BCM320 Blog Post 2: Positioning Myself in the Flow(s) of Cultures

After two consecutive weeks of exploring South Korea, I reached the third destination in my Digital (East) Asia (BCM320) journey – Japan – by examining Akira (1988), which is widely regarded as one of the greatest anime ever made.

Set in a dystopian 2019, Akira (1988) tells the story of how a secret military project 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 (IMDB)

Akira is a syncretic fusion of Japanese animation and Western cyberpunk genre. Set in a dystopian 2019, Akira tells the story of how a secret military project 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 (IMDB). As I am familiar with both the Japanese culture and science fiction films, my appraisal of Akira initially looked only into the Japanese cyberpunk culture by comparing the tone and stylisation of the anime with other post-apocalyptic sci-fi texts I have watched. Akira has an impressive visualisation can even be compared with live-action films like Blade Runner (1982) (Stone 2019). Eschewing my previous ethnocentrism and self-orientalist attitude, I created threads instead of single tweets to organise my thoughts and gain hindsight of the screening.

Simultaneously, I jumped in others’ threads to discuss the film’s content, considering that my threads alone could turn into a monologue. Inspired by those talks, my curiosity immediately sent me on a quest to dig more into Akira. Thus, I later shifted my focus from cyberpunk studies to the historical materialism element of the anime. The opening scene and release date of Akira seem to associate with the economic miracle Japan experienced in the previous century. The anime can be understood as the East Asian dragon’s a speech to the world at that time, expressing its anxiety, anger and ambivalence with its new status of a powerhouse (Napier 2001, p. 40).

Finding myself frequently embracing a rather (socio-)political perspective in interpreting BCM320 films, I began questioning my approach to Asian media texts. While I need several more screening sessions to re-interrogate my presuppositions, I reckon that my preoccupation of heavy state-influenced media in Asia and my International Studies degree have shaped my thoughts and beliefs.

My grandpa’s rental book shop – a popular place where the 80s-90s kids could find Japanese manga, Chinese novels and Vietnamese stories and poems.

A browse through the historical context of Japan set in the film earned me a ticket to not only the Japanese past but also my childhood. Akira reminded me of how I found my way into the Japanese storytelling world through piles of manga sitting on the floor and shelves of my grandpa’s rental book shop. My love for manga and the Japanese culture grew as I grew up. As memories flooded, I immediately shared some of my epiphanies with my friends, mixing up some rather casual, informal tweets with many well-researched ones.

“epiphanies” – remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a personal life.

Ellis et al. 2010

These tweets make me realise that I have been adopting an analytic-to-evocative autoethnography (or vice versa) for my live-tweeting experience in BCM320 (Wall 2016). According to Ellis et al (2010), autoethnography is “an approach and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)”. While I aim to develop theoretical understandings of broader social phenomenal from the media texts with the analytic (Anderson 2006, p. 375), the evocative draws on my “narrative fidelity” and “compelling description of subjective emotional experiences” through my “field notes” – the tweets – for cultural exploration and explanation (Ellis et al. 2010). Thus, this “moderate autoethnography” (Wall 2016) enables me to create a ladder of inference for transformative learning, helping me position myself in studying different cultures as both a concurrent researcher and participant on Twitter (Pitard 2017). In the future, I plan to produce more off-hand tweets to boost my engagement with my peers for more vignette of analysis.


References

Anderson, L 2006, “Analytic Autoethnography”, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 373-395.

Ellis, C, Adams, TE, Bochner, AP 2010, “Autoethnography: An Overview”, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 1-13.

Pitard, J 2017, “A Journey to the Centre of Self: Positioning the Researcher in Autoethnography”, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 1-15.

Wall, SS 2016, “Toward a Moderate Autoethnography”, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, pp. 1-9.

https://www.cbr.com/akira-blade-runner-running-man-right-about-2019/

http://media.espora.org/mgoblin_media/media_entries/1532/Anime_from_Akira_to_Princess_Mononoke__Experiencing_Contemporary_Japanese_Animation.pdf

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Trang Bùi

BCM-BINTs | Class of 2021 | UOW

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