Week 3

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.

Akira – A new found love

Akira, I wasn’t expecting that.

Having not been aware of this film’s existence prior to our live tweeting exercise, I was astounded at my research divulging the world’s love and praise for this strange film’s style and message.

I’ll be dissecting my own reaction to the film (I’ll try my best not to get too excited and HSC-analysing-stuff-until-my-thesaurus-breaks-ish) along with my thoughts on the live tweeting activity that fortunately brought it to my eyes.

To my joy, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels Akira held with that of one of my all-time favourite films – Blade Runner.

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(A shot from the film Blade Runner via https://variety.com/2017/film/columns/how-blade-runner-became-a-geek-metaphor-for-art-1202583468/ )

The first and most obvious being the incredible Neo-Tokyo cityscape, featuring an eclectic combination of metropolis sky-scrapers and grimy industrial wasteland. Just like Ridley Scott’s dystopian city, the landscape beautifully mirrors the overwhelming gap between the powerful and the poor.

Now let’s talk about that colour, wow. I rarely get to throw around the word iridescent (see definition below) but it fits wonderfully here.

iridescent
adjective
  1. showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles.
    “the drake’s head has an iridescent purple sheen”

Whether or not the effect of shifting colours and double exposures was a result of the lack of tech at the time, it plays to the chaos of the scenes and landscape in an awesome, almost accidental way, and I could hardly look away to do my tweeting.

Finally, the soundtrack. THE SOUNDTRACK. I could never salivate more than I do when listening to Vangelis’ soundtrack of Blade Runner, but Akira sure gave it a good crack. Relatively simple production, perfect rise and fall with the action, and careful selection of sounds and instruments to give it just enough Asian flavour. As a music and sound nerd, I believe soundtracking can dictate the immersion we feel in a film, album, or any life situation, and to Geinoh Yamashirogumi for doing this with Akira, I tip my hat.

I’ll admit my moments of frustration having to look away from the scenes of Akira to live tweet, but I enjoyed the process nonetheless. There’s a sense of community you feel as a result of participating in the feed. It’s like when you’re in a big crowded cinema for a premiere and you’re wondering if everybody else is loving or hating the movie as much as you are, well this answers those questions.

There’s certainly some interesting merit to a constant flow of extra context to the film you’re watching too. Fascinating pieces of trivia made public by a peer, or subtle elements of the film you might’ve missed are just few of the interesting benefits of a live forum environment, benefits I didn’t expect to find.

 

(Featured image courtesy of ESPIOARTWORK-102 via https://www.deviantart.com/espioartwork-102/art/Akira-1988-500416653)

 

 

Simply Surviving Akira (1988)

insight

Despite the plethora of anime I have had the chance to binge-watch at the peak of my procrastination none have been quite as provocative and genuinely insane as the 1988 cult film Akira. Going into this film blind, knowing close to nothing about the intense plot and complex cast of characters, I can now safely say I had vastly underestimated what this film was about and how chaotic it would become.

In response to this film I was tasked with taking an autoethnographic approach to analysing it, essentially having to critically reflect on my own experience of watching Akira. Autoethnography is a research approach that attempts to describe and critically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience (Ellis, C. et al. 2011). This approach is aimed at looking reflexively upon your personal experience and producing a ‘meaningful, accessible, and evocative’ insight into your…

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Auto-ethnographic methodology and the complexity of Akira (1988)

Ray Nguyen

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis, et al, 2011). In simpler words, the way we view a culture is reflected on our own perspective and cultural background.

Come to think of it, I did have a chance to practice autoethnographic methodology last week as I used my personal framework and cultural background to reflect on my understanding about a Japanese film, Gojira. When I watched that film in class, I was searching for the similarity between Japanese pop culture and my own culture and simultaneously analysing those cultural values that I have already been familiar with to understand the meaning of this foreign film, despite the language barrier that existed in the film itself.

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AKIRA: Autoethnography

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/08/11/akira-an-autoethnography/ 

https://giphy.com/embed/VcRAN8c8wwOC4

This week in BCM320 we were right on to the next viewing for Digital Asia; ’88 famed anime, Akira. First, bring yourself up to speed on the film that arguably brought Japanese culture to the West; a story that follows the destruction of Neo-Tokyo at the hands of a warfare between teenage motorbike rebels and a group of kids with telekinetic powers. Set in 2019, the parallels between what was predicted from a post-cold-war produced film and how the world looks now peaked my interest. They got some things right when it came to their eerie foresight of hosting the Olympics and the sheer scale of the cityscape that Tokyo boasts nowadays, however, might have been a little off when it came to hovering police cars…

It was a little hard for me to be able to watch the film in entirety, as we were tasked to respond to the film in live time and I found it sometimes meant I missed important parts of the film. To aid this, we watched the watched the English dub version of the two-hour film – controversially as I later found out. Oddly enough, I found I stumbled into the controversy before I was fully aware of its existence. Given that I was meant to be responding to Japanese media and digital culture, I expressed that I almost felt I was cheating by watching the English dub, and that I felt I was already projecting too much of my own culture that tainted how it was originally intended to be consumed;

I was reassured that the task was to interpret the film using the tools from my own cultural framework, and so this blog post was born. I came into this scenario not knowing much about anime or Japanese films at all, apart from my **very extensive** list of animes I had already seen:

    1. Howl’s Moving Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember seeing Howls Moving Castle for the first time after a friend convinced my begrudging ass to watch it with her, and I remember immediately falling in love with the artistically aesthetic aspects of Every. Damn. Frame. There is something so visually stunning that doesn’t compare to any Hollywood film I have seen, animation or not. I am someone who will watch a film for the second time just to take in the details and the costumes come again, so I understand how I was bewildered with the thought that goes into the likes of Akira and Howl’s Moving Castle. They are visual masterpieces of their time and made me love them all the much more for their uniqueness. These are the kinds of films that make me wish I watched more anime and had a greater depth of desire to actively watch several more.

https://giphy.com/embed/ROUXN6hzDgyf6

Of course, as far as these films stray in artistic variation from Hollywood films, I found myself recognising the likes of similar scenes from Western action films. From a personal standpoint, although the narrative was complex and unlike any another story I had heard, I found myself using films like Fast and the Furious, Transformers, and Avengers to make sense of the film. The latter more so in relation to the likeness to Neo-Tokyo streets a swarm of explosions, shattered glass, and upturned vehicles to depict the mass destruction of the cityscape. I wasn’t alone in this. Watching on as friends live-tweeted their experience of the film, I found the best way to fully understand and interpret it was through our own cultural cues and popular references. Modern-day memes and even references to an earlier viewing of Gojira made jest of the cultural gaps that may have segregated many when watching this film.

The film also had a familiarity that I couldn’t pick until I discovered I had seen it before; not just within Vin Diesel blockbusters, but in fashion, art and music. Re: Kanye Wests’ Stronger and Michael Jackson’s entire wardrobe. I also couldn’t help but wonder how much the product placements would have impacted the production of the brand-heavy film, although that is just the marketer in me analysing. Had I seen this film in a less-analytical context, would I have appreciated its depth and significance? Perhaps not.

Final thoughts on Akira leave me feeling protective, although adopted in fine channels throughout Western culture, I enjoyed the film so much I see myself raising an index finger to Hollywood: DON’T TOUCH THIS ONE HERE, IT’S PERFECT AS IT IS

References:

 

Autoethnography and Me

“…Scholars began recognizing that different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world” (Ellis et al, 2011).
I believe that this is, at it’s core, what autoethnography aims to reveal.

When I first heard the word autoethnography I was excited. I’m a fan of etymology (the study of words and their roots) and as such I like to take apart words. I know auto refers to ones self or the ability to do things on their own, such as in autobiography and automobile. I also knew that ethnos refers to nations of groups of people, and that the –ography suffix is about the study of such things. So putting that together, autoethnography is about the study of the self, combined with/in the context of a group of people, or something like that.

Chris told us that it’s also a portmanteau of autobiography and ethnography, meaning we’ll be looking heavily at ourselves and using qualitative data to do our research. I find this particularly interesting as I’ve always been taught that “facts don’t care about your feelings”. While I like that phrase, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully believed it, as it’s pretty noticeable in the world that the world is full of assumptions and “rules” based upon how people react to certain elements.

I believe that autoethnography is about finding that personal reaction to another culture. It’s about studying the culture, not from afar with a telescope, or up close under a microscope, but by using your own eyes to really feel the culture.
I think autoethnographic research is going to be a welcome breathe of fresh air for me. Having hated Math in high school because it was too “there is only one answer”, yet also not enjoyed English because I had to pander to how the teacher wanted me to write, I think I’m going to enjoy expressing my own views and experiences, regardless of what is “right” or “wrong”.

Autoethnography in social justice

Research through storytelling – personal experiences, histories, and stories combine with thoughtful collection and research methodology in autoethnography.

Autoethnography is an approach to researching cultures that focuses on personal experience to explore, illustrate, and research cultural phenomena or artifacts. It engages the personal experiences of the researcher and the personal thoughts and experiences of cultural member to provide a human and intimate view of culture, according to Ellis et al (2011).

Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis et al 2011) is an introduction to help us understand what autoethnography is, why it’s used, and how to do it usefully and respectfully. Frankly, I’m still a little confused – part art, part research, part social science, and wholly difficult for me to visualise at the start of this venture.

As a feminist and self-described liberal, for me, this text brought to mind the writings of prominent social justice activists, particularly as they attempt to discuss issues like disability, race relations, or gender inequality.

When the authors of Autoethnography: An Overview talk about how authors use “personal and interpersonal experience” and stories to discern patterns in cultures and “help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders,” my mind goes to the fantastic writings that have helped me understand the social issues I care about through the eyes of those experiencing them. Similarly, when trying to discuss feminism with my small-country-town, blue-collar-tradie boyfriend, I’ve learned the best way to get him to understand the reality of the problems facing women is to tell him what I’ve been through.

Autoethnography, as I understand it right now (and this may change as I go along) seeks to make research accessible and help readers empathize by humanising the culture, experience, or issue it’s discussing.

Ellis et al also talk about acknowledging your own bias and experience as a researcher, and recognising how it colours your research, rather than pretending to be totally impartial, cold, and scientific. For example, as a feminist, I will constantly ask “where are the women?” My personality and my history affect the questions I ask and the things that excite me when I do research – Autoethnography says that this is not just OK, but it can be useful.

While I anticipate many more questions and redefinitions of this style of research, Autoethnography has helped me draw a parallel between an academic field and a style of writing that has sparked outrage over so many social issues and causes and motivated me personally.

 

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Autoethnography

As a university student, we are often told that in order to obtain quality qualitative or quantitive data, we must remain externally observant and completely uninvolved with the subject. Autoethnography challenges this concept.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno),” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2010

As a process it is a method that employs both autobiography and ethnography. As an autobiographical practice, the method identifies epiphanies as points of understanding. As an ethnographic practice, the method studies cultural practices. Together, the findings portray a personal and emotive analysis. The product means the work is presented in a story like manner. This narrative structure does focus on communicating the truth. There are characters, scenes, events and plot progressions. The research presented aims to captivate the audience and share personal and interpersonal experiences.

Autoethnography’s use of such immersive methods has lead to academic debates. Potential criticism argue that it is not possible to understand a situation when one is a part of the setting, one is personally invested and therefore personal motives will interfere with research. Furthermore, there is a moral debate for relational ethics, specifically in regards to ensuring there is a healthy dynamic between all parties involved and matters of subject confidentiality.

Autoethnography argues that this personal expereince is exactly what enhances the research method. It is only through self reflection, self awareness and emersion into a setting that one can truly empathise, and in turn understand a subject. No two people will view or remember an experience, even a shared experience, in the same manner. The feelings and backgrounds of a subject are fundamental to understanding data. In the same way, the feelings and backgrounds of the researcher are just as influential. Autoethnography acknowledges this, but embraces that the individuals socio-cultural behaviours within a society shape perceptions, and reveal the essence of a subject – the researcher will only know this when close to or a part of the same subject.

Personally I value autoethnography for certain kinds of research, specifically when conducting qualitative cultural research. Sometimes being human means that sharing an experience is the only way to communicate.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Authenticity in Autoethnography?

When Chris Moore dropped the ‘A-bomb’ in class a couple of weeks ago my face remained deadpan and expressionless. It was due to my naivety and unfamiliarity to the word that left me more or less indifferent to it’s meaning. However, within the coming weeks I would understand that  ‘Autoethnography’ is a useful tool in my research.

‘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, Adams & Bochner, 2010

Exploring the ‘unknown’ is both new as it is exciting. Traditional researchers often observe without any real engagement, this leads to limited understanding of cultural context. Misunderstandings between the ‘researcher’ and ‘researched’ through cross-cultural communication can be prevented by autoethnography.

Autoethnography challenges the preconceived assumptions one makes about what is ‘authentic’. During this week’s screening of Akira (1988) there was an ongoing debate about the use of dubbing. Many saying that accommodating for a Western audience almost limits the experience. As authenticity is concerned with the truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, and intentions. When it is applied to a culture, anything that doesn’t register as ‘authentic’, is dismissed as ‘fake’ or unreliable. This perpetuating generalisations and limiting room for growth.

Language transfers knowledge. In my own experience, the use of subtitles has opened up a world of understanding. So giving them an English voice, enables a wider audience to experience, observe and question the text.

Being self-reflective is crucial as an autoethnographer. When I was learning Japanese back in first year, I found it super helpful to have peers to study with. This ensured we were engaged but also allowed us to share travel stories, anime we had been watching or food during our breaks. The more time invested in immersing ourselves in these practices, led to a better understanding of the culture. One of the highlights during this period was picking up on passing conversations. ‘Eavesdropping’ on a conversations about a ‘delicious hamburgers’ and trying to contain my excitement because I could understand the context. However, when I lost enthusiasm for the language, these experiences were less consistent.

There is a real fear of cross-cultural ‘contamination’ that comes with the practice of autoethnography. As personal experience influences this research process, it is regarded as detrimental to epistemics. Subjectivity is unavoidable, and as Chris put it, Asia is already in Australia and Australia is already in Asia (2017).

ELLIS, C. ADAMS, T.E. BOCHNER, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1,
http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

MOORE, C (2017) “Global Flow.” Digital Asia. University of Wollongong, Wollongong. Prezi.

REED-DANAHAY, D (1997). Introduction. In D. Reed-Danahay (Ed.), Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting the Self and the Social. (pp. 1–17). Oxford: Berg.

WIKIPEDIA (2017). Carolyn Ellis. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolyn_Ellis