The slogan ‘Cool Japan’ was first used by the Japanese government in reference to its nation-branding projects back in 2005. Since then, the Cool Japan phenomenon has become a site of intensive focus for scholars in Japanese studies, particularly from the points of view of popular culture and creative industries (e.g. Sugiyama 2006, Dinnie 2009, Fujita 2011) and nationalism and nation-building (e.g. Iwabuchi 2007, 2008) (Valaskivi, 2013). Indeed, such saturated focus on this phenomenon has covered extensive and ripe ground from relatively regional frameworks, which examined its impact within Japan, as well as Japan’s influence within the East Asia sphere. In turn, Katja Valaskivi proposed to extend its study paradigms by contextualising Cool Japan through the transnationally circulating practice of nation branding. And thus with this essay, I will approach the study of the Cool Japan branding project by extending upon Valaskivi’s frameworks in her paper ‘Cool Japan and the social imaginary of the branded nation’; and by extension Taylor’s concept of the social imaginary (Taylor, 2002), through their integration into a semiotic and cinematic analysis of director Makoto Shinkai’s 2016 anime film ‘Kimi no Na wa’ (will be referred to as ‘Your Name’ from now on), which I argue will introduce unique observations that may ground Cool Japan’s main circulating features; namely 1) nation branding, 2) the concept of ‘Cool’ and 3) the idea of ‘essential Japanese values’, within a diverse collection of symbols, message streams and candid imagery that can be better appreciated and more readily understood.
Social television and by extension, popular media, forms a central reflective lens through which one can observe and debate the general assumptions of cosmopolitanism in the contemporary Global Internet age. The frameworks of argument presented by Youna Kim in her exploration of the Korean Wave (with a particular focus on TV dramas) are grounded within understanding the discursive construction of an ‘East Asian Popular Culture’ (Chua, 2004), as well as exploring the shifting of the cultural export tides, as global awareness and appreciation for Asian media expands.
I’m actually not sure how I should tell this story for you. Is this just a collection of conventional thoughts on films, or am I supposed to frame this more as another one of my Tale Time entries? (Haven’t done one those in a while huh…)
Going to the cinema and watching a film works in conjunction when it comes to me recalling experiences for a blog post. Experiences never exist in voids, they meld and influence each other. Perhaps this is why I find it so difficult to write straight up film or TV series reviews, whether I watched it alone at home, or with a group of people. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that half the fun of watching a Summer blockbuster copy-and-paste explosion fest is the environment of a filled-out cinema, with some 400 people reacting to the same things you are.
Ambient storytelling is brought up constantly when one talks about the affect of mythos and world-building in fiction. For a narrative to be immersive, the storied vision requires layering and textured detailing of the seemingly irrelevant, so the illusion of malleable reality can be made more effective.
Duality: a simple but demonstratively cardinal term. The expressionistic properties of ‘duality’ alone can already form the metaphorical backbone of the most impressionable citings of physics, philosophy, mythology and visual arts in human history. Balance in its purest form constitutes two opposing beings; physical or otherwise, keeping each other in check. Gravity and mass, good and evil, light and dark. Man and machine.
Opening remarks: I originally intended this piece to be a particularly academic-driven one…digging deep into the likes of Mark Lochrie & Paul Coulton’s article on shared viewing experiences or ‘Social TV’ and ‘Second Screen Devices’, and Alice E. Marwick’s paper on ‘Imagined Audiences and Context Collapse in Microblogging’. Elements of these studies are still retained in the final product, but I decided to keep discussion more centred on Dragon Maid and my own experiences in watching it…and ultimately deciding that it is an absolute new favourite.
There is a sense of idyllic rhythm that Aria exerts when one allows him or herself to engage with its cinematic heartbeat. It’s obvious: everything has its own rhythm, its own footprint, when it makes contact with another existing entity. If one takes this idea far enough, existence is just another way to visualise and define relationships. And creating rhythm is but another expression for finding uniquity.
(All plugs are pulled. Full spoiling ahead.)
Your Name | Kimi no Na wa (I will be referring to the film via. the former title from now on) is essentially about progress through violation. The film is readily clear on that account, and certainly enough for any number of viewing audiences to immediately identify that about its cinematic delivery.
I don’t really have an absolute favourite show last season. I mean, if we were speaking in MAL scoring terms, nothing I finished in the Summer season I would score above a 7, if not the hypothetical 7.75/10.
Granted, I started but never finished Mob Psycho 100 (I know, I should. I will. Eventually.) I also never finished Sweetness and Lightning, and that’s a show that tugged at my heartstrings numerous times in just three episodes.
BUT. Moments. There are moments in shows that spoke volumes to me, whether its on a immediate emotional level, or on a more…philosophical and worldview level.
Note: Spoilers for both Grimgar and Re:Zero are aplenty.
I appreciated Grimgar Of Fantasy and Ash after watching it to completion recently as a semi-marathon. For the most part, its character studies and the evident focus on atmosphere and a sense of place; rather than the much more often tread adventure fantasy with a clearly defined end goal of saving the world, has given the series a muted presence that ironically made its voice project louder amongst all the background noise. Similar things can be said about Re:Zero, now that it has finished its prolific rampage across the fandom’s collective stream of consciousness…though the reasons behind its highly resonant dual-season run were in complete contrast to Grimgar, as it projects its agenda of social commentary with unrelenting shamelessness and sincerity. In the end, while both series has no doubt invited significant viewership, and inevitable controversy on their respective handling of narrative delivery, I found myself once again standing right in the middle of the crossfire: appreciating what both shows have so admirably achieved, while also contemplating about their various failings.
Alternative Titles: The Perfect World of Kai, The Piano Forest
Director: Masayuki Kojima
Animation Production: MADHOUSE
Music: Keisuke Shinohara
Genres: Slice of Life, Music, Competition, Supernatural
Disclaimer: the societal commentary present in this publication are all the writer’s own personal observations and opinions. No journalistic or scholarly value and sources are cited nor present (unless stated otherwise).
If you have a) any knowledge of moe and slice of life, b) a love for moe and slice of life, c) an intense hatred for moe and slice of life, or d) read enough of my posts to notice a common pattern in subject matters, then you would be aware of the basic recipe for success of such shows: the construction of a world that’s charming and relaxing, and a cast of characters who are teeth-rottingly adorable.
(MINOR SPOILERS FROM TV SERIES AND OVA)
Perhaps the best way to describe Kyoto Animation’s venture with Hibike! Euphonium is by literally contradicting myself: it is a work of complex simplicity. The emotional dissonance that exists, when a large group of individuals come together is typical of the atmosphere that you may find in a musical ensemble. Long story short, this OVA works as an alternate perspective provider on the emotional climax towards the latter end of the series, and it does it superbly.
Director: Junichi Sato
Animation Production: Hal Film Maker
Music: Nobuyuki Nakajima
Genres: Slice of Life, Iyashikei, Photography
Season: Summer 2010 (OVA debut)
The Spark of a Photographer
There’s a general consensus, that photographs are just fragments of frozen time and moments, nothing more. We take them on a whim, hoping to save a split second of amazement or amusement, and in a world where social media and smartphones rule societies, it seems that the significance of photographs are becoming less…intimate.
In reality, there exists an almost…interdimensional relationship between a photo, its subject and the photographer: there’s a REASON WHY a photo was taken and WHY this particular subject was chosen, framed and shot. These actions acuminate from personal emotions and attachments between the documenter and the documented. Photographs that are…truly wonderful are those that had managed to capture a fragment of heartfelt fervour when the shutter button was pushed…or where a moment of preciousness fluttering through the air was captured permanently onto a single, perfect image.