(soju = Korean alcohol, shoujo = Japanese anime)
To say that I’m a foreigner to Asian cultures would be the equivalent of saying that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza (it does!), as I have Indonesian blood coursing through my veins. If asked where I’m from, it would be so simple to say that my sisters have skin the colour of our ancestors’ sand. But my premature exposure to the Australian culture has manufactured my cultural identity as a ‘whitewashed’ Asian female – yes, I am an Australian citizen but no, I don’t own an Australian birth certificate.
Watching my fellow co-auto-ethnographers burrow into profound analysations of a culture in relation to their own presented to me how cultures were scrutinised by outsiders. Those who admitted unfamiliarity toward Asian cultures may be the parallel adjacent of how the Australian culture was once incongruous to me.
On the other hand, I’ve also been victim to a Korean culture that used to consume me. K-pop; K-drama. My first taste of alcohol was Soju, my first boy crush was Korean, my first knowledge of fashion was the Korean style, etc. That exchange to South Korea I went on last semester? That was a goal I made for myself at fourteen.
I’ve even been to almost every country in Asia – Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hongkong, Macao, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and of course, Indonesia.
Where in the world do I begin to research Asian culture?
The Japanese culture is globalising and yet, the world is only slowly getting introduced to the concept of live action. My being an asian woman has allowed me to be aware of it’s existence but not stand too close that I’ve revealed all of it’s secrets just yet. The most popular Japanese entertainment reigns to be anime, and somehow, this has bewitched the world to subtly recognise the idea of anime when someone utter’s the word ‘Japan’.
Live action is a prevalent but also rather modern concept that contemporises traditional Japanese anime. It is the transformation of anime into reality, in the impression that the story is now portrayed by humans and real places, rather than cartoon drawings.
Anime has numerous categories, including (but not limited to): Kodomo, Shonen, Shoujo, Josei and Harem. ‘Shoujo’ is a category specified for young females that examines romantic and personal relationships and often, young love, with characteristics that are utopian in nature. The reveries that young women have of a perfect love; ‘love at first sight’ or ‘love will always be by your side’. Shoujo is notorious for middle or high school romances, often caused by fact that most Soujos are more lighthearted than their friends in other anime categories.
Thus, live actions that are recreated from shoujo animes are very complex yet adorable stories that still present romantic relationships but through more realistic cinematic elements – hitting closer to home.
The notion of physically recreating the plots that exist in shoujo anime provides viewers the approach of seeing what life is truly like in Japan, through the lens of a real world. To see that Japanese culture is both as perfect and imperfect as Western culture. My experience with live action has introduced to me to the (perhaps biased, yet) distinctive relationships between lovers, family and friends, in Japan.
Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) is a lightweight story about a middle-school student, Futaba Yoshioka, and her infatuation on a gentle boy, Kou Tanaka. However, he transferred schools and they ceased communication. When Yoshioka reaches her first year of high-school, she meets Kou Mabuchi – who explicitly resembles Tanaka despite possessing an unfamiliar demeanour.
‘Orange’ is another Shoujo that declares friendship more important than romance. It unfolds on the story of a high school student, Naho Takamiya, who receives letters from herself, 10 years in the future. The letters depict that she will fall in love with a transfer student, Kakeru Naruse, who’s mother’s suicide circulates his depression that induces him to kill himself. Takamiya reads the letters and acts accordingly to change the future.
Ao Haro Ride was released in 2014, and I can commemorate my fifteen year old self craving a relationship as soft and almost ‘flowery’ as Yoshioka and Tanaka’s. It was quite deviating to recall that I had also viewed Big Hero 6 at the exact same time – the two movies are so disparate and though Big Hero 6’s main protagonist and his family were Japanese, the movie was so whole fully western. Furthermore, the concept that the creator’s of Big Hero 6 immediately thought of having the Asian family be Japanese, rather than any other (Asian) race is quite fascinating in the idea that perhaps people continue to link animation to Japan.
‘Orange’ is, to date, one of my dearest animes as it really decomposed my initial perspective of my friends. The appearance of Takamiya and her friends receiving letters from their future selves in favour of protecting their precious friend and reminding him that he was loved, fashioned me to be more aware of the wellbeing of my friends. It stimulated a very emotional response from me when I realised that they wouldn’t have been further acquainted with Naruse had they never welcomed the letters.
Ironically, shoujo would be nice to watch with some soju.
Start bawling about failed love lives.