I studied literature in 2002-2003. My two essays from that period were not particularly ambitious, nor written in English. I put more work into film studies a few years later, and that's what I'm offering here.

As if in a dream: Självreflexivitet i Paranoia Agent

Film studies, level B, 28 pages. Written in Swedish, 2006. Download the cover sheet and the main body.

An abstract was not included on level B. The essay identifies various forms of self-reflexivity in Kon Satoshi's TV series Paranoia Agent (2004). Contact me if you're interested in a lengthy synopsis.

Exotic Geeks: Problematizing Japanese and Western Anime Otaku

Film studies, level C, 56 pages. Written in English, 2006. Download here.

Abstract

Exotic Geeks critically examines the history of the word “otaku”, used to denote various ideas related to geeky fans, from the early 1980s to the present day. The aim is to provide a foundation for future use of the term to describe concepts in aid of understanding film culture. However, most uses of the word to describe Japanese geeks have been tinted by orientalism, by general tendencies to pathologize fans, and by the historical coincidence that the word was first popularized in a media panic over a series of murders. Westerners have generally conceived of “otaku” through the lens of that Japanese panic, exoticizing them as alien super-geeks, or else appropriating the term to celebrate or condemn Western fans of Japanese exports, particularly anime (Japanese animation). Several other mutually contradictory definitions are also dealt with, especially Murakami Takashi's idea that “otaku” are those who carried the torch in sublimating the memory of the Second World War and the contradictions of Japan's long postwar humiliation as art. Murakami's theory is tested through close reading of three anime titles: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987), Gunbuster (1988) and Otaku no Video (1991). The titles are selected to make the test easy, yet analyses reveal that the target audience of only one title unambiguously shares the traits which Murakami attributes to otaku. It is the author's conclusion that no existing concept of “otaku” is clearly useful to Western academia.

2011 comment

My advisor mandated the lengthy introduction of the sources in one wall of text. Poor structure aside, I still think there's a good point in there. 98% of the time, when “otaku” are mentioned by non-Japanese, it would make more sense to choose a word or two in your own language for what you think you mean.

The essay was limited to 40 pages from introduction to final summary, hence the endnotes, of which there are too many. The scope was still too large, so a few points are underdeveloped and the summary is too short. I apologize for the brevity of some quotations, which look like typical undergrad mining. One thing that's missing is the contemporary flora of alternatives to “otaku” in Japan. It might have been meaningful to discuss terms lika akibakei, wotaku and aniota, but reliable printed sources on this jargon was non-existent in the West.

The history of the readings kamikaze and shinpuu is more complicated than it may appear in the essay. The “original” 13th-century kamikaze events, wherein powerful winds supposedly helped vanquish invading Mongol fleets, can be referred to as kamikaze (sometimes kamukaze) or shinpuu. The Japanese military named the airborne suicide attack units of World War II “shinpuu” (literally 神風特別攻撃隊, shinpuu tokubetsu kougeki-tai, Divine Wind Special Attack Units). Using this onyomi reading of the kanji compound was a little odd in such ultra-nationalist circumstances, so the radio announcer who first referred to the units in public misread the text he was handed and called the units “kamikaze”, using native Japanese kunyomi. Perhaps because the entire Western world has also adopted the allitterative “kamikaze”, it has been possible to refer to the suicide attackers as “kamikaze” in Japanese. Tokkou is more common than either reading of the mythical term, when discussing the historical military practice.

Errata

I refer to Kaze no Tani no Naushika as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds in the main body of the essay, and Nausicaä from the Valley of the Winds in the reference section. These are valid translations, but I should have used the official release title, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Meadow and Apocalypse: Constructions of Nature in the Early Works of Miyazaki Hayao

Film studies, level D, 70 pages. Written in English, 2007. Download here.

Abstract

Ecological awareness and environmentalist themes are often noted in writings on Oscar-winning Japanese animation director Miyazaki Hayao, but previous attempts to examine those features in detail have typically focused on stated intentions and religious symbolism. Using close textual analysis and the theoretical framework of ecocriticism, this essay problematizes presentations of the physical environment in Miyazaki's early work from a more general environmentalist perspective. Aspects of analysis are the prominence and inflections of pollution, pastoral themes, apocalypticism, wilderness, animals and the Earth itself in Miyazaki's first three productions as a director: the often neglected TV series Conan, The Boy in Future (1978), the feature film Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (1979), and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), which was presented by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Ideological readings are used to estimate the usefulness of Miyazaki's early work in raising awareness of real environmental problems for common agendas. Environmental themes relevant to an understanding of the director's oeuvre as a whole are also charted from their inception. The analyses reveal that while some constructions of nature in Miyazaki's early work are in line with elements of environmentalist thought, the three titles are not generally suitable for didactic use except as a source of examples for in-depth discussion of problematic cultural traditions.

2011 comment

Still proud of this one, despite people scoffing at any search for relevance in animated or incompletely realistic or entertaining stuff. I don't discuss Rousseau sufficiently for the non-European context, and I don't make it obvious how aware I am of Japanese nuclear-miasma cinema. I picked On the Beach as an example to show it's not all Japanese.

Errata

The phrase “, so a degree of conflict in that is probably inevitable” (page 11) should have been deleted.

Context

When I wrote these essays, the first semester in any subject was termed level A. The first essay was written in the second semester. The essays then got progressively longer, with stricter requirements, concluding with level D. Upon reception of a passing grade, level D entitled its author to a magisterexamen, which falls between a bachelor's degree and an MA proper in English terms. It is translated as a master's, and qualified the graduate for doctoral programmes.

The essays presented here are identical to the official reviewed versions in the archives at Göteborg University. They were submitted after debate by my peers and examiner(s), with minor corrections resulting from these seminars. Due to constraints of time, these versions are liable to contain a couple of minor errors; one or two words might be misspelled etc. The reason why I don't correct these errors, let alone anything substantial, is that others can refer to the institution that has approved these exact versions.

The essays are ©2006-2007 Viktor Eikman.