bcm320

Akira

The film screened this week in BCM320 digital Asia was Akira, a Japanese anime film released in 1988 and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. Set in 2019, a motorcycle gang in a post-apocalyptic world struggle to protect themselves from the infectious evil of both civilians and political authority in Tokyo.

This was my first real exposure to anime. It was very different from the usual western cartoons I am familiar with. I associate these colourful moving pictures with my childhood and innocence, but Akira definitely challenged my views. It was a much more mature film regarding its underlying messages in comparison to the Western culture cartoons I have consumed.

Live-tweeting this tutorial sparked more interesting conversations than the previous week. The film’s plot I feel brought scary realities into play. The depictions of a furious, corrupt, power-driven world can definitely be seen amongst certain hierarchies in society.

For me, a futuristic film focused on the elements of such mature themes such as political power and violence rather than new technological inventions was very refreshing. The friendship between Kaneda and Tetsuo is something I think should be viewed by everyone. Akira is definitely a film ahead of its time with its continuing relevance throughout decades past with a strong focus on personal and authoritarian relationships. Scenes felt so raw and real at times. Even though the blood was animated, and the sound effects created by production the violence still made me sick. I found this very weird as I have watched many films in my life so far that has included extreme violence and it did not make this big of an impact.

Through background research of the film and information shared on the Twitter hashtag, I was surprised to see how often Akira has been used as inspiration for many people in their creative works, in particular, Kanye West. Relating to the setting of the film, it was quite intriguing to also find out this now 30-year-old film almost predicted the future with its mention of Tokyo hosting the 2019 Olympics when they are in fact hosting the 2020 Olympics.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis, 2004, Holman Jones, 2005)

My understanding of autoethnographic methodology is that an individual is giving a recount of a past experience assisted by secondary research regarding the subject of discussion. Ellis et al (2011) communicate the practice of ethnography as culturally conducted studies that have a purpose to educate those unaware or in need of assistance to understand particular a culture and its elements.

Some of the methods of research commonly used when conducting a study are journal articles, interviews and photographs. To be considered as valuable in an autoethnographic study, sources go through a process of analysation. Ellis et al emphasise the need to comparing and contrasting personal experience against existing research. They also state the importance to produce a product that demonstrates reliability through fieldwork, aims to reduce generalisability and heighten validity of their study.

I believe autoethnography is crucial to progression within the world due to its deep cultural exploration. The ability to make something familiar to one’s unaware or even ignorant self has the ability to create a chain of education and the passing of information.

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 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;

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

State of Play

Note: Due to absence in week one I was requested by my tutor to blog on week two’s screening.

This week in BCM320 Digital Asia the movie screened was ‘State of Play’, released in 2013 and directed by Steven Dhoedt. The ethnographic documentary followed the competitive journeys of both professional and up and coming youth gamers in South Korea who played the popular 1998 computer game, ‘Starcraft’.

The area of Asian cinema or South Korean cinema to be specific, is a new concept to me. I have never really engaged with it before. Coming from an Australian background I have only ever really been exposed to Western media. Growing up with the internet and being a digital native meant that the world of Asian cinema was never really hidden from me or hard to find I just never sought it. It’s not that I do not have an interest in it I just became too comfortable in the concentration of Western media that I forgot there was much more to be discovered outside of it.

Live-tweeting using the class hashtag is encouraged and I think it definitely heightens the overall film experience. It allows fellow classmates to share and view extra information that provides a better understanding of the film with added context, such as the backstory of the game itself and the Korean gaming culture as a whole. Live-tweeting also allows the expansion on subjects discussed within the film, for example, gaming as a possible Olympic sport in the near future. It sets up a friendly and relatable space and online community that the class can use to come together as one to either discuss, educate or simply have a joke among one another in relation to the screening.

In terms of how I make sense of the film, luckily due to my involvement in gaming culture I could partially understand the passion and frustration within the roller-coaster of winning and losing. I think on a personal level as well it is easy to relate to their journeys of hard work the individuals put in to achieve their professional dream. This translates to our own goals we set out to complete in life which isn’t always easy.

Overall I think the film was an interesting take on how big the gaming industry is and its success to the point of providing professional employment with large salaries for those with talent. From my first experience with Asian cinema, I am definitely looking forward to what is next.

Le Host? What the hell is that?!

For the first week of BCM320 (Digital Asia), we took a look at the South Korean monster film ‘The Host’ (2006), directed by Bong Joon-ho. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what to expect before watching the movie. I can’t really say I’m a massive fan of monster movies, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t even seen one since that terrible Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick in it. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t walk away having actually enjoyed the movie overall.

At first I thought The Host would be some kind of cliche horror/thriller movie, with the monster being portrayed as some kind of looming antagonist which doesn’t really get unveiled until towards the end of the movie. But I literally couldn’t have been more wrong and I’m glad.

Image result for the host 2006 monster

After introducing some of the primary family characters and laying some framework for 5-10 minutes, the CGI mess which is the films star attraction emerges from the river, going on a rampage which I thought would of been saved for much later in the movie. I’m glad it wasn’t though, as it instantly made the rest of the movie completely unpredictable from then on.

I kind of have to talk about the monster itself a little bit though as it was by far the most entertaining part of the film, not because of the action in the scenes it is featured in or because it is genuinely a good movie monster in general (even though The Host actually does pretty well in those regards), but because of the borderline horrendous CGI used to bring the monster to life. Looking like the mutant offspring of a Koi fish that climbed out from a pond somewhere in Chernobyl and one of those weird demon fish dog things from the first Hellboy movie, the monster from the host captivates you in every scene taking you back to the good old days of PS2 graphics and low expectations.

Image result for demon dog Hellboy
“Now introducing, The Host monster Lite”
Demon dog..fish…thing ‘Hellboy’ (2004)

While the monster may of been the highlight of the movie for me personally, the story and the rest of characters were just as entertaining throughout, and managed to successfully keep the flow of the narrative consistent and engaging. The Host felt like a much more light-hearted movie for the most part, despite the abundance of death and personal loss throughout the film, with comedic elements scattered in scenes which would typically be treated with a lot of seriousness in western films. This tone layered throughout the movie did make me wonder if this is maybe a trope of this kind of Korean cinema, but I would obvious need to dive deeper into the genre to find out if this is the case. And if it were, I would definitely be keen to see more of it.

As for the live-tweeting aspect of watching the film, it was defintely a different experience as it was the first time I’ve even attempted to use the site. It was a bit of a challenge to try and follow along to the films subtitles and while simultaneously live-tweeting my reactions, but I don’t feel like it stopped me from following along with the film or anything like that.

Overall, I found The Host to be a good introduction to South Korean monster movies, which is a genre I’m now glad to discover even exists.

I’d give it 3.5 moist river boi’s out of 5.

The Host: Not a monster movie

The monster is not the focus of ‘The Host’, but only a tool to give narrative to the film’s structure, a surface problem leading to deeper layers of meaning.

I was born in Vietnam. An Asian in every way.

I grew up, to put it in a visualized way, ‘in the middle of Hollywood and Asian cinema’. During my childhood and adolescence, I let myself be immersed in the fantasy world of Chinese movies, such as the one and only ‘Journey to the West’. I would tune into Disney channel to go on an adventure with Ariel the Little Mermaid and Woody from Toy Story, or HBO channel where all kinds of Hollywood movies were screened. And when the night came, it was time for the Hallyu Wave, time for passionate Korean love stories and relatable, heart-warming Korean family dramas, such as Boys Over Flowers and Reply 1988.

For many years I have been exposed to a mix of genres and film nationalities. I have seen, and loved, numerous Korean films, which always profoundly talk about social phenomena and issues. 

But never in my life have I watched a Korean monster movie.

Nor a Bong Joon-ho’s production.

At first, I thought the film was going to follow the Hollywood monster-movie motif, merely focusing on the fight between heroes and a creature. The movie begins with the shockingly sudden appearance of the creature, proceeding through the innocents-in-danger scenario and the unexpected bravery from a crew of characters (Klein 2008). 

However, as it progressed, I came to realize that ‘The Host’ is much more than that. It is a departure, a divergence from the Hollywood convention. The monster is not put in the spotlight but rather used as the background to shed light on Korean realities. 

The dark sides of Korean modernization and authority are addressed by showing how the Park family gets tangled up in Seoul’s bureaucratic and capitalist modernity (Klein 2008). It was frustrating for me to see the government and the media lying about the existence of the deadly virus, the police ignoring Gang-du’s claim that he receives a phone call from his daughter, and the fumigator easily being bribed by a bucket of spare change (which is also a bit of humor and sarcasm coming from the director, and I enjoyed it).

I also came to notice that ‘The Host’ is trying to criticize Korea’s relationship with, or more specifically, Korea’s submission to the United States. I am haunted by the scene of the American mortician ordering his Korean underlying to pour hundreds of formaldehyde down the drain, the U.S official forcing the Korean doctors to drill into Gang-du’s brain, and the “Agent Yellow’ scene, which reminds me of the Agent Orange contamination during the Vietnam war. 

Besides Korean realities, The Host also highlights the beauty of family bond – father-to-daughter, father-to-son, brother-to-sister and sister-to-sister love, which is the only motivation for the characters to unhesitantly sacrifice themselves in the fight. It was outstandingly smart and subtle of Bong Joon-ho to express the characters’ longing to reunite with and take care of Huyn-seo through the eating scene, which moved me emotionally. 

The Ghost.jpg

What surprised me the most is that Huyn-seo could not be saved in the end. In the scene where she is pulled out from the monster, I was expecting her to wake up as a miracle, which is very common in the Hollywood films that I have seen. But she does not. Yet, the other boy, wrapped in her arms, is still alive, thanks to Huyn-seo.

A symbol of humanity. 

I did not have the opportunity to experience live-tweeting as I was sick and could not attend the tutorial. Yet, I took notes while streaming the movie at home, jotting down all my thoughts and emotions, which made me watch the film more attentively and critically. Reading subtitles was no big deal for me since I grew up watching movies from other countries.

To conclude, ‘The Host’ is a monster movie, yet, not a monster movie.

It is so much more than that. 

References: 

Klein, C 2008, ‘Why American Studies Needs to Think about Korean Cinema, or, Transnational Genres in the Films of Bong Joon-ho’, American Quarterly, no. 60, vol. 4, pp. 871-898. 

 

The Host 2006: Imbalance of Power

2019 is my final year at UOW and I only had to pick a bunch of electives to complete my degree. Going through the list I found a neat little subject that watches movies as an assignment! How neat is that! Coming from a field which writes research reports and calculates numbers, writing blogs is a whole new playing field.

I’m an Asian Australian that was exposed to a lot of different cultures through family, media and of course food. I’ve went through the “Koreaboo” phases in high school and currently the “Weeb” phase… unfortunately. I’m no stranger to international films but critiquing films and drawing on my experiences is new to me.

We were asked to live-tweet about the film and the experience we felt throughout the screening. This is completely new to me and my view is limited, but I’ve spoken during movies, so I guess its kind of the same thing. (Sorry). The film had many interesting moments that ranged from comedy, politics and bad CGI horror.

From the get-go there was a showing of imbalance of power between two nations. America and South Korea. The imbalance of power is through both Legitimate Power and Expert Power. According to Raven 2008 legitimate power comes from a position or role, someone that is in a position of authority or higher ranked that can give orders to others. Expert power is having the knowledge or expertise in a field that others can rely on you to give valid expertise on (Raven, 2008).

During the opening scene we see two surgeons, an American and a Korean. The American surgeon uses his legitimate power of higher ranked surgeon to order the Korean surgeon (Mr. Kim) to pour toxic chemicals down a drain. Of course, Mr. Kim knows this isn’t the right thing to do but the American surgeon uses his expert power by telling Mr. Kim that the Han river is a big river, and everything will be alright.

Later into the film, Park Gang-doo was captured and contained in a facility and was met by an American and Korean translating doctor. The American doctor uses his expert power and first says the virus is now in Park Gang-doo brain but then explains to the Korean doctor (as well as Park) that there actually is no virus. The American doctor uses his Legitimate and expert Power of higher ranked doctor to continue with the operation to remove the “virus”. No-one would question him since he is in a role of authority and in a field where great expertise is needed.

I look forward to the upcoming films that I will be watching, and I hope I can broaden my horizon and critique better.

Me writing my first blog ever.
(American Doctor from the Host 2006)

Reference:

Raven, B. (2008). The Bases of Power and the Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence. Analyses Of Social Issues And Public Policy8(1), 1-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-2415.2008.00159.x

The Host: A White Girls Interpretation

Upon seeing the subject title ‘Digital Asia’, I felt instantly intimidated and hesitant. I have rarely ventured beyond the realm of Western media, and for this I blame my upbringing in a “typical” white Australian household. I guess I have developed a sense of indifference towards Asian media, not because of any personal prejudice, but rather a simple lack of exposure – until now. (more…)

‘The Host’ – Monster-ous Political Satire…

Autoethnography… a term that constantly arises in media subjects, yet the definition still regularly evades me.

Defined by Ellis et al (2011), autoethnographical research is 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’. The key word being that of ‘culture’, whereby, comparison and contrast between or within one’s culture allows for a deep, reflexive autoethnographical analysis of a topic. Thus, it must be made clear that such research in fact uses subjectivity as a crucial component in understanding the power dynamics and fluidity of culture. Moreover, she or he may be able to reach wider and more diverse mass audiences that traditional research usually disregards, a move that can make personal and social change possible for more people’ (Ellis et al, 2011), thus it is the inclusion of one’s attitude and beliefs that encourages cultural perspectives to develop and transform.

The Host imageThis leads me to consider how my cultural background impacted my interpretation of the film ‘The Host’. Having never watched a Korean movie before I was entering into a diverse, new cultural world. Growing up in an Anglo-Saxon household, in a small country town, restricted my access and interest in the multifaceted, culturally diverse Asian film industry. Thus, the film for me was viewed in comparison to a typical Hollywood film, illustrating how a contextual personal background can significantly influence one’s cinematic experience and interpretation of Korean film culture. In this case the exaggeration and satire made for a somewhat bizarre film experience.

The task of live tweeting throughout the film pushed me to question and analyse the historical context and subsequent use of satire. As Matt Kim reported, ‘the implications of the story, American imperialism and its military presence on the Korean peninsula, were lost on those unfamiliar with modern Korean history…’ (2016), whilst in another contextual twist,  ‘… underneath the imagery of American military presence was the even more subversive narrative of the incompetent South Korean bureaucracy’ (Kim, 2016). Evidently, the use of satirical language and themes within the film led me to reflect upon the US/South Korean relationship, thus reflexively applying my historical knowledge allowed me to better understand the political, social and cultural themes at play.

The process of live tweeting subsequently saw me further develop my understanding of Korean anxieties and desires, whereby, the clear loss of tradition is juxtaposed by the new freedoms accorded to South Koreans through Western influence (Turner, 2012, pg. 12). Coming from a Westernised perspective, the development within South Korea would be viewed as a democratic step forward. However, we must draw from ‘The Host’ and understand that Western influence and the subsequent demise of cultural identity is an enormous anxiety not only in South Korea, but throughout the world. 

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P, 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1

Kim, M 2016, ‘The Korean New Wave and the Anxieties of South Korean Cinema’, Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/article/13916-the-korean-new-wave-and-the-anxieties-of-south-korean-cinema, viewed 1/8/19

Turner, J 2012, ‘Monstrous Dialogues: THE HOST and South Korean Inverted Exile’, University of South Florida Scholar Commons, Graduate Thesis and Dissertations, pg. 1-12 -Accessible online: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5440&context=etd