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Drop-in Series: Learning about Japan through anime

Drop-in Series: Learning about Japan through anime

October 24, 2019 at 7:00am

By Alexandria Rodriguez

This semester, students in a new online course got to analyze Japanese culture in a novel way: through the lens of anime and manga, a style of Japanese comic books.

The class is offered through the Asian Studies Program, part of the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs. The course is open to any student, not only Asian Studies majors.

“Naturally, seeing Japanese anime and manga as an available course made me literally do a double take,” said Alan Durham, a student currently taking the class.

Not only are students delighted, but according to Rachel Levine, professor of the course, faculty have also shown interest in the class.

“It is a course about all the things you never knew about the manga and anime phenomenon,” said Katherine Dicken, an Asian Studies major.

In the class, students focus on analyzing anime and manga through a sociological lens and discuss its effects on – or reflection of – Japanese culture and identity.

Levine said the importance of this class lies in creating, “a deeper understanding of Japanese culture through an unlikely, yet incredibly amusing, medium.”

Her goal is for students to develop a multi-dimensional view of society, in which they can expose themselves to something other than mainstream culture.

“Assignments and readings vary and cover a broad range of topics,” she said. “I want students to absorb the material, form their own opinions, and debate these opinions.”

Students have the opportunity to interact and share their ideas with other classmates through online discussion boards, where debate and open conversations are encouraged.

“I think the insight into Japanese pop culture is invaluable and entirely unique,” Dicken said. “The content is interesting and the papers we get to write are reflective, which are perfect for a course like this.”

One of the assignments is a midterm paper that explores American anime. Students are asked to watch an American cartoon and analyze it to determine if it can be categorized as anime.

“My favorite part of this class is definitely being able to connect what we learn to what I have seen,” Durham said. “Being able to use anime I have seen as a resource when writing a paper literally fills me with joy.”

He said he thinks anime and manga bring something special to the entertainment world.

“There is something [in it] that is lacking in say, American comics and cartoon adaptations, in my opinion,” he explained. “I've never read a Batman or Spider-Man comic that made me cry or think introspectively. I have, however, watched an anime that made me cry.” 

Students also have the opportunity to complete readings that cover distinct themes and societal issues around anime and manga. Some of the issues that are addressed include gender roles, gender discrimination and sexual violence in Japan. 

As an added bonus, Dicken said, the knowledge gained in this course has helped her develop a deeper understanding of the information she’s learning in her other classes this semester, including Introduction to East Asian Studies, Spirituality of Japan and Edo Period Japan.

“After taking this course, I can’t imagine getting a degree about Japan without it,” she said.

Whether you are a fan of anime and manga or are unfamiliar with these mediums, this course will allow you to immerse yourself in a different cultural realm and help you connect on a deeper level with its characters.

“For those students that do not or have not watched anime, I would recommend [this class] so that they could gain the chance to learn about a form of animation and comic style that carries cultural significance,’’ Durham said. “As for students like myself, who have a hefty amount of viewing under their belt, I would recommend it so that they can expand the knowledge they already have.”  

The online class will be available in the spring of 2020 under course ID: ASN 3202 RVC 1201- Japanese Anime and Manga.