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Narrative Reflections: Narratives in Music Videos

Note: This was originally posted in Narrative Reflections as a blog post for an undergraduate honours module, Narrative Structures.

I’m going to examine the narratives in music videos, with a closer look at two music videos by Tohoshinki.

The mv featured two different scenes interspersed with each other: one set in what looks like a church, featuring members of Tohoshinki singing the song; another set in what looks like a dance practice studio. I am only going to focus on the latter, since it seemed that only the latter has a narrative.

The narrative in the dance practice segment begins with a man, likely a ballet dance instructor watching on as ballet dancers practises their moves.The next scene then shows a young girl sitting at a bench in the corner, holding on to a mop as she watches the dancers practise. The instructor is then shown applauding the dancers.We then see the dancers filing out of the studio happily as the young girl watches on and picks up the mop and pail next to her, as if preparing the clean the place. The next scene shows her beginning to mop the place, all alone. We then see her looking up as she is mopping to find a pair of ballet shoes on a stool. She went to where the stool is, picks the shoes up. While we do not see her putting on the shoes, we can see them on her feet as she twirled around in the room. She continues twirling around until we see her turning to where the dance instructor is shown watching her dance. She then turns around and saw the instructor.He is then shown handing what looks like a costume over to her. The next scene then showed her dancing in the costume, happily.

The problem comes when there is a certain disjunct between the two scenes. The song is sung by Koreans in Japanese but they are Asian, nonetheless. The characters featured in the dance studio segment, however, are all caucasians. It is odd that they choose caucasians to feature in a Japanese music video.

Another disjunct comes when there is no direct link between the dance studio segment and the lyrics of the song since the lyrics are not narrating what is going on.

Compare this with the video below:

Doushite Kimi Wo Suki Ni Natte Shimattan Darou? or Why did I fall in love with you? is another song sand by the same boyband. Like the previous video, there is also a two different segments interspersed with one another – again one with the members sing and another with the narrative.

However, as can seen in this video, there is not much of a disjunct between the lyrics of the song and the narrative segment of the mv. Despite the insterspersion of different frames of the narrative in the video (when the two main characters first met, the days they spent together when they were younger, sometime before the wedding, and during the actual wedding), we can see that the lyrics are the thoughts of the main male character in the narrative segment of the video. Although some scenes are seemingly viewed through the eyes of the main male character, and in other scenes we can see his face clearly, I argue that the lyrics reflects his inner thoughts, as though he is a first person narrator narrating his story through the lyrics of the song. This is because there is a match between the scenes an the lyrics.

While there seemed to be less of a disjunct in this mv compared to the previous one, there is still a disjunct since there are five voices singing the inner thoughts of one person! Nevertheless, the disjunct here and the disjunct in the first video can be reconciled since the general message of the lyrics in the first mv corresponds to the general air and storyline of the narrative in the mv, and the lyrics in the second mv directly corresponds to what is shown in the mv.

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Narrative Reflections: The Appeal of Fantasy Stories and Films

Note: This was originally posted in Narrative Reflections as a blog post for an undergraduate honours module, Narrative Structures.

Fantasy stories and films, just like any other fiction, is a product of someone’s imagination. The difference is in the setting. While fictions of other genres are set in the real world and linked tightly to reality, the fantasy genre can be set in another world, the future, or even the real world, with mystical or science-fictional elements in it. Such stories have always appealed to humans, as evident by mythologies of the past and “horrid novels” of lurid tales, a prominent example being Frankenstein.

This appeal to people may be due to several reasons, and it probably varies from time to time, age group to age group. Mythologies, especially those pertaining to gods and the like, are used to explain the natural phenomenon that our ancestors could not explain and therefore attributed to supernatural entities like deities and gods. One example is the mythological Greek god, Apollo, who drives he chariot, as a story to explain the sunrise and sunset. This appeal of fantasy arises out of a need to explain phenomenon they do not understand.

This appeal today probably arises out of a need to escape from the realities of life. With a fast-paced and stressful work life in today’s world, it is no wonder that some would prefer to relax by immersing themselves in a world filled with tales of courage, loyalty, valour and other symbolisms of heroism. This is particularly so after a day of backstabbing in office politics, suffering from it, or other ugly realities of life.

Children and teenagers too, would revel in such tales as they imagine themselves as the usually moral, upright and powerful hero that they would like to be. The appeal of fantasy lies in allowing one to imagine oneself as the hero in the tales, especially if you are not happy with what you are doing in your real life. Such fantasy stories and films often symbolises what one wants to pursue and thus it is not surprising that fantasy stories such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings revolving around the development of a hero are so popular that they have been made into films.

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Narrative Reflections: Biblical references in Anime – how far can they go?

Note: This was originally posted in Narrative Reflections as a blog post for an undergraduate honours module, Narrative Structures.

As an avid watcher of Animes, I have came across several animes that made use of biblical references or religious reference. While some are relatively harmless, others are can be viewed as rather sacrilegious. While I’m neither Christian nor particularly religious, I’m rather appalled at how such terms are used and wonder how and why people can accept this.

For example, in the anime D Grayman, the Noahs are a family that aims to destroy human by bringing the dead back to live into human-eating monsters or akumas as they are called. This is definitely different from how Noah is perceived in biblical texts! Another example is in the anime, Trinity Blood, where the pope not only has children, but his children can inherit his title!

I find it interesting as to why people would complain about such abuse in live action films but not in animations such as these, and suspect that in animation, people are more willing to suspend their notions of what is sacrilegious since animations are less likely to be viewed as mimetic of real life. On the other hand, live action films or dramas, even if they are fantastic narratives, still have a certain degree of realism to it such that viewers are more critical of them.

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Narrative Reflections: Characterisation in “In Death” series

Note: This was originally posted in Narrative Reflections as a blog post for an undergraduate honours module, Narrative Structures.

The “in death” series by J.D Robb is a romantic suspense series written by J.D Robb, a pseudonym of the popular romance novelist Nora Roberts. There are 45 novels and novellas in the series to date, which began in 1995 and is still ongoing. I find it rather interesting that after so many books, the series remained popular, often becoming the first in the New York Times best selling list. It is also so popular that it has its own Wikipedia page, albeit a poorly written one, and an online community where readers gather to discuss the book. Its popularity, I suspect, can be attributed to the extensive characterisation of the main characters of the series over the course of the novels and not the plot. After all, how many different plots can you find in 45 novels? It will always end with good triumphing over evil, with the main character, a cop catching the bad guy an bringing him to justice. Hence, what keeps readers going is actually the portrayal of the characters.

With this in mind, I will examine how the main character, Eve Dallas, is developed over the course of the series.

Lt. Eve Dallas, is a hardnosed cop belonging to the Homicide Division of the New York Police and Security Department in 2059. In the first book, we are given fairly detailed description of her physical appearance and this allows reader to imagine what she would look like, making her seem more real, more mimetic than an abstract character.

An intriguing backstory is also assigned to Eve Dallas, whose name was not given by her parents, but by a social worker. She was named after Eve, the first woman, and Dallas, the city in which she was found at eight years old, bloody and with no memories. She was brought up by foster system, ran away from it at 18 to join the polic academy. She has no close friends except for her mentor, Captain Ryan Feeney, who trained her when she was a rookie, and Mavis Freestone, an ex-con. However, as the series develops, more details was given about what happened to her before she was eight. Knowing that the author has yet to reveal all of the background of the main character is likely one reason why readers are encouraged to continue reading, to find out what happened to her.

The main character is also not flat, but a round character that has been fleshed out gradually in the first novel, and continues to be fleshed out in each new book.In the first book, she was described as a young brilliant up-and-coming cop in the NYPSD with few close friends, and a uptight hardnosed cop who sticks closely by the book. However, readers can see how she gradually opens up to Roarke, a self-made billionaire who was the prime suspect of the murder cases she was investigating, and falls in love with him. Ass the series progresses, she eventually married him, despite his former criminal connections, though she is still strictly by the book. However, we can see her getting increasingly more willing to use “underhand” methods to solve the case, her husband being a brilliant hacker by virtue of his past criminal activities, who can help her bypass bureaucratic red tape.In fact, She went so far to tamper with official documents to ensure that the criminal justice.Hence, we can see how the character has grown and develop from a flatter character to one who is so self-contradictory and unpredictable that she is mimetic of real people. This is especially since we can see how even as she is increasingly willing to cross lines, or recognise that lines are sometimes blurred, she still struggles with her decisions, making her a very real character.This applies not just to her working ethics, but also her relationships with other people. She starts out as a character with few close ones to one with much more friends, albeit still in a rather tight circle, from all walks of life: a bouncer, a singer, a reporter, a doctor, etc.

With every new trait that is revealed in each group, the character is further developed. It is this that made the character more mimetic, more real and possibly more lovable and this is possibly why the series is so popular.

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Touring Around Singapore: Mother-daughter date to the River Safari

Ever since River Safari, the latest zoo in Singapore, opened, I wanted to bring my mum there. I finally achieved this today on a mother-daughter date. Armed with a corporate pass, and the permission to leave school earlier (It’s marking day and I’ve finished marking two days before), I took a cab down to the River Safari at around 3.00 pm. I normally would not have done so but since her work ended a little late at 2pm and I wanted ample time to stroll and dawdle at the River Safari, I decided to splurge.

We splurged? again on  a panda-shaped chocolate custard pau (bun) that costs $2.90 since we shared a miserly meal of a pack of char siew rice before we entered the park proper. We were fascinated by the exhibits in River Safari, different types of exotic animals that we would never imagine seeing were right before our eyes. Being the more well-read (hehe) of the two, I was naturally less wide-eyed than my sua-ku mum but I was glad to that she enjoyed herself and saw animals that she would otherwise never see. The exhibits were divided according to the different major rivers found in the world and their accompanying habitats and wildlife which makes for a good Geography and Biology lesson I suppose. I was enthusiastically translating for my mum at first (Not all signs were posted in Chinese) but became tired after a while so I stopped.

After seeing many fishes and other freshwater creatures (exotic and interesting but we got a little tired), we finally saw the pandas. To be honest though, I was more fascinated by the colourful bird (can’t quite remember the name) and the red panda than the giant panda. The poor red panda was napping on a tree but didn’t have a nice nap because of some rather noisy visitors. It kept getting startled, woke up to see what was disturbing its rest before it adjusted its sleeping position and went back to sleep. I guess I wasn’t that excited to see the giant pandas since I saw many of them once on a school trip to Chengdu 8 years back. (gya!!! 8 years!) Furthermore, all I could see was the posterior at first. I was worried that I had to wait like Yoo Jae Suk just to see its face. I was disappointed more for my mother than myself, since I had seen them once. Luckily she convinced me to take a walk around the souvenir shop (where we bought a magnet) and return again. We returned after that to see many people snapping away on their phones and cameras and the panda’s face. This was not the highlight, though.

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The colourful, brilliantly-patterned bird

The Red Panda

The Red Panda

Panda Posterior

Panda Posterior

Finally, the face!

Finally, the face!

The next part was more exciting – The Amazon River Quest. However, before we reach the part of the park with this exhibit, I saw something that made me rather sad. A polar bear exhibition. True, there was a pool large enough for the polar bear to swim in but it was obvious that there was nothing much he can do except to swim/ paddle to an elevated platform and use it as a jumping board of sort to propel itself to flip backwards and swim in in the same direction.I stood here for around 5 mins only to see the poor bear repeating the actions over and over again. Worse still, there is no company. Only one bear with nothing to do with itself but to exercise?

We took a boat ride around part of the exhibits and saw even more exotic animals. We didn’t manage to see everything but got to see the Ibis up close. Real close. And the jaguars. Not that close though. They were safely behind a glass enclosure. It was sadly too fast and too short so we barely caught a glimpse of the animals before we moved on. This was also not the highlight.

The highlight for me was the last – the Amazon Flooded Forest. For a Leo, and someone so strongly connected to the sign and the element of fire (even in the Chinese Zodiac), I have an unusual fascination with water – the beaches, the waves, the way water ripples, the rain, etc. I loved the fun-loving otters playing with each other and the huge tanks with the sting rays and the dugongs. The dugongs were so cute; they hugged the diver (probably one of keepers) and seemed so reluctant to let go of him. I love how the exhibit starts from the lowest level (where you can stand / sit and stare at the tank for a long time) and gradually move up so you can see what it is like under the water and what it is like below. The otters! *Squeals!*

All in all, I would say that this is an attraction worth checking out, whether you are a Singaporean or a tourist. I saw the kids enjoying it and my mother enjoying it, and I myself enjoy it so I daresay it does cater to different age groups.