like Panty and Stocking or Lucky Star I will find trouble watching it. Akira was borderline on the art style I like and dislike, but since the story and colours were so beautiful I had no trouble getting into it. Overall Akira was one of my favourite movies to have watched in a BCM class, especially since it was a mix of sci-fi and anime.

Akira-Remake-700x300

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 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 – IN CLASS VIEWING

 

AKIRA

Watching Akira was an interesting experience for me! I don’t particularly watch Anime … and what I mean by that is I’ve only seen ‘Spirited Away’, like every other Australian millennial that would rather play Nintendogs over Pokemon. The class reacted to the film really well and facts about the Anime film’s background and production process filled the Twitterfeed. I tweeted a couple thoughts that stemmed from my observations. I tweeted that “Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s vision for 2019 is interesting“, which it was. Yet another dystopic portrayal of the “future”, which scarily enough, in this film, is this year. From the films we’ve seen in class, I believe that it is a popular trend in Asian films to present the future as dark, with a ‘post-apocalyptic’ nature. 

Maybe it was just me but I felt like if I spent too much time focusing on tweeting about something that happened in Akira, I wouldn’t pay attention to important dialogue or plot points and had to catch up by reading the plot online. It is not a movie, in which, you can lazily fall in and out of following and still understand exactly what is happening. There are a lot of characters and a lot of things happening all the time. In saying that, the motorbike scenes where very entertaining, who doesn’t love a ‘Fast and the Furious’ element to a movie! (Don’t worry, I’m aware of how white I sound.) I did mention this in my tweets aswell. “Kaneda defies gravity flying off and onto motorbikes #BCM320 . Very visually stimulating!” 

In other news in BCM320/this blog, the class must display their understanding of an auto ethnographic methodology. According a to Ellis, Adams and Bochner it is a form of research “that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (2011).

To my understanding this is methodology in which the cultural, political, social and personal background of a person performing research on a topic is all considered and noted in the findings and results.

It is the combination of:

Autobiography – an account of ones personal experience.
Ethnograph – observations found through ethnographic research methods.

“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). This is an efficient way to collect data, however requires the researcher to be completely open about the elements of their life that may have affected the data they accumulated.

Ellis C, Adams T E, & Bochner A P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1 <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>

 

 

 

 

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

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 :).

 

Akira

My personal experience with this film was rather limited. I couldn’t quite engage with this film for a majority of reasons. My biggest issue with this 2-hour film was that it

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was anime. For as long as I can remember, anime has been a fear of mine. A lot of people enjoy anime, so I wouldn’t dare to say a word against it but it’s never been my cup of tea. I have seen

people cosplay as certain characters from different films or TV shows, I’ve seen first hand how these things can take over peoples lives. I guess I don’t want to fall into that trap. It’s easier to push something away like anime then let it consume my life for years to come.

When looking at the second step of Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1, I realised something. My past experiences with anime have never ended well. As a child, I was told that anime was a terrible film or TV show and many people have wasted their lives on this. I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing now, but I was always told that.

 

To fully engross with step three of this process I had to completely understand what I was really watching in class. Akira is a 1988 Japanese animated post-apocalyptic science fiction film that is set in a dystopian in the year of 2019. Akira tells a story about a local biker gang and their childhood friend, yet after a motorcycle accident a threatening military rebellion is in the sprawling futuristic metropolis of Neo-Tokyo. Unbelievably this anime film had a total production budget of $8.2 million, making this film the most expensive anime film of all time.

 

Step four is based about further knowledge and studies facing the issues of the project. In this case, the issues or criticism facing this film. Lucky enough, this film has a very low account of negatively. Many critics believe this is one of the greatest animated and science fiction films of all time, setting as a landmark in Japanese animation. It got a raging 87% on rotten tomatoes with an overall rating of 7.5/10.

 

My response to the film is rather different compared to the rotten tomatoes review. It was an interesting film, I found myself rather engaged in certain moments of the film. Unfortunately I can’t seem to look past the aspect of it being anime.