As I look for ways to keep my writing brain well-oiled, I will be trying out a more ‘modular’ approach to blog posts: rather than dedicating each post to a singular theme that I hammer out mostly in one sitting, I’m taking a few pages from my old seasonal anime list posts, and compile short capsule reviews that I write throughout the week(s). In this instance, I have given myself a pretty decent schedule for the upcoming fortnight of movies that are screening at the annual Sydney Film Festival, and will be reflecting on each title I watch, before publishing it at its conclusion.
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.
I want to start by talking about a single shot in Violet Evergarden’s debuting episode.
Violet’s reflection in the clock implies two things: her current state of mind, as well as certain potential, if one takes into account Violet’s first real display of agency in this scene.
A clock as a tool for telling time is mechanical and rigid by nature, its function defined by a single need. Violet was a child soldier who has known nothing but to take orders and acting on them: her function defines her, encroaching her behind a transparent cage.
The fall season kinda fell right on top of uni finals, hence the lack of a first impressions. But now that’s over and done with, I can finally talk a bit more about this season’s incredibly diverse offering: no individual standouts, just a WHOLE slew of solid ideas, explored in…various degrees of clarity.
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.
After taking a year off this format while I readjusted to the fandom and determined how I should follow seasonal shows, the seasonal first impressions is back, and it is now a much more casual setting: no more ratings, staff/genre run downs and a shorter length.
Not sure where I heard it, but the perfect completed anime to favourite anime ratio is a clean-cut 10:1: meaning that now that I’ve completed over 200 anime in total (according to MAL at least), I get to update my favourite anime to a list of 20. And that’s good news and bad news.
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.
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.
Incidently, this is the second and last article I managed to rescue from UnimeTV’s server crash.
(Note: This publication deals with season one, with some limited discussion about Bishamon’s arc in Aragoto. I will try my best to present a narrative that is fair and concise, from the perspective of a largely non-religious background, but also as someone who does helm interests in various teachings from multiple religions worldwide.)
Trying out a new jam for this season: instead of having a two-parter half-season overview, I will write up a first impression post one week into the season and pick out a few shows worth talking about for a condensed half-season overview. As for the end-of-season write-ups…I’m not sure about them yet, since I tend not to complete shows on time before another season starts up.
I will be adopting the overview’s rating system, but for the first impression, only shows that I have made clear conclusions for will be given a rating.
Now, with the introduction out of the way, these are the shows I’ve taste-tested thus far.
So Subaru got his wish: he got to cry in his favourite girl’s lap. If I was being honest, Emilia’s first introduction as Satella, her overly nice disposition and her seemingly blind belief in Subaru, had started to make me suspicious…I’m hoping that I’m wrong of course, but might as well put up shields while I still have the time.
In terms of the narrative flow thus far, episodes 8 and 9 achieved strides in key story beats that helped progressed the plot in a steady pace, while also expanding the mythos of the world.
Enjoy the read. UnimeTV link
By golly, 6 months in and I’m still keeping this up.
And yes, I realize how late this is. My apologies: a slew of life-related issues has hampered my potential output during the past 2 months, which has a been a period of both highs (I managed to write some of my best work for this blog) and lows (workplace arguments and private family issues).
Unlike Winter, Spring 2016 looks to be a season dotted with multiple flagpoles of dominance, both in terms of genre devotion and popularity contests. ERASED dominated the dialogue of Winter 2016, with voices raised as the community were seemingly split over its visually deliberate storytelling and the apparent incomplete plot progressions. While I may still be hesitant in joining the collective in terms of choosing the season’s best offering, it is my belief, that the slice of life genre has received one of its biggest and strongest showings in recent memory, as multiple titles eagerly showcased the wide ranging personalities of the genre in glorious fashions, though some may have bitten off more than they could swallow.
Nevertheless, Spring 2016 looks to be another varied and strong anime season, and the optimism is only heightened by what awaits later in the year (Yamada-san, crush them all when Fall arrives.)
Yeahhh…so a multitude of issues during the last few weeks kinda kept me from the keyboard again: a combination of family issues and a certain feeling of lack of inspiration, after I managed to churn out a ridiculously wannabe-scholar piece on Piano no Mori, and following that up with a ‘talking about life’ piece on Cowboy Bebop. I think I might’ve overspent myself a bit.
So yeah, I’m back and this time, I’m tackling four episodes of Re:Zero. Trust me, the locations of episodes 4 to 7 may be stagnant, but somehow, the series kept it interesting, with episode 7 being its most consistently serious one yet. Despite the minor shakeups with pacing and logic jumps, Re:Zero still stands proud as a relative highlight of this season.
Enjoy the read. UnimeTV link