Auto-ethnography and Anime: A Convoluted Experience

My auto-ethnographic experience of anime has lead me to examine my attitude and expectations upon this medium and why overall I think it’s worthwhile. Anime is a product but one with a sense of artistic expression. No one in anime lives in the real world, or at the least the one that I know. This isn’t just in reference to the outlandish events that take place in anime but also it’s location, Japan.

Watching Cardcaptor Sakura for the first time as a child was made wholly more interesting by the fact that it took place in a foreign location, bathed in colour and cherry blossoms. It was uniquely transfixing and in a way that made me obsessed, to the point where I forced myself to ask my heavily conservative father to buy me a Sakura action figure (read doll) for my birthday.

Similarly my other obsession at around this time was the farming simulator Harvest Moon. So possessed by this game I was that in my most craziest moment of longing and anticipation I have ever and will ever go through, I actually made a book devoted to it. Containing images from game magazines, drawings and basically every piece of information related to Harvest Moon, it was quite seriously the most “hyped” I have ever been.

Of course these two very separate things had something common, which was Japan. It took me a long time to catch on to the parts of Harvest Moon that are Japanese as they are not as readily noticeable as Cardcaptor Sakura’s. Why I chose to engage with Cardcaptor is because it is linked to my topic that I am covering in Harvest Moon. My aim was to treat it as a test run towards deciphering my experience with Harvest Moon, but in many ways I became distracted by the general guise of anime in general as the chance to talk about other texts is too alluring. Ellis describes an ethnographic writers product as a “thick description” of culture (2011), something that I’m not quite sure I obtained.

My goal was to think about the ways texts reincarnate and the way they absorb the different aspects of their culture, and how this looks to an outsider. Harvest Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura were the first examples that I can think of as having Japanese culture being firmly in their DNA. Built through and worked within, they are both quietly and not so quietly, Japanese.


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

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