Akira; A Look Into Our Future

Anthropologist Hayano used the term autoethnography in its early form, in a 1979 essay discussing the self-observational nature of the traditional ethnographic research. Hayano refers to cultural studies of an ethnographer’s ‘own people’, later we see the more common use of the term coined by Ellis defining it as;

”an autobiographical genre of writing and research that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural”(2000: 739)

Autoethnography employs storytelling however it “transcends mere narration of self to engage in cultural analysis and interpretation” (Chang 2008: 43).

When analysing my first blog on Akira I found that simply linking similar lifestyles, locations, and experiences wasn’t enough to gain a full understanding of the culture and failed to evoke further thought.

“Most locations and settings are different from each other, this work even more so. With its post-apocalyptic timeframe however maintaining the cityscape; Akira creates an interesting world where construction and deconstruction exists simultaneously.” (H.Mandy 2016)

I have seen films, which employ themes of a post-apocalyptic world however very few show fully functions mechanisms of the past.

I realise now after further study into ethnography that some points I highlighted could delve into the multiple layers of the culture rather than simply analysing face value.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 10.38.33 pm

In my first blog I mentioned the appearance of the cityscape, its functionality, and capability even after an apocalypse. I used my past experience with post-apocalyptic films to identify that the lack of destruction in certain areas was curious, especially considering the neglect of other parts.
This surface detail without further question and exploration fails to understand the culture. Expanding the point by using supporting details such as the manner in which the society functions through; corruption, secret scientific experiments, military dependency and oppression, allows an auto-ethnographer to analyse the underlying issues of the society rather than the symptoms

The city barely functions on the ground floors and the escalating gang violence only adds to the disorder they regularly ride through each night. The film highlights the familiar issue with a dystopian world in a post-apocalyptic setting however also points directly at issues of our current societies. Corruption and oppression exists in full force in both the audiences world and the world of the film, this similarity alongside the complete desolation of the surrounding environment insinuates that what we could be viewing is in fact the future of our world.
an apocalypse may be capable of wiping out many lives and locations with it, however the strongest and worst traits of our societies are so ingrained that they will never die.

The resolution to the film comes not from the heroism of one but from the selflessness of a group, sacrificing their lives to save the many. This points towards a potential resolution for our world. We cannot solve our issues of war, destruction of our planet, famine, poverty and of course oppression and corruption, without selflessness. We’re taught as children that violence never solved anything yet our lives revolve around it. Akira manifests our most undesirable selves; the selfish, violent, uncivilised delinquents. We cannot stop ourselves from becoming desolate species without thinking of others. We can’t keep waiting for a super hero to fix what we’ve done, we might end up with Akira

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References
Chang, H 2008 Autoethnography as method, Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press

Ellis, C and Bochner, A P 2000 ‘Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject’, in N K Denzin and Y S Lincoln (eds), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 733-68

Hayano, D 1979 ‘Auto-ethnography: Paradigms, problems, and prospects’ Human Organization 38: 1, 99-104

Mandy, H. 2016 ‘Process or product? ?por que no los dos’, 12 August, WordPress

Pace, S. 2012, ‘Writing the Self into Ressearch’, Special Issue: Creativity: Cognitive, Social and Cultural Perspectives eds. McLoughlin & Brien, Central Queensland University

process or product? ¿por qué no los todos?

Autoethnography as described by Ellis as a method of both process and product.

Process; It employs principles of both autobiography and ethnography to form a work based on hindsight and personal experience.

Product; It can make a text aesthetic and evocative by using techniques which bring “readers into the scene” (Ellis, 2004, p.142), as well as illustrating new perspectives

In layman’s terms autoethnography uses personal experience to better understand cultural experience and texts using this process should create a product that is able stimulate memories and past experiences.

akira-moviehttp://www.japanpowered.com/anime-articles/akira-changing-the-face-of-anime

Now that that’s out of the way, lets apply this method to Akira.

Analysing this work in relation to autoethnography is likely to be relatively different to my peers
I have seen the film a number of times, and as a huge fan of Japanese art and entertainment my past experience of Japanese film is slightly different.

Most locations and settings are different from each other, this work even more so. With its post-apocalyptic timeframe however maintaining the cityscape; Akira creates an interesting world where construction and deconstruction exists simultaneously.

I have seen films, which employ themes of a post-apocalyptic world however very few show fully functions mechanisms of the past.
Akira’s dystopian world still contains many aspects and values firmly embedded our world today.
I noticed a few similarities in their;

  • Bureaucracy; what seemed to be politicians, bickering over policies, funding and overall control over the city
  • Skyscrapers; still just as tall, still impeccably maintained
  • Education; not that the characters seem to realise the value
  • Transport; expensive toys to get you from A to B, and also facilitate your spiral into crime

I found it easy to identify with this world, as it appears to be a direct projection into the future. The reference of WWIII, which caused the chaos, and the remnants of a large city accessible today, pulls the film into the audiences reality.

Even the year it is set strikes close to home, the opening credits show the year as 2019 along with the extent of the obliteration to the city.
Although this film is science fiction it strikes some accurate blows to the issues our societies are already facing and may face some time soon.

I feel like the accuracy of this film is what simultaneously thrills and freights me. I posted a tweet about how the credits send give me chills every time I watch Akira, yet it was only after analyzing it did I realized I will always get chills when I watch it, hoping this masterpiece does not become a foreshadow as many science fiction novels have before it

*cough cough*

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Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1

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