Featured

Welcome To My Mind

Be prepared for a glimpse into my mind and my soul. Be afraid…

Feel free to join the discussion in the comments.

Advertisements

Lost Sentient

All broken and battered,

has our honour been shattered?

why is my name being called out again?

Shallow and gross negligence,

leads to this harsh repentance,

like trying to find the edge in a flat circle,

 

Can we learn from our errors at all?

Is love the only true form?

lets not make that same mistake… over and over

 

Indoctrinated without a doubt,

“unruly cycles!” we scream and shout,

“why is life like a game to them?” we say,

under false pretences,

the people build their border fences,

against the good and bad – you decide,

and all of us that get ignored,

the powerful press on rest assured,

puppeteers playing that same ol’ show,

dare to defy immorality,

restart lies no-one else can see,

mankind relishes in the misfortune of those who can be controlled…

 

Can we learn from our errors at all?

Is love the only true form?

lets not make that same mistake… over and over

 

By TheStirMaster

 

Can Cult TV Comedy Peak Again?

It’s fairly well known that comedy shows can fail upon first broadcast, either as a result of bad time slots, bad material or niche subject matters. However, a lucky few get noticed many years after they first aired. This is down to a small fanbase that keeps it going or, the ability to strike a chord with a new generation that previously hadn’t experienced it.

When anyone says ‘cult’ to me, I always think of Bladerunner, which was a flop when it first came to the cinema in 1982 but has since gone on to become a huge cult hit. But of course, you’re not reading this for me to talk about film or anything as philosophical as Bladerunner. Well, as coincidence would have it my example wouldn’t have existed without it…

It’s fair to say that, with a three part special back in 2009 (also defined as the ninth series), followed by three additional series; the cult sci-fi comedy show ‘Red Dwarf’, has not died. Yes, the show reached a peak of 8 million during its eighth series in 1998 (it was on the BBC when only terrestrial channels existed, go figure) but there was a small ‘avid’ fanbase probably due to the crazy subject matter. There’s only so many people who are going to be on board with a story about a hologram, a mechanoid, a man that has evolved from the ships Cat and the last human being alive, who loves curry, lager and sugar-puff sandwiches for breakfast, Dave Lister.

What sets this apart from the likes of Blackadder is, it didn’t have any recognisable faces in it and didn’t conform to any stereotypes or the Fawlty Towers approach to have absurd situations within a realistic setting. People watched Red Dwarf and thought it was quirky, they may have even bought the VHS. The 8 million viewing figures were on, arguably, its worst series…and then it ended. Doug Naylor (Writer) tried to hold onto it without writing partner (Rob Grants) input, after series 6. It was going down the generic slapstick comedy route and into the forgotten abyss that plagues many TV shows when they’ve made a series or two too many.

A Red Dwarf movie was in the works but they couldn’t get funding. Then the UKTV channel ‘Dave’ (aptly named after the curry-loving, last man alive) resurrected the show after a whole decade! Back To Earth was ultimately a Bladerunner inspired three part episode with a chunk set on Coronation Street (it makes sense in the episode, I think?). There were some great jokes but the absence of a studio audience made many of the jokes fall flat and lack energy. The story was all over the place but there’s no doubt it was entertaining. This is testament to the character interaction and, what I will refer to as ‘geek service’. Initial reviews were not in the shows favour but us fans were glad to have them back. Our appreciation must have been recognised because Dave recommissioned it for a 10th, 11th and 12th series, which have vastly improved on the Back To Earth specials. It’s a comeback if there ever was one.

Red Dwarf is not just back in the sci-fi comedy game but the comedy game as a whole. The queues at comic-con and various other conventions for Red Dwarf stars are as busy as ever, school children are now eagerly awaiting new episodes of their own accord and not just because their parents are into it. It will never reach the 8 million viewing figure heights again but it has appealed to a new generation through tackling modernity head on and holding onto hardcore fans who have spread the word. Few shows could pull it off now but it stands as testament to the shows timeless niche concept.

I don’t know about you, but I’m off to get a curry and a lager before having a nap in the Diesel Decks.

Sum Of Our Parts

See how the sun is rising,

watch as the smoke fills the sky,

savour the beauty of it,

one button then we die,

How’d you spend your last few moments?

Tranquil or trying not to burn?

On the edge of nuclear fallout,

is this how we finally learn?

Question our very existence,

what if this was to be all along?

Now I feel contentment,

suffering ends with humanity’s fall.

 

Emancipate the growth on this world,

we’re free, they’re free now; no more show,

close the curtain on this pantomime,

crush the evil with our own damn crimes,

rise up, step up; lets save this,

got no control but we can make it,

the problems conducted by hosts,

got nothing to lose because we’re ghosts.

 

By Mike G

 

The sTory Of Mayhem

Mayhem wanted a strong and stable leadership for the stable strong few, not the weak and wobbly many. The strong and stable hard Brexit meant the strong and stable leader needed more strength and stability to ward off the chaos of the weak many, to gain stable-ness and strong-ness for the already strong few. The strong few battled against the weak many and discovered the many were strong. As morning came the once strong & stable leader realised her stable was not strong for stable discussions in strong Brussels, but instead she was weak and had been all along…

第三章 : Tokyo Godfathers – Questioning popular cultures

Kon’s films often have a ‘realistic’ look to them. In Perfect Blue for instance, he “underscores the contrast between his style and the “industry standard,” most famously in the video store scene in Perfect Blue (1997), which juxtaposes Kirigoe Mima’s fans with the Technicolor-haired, big-eyed anime girls seen on posters and cassette boxes.” (Figal. p.158). Kon also does this in his 2003 film Tokyo Godfathers, which proposed a more Western style of simplicity and family orientated animation. Rather than the cute or attractive protagonists in both Western and Japanese blockbusters, and contrary to the usual anime, Tokyo Godfathers portrays a middle-aged homeless man and drag queen, which categorically challenged the market. This meant that there were no cultural barriers. “It is the people in the industry who force boundaries onto animation. In the end, it is all about cute girls, robots and explosions, to them.” (Kon, S. 2004)

Kon wanted to destroy the stereotypical notions about entertainment, and acknowledge Japan’s increasingly visible ‘silent minority’. This plot involves the unlikely protagonists rescuing a baby on Christmas Eve. Is this culturally specific because of its religious connotations? As Hunt (2008) explains, “The many seemingly contradictory references to both Western and Eastern philosophies and religions are rendered in an ornamental style, and thus, like so much pastiche, emptied of their intended meanings. They are surface signifiers, as artificial and depthless as the plastic baby Jesus” (Hunt, L., p.164). The religions portrayed didn’t mean anything because they were culturally appropriated within a story that was not overly sentimental by acknowledging religion head on. Akin to the lack of cultural identity within Pokémon, it paints a bigger picture of different religions that could entice the viewer who watches it. Just like the cultural specificities within Paranoia Agent, exoticism and familiarity combine. This is further proof that East Asian cinema questions existing concepts, not just from national cultures but from the Western world as well.

第二章 : Consumerism in ‘Paranoia Agent’ and the history of Kawaii culture

Satoshi Kon (2004) once stated that, “Paranoia has a stronger image than fantasy. In order to go through life people have to have an alternate reality, fantasy. A world filtered through his/her fantasy or paranoia”. This could also refer to Kon’s TV show Paranoia Agent (2004), which details the corruption of media branding and cuteness, on society. Kon’s words could be relevant in explaining consumer’s needs for alternative realities through the filter of merchandise and branding. It is a world within a world, and as I reflect on Paranoia Agent, I will be discussing the issue of anime and its connivance in the creation and distribution of the narcotic effect present in toy exports, such as Kon’s creation of Maromi – a physical metaphor for delusional consumerism.

It is through the media that the people of Japan believe kawaii is of national importance. Because of the importance of anime within Japanese culture, it does not denote that every person likes it in society. It is marketed well but it is undeniably only seen as ‘cool’ to those who are fans. I believe this isn’t a view shared by many in the Western world. It is easy to label a country based on what we see from the media, but this is as much American as it is Japanese. The imported exoticism, which appropriated and incorporated American pop culture, emerged from local initiatives rather than explicit American motives or interventions. The construction and strive to build their own identity, and have their own power, indicated their distance from American taste and European. The fans are attracted to a balance of familiarity and alien elements, which openly appropriates and remakes the Western genre conventions. Japanese independency, to an extent, is a result of America’s own authority over every country. This is further investigated in Levi’s quote, “By interacting with the stories and characters of popular anime and manga through fan fiction, “cosplay” and video games, American fans have personalized and adapted the medium to make it their own.” (p.43).

The first instance of a ‘cute’ character in the media was Kurukuru Kurumi-chan. Similar to the visits of Western artists to troops in Japan, Kurumi-Chan appeared on paper dolls, stickers, and even postcards to raise the morale of soldiers during World War II (Manami., Johnson. 2013) Kon eludes to this in Paranoia Agent when a character shouts “This is just like right after the war”. In the context of the show the character is, in Figals’ (2010) words, “Raising the issues of Japan’s war responsibility and victim consciousness, as well as suggesting the role of post-war consumerism in occluding an honest recognition of the past upon which present affluence has grown”.

Once Yuko Shimizu was created in the 70’s, identity became a large fashion statement. Certain ‘cute’ products that a girl liked and wore would help the girl to become a part of a large group that also identified with that character. There is a level of escapism that relates back to the Western Comicons. You meet someone with a different cultural background, but you both connect over your love of anime. In real life you could hate each other but you escape into a shared interest and a shared identity of which you can lose sight of your real life goals. If we come back to ‘cute’, we can see girls identified with it because it shows an imperfection, especially from the West. In the West, there is an obsession with attractiveness. Hollywood arguably invented the idea of a perfect woman, and this differs greatly from the traditions throughout Europe for example. Cuteness almost relates to the feeling of rebelling against tradition.

As cuteness seeped into Japanese society, the American text would also be embraced to go against Japanese culture. When the country eventually realised that cuteness was a way to power, they used it. This was the intention of Pokémon, as Kelts (2007) states, “In Japan the shows were made to sell the toys. It’s the other way around in America.” Iwabuchi (2010) exposes the reasoning behind this, “We have witnessed the rise of what I would call brand nationalism – uncritical, practical uses of media culture as resources for the enhancement of political and economic national interests, through the branding of national cultures.”

What he describes applies to the representation of regional specificity in popular culture. Confucian values can be promoted and pan-Asianism is used as a sales tactic. At the heart of this method lies a longing for the past; nostalgia for cultural identity of which they can use as an authentic way of selling a product.

Reference:
Figal, G., Lunning, F. (ed.) (2010) Fanthropologies: 5. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. P.90 – P.154
Kelts, R. (2007) Japanamerica: How Japanese pop culture has invaded the U.s. NEW YORK: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp.117-118.
Kincaid, C. (2014) What is Kawaii? Available at: http://www.japanpowered.com/japan-culture/what-is-kawaii (Accessed: 12 May 2016).

Levi., Brown (ed.) (2006) Cinema Anime. Springer. p.52

Manami, O. & Johnson, G (2013). Kawaii! Japan’s culture of cute. New York: Prestel Publishing.

第一章 : How Satoshi Kon exposes the entertainment industry through the film ‘Perfect Blue’

Satoshi Kon’s films have been the base material for such Hollywood films as Requiem For A Dream (2000), Black Swan (2010) and Inception (2010). Kon is compared more to Western directors such as Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch than anime directors Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, 1995) and Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli), which is fascinating because his work references Japanese society explicitly. So why is the West inspired by Kon and the rest of Japanese popular culture? This is a question that I will attempt to answer over several blogs, this first post focus’ on Perfect Blue.

Although all of Kon’s films are intentionally disorientating, Brown (2006) states, “Kon possesses a strong social/sociocultural consciousness— several of his works are not only grounded in contemporary social issues but also serve as clear critiques of Japanese society”.

If we look at the opening scene, Mima is performing in the same outfits as the two other singers in the J-pop group, and they dance in sync with each other. There is a sense of Mima not being an individual; she is not in charge of her own fate, which essentially means someone else is pulling the strings. This is undoubtedly referring to the entertainment industry, as we see Mima losing control further into the film when she is made to film the rape scene. Brown (p.32) suggests Mima is, “largely a cash cow whose move into acting is stage managed— where she will be all the more an object of the gaze— for what seem to be purely financial reasons…As in a later scene when fans buy up magazines containing nude photos of the new, “sophisticated” Mima.” This reflects a vague view of the industry, as acting or singing is often seen to be used to puppeteer people to make profit. This can be seen in any ‘talent’ show internationally, not solely relating to Japan. The search for talent is made out to be what makes good entertainment. In this case, Japan is the focus, and what makes money is the soft power employed by the government to influence society.

Mima embodies the Shkjo image, with the innocence of a schoolgirl and a cute face; she is the ideal woman of male fantasies. This is depicted within Perfect Blue when Mima is surrounded by the film crew (who are all men). Brown (P.26) elaborates, “The Shkjo has become a signifier of contemporary Japanese consumer culture in its obsession with the ephemeral and the material.”

Satoshi Kon was truly a remarkable anime director. He created stories that hid so much truth under the surface. A talent lost far too soon.

 

Reference:

Brown, S.T. (2006) Cinema Anime. Pp.25 -.32 Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EV_HAAAAQBAJ&pg=PR4&dq=brown+steven+t+brown+cinema+anime&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi9ta-AhtPMAhUrCMAKHUjxA4UQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=brown%20steven%20t%20brown%20cinema%20anime&f=false