This week in BCM320 we were right on to the next viewing for Digital Asia; ’88 famed anime, Akira. First, bring yourself up to speed on the film that arguably brought Japanese culture to the West; a story that follows the destruction of Neo-Tokyo at the hands of a warfare between teenage motorbike rebels and a group of kids with telekinetic powers. Set in 2019, the parallels between what was predicted from a post-cold-war produced film and how the world looks now peaked my interest. They got some things right when it came to their eerie foresight of hosting the Olympics and the sheer scale of the cityscape that Tokyo boasts nowadays, however, might have been a little off when it came to hovering police cars…
It was a little hard for me to be able to watch the film in entirety, as we were tasked to respond to the film in live time and I found it sometimes meant I missed important parts of the film. To aid this, we watched the watched the English dub version of the two-hour film – controversially as I later found out. Oddly enough, I found I stumbled into the controversy before I was fully aware of its existence. Given that I was meant to be responding to Japanese media and digital culture, I expressed that I almost felt I was cheating by watching the English dub, and that I felt I was already projecting too much of my own culture that tainted how it was originally intended to be consumed;
Does anyone feel guilty watching the english dub version of Akira? I just feel like if I’m to conduct proper research into how I respond to a culture other than my own, it warrants more respect only achieved by watching the film as originally intended? #BCM320
— Claudia Louise Muller (@claudialmuller) August 9, 2018
I was reassured that the task was to interpret the film using the tools from my own cultural framework, and so this blog post was born. I came into this scenario not knowing much about anime or Japanese films at all, apart from my **very extensive** list of animes I had already seen:
I remember seeing Howls Moving Castle for the first time after a friend convinced my begrudging ass to watch it with her, and I remember immediately falling in love with the artistically aesthetic aspects of Every. Damn. Frame. There is something so visually stunning that doesn’t compare to any Hollywood film I have seen, animation or not. I am someone who will watch a film for the second time just to take in the details and the costumes come again, so I understand how I was bewildered with the thought that goes into the likes of Akira and Howl’s Moving Castle. They are visual masterpieces of their time and made me love them all the much more for their uniqueness. These are the kinds of films that make me wish I watched more anime and had a greater depth of desire to actively watch several more.
Of course, as far as these films stray in artistic variation from Hollywood films, I found myself recognising the likes of similar scenes from Western action films. From a personal standpoint, although the narrative was complex and unlike any another story I had heard, I found myself using films like Fast and the Furious, Transformers, and Avengers to make sense of the film. The latter more so in relation to the likeness to Neo-Tokyo streets a swarm of explosions, shattered glass, and upturned vehicles to depict the mass destruction of the cityscape.
I wasn’t alone in this. Watching on as friends live-tweeted their experience of the film, I found the best way to fully understand and interpret it was through our own cultural cues and popular references. Modern-day memes and even references to an earlier viewing of Gojira made jest of the cultural gaps that may have segregated many when watching this film.
— Blake | Mr4Eva (@Mister4Eva) August 9, 2018
The film also had a familiarity that I couldn’t pick until I discovered I had seen it before; not just within Vin Diesel blockbusters, but in fashion, art and music. Re: Kanye Wests’ Stronger and Michael Jackson’s entire wardrobe. I also couldn’t help but wonder how much the product placements would have impacted the production of the brand-heavy film, although that is just the marketer in me analysing. Had I seen this film in a less-analytical context, would I have appreciated its depth and significance? Perhaps not.
Final thoughts on Akira leave me feeling protective, although adopted in fine channels throughout Western culture, I enjoyed the film so much I see myself raising an index finger to Hollywood: DON’T TOUCH THIS ONE HERE, IT’S PERFECT AS IT IS
- Barder, O. (2018). The Groundbreaking ‘Akira’ Anime Movie Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2018/07/17/the-groundbreaking-akira-anime-movie-celebrates-its-30th-anniversary/#369bf15e487f [Accessed 11 Aug. 2018].
- Miyazaki, H. (2018). Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). [online] IMDb. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0347149/ [Accessed 11 Aug. 2018].
- Ôtomo, K. (2018). Akira (1988). [online] IMDb. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094625/ [Accessed 11 Aug. 2018].
- Usher, T. (2016). How ‘Akira’ Has Influenced All Your Favourite TV, Film and Music. [online] Vice. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/kwk55w/how-akira-has-influenced-modern-culture [Accessed 11 Aug. 2018].