2007年08月27日 月曜日

Cyberpunk and Techno-Orientalism

by Mizuko Ito

This is the second in a three part series on Cyberpunk by Mike Dillon. Part One is here.


Cyberpunk literature is written by and written for a generation that occupies “a truly science-fictional world” (Sterling 1986, xi), producing work that is immersed in technology and pop cultural values “associated with the drug culture, punk rock, video games, Heavy Metal comic books, and […] gore-and-splatter SF/horror films” (Carroll 1990). No country has experienced as internationally recognized a technological quantum leap as Japan, and with the recent surge in desire for Japanese popular culture, it appears that associating the genre, whose myths and narratives, in the modern era, have primarily been of American hegemony (Morris 1997), explicitly with Japan is not only viable, but increasingly necessary. But a closer look at the attitudes toward Japanese animation reveals some fascinating ironies.

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2007年02月16日 金曜日

Where to go in Tokyo

by Mizuko Ito

Features, Japan

Probably because many of my US-based friends are academics and technologists, many of them visit Tokyo as part of their professional circuit. I often get requests for recommendations for places to stay and visit while in Tokyo. Usually these requests are coming from busy people who are travelling primarily for business meetings or to give a talk, and might have one or two days free to explore the city. Over the years, I've composed many emails to my friends with somewhat lame attempts to recommend the best places to go. In honor of a few of my friends visiting Tokyo later this month, I've decided to go back over these emails and publicly post my recommendations. It's not nearly as extensive as what Justin did, but it is one idiosyncratic viewpoint (from a bicultural, pop culture and technology obsessed academic). I hope others will add to this.

I still consider Tokyo "home" though I haven't really lived there for almost five years now. It is still the city I know best in the world, and I breathe an emotional sigh of relief when I step onto the streets of Shibuya or Shinjuku after many months away. I love to see what shops and restaurants are still there from my childhood, as well as new arrivals on familiar street corners. The city is layered with memories and personal history for me. So I always struggle to imagine what it must be like to visit Tokyo cold, and only for a day or two, and what I could possibly recommend to people as a way of experiencing the best of "my" city. Unlike Kyoto or other cities that are accessible to the casual tourist, newcomers to Tokyo will often experience it as a overwhelming and alienating megalopolis. The city is so huge and so variegated, and there are very few obvious "sights" and city centers to go to that could give a short-term vistor a sense that they have "experienced the city." But here is just a bit of what I love about Tokyo.

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2006年12月19日 火曜日

Situating the Global Cyberpunk Aesthetic

by Mizuko Ito

Features, Movies

This is the first in a three part series on Cyberpunk by Mike Dillon


The last decade has seen a startling growth in the demand for Japanese consumer culture. A weariness of recycled material, paired with wartime anti-Americanism in general has Western audiences craving for something different, something alternative. Many have found Japanese anime. As Susan J. Napier notes, the majority of American viewers are excited by the sophistication that Japan boasts in the medium that is different from the comparable market of Disney cartoons. The anime genre that has made the biggest splash worldwide has consistently belonged to the cyberpunk genre, as shown by the immense popularity of such films as Akira (Otomo Katsuhiro, 1988) and Ghost in the Shell (Oshii Mamoru, 1995).

As many will attest, the cyberpunk narratives exported from Japan are typically animated. The conventions of Japanese animation, in trying to find a broader audience, have found its niche in cyberpunk. Why do the two work so well together? Here are some intersections between the two that continue to make Japanese entries in the genre marketable in the West.

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2006年10月20日 金曜日

Part Asian - 100% Hapa

by Mizuko Ito


From June 8-October 29, the Asian American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles will be featuring an exhibition of the photography of kip fulbeck. The exhibit features photographs of hapa combined with their own handwritten commentary about who they are. Sounds like a must-see for LA chanponites.

"kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa" is an exhibition of portraits by artist Kip Fulbeck, who traveled the country photographing more than 1,000 Hapa of all ages and walks of life. Originally a derogatory label derived from the Hawaiian word for half, the word Hapa has been embraced as a term of pride by many whose mixed-race heritage includes Asian or Pacific Rim ancestry. "kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa" is an artist's attempt to explore Hapa - who now number in the millions - and it offers a complex perspective on an increasing reality of contemporary America.

Thanks Sharon!

2006年07月18日 火曜日

Tokyo a la Mode

by Mizuko Ito


Bobby Okinaka has launched a new website, Tokyo a la Mode, a magazine for Japanese fashion and urban culture. It already has some fun reviews of interesting fashion, film, and food and promises to grow into a great resource for those of you with an itch for an insider's view of Japanese street culture.


2006年07月11日 火曜日

Surrealism X 3

by Mizuko Ito

Features, Movies

Here is another installment from my student essays from my Japanese popular culture class last year. This one is from Brendan Callum.


From time to time there are motifs and symbols that come to represent or signify a certain genre. In contemporary Japanese independent film, a series of common motifs and symbols are beginning to define a new kind of surrealist film genre. The films of this genre are not epic tales of heroism and might, nor are they incomprehensible jumbles of random images. The ‘trials and tribulations of everyday life’ is the starting point upon which they embellish, with the use of a kind of magical realism and anime or manga-style movement and framing. There are often moments of complete stillness where the viewer can pore over the detailed scenes before ‘turning the page’ to see what happens (as in one of the many scenes where the family drinks tea together as well as actual animated sequences. The movies in this genre frequently allude to and parody other movie genres and subcultures. They also seem to delight in subverting stereotypical images with their downright odd families, empowered and often physically violent women, and their exploration of homosocial and homophobic tensions. Simply put though, they attempt to give the viewer a sense of the magic in everyday life through a thoroughly enjoyable, dream-like film experience.

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