#japanesecinema

All about perspective

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Akira, a Japanese anime film created in 1988 is the central film for this week’s post.

Akira was my personal first experience with an anime film, Akira follows the story of Tetsuo, a teenager apart of a local biking ‘gang’ who feuds with another gang until he is abducted and experimented on by the Japanese government and more of less destroys Tokyo and is taken to another dimension by Akira another supernatural being.

According to Ellis’s definition (Auto ethnography 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, 2004; HOLMAN JONES, 2005) I believe that my personal perspective or view of anime prior to this week’s class was close to nothing at all, I didn’t think about it until it was sat in front of me, which actually led to a slight fascination on my behalf although my westernised taste for movies and film did make me question the legitimacy of the film from the beginning. However, following many tweets and google searches I finally felt the experience an eye opening one. After some research I have realised how much of an influence this film has had on western culture including big time Hollywood celebrity Kanye West who references the Akira movie and credits it for much of his creative work. Akira’s story line reminded me of many other superhero and villain movies evident within Hollywood, the villain (Tetsuo) has been pushed or bullied into being resentful and abuses his new found power when the hero saves the day to the detriment of the originally abused/bullied villain.

Akira is known to have many underlying messages and meanings along with lots of other animated films. This video explains a central hidden meaning behind the film and breaks down each aspect, this video helped to improve my understanding of the film and how it has become such so popular in western society.

 

 

 

Reddit is another great site where people give their experience of viewing the film, circumstances and more. See bellow:

REDDIT THREAD 

Following my viewing of this movie I have gained a better understanding of the ‘hype’ or popularity surrounding Anime, I believe it brings real world issues and culture to consumers in a ‘fun’ and ‘artistic’ way with exaggeration and dialogue. One scene that heightened my attention was the government or ‘police’ hurting Tetsuo and how the brutality is evident cross culture.

Godzilla – a story that never gets old

This is not so related but please tell me if I’m wrong. The few things pop up in my head when a Westerner mentions Asia media are Kpop and anime. Godzilla the original, for me, was a blast. Growing up, Japanese film in my mind were purely about Pokemon, Doraemon, Inuyasha, Ghibli anime and teen romance. Most of them are around very personal stories, around thoughts and emotions of a single person or a small group of people. In shorts, they’re more of drama, and they strongly reflect Japanese culture.

Hardly could I think such a blockbuster came from Japan. I’m not a huge fan of monster movies, because you can always tell the plot without watching the whole movie. The last monster movie I saw was Jaws, which was truly entertaining, but nothing much in the message. But don’t get me wrong, it has always been a nice movie for me.

Watching Godzilla for the first time yesterday (I haven’t seen any Godzilla movie before), I expected something dramatic but still kawaii. It turned out to be really Western. The theme music strongly reminded me of Jaws, the old kind of music used in old thriller movies that still causing rapid heartbeat. The monster, which is said to has traditionally been portrayed by an actor wearing latex costume, look more like a metallic dinosaur to me, since its moves looked so much like the shark in Jaws. Besides, watching an old school blockbuster without CGI is such a fresh feeling. Though it looked like children toy, the film was strangely gravitative. However, it was the message that most audiences were interested in, or at least in DIGC310 class. It was not a message like “With great power comes great responsibility” or a metaphor for a country’s or the power of human, it related directly to war and consequences of it, specifically, the nuclear tragedy happened to Japanese people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki almost 10 years ago. More interestingly, the strongest reference to the WWII in my opinion is, the skin texture of the reptilian was inspired by the keloid scars seen on survivors in Hiroshima.

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Those images suddenly brings me back to thousands of kids who are the victims of Agent Orange released during the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War has become history for over 40 years, toxic legacy of Agent Orange lives on. Many of them weren’t born during the war, but they are the descendants of the veterans, or worse, born and raised in the contaminated land. War may be over, but the fear and the scars it left, stays, and it doesn’t only hurt those who eye-witnessed it but also the younger generations.

Lastly, guys, sorry for the disturbing images.

GODZILLA

Before this week’s seminar, I have never really watched a Godzilla movie or found anything to do with it interesting. I knew they existed and that there was a movie franchise produced around them but I have never watched one.

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However, I have to say that watching the Godzilla movie this week was quite interesting. I enjoyed it to an extent. The most interesting part of the movie I think was seeing how different the scenes, dialogue, acting, graphics and even sound effects were. When comparing these things to this day and age there is a dramatic difference between them. It’s quite awesome to see how far film has come.

 

My high school gave us the opportunity to learn and study Japanese language, culture and history. The class opened my mind to this very different cultural identity and gave me the opportunity to explore the art of manga and Japanese films. I found that the film Godzilla gave me a different view point of Japan and especially their stance on nuclear energy. I think, however, because I was able to study Japan, I was able to make sense of the film text a whole lot better.

 

Godzilla in the film becomes a metaphor for the nuclear bombing nightmare that happened in Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the time. Images shown the film depict a raging Godzilla producing destruction in the form of a sea of flames, smouldering buildings and apocalyptic ruins. Director Honda explained “I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla” in an attempt to portray the atomic bomb and the effects that it produced on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the attack. The portrayal of the character to this day can still be adapted and evolved in an attempt to portray the ideas of climate change and especially the problematic missile tests in North Korea.

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Overall I think that the film was very interesting, it brought up topics that I hadn’t considered or thought about before. Depicting the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima through Godzilla was a great way to emphasise the destruction and fear individuals felt during this time. Let’s hope that the devastation of the bombing will be enough to stop this from happening in the future.

 

Gojira

I have my brother to thank for my introduction into the world of Japanese media, the many plots he conjured to sneakily change the channel from mum’s morning news to the much loved Cheez TV without her noticing. Though thinking back it was probably the chaos of organizing 3 rowdy children that she was oblivious to the change of station rather than my brothers sly ploys. Either way from a very young age I’ve been watching Anime, Manga and various other forms of Japanese media starting with Pokemon, One Piece, Avatar and Naruto on morning TV to watching Attack on Titan and Full Metal Alchemist as subbed series online. I have not however watched many non-animated Japanese movies so I was quite excited to see how or if it would differ from the mediums I usually consume.

In the first couple of scenes I very much got a Hitchcock “the Birds” vibe with the old school cinematic horror techniques and sounds scores. I think that I thought it would feel more culturally different being a Japanese film in the 1950’s, however the characters, the dress codes and the societal interactions all were very familiar to me. Even though it is in a different language I can still relate to the humor and references, it is more the old style film techniques that is different to consume, but no different to old  black and white films made in Hollywood. I also found that although this is supposed to be a horror film most of the class ended up laughing at the things that were supposed to scare us, but I think this is a symptom of the old film techniques as we are spoiled with very realistic special effects of modern cinema.

As the film progressed and the twitter feed became more researched some of my classmates where drawing connections between the themes in the movie and it’s post war release.

I started viewing the film from a completely different perspective picking up on the indirect references war an nuclear disaster such as two women complaining on a train “First contaminated tuna, and now Godzilla”, then becoming less subtle with the main protagonists arguing about combating violence with violence. from the perspective of an audience with nuclear war fresh in their minds these references would have cut close to the bone and probably would have been more obvious, the horror not being a gimmicky monster but more so what that monster represents: a devastating weapon created by the greed of mankind. As the Tanaka said “Mankind had created the Bomb………and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind”.

The filmmakers then go on to leave the audience with a foreshadowing political message: “If we keep conducting nuclear tests, another Godzilla may appear somewhere in the world.”

 

References

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/10788996/Godzilla-why-the-Japanese-original-is-no-joke.html

The biggest fear of all… the fear of being wrong!

What’s that saying…that you can’t see the forest from the trees? and it basically means you don’t realise the problem of the situation you’re in while you’re in it. It’s only when you reflect on it, that you see that you were actually doing the thing that you kept trying not to do. Or something like that.

 

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing. I realised that while I was frantically trying to express my experience of Japanese horror in a culturally relevant and engaging way, I was actually missing a very crucial point. That is, why was I doing it? the answer is Fear. To be exact the fear of being wrong and getting a fail for this subject was my prime motivator.

By being caught up in trying to create an authentic auto-ethnographic analysis I think I forgot the point completely, which I think is for me to know why I was analysing Japanese horror in the first place, and then to anaylse that. So even though my motives are shallow in that I wasn’t genuinely originally fascinated with Japanese culture only slightly intrigue by its horror movie success, I have, however, through blogging grown to have a much greater appreciation for Japanese culture, and my fear of failure is not a completely unrelated aim to analyse either, because the fear that I have of getting a fail does actually relate to horror movies, in that they are both centered around fear.

So do I go down the deep dark rabbit hole that seeks to find out what aspects of fear are most relevant to my immediate society? well, I think that would take a very long time, but I will peek inside it and look around.

 

So now I am looking at fear more closely, I want to know what is it in Japanese horror films that I classify as scary? what is it that other people see in them that they think is scary? Fear can touch just about every aspect of our lives, how then are Japanese directors specifically so good at conveying it? What are they doing that makes me actually fear for my safety after viewing a movie?

There is a lot involved in these questions and there is no way I will really discover what fear is, though I know it is multi layered and slightly different for everyone. However, with the help of my tweets that I record while viewing Japanese horror, I should be able to get more or an idea of what stimulates my fears and perhaps this will explains other peoples and then perhaps allude to the reasons why Japanese horror resonates with so many.

 

I also am vowing to take more care in my next film choice, and hopefully discover one that will frighten me. Then again fear is relative so there is a chance that even if I get several confirmations that the film is scary I could still be left unfazed, it will be interesting anyway seeing what is determined with increased research.

The reason for this is that the last film I blogged and tweeted about I didn’t really have any idea whether it was scary or not (as much as is possible without previously seeing it). I don’t regret watching the last movie I blogged about, the film Kwaidan was beautiful and gave me some important insight into Japanese history. However, I think I should be examining what it is that I actually find culturally engaging in Japanese horror, not just taking direction from an internet top ten list. Even though they are helpful, I think something that I really know is going to be scary would be more appropriate for an auto-enthnographic study, because this is part of the reason why I was intrigued with Japanese culture in the first place, their success in scarying people.

Slightly Immersive Experience in Kwaidan (1964)

That digital output of Japanese movies is to say the least pretty extensive, so in choosing the horror film from Japan that I was going to view I went straight to an internet list. You might say that was callous, and that if I was serious about trying to find a scary Japanese horror film I would do more research than an internet top ten list. And you would be correct.

The first eye opener on this journey is; if you want to watch a scary movie, get a few more confirmations than an internet list before deciding to deem it scary. OK that being said my live tweeting experience of  the film Kwaidan was enjoyable, but not scary. #Ifellasleep

The main reason I opted straight for Kwaidan is that it was made in 1964 and as you probably know the 60s was a pivotal political period, so I was hoping the film might indicate what Japan was facing politically. Looking over my tweets, which you can see here, from my brief overview of them it seems to me that political tensions concerning gender and possibly more can be found in the films content. However I will be looking into this more deeply for my digital artefact to see where exactly the film stood politically and if there was any social and political controversies that could be noted to add more depth to the picture I have.

Tweeting the experience did feel exciting and it gave me more of an appreciation for the film, the process though was stifling, I didn’t feel that I got fully immersed in the what Kwaidan was trying to convey. I had to stop the film sometimes to tweet what I was seeing/feeling and it felt like a detachment from the event each time.

Not as immersed as I would like to be, it seems from the tweets that I liked the film mainly for its aesthetics and knowledge. The dialogue appears to have particularly burdened me. What I did get though, was a new found interest in Japan’s very rich history. And when I say rich I’m talking thousands of years, compared to little baby Australia’s 300 years or so recorded history, Japan’s is epic, and glorious… samurais, battle scenes, samurai clans, baby emperors, it’s thrilling! which would be an indication as to why their films are so good. My digital Artefact will investigate this theory more.

My main problem though throughout the film was pacing, I had real trouble remaining focused. There were so many beautiful images on screen, they just didn’t seem to be leading to anything quick enough for me. For my digital artefact I want to unpack this, the pacing of films has changed quite a bit over time, I would like to research what experts have commented about this and develop more of a clearer understanding of its social, cultural, and political implications.

Reference

Kwaidan 1964 by Masaki Kobayashi