Welcome to the other side

In reexamining my previous post on the interpretation of mythology through Asian films, I decided to look at how my prior experience shaped my understanding of the films I initially investigated. Being a fan of mythology, I feel as though my closest reference point is my own experience with western based mythology film and prior learning. Rather than only relying on my prior experience and personal interpretations, I also conducted further research in order to understand the meaning of certain terms, references and the significance of unexplained cultural facets.

Films examined

20713

Mononoke

Overview: Mononoke is produced by Toei Animation. It is a spin-off of Ayakashi Bakeneko story arc set in feudal Japan. Mononoke follows a wandering, nameless character known to us only as the “Medicine Seller”. The series is made up of individual chapters, where the medicine seller encounters, combats and subsequently extinguishes Mononoke.

Unlike most other films I have watched with supernatural themes, little is explained in Mononoke. the term Mononoke was found to be loosely translated as a ‘spirit’, and Zashika-warashi a sub category of spirits referring to house spirits, who were ‘guardians of the home’, depicted as a child deity with red hair and a topknot (I found the idea of subcategory spirits quite interesting).

In my first post I had interpreted the child spirit as ‘evil’ (mostly because it was creepy as hell, lets be honest, also past experiences -such as every supernatural episode ever, dictated that child spirits where never a good sign), although discovered that they are said to bring fortune to the family living in the house they dwell in. This in my opinion was questionable, as they may have been shown protecting the mother but only after haunting her first, also the fact they were created through ‘wicked’ means leads me to believe that they would be vengeful (still don’t really understand on the entire ‘spirit categories’ – all with good time though haha). Like most films focused on mythology or paranormal themes Mononoke was very much inconclusive. The ending itself left a lot of questions unanswered and was morally ambiguous – and as far as mythology goes I feel this suits it best.

The ‘medicine seller’ was another representation screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-1-33-35-pmof ambiguity. We know nothing of his name or origins other than he sells medicine and is a exorcist? The style of exorcism, the sammitsu (3 secrets) was a form of Mikkyo Buddhism and was shown in a rather grandiose presentation. Although the idea of flying parchment repelling evil while you perform some form of yoga is an interesting thought, I believe it is closer to the truth to assume you simply place it on the wall and hope for the best after making a few chants.

55913l

Hoozuki no Reitetsu

Overview: Hoozuki no Reitetsu (“Cool-headed Hoozuki”), produced by Wit Studios, is full of references to Japanese folklore and mythology. It is a dry satirical comedy set it the Japanese Hell. Hell is a bureaucracy, and is run very much as a business would. Hoozuki, the main character is chief deputy to Lord Enma, the King of Hell.

 

Initially I knew little about any religion that the Japanese followed, and assumed that those who for some reason where unworthy of being reborn as a human would just come back as a worm or something? Clearly I was wrong.

What I had gathered from watching this anime was that there were multiple afterlives one could end up in, Japanese Hell or ‘Jigoku’ being one of them. Within Jigoku there are again multiple versions of Hell (including animal hell where those who harmed animals would be tortured by animals – Chinese Buddhism calls this the chamber of ox). The anime was surprisingly accurate in their portrayal of torture and crueltyhellclub1389523220402 used in these hells although tended to mix it up a bit with their goldfish plant competitions and the invasion of the western devil ‘satan’. Speaking of which I was happy to find how accurate some of the mythological characters were portrayed in this anime, especially Lord Enma.

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 11.11.02 PM.png

hozuki-no-reitetsu-episode-2-05-600x337

western devil ‘satan’ beginning his plan to take over Japanese Hell

Each of the films I examined used various elements and techniques to illustrate mythology in film, in order to demonstration themes, underlining message, historical and the cultural importance. Both Mononoke and Hoozuki no Reitetsu’s art style draws from traditional Japanese art. At first I though that the art was just that, an appealing representation of Japanese art used to set the scene and timeline, although after further examination of my experience, was interested to find the art represented far more than that.

The art in Mononoke is symbolic and often foreshadows forthcoming events and uses fast passed scene cuts, abnormal (verging disturbing) character representations and seemingly unrelated entities to express and evoke the stress and turmoil and confusion the audience should experience in watching the film.

As a whole I was pleased with the films that I had chosen to begin with as they bring something unique in regards to their central themes and their cultural significance. The more I explore my experiences and how I understand particular elements, my understanding not only of their representation but also of autoethnographic research continues to grow.

 

Advertisements

A Trip Down Mythology Lane

Coming up with an idea for my individual autoethnographic study was a long and frustrating process. There were more ideas than I could make sense of and I may have strayed off the autoethnographic path more than once. So I decided to start from scratch.

Ellis (2011), describes Autoethnography as an approach to research that seeks to describe and systematically analyse one’s personal experience in order to understand a new cultural experience – therefore I needed to find common ground.

I decided to first look into my own culture. As a first generation Australian born Greek I have grown up in a hybrid of modern and traditional teachings, and have always had a strong fascination in regards to ancient history and more specifically mythology due to the strong role it plays in ancient Greek societies. As deities such as the well known Olympic gods are not exactly taught in any Greek household (as their worship is no longer practiced or reasonable not to mention are morally and humanely unacceptable – animal rights activists make it very hard to perform animal sacrifices these days) my first exposure to them was through films such as a childhood favourite of mine, Disney’s Hercules.

Jaay6.gif

After further education on ancient Greek mythologies during high school I realised that the way mythological figures and stories are portrayed in films, although informative and a great starting point, were very much romanticised. While films provide a demonstration of the deities powers, purpose and brief history it is far from what was perceived to be truth. This got me wondering how Asian mythology was portrayed and communicated through Asian film. Was it as romanticised as western mythology is? Were they portrayed through physical form? Were rituals and offerings explored?

Mythology (from the Greek word ‘mythos’ for story of the people, and ‘logos’ meaning word or speech – the spoken story of people) is the study and interpretation of sacred tales or legends of a culture known as ‘myths’ or the collection of stories, commonly dealing with the human condition, good and evil, origins, life and death, the afterlife, and the gods. Myths express the beliefs and values about these subjects held by a certain culture.
Through my past experience with Japanese films (mostly anime to be honest) I have a vague idea of some of the characters I will encounter although I am curious to further discover what they may represent in terms of their cultural significance.

I decided that to start off I would hunt down some Japanese films with Mythological and spiritual themes. These films included:

  • Mononoke
  • Fruits baskets
  • Spirited away
  • Hoozuki no reitetsu

The Encounter

Mononoke  – episode 1 & 2

Screen Shot 2016-09-20 at 2.20.45 PM.png

notes for Mononoke were taken using mind maps

  • Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 8.21.45 PM.pngThe style used in the animation is very traditional like, reminds me of origami paper
  • Styling also reminds me of feudal japan what with all the samurai, kimono, and traditional architecture
  • Genres of the anime states it’s a historical supernatural anime…by episode 2 it feels like a damn horror movie
  • 2 episodes and I still don’t know the not-merchants name
  • Ok what exactly is Mononoko is it a category of spirits? Do they have categories? Is it how there’s different kinds of ghosts like poltergeists?
  • I’ve seen them used in other shows but I’ve never really understood talismans what purpose do they serve?
  • The political plotline is an interesting twist (not as much as the cause of the spirits of course)
  • I can’t help but wonder if the whole kings sending assassins after concubines (coz pregnant) is true, wouldn’t be surprised but still.
  • Always a weapon of questionable origins…
  • Why is it that children’s laughter is always creepy?

Hoozuki no Reitetsu episode 1 & 2

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-8-39-46-pm

  • screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-2-46-14-pmuses traditional art elements
  • main characters sing the intro…I LOVE IT!
  • Really upbeat and happy even tho the intro clip keeps flipping between meetings, goldfish and torture
  • despite it being hell its rather colourful and energetic – kind of reminds me of a resort…a bipolar resort might me more accurate.
  • so hell runs as a government? And Hozuki (although others state he is the highest ranking demon-youkai) he considers himself the state secretary? Sure why not
  • Shangri-la, am I right to assume this is heaven? Asian version of heaven?
  • Asian version of heaven means Asian version of hell yes? Are they different from the biblical hell?
  • I find it hilarious to think that hell runs on a budget
  • Light hearted in comparison to the other text I watched
  • Flower goldfish? Please tell me this is an actual part of mythology
  • Different version/ levels of hell with the underworld?
  • Satan paying a visit to Japanese hell as a way for the European hell to invade and takeover – very subtle
  • Japanese hell is so efficient in the way they run their business its terrifying and heartless in comparison to western hell apparently

I will be viewing my chosen films through free online streaming site for my autoethnographic research, along with other means of online research, including research papers and vlogs to further understand the mythology and folklore. I believe that due to the nature of my project, text will be n important element more so than images, as such I will be presenting my projects as a visual report.  The use of epiphanies through the duration of this project will assist in developing the foundation of my research and contribute to my understanding of the significance of mythology in Japanese film.

 

Gojira Returns – The Sequel

 

I have always been both a visual and kinaesthetic learner, meaning I learn by either viewing the relationship between information through visuals, or through experience and learnt behaviour. While first learning and reading about autoethnography was able to build a starting point for my understanding of the concept, the weeks following its introduction and my reflection of past experience with similar texts is what really grounded my understanding of the term. Just as Ellis et al. (2011) proposed that autoethnography was qualitative research gathered through personal experiences, and so was my understanding of the concept itself.

During my first post I aimed to distance myself from prior experience with the Asian culture that may hinder my ability to create a fresh analysis of the content, although through (somewhat failing in…) doing so, I was able to uncover more than I thought. After my initial introduction to autoethnography in week 1, I began to realise how integrated it was in my day to day experiences with culture and how it has always played a part in my consumption of digital media especially in regard to Asian culture. Not only was I surprised at how often autoethnography played a role in my understanding of Asian culture through their media, but also how often I could draw similarities between other film and Anime I had experienced, to Ishiro Honda‘s Gojira.

In The Rhetorical Significance of Gojira, Stevens explored the significance of Gojira not only in the film industry but also as a piece of cultural and historical importance. Stevens argued that its too easy for an observer of the film to casually view it as another monster movie, something I myself was guilty of. Even after my first experience with Gojira I did not completely take it the messages being thrown at me, but looking back, every part of the film was laced with subtle hints and reminders of the horror that was Hiroshima. From the destructive power of Gojira himself as he stormed through the city leaving destruction in his wake, to the traces of radiation found in the water, a clear representation of the contaminated barren earth of the now dead city.

Destruction. Fear. Experimentation. All these aspects were explored throughout the film, and as I continued to view films both in class and outside I began to construct a perceived pattern and understanding in regards to the messages I was receiving.

I realised that Anime of the horror, sci-fi and dystopian genre greatly explored these concepts and often build their plotline around them, this itself greatly interested me as I always thought that anime seemed to follow some kind of formula, no I feel as I have just begun to truly scrape past the surface and understand what I was experiencing.

Like in Gojira, the role scientists play in destruction, and the guilt the people feel for bringing wrath upon themselves is explored, along with the fear of that which they do not understand leading them to often more harmful ends then good.

 

183562

Akira. Drunk on power, fallen victim to psychotic breaks as a result of experimentation and driven to hurt his own kind by his need for vengeance.

get

Attack on titian. An apocalyptic world, where all nations have come together, all driven behind the walls, their last safe haven. The military bound to protect and defend, only to find those whom they have hated, killed, believed to be monsters where once humans, like they themselves are. For we are and always have been our own worst enemy.

 

 

 

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. A dystopian era, humanity almost driven to extinction due to the horrifying creatures known as Kabane. Mumei and Ikoma two Kabaneri, half human half Kabene and the only beings strong enough to withstand the creatures, hunted, hated and feared by the people they strive to protect.

Widespread destruction. Contaminated grounds. The misadventures of science. All these films represented history in more ways than I had originally thought. The ‘monsters’ whether they be Gojila, Titians, or Kabane all seemed to represent the faults of humanity while the protagonist represented our hope, perseverance and ability to wright past wrongs and learn from our mistakes.

After my first viewing I had many questions in regards to the meaning behind Gojira. Was it a message about the horrors of war? Environmental destruction? Suffering and loss? Or science gone mad? But after reviewing my experience I feel this is one of those rare times where all of the above is the correct answer. I have been able to understand not only the messages relayed through their films following the tragic event but also the continuous reminders trickled down through the years.

d2a276c1d342d32dbcd00183b0b2be41

source 

Bonus round!

  • Dubs over subs. I feel the dubbed films have always hindered my understanding of the culture, and although they are interpreted for a western audience I could not let go the references that had been replaced (i.e. in the beginning of akira they referred to Jesus, when the Japanese culture has their own deeply rooted system of deities they worship).
  • Always believe there is a hidden message, and if you cant see it its probably staring you in the face

 

 

 

Gojira in all his glory

Autoethnography is a relatively new concept to me and admittedly upon hearing it I was at a complete loss. Ellis et al. (2011) defines autoethnography as the approach to researching and writing, that systematically both describe and analyses a personal experience in order to understand one’s cultural experience. Simply put it is the personal observation, of a personal experience and interaction with a culture in order to form a greater understanding of that experience.

Having watched the later Godzilla films many times (especially the second one, a childhood favourite of mine, for reasons that now escape my memory), I was somewhat familiar with the overall storyline. Although this was my first time watching the original Gojila, filmed in 1954 I definitely wasn’t my first time experiencing Japanese media. I’ve dabbled in a lot of different forms of Japanese culture from Anime and manga to TV dramas, and feel this prior experience however small helped me understand some of the references or Japanese practices and traditions. These are some of my observations during my viewing of Gojila:

  • Gojila (or Godzilla) the monster, was not very scary (no offence 1945) – obviously we have come a long way with special effects and costuming although I still wonder were people back then actually afraid when watching this movie?
  • Obvious miniature sets were very obvious, as well as impressive and incredibly detailed.
  • Consistent reminders and references to Hiroshima and American brutality throughout the movie. From what I remember from the newer versions of Godzilla, this is something that is also consistent in the newer movies as well – 2014 Godzilla was not as subtle with the heavy references on personal loss and the consistent refusal from the military to learn from previous mistakes.
  • Unnecessary love triangle or dramatics that does nothing to add to the story or plot aside from try to have the audience feel something for the emotional state of the characters (all in all movie would have been essentially the same without the love triangle) – can’t have an action movie without a bad romance plot.
  • Emiko needs to calm down. Let me clarify, I thought that maybe everyone would be a bit more over dramatic when I saw Emiko in the beginning of the film but soon came to realise that all women in this film were dramatic (and yes some of the male characters are to, but its sparse). Maybe it suited the era but watching it now I couldn’t take the movie or the scenes serious when Emiko was screaming in horror at dead fish, running into walls and crying as she looked into the distance. Calm yo self. I would be interested to see if over dramatizing movie or TV shows is a norm amongst Japanese media.
  • Is that a landmark I see? Well can’t have that now can we? Hollywood’s love of destroying well known structures and well known land marks know no bounds, culture, time or country all landmarks must go!
  • A lot of Japanese traditions and customs were present throughout the movie. I found it an interesting insight into the Japanese home life and family hierarchy.
  • Had distinct gender roles, only real occupations for women were nurse or teachers (that I saw anyway) – not too sure what Emiko was. Was she an assistant to her father? Or did she just follow him around?
  • Notices that some of the basic translations weren’t exactly correct but interoperated for that eras use of slang in countries such as America.

All in all I found the movie quite interesting especially in its original setting, and definitely enjoyed some of the little quirks it offered (like the mini sets).

Manufacturing A Better Self

 

Social media in a way has created a fragmented media landscape and a shift in our understanding  and perception of online personas. In an internet and attention dependent society, it is not uncommon for many to tailor our content and ourselves so that we fit the standards of society and those we ourselves approve of and aspire to be.  with ever post, tweet and picture we are designing and creating a life that may not entirely be our own.

My video discussed the reality of manufacturing online personas and why we do it.

Citizen Journalism

140cx9

This week in the lecture we focused on Citizen Journalism and how almost anyone is able to report news through various media platforms. Citizen journalism is continuing to change the way the media, journalism and the world works. It is allowing for everyday citizen voice and opinion to be heard.

As advances have been made in telecommunication in regards to smart phones, it has enabled the general public to report news at a rapid pace, even more so than most professional journalists and news teams.  This itself poses the question of what the future of news and journalism will look like.
Being a citizen journalist does not mean simply witnessing an event and mentioning it in passing to a friend. One must actively publish the information online, on a platform where the masses can reach and engage with it.

This form of journalism provides with an outsider’s view to a story that may otherwise be taken out of context depending on the agendas of mass corporation. When reading professionally published articles we are often wary of where they have gathered the information from. We demand sources, pictures and research.

Although at the same time citizen journalism is not without bias, and we must be wary that though posts reporting accidents or emergencies (fires and storm conditions) are for the most part reliable, readers should be warier of reports on events that require more knowledge, professionalism and credibility (i.e. political events) than the ‘reporter’ has.

Just Another Remix

download

Today we are in an age of constant remix. It is “defined as the act of rearranging, combining, editorialising, and adding originals to create something entirely new.”

Examples of this are everywhere in our day-to-day lives. They are our favourite DJ’s, our favourite childhood disney movies (adapted from the Brothers Grim Fairytales to appeal to children) and even our own thoughts and ideas are a remix of someone else’s. And while many argue that a remix of any kind is not original by any means, we must remember that creativity is developed through the inspiration often provided by others.

The question of authenticity in creating content in an ongoing argument when involving remixes. The video below is an example of remix culture.

 

Unlike what we would normally think of as a remix (music i.e. club music), the creators have taken the popular tv series ‘Game of Thrones’ and Gotye’s  song ‘Somebody that I use to know’ and have created a mash-up.

This mash-up to me, is a stroke of genius. The creators were able to create new content that either changed or allowed us to connect with the original content, finding humour in an otherwise serious show.

download

This meme I have created is another example of remix culture. By taking an image out of its original context and keeping familiar dialogue, I have been able to create a new message based of the inspiration given by the original source.

Remix culture is an important aspect of our lives whether we realise it or not. It assists us in developing ideas, gaining inspiration and collaborating. In reality as the  captain says ‘no escaping’ it and embracing the cultural shift will only present us with more diverse possibilities for future creative exploration,