Archive for the 'anime/manga' Category


Mechademia in Seoul Day 4

For the last day of the conference, the first panel that I attended was Affect Structures/Affective Epistemologies. Heard from Miri Nakamura about Death Note and copycat murders. She raised an interesting point about how Japanese horror exhibits a fascination with screens, and the connections between visuality and violence.

I then snuck out to Andrea Horbinski’s paper on Ooku and counterfactual history. She drew out the similarities between Ooku and Atwood’s Handmaiden’s Tale, and addressed issues of power and balance in the text’s gender relations. She also talked briefly about speculative reality ; what if historical figures were female?

(This paper reminded me of a conversation with a friend on the gender dynamics of Othello. What if Othello were female? What if a gender-reversed version of Othello were staged? How would this affect our readings of characters? What about Richard II?…..)

Bryan Hartzheim’s paper on Toei Animation looked at the developmental process behind Pretty Cure, an interesting look at the intersection between product placement, advertising and anime. For example, some ads that are broadcast during the anime’s run prime viewers to certain products even before they are introduced into the text itself.

But the highlight of the day has got to be an interview with Watanabe Hideo, who was a key animator in numerous texts such as Gundam, NGE, Fist of the North Star, and even certain American cartoon series such as Transformers and GI Joe.









Watanabe Hideo










Storyboards from GI Joe. Not that Channing Tatum nonsense but the 80’s animated series.

He talked about is work with Toei – beginning as a cameraman, then working with animation. Watanabe talked about his experiences with robo-anime in the early days, before moving to Taiwan. He moved back to Japan shortly after. The co-production of animation with Marvel Comics in the 80’s led to a boom, resulting in a need to outsource labour to Korea. Collaborating with Marvel also brought challenges, such as workflow issues and differences in cultural interpretations.









A timesheet denoting the exchanges between US and Japanese animators.

An interesting comment made was the significance of still images in NGE. We might interpret the use of stills in NGE along the lines of an artistic premise, but Watanabe revealed that this arose more out of a need to save money! Intricate characters and character movement necessitated more cells to animate, resulting in higher costs.

Watanabe also addressed the depiction of movement in his approach to animation; he uses timesheets, zooms, tracking camera movements, and storyboards. These techniques suggest a greater affinity with the medium of film than is outwardly discernible.

All in all, it was a great conference. It was possibly the best conference that I have ever been to. Other than travel costs, the conference was free, and I have learnt so much from it, particularly since I do not have a background in Japanese cultural studies. Bottom line is, pick your conferences carefully! The organisers as well as the conference administrators at the Korean Film Archive and Dongguk University deserve to be commended for their efforts in overcoming the logistical nightmare of organising a conference in a country that does not have English as a first language.

All I can say is…..


Mechademia in Seoul Day 3

I began the day shifting between panels. The first panel I attended was Revolution, Before and After.

The first speaker in this panel, Kinnia Yau, addressed the social and political implications of Japanese Science fictions in the 21st century. Kinnia talked about the distrust of authorities by Generation Y, and masculinity in modern Japan. An interesting comparison she brought up was placing the protagonists of Death Note alongside traditional, masculinised hero-figures.

An interesting observation. At the moment I am thinking of Shinji from NGE, who has always struck me as a wuss (for lack of a better term). 

The next speaker in the panel, Sayumi Takahashi Harb’s paper touched on circular narratives in texts, and themes of hyper-realism and hyper-reality.

I then skipped over to the other panel: Fandom Between Strategy and Desire.

Got in in time for Sandra Annett’s paper on vocaloids and the negotiation of desire through the vocaloid phenomenon. She drew out a reading of vocaloids as bodies without organs, with reference to Deleuze and Guattari.

After this I got to hear from cultural critic Otsuka Eiji, who delivered a keynote address on grand narratives, postmodernity, and the creation of “Japan” within the framework of digital technologies and the internet.

The next panel I attended was Rediscovering Manga’s Critical Potential after 3-11. Jacqueline Berndt gave an opening address on the political effects of “using” manga in Japan. She suggested a means of locating the political potential of manga through going beyond the framework of genres.

The first speaker for the panel. Takeuchi Miho, looked at manga’s potential for addressing social issues, through the lens of sennen manga.

Olga Antononoka then suggested that the sociocritical potential of graphic narratives can be read in twofold ways; for example, she proposed that shojo manga conventions provide a possibility for the subversive reading of the motif of hope.

From sennen and shojo, Ronald Stewart analysed a different form of graphic representation; post 3-11 political cartoons. He looked at the impact and political implications of newspaper cartoons, specifically post-Fukushima cartooning.

For the day’s final session, we were treated to an interview with director Ahn Jae Hoon. He directed the anime film Green Days (2010).










Ahn Jae Hoon answering questions.

The film reminded me of a Ghibli production I caught recently, From Up On Poppy Hill (2011). Both films have a dated feel; with Green Days this was deliberate; in Ahn Jae Hoon’s words, historical basis was a means for him to allow the audience to identify with its historical setting. His talk focused a lot on personal experience and the creative side of things. Ahn’s experiences as a person growing up shaped much of the film, and he utilised bits from his own personal diary as inspiration for bits of the film. In Ahn’s words:
Men who keep diaries can be more sensitive than women

Which is interesting considering that blogs are pretty much like diaries. But what I really liked was a sequence at the end of Green Days that has a fantasy sequence with what looks like a psychedelic dinosaur:










More on the final day of the conference tomorrow!


Mechademia In Seoul Day 1

I kick started the Mechademia conference with a tour of the Korean Film Archive. We got to see the first Korean black and white film. Its industrial focus reminded me of the Lumiere Bros’ “Factory” clip. We were then treated to a screening of the first feature-length Korean animation Hong Gil Dong (1967). Unfortunately there were no English subtitles, but it was an interesting film nonetheless. With a Shonen protagonist and his axe wielding sidekick, the film reminded me a lot of Disney’s style of early animation – particularly the film’s depiction of movement in certain scenes. I was also struck by its relative complexity.










Conference Venue at the Korean Film Archive

The first panel I attended was titled Archaeologies of the Future in Japanese Popular Culture. Takeshi Kadobayashi talked about posthuman ontology in Ghost In The Shell. He outlined the several levels of the definition of “Ghost” in GITS; ghost as a designation for the soul, ghost as a technical term, and reading the Tachikomas as ghosts. An interesting point raised at the end of his talk was a possible consideration of a prosthetic utopia as a heterotopia, via Foucault.

Yosaku Matsutani addresses the impact of post-war Japan on world-visions, through a reading of Japan’s 1970 Expo, and everyone’s favourite robot cat, Doraemon. He outlined the concept of “Metabolisme” as a form of integrating biology in architecture. Kind of reminds me if this concept could be applied to Gothic criticism of spaces. The first thing that leaps into my mind is the Cathedral of Flesh in White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade. He also raised a point about “nomadic utopia” and referenced Guattari and Rene Scherer – something worth a look at.

Nobuhiro Masuda’s presentation looked at the animetic representation of the prosthetic body, with a reading of Tetsuo from Akira, and Patalabor. The concept of “plasmaticness” was raised – a term used to describe depictions of “elasticity” in animation. His quote by Eisenstein in “On Disney” got my attention – something that needs to be looked at as Eisenstein talks about the concept of “protoplasm”.

Finally, the most interesting paper in this panel, Akihisa Iwaki talked about Necomimi and Neuroculture. In simple terms, Necomimi is a device that you strap to your head. It is primed to read certain brainwave patterns, much like an EEG. Based on this readings, it then alters the appearance of the device. So for example, the device might be shaped like a cat’s ears (hence the word “neko”). If it reads a set of brainwave patterns that suggest a person is sad, the ears will fold downward. If it reads a set of positive, happy emotions, the ears might flutter repeatedly. In a simple sense, it reads emotions and translates them into physical reactions that are visible. The implications of utilising the technology this device is predicated on are manifold. Emotions, once thought to be “private”, (of course, Paul Ekman would argue otherwise…) is now a dimension that is visible and tangible. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Who can say? All I had in my head was Bentham’s Panopticon…….

The next panel I attended had Karl Chua (with an impressive Prezi presentation that makes mine look archaic) addressing the topic of speculative post-war manga. He talked about notions of censorship and the speculative Other in post WWII Japanese animation. Gan Sheuo Hui then brought up Tetsuwan Atomu as an icon; as an icon enmeshed in particular discourses. She addressed the contemporary use of Atomu as distancing between initial leanings of the character.

The last speaker of the day, Kam Thiam Huat, talked about the relationship between active consumption of manga/anime and contemporary capitalism. His paper looked at fan cultures in SEA, in countries such as Singapore and Hanoi. I raised a point in discussion about my observations with scanlations and the latching of memes onto them as a means of “transformative” active consumption.

I had some interesting observations about certain papers, particularly with the academics from Japan and Singapore. All in all, it was an excellent round(s) of papers. I am surprised at how much I do not know, and it is turning out to be a very stimulating session, despite the fact that I know just about next to nothing about Japanese cultural studies. More tomorrow!

The academic stuff stops here.

Bumped into Frenchy Lunning the night before in the lobby of the hotel and I was introduced to a small group of academics from the States/Canada. Frenchy edits Mechademia, and is one of the people responsible for making it the resounding success it is today.  Frenchy is also an absolute riot.

We met up with a friend of hers and hit up some Korean BBQ:










This stuff is GOOD. BBQ’s always great when you have lots of people. Oh and apparently Koreans are really picky about carbon residue from burnt food, so they change the metal BBQ plates on a regular basis.

More later!

'horror': Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’.

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