Akira (1988): A Reflection

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. 

Ellis et al. (2011)

This week, I watched an anime film for the first time. With my only previous experience of Anime being watching Yugioh at a young age, I didn’t approach this screening with much understanding of the Japanese culture or anime genre.

So, live-tweeting greatly enriched my viewing experience. In real-time I was able to learn fun-facts about the movie’s production, its cultural context, and how it has influenced both the Anime genre and Western popular culture. I was able to have discussions about the themes and make memes about what was happening [below].

Autoethnography is both a process and a product (Ellis et al. 2011). It is a study of a:

“…culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders and outsiders better understand the culture”.

Foremost, through participant observation of a shared experience (live tweeting), I gained a better understanding of Japanese culture as an outsider. By taking field notes (tweets) I was able to consider my own cultural framework in reference to others’ and the Japanese culture presented in Akira. I found it fascinating that a 30 year-old film still resonated with current political issues (capitalism, political unrest).

Ellis et al. (2011) also speaks about the significance of epiphanies – “moments perceived to have significant impact” – in autoethnographic studies. For me, a small cluster of epiphanies unfolded throughout the duration of the screening, as it became clearer just how embedded in my culture Akira is.

The most interesting exchange however, was an off-topic thread of conversation [below].

Throughout this exchange, we took a piece of Akira and considered it within the confines of our own cultural framework(s).

Ellis et al. (2011) also considers reflexive observation an integral part of autoethonography, where the “ways a researcher changes as a result of doing fieldwork” are documented. Such documentations would include this blog post, where I am reflecting on the epiphanies that occurred to me as I watched and live-tweeted.

Therefore, through autoethnography we can tell and analyse experiences (Ellis et al. 2011), such as my experience of live-tweeting Akira, and how this impacted my cultural understanding of Japan and the western world. And, upon reflecting on the practices of auto-ethnography, the experience of live-tweeting the screening and my own cultural framework, I was able to identify a tendency within myself and my peers to translate unfamiliar cultural references into our own cultural language in order to understand them.

References

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

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5 thoughts on “Akira (1988): A Reflection

  1. Hey Jasmyn, your ethnographical approach to Akira raises some interesting points. Great way to start off with the definition of auto-ethnography from the Ellis reading – it lets your audience understand that you will be writing from an ethnographic perspective. The structure of your blog makes it an easy read – from how the film Akira related to you rather than just giving a run down of the film.
    You put yourself into the reading talking about participant observation through live tweeting, recognising that epiphanies were unfolding while you were watching the film. As auto-ethnography is is a form of qualitative research in which a person uses self-reflection and writing to explore personal experience and connect this autobiographical story to wider cultural understanding; you have done a good job in your last paragraph explaining how live tweeting and self reflection impacted your cultural understanding of the western world and Japan.
    Here is an article I found on why ethnography is important and understanding cultural differences – (just like how Akira helped shape your cultural perspective)
    https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/Why-Ethnography-is-Important

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jasmyn,

    It’s great to see how you have taken an autoethnographic approach to your live tweeting of Akira. You have interesting tweets that help you engage with others, helping you to become a real-time participant but also a later researcher since those tweets are also field notes. By taking both roles, I feel that you have broadened your cultural knowledge about Akira in particular and the Japanese culture in general.

    I really like how you explain and cite scholarly works in your reflection as I could understand better about your interpretation of the film and the methodology you used in the screening. I think using autoethnography for live tweeting activity is a very useful way to record our “lived” epiphanies. Here is an article I found explaining why and how autoethnography is the best methodology to capture the freshness of our experience. Just check it out if you have time.

    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1937586718801425

    Best regards,
    Trang.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Jasmyn,

    It was great to see you talk so passionately about Akira in this post. It resonates with me as I also highly enjoyed the film and analysing its various tropes in relation to Japanese culture. Your interest in the text and this flowing into the conversations you engaged in during the live tweeting session made your autoethnographic experience feel really genuine when read, which should be a pretty big goal of an autoethnographic piece in my opinion.

    I feel like most people in the subject went with the approach of covering the autoethnographic methodology first and then discussing Akira in their blog posts. It was great that your were able to merge the two points of discussion together and keep everything so coherent and succinct, your blog style allowed for specific examples of Akira to easily explain the autoethnographic methodology. Well done on achieving that! It reads very well and I definitely wasn’t able to communicate it that well in my blog post.

    One aspect of Ellis’ reading that really helped me understand autoethnography was the concept of “The Process (Doing Autoethnography)” and “The Product (Writing Autoethnography)”. I feel this section of the article gave a great summary of the autoethnographic methodology as a whole.

    Something I tweeted out during the live tweeting session was an article that included an interview with Akira’s director. It really broke down his personal context and how this was a direct influence on the film’s production, I think you’d enjoy the read! Particularly because your autoethnographic experience impacted your cultural understanding of Japan, this interview really fleshed out some of the discussions the class were having about the political, economic and social landscapes of Japan from the perspective of the director: https://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2017/05/26/katsuhiro-otomo-on-creating-akira-and-designing-the-coolest-bike-in-all-of-manga-and-anime/#3355076f6d25

    Cheers!
    – Alex

    Liked by 1 person

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