Miss Hokusai – Tales of the Anomalous and Strange in the late Edo Period


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Sarusuberi – Miss Hokusai is a fascinating film, and manga series, that is deeply rooted in the beliefs, rituals, and practices of Edo Japan. Hinako Sugiura, the original manga’s author was a researched in the lifestyles and customs of the Edo Period, and throughout the film we see her research feature in the nuances of painting, and life in Edo. Read more of this post

An Exploration of Tradition as Found in Kyoto and its Place Within Anime


 

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In my previous posts about my trip to Japan I highlighted a number of occasions where particular aspects of that trip, specifically in Kyoto illuminated attitudes towards tradition and it’s important to Japanese society. I had intended to explore it further, but given the length of the posts to begin with, it was better to simply write an entire post that explored these themes, which is precisely what this post will be about. Read more of this post

Japan Trip – Week Seven – Kyoto


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The first week after the camp was something a little different, and also very tiring, and although I enjoyed visiting some interesting places, such as Goryokaku, Zentsuji, Miyajima, Hiroshima, and Matsuyama-jo, the reality was that I found the constant hopping from place to place quite exhausting. If anything, I never truly felt that I had given myself enough time to explore the cities I visited, and had barely even scratched the surface, instead focussing on individual buildings, of sights to visit, rather than the cities themselves. Read more of this post

The complex nature of anime


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There are many anime series every season that are labelled as ‘bad’, or ‘rubbish’, with numerous bloggers, or people on twitter talking about how stupid they are, and how boring characters or stories may be. I do think that many anime are often mislabelled, with people taking their lack of cultural understanding to mean that a series is badly written or directed. Perhaps people forget that anime is Japanese and therefore incorporates aspects of the countries history, culture, and social norms. This may seem a little odd since it is fairly obvious that anime is Japanese, but perhaps western audiences have become so used to watching anime, that the notion of a culturally and socially embedded medium is either ignored, or never springs to mind. Read more of this post

Samurai Society: an exploration of Japaneseness in post-war Jidaigeki


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Post-war samurai films, or ‘Jidaigeki’ (period drama) represented a renewed interest in the cultural foundations of Japanese society, and are part of a broader search for national and cultural identity that embodied notions of Japan’s unique place in history a newly globalised world. The samurai in such films, while fictional figures, are nonetheless grounded in a version of Japan’s historical past that has been embellished by oral traditions and isolated from the problems and insecurities of an unfamiliar period, thereby elevating them to the level of myth (Silver, 1977). Jidaigeki, like The Samurai Trilogy, present us mythical, often tragic heroes who both push against authority, while also conforming to widely held cultural and social norms. The reality of historical figures, such as Miyamoto Musashi, is replaced by the legend of someone who is seen to embody essential elements of ‘Japaneseness’, and who helps to demonstrate the true power and prestige of the Japanese people. Read more of this post

The portrayal of marginal groups and foreigners in anime


 

Marginal groups are quite problematic for Japan, and while they are used in anime and manga, we don’t see them used particularly often. What is so fascinating about the use of marginal or minority groups in anime is that their portrayal and the subsequent reactions of many other characters in the series bears a striking resemblance to the attitudes towards such groups in real life. Marginal groups such as the Zainichi Koreans and Ainu are central to the creation and maintenance of a Japanese national discourse about a shared identity and culture. As Wirth (1945) suggests, marginal groups, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the rest of society for differential and unequal treatment, and therefore begin to view themselves as objects of collective discrimination (Wirth, 1945:347). Read more of this post

Horror in Anime – Fairytales, Urban Myths and Strong Women


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With the recent airing of the horror anime Another I started thinking about the role of horror in anime, and more specifically the lack of it. Within the last decade I can possibly a very small number of series that have strong horror themes. And, while we have had recent series such as Shiki, Blood-C and in some ways Mirai Nikki, most people, when asked about a horror anime often suggest Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, a show that has had 2 full length series (two seasons each), not to mention 9 OVA episodes and no less than 25 specials accompanying various DVD and other box sets. While there are a small number of proper horror anime, there are also a significant number that use elements of the horror genre in their story telling, often taking the more psychological aspects of horror. Mirai Nikki is a good example of this, with supernatural parts, but also important aspects of the horror genre in Japan, namely a strong, but also dangerous female lead. It is also important to note that horror is not always scary, many horror stories originate from older folk tales and myths, and while they may involve spirits, were not necessarily meant to be entirely scary. Read more of this post