Category Archives: Anime

New Online Anime Course at UMSL – This Fall!

Hot on the heels of the Summer J-Pop course we are offering at Wash U, I am also designing a new Anime class at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, being offered for the first time this fall.  You don’t have to be an UMSL student to take it!

Description: Japanese 2111

Students will explore and analyze anime and manga from sociological, literary, and anthropological perspectives, attempting to foster deeper understanding of contemporary Japan and the historical context from which the selected works emerged.  In each module, we will watch anime that address specific cultural, historical, and literary topics, such as how the postmodern condition is reflected in Kon Satoshi’s Paprika; how the nostalgia for the past can be both heartwarming but also an escape from reality in Only Yesterday, and how human emotion can be so delicately, beautifully communicated in a 30 minute film like 5 cm/second. For some modules, there will be guided slideshows illustrated with clips from feature-length anime; in other modules students will watch anime after reading critical pieces and give an account of their own assessment of what they saw in the context of what they have learned.  Students will engage in threaded discussions, turn in short assignments, and write a 5-7 page paper at the end of the course.


Summer Course

Our new J-Pop summer course is running from July 18-August 18. I am team-teaching with 2 other fantastic PhD students, Kazue Harada and David Holloway. I am doing a module on Anime and images of modernity and post-modernity, depictions of nostalgia, ideal worlds, reality, and identity. Here are my topics, clips, and readings:

August 9
History of Anime/Why Study Anime in Academia?
Roland Kelts, Japanamerica (New York: Palgrave, 2006), pp. 3-65.
Susan Napier, Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, (New York: Palgrave, 2005), pp. vii-18.

August 10
Miyazaki Hayao: Anime and Environmental Consciousness
We will watch clips from various Miyazaki films as part of our discussion
Miyazaki Hayao, “Earth’s Environment as Metaphor” in Starting Point: 1979-1996, (San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2009), 474-432
—. “On the Banks of the Sea of Decay” in Starting Point: 1979-1996, (San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2009), 165-172.
—. “Nature is Both Generous and Ferocious” in Starting Point: 1979-1996, (San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2009), 332-338.
—. “On Nausicaä” in Starting Point: 1979-1996, (San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2009), 283-284.
—. “Thougts on Japanese Animation” in Starting Point: 1979-1996, (San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2009), 70-85.


August 11
Only Yesterday: Nostalgia and the Idealized World of the Past
Susan Napier, Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, (New York: Palgrave, 2005), Chapter 14: pp. 275-290.
Millie Creighton, “Consuming Rural Japan: The Marketing of Tradition and Nostalgia in the Japanese Travel Industry” in Ethnology, Vol 36.3 (Summer, 1997), pp. 239-254.
William W. Kelly, “Rationalization and Nostalgia: Cultural Dynamics of New Middle-Class Japan” in American Ethnologist, Vol. 13.4 (Nov., 1986), pp. 603-618.

August 12
Reinterpreting the “Past”-iche: Hip-hop Samurai
We will watch clips of Samurai Champloo in class as part of our discussion
Marius B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press), pp. 274-279;
Philip Brophy, 100 anime, (New York: Macmillan, 2005), 200-205.
William L. Benzon, “Postmodern Is Old Hat: Samurai Champloo” in Mechademia Vol. 3 (2008), 271-274.

August 15
The Loss of the Real: Kon Satoshi’s Paprika and the Postmodern Condition
We will watch clips of Paprika in class as part of our discussion
Perper and Cornog, “Psychoanalytic Cyberpunk Midsummer-night’s Dreamtime: Kon Satoshi’s Paprika” in Mechademia, (Volume 4, 2009, pp. 326-329).
Glenn Ward, Teach Yourself Postmodernism, (Chicago: McGraw-Hill, 2003), pp 55-86.

August 16
Consumerism and the Otaku Culture in Kon Satoshi’s Paranoia Agent
Glenn Ward, Teach Yourself Postmodernism, (Chicago: McGraw-Hill, 2003), pp 88-139.
Gerald Figal, “Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption in Kon Satoshi’s Paranoia Agent” in Mechademia (Volume 5, 2010, pp. 139-155).
Furukawa Hideo, “Monsters” in Monkey Business: New Writing From Japan Vol 1 (2011), pp. 6-17.

August 17
Literature in Anime, Anime as Literature
We’ll watch the Akutagawa section of Aoi Bungaku (2010) in class
Akutagawa Ryûnosuke, Spider’s Thread.
—. “Hell Screen” in Modern Japanese Literature, Donald Keene, ed. (Rutland and Tokyo: Tuttle, 1956), 307-332.
“Akutagawa Ryûnosuke: 1892-1927” in Modern Japanese Writers, Jay Rubin, ed. (New York: Scribner, 2001), pp. 19-30. (on permanent reserve in reference area in Olin library)

Facebook blunders, Anime, and Nekulturny

Over the weekend, a New Hampshire state representative, Nikolas Levasseur made some ridiculous commentary on Facebook, saying that “Anime is the reason just 2 nukes wasn’t enough.”

Now, of course, for some, to be upset over this comment will be another example of oversensitivity and politically-correct responses to an ill-thought out, idiotic statement. But looking deeper, we can see that this is more than purely foolish rhetoric. Many people think Facebook is private and safe, but anyone who has been to “Failbooking” will recognize that what you say on Facebook may not stay among your close network of 500 friends. Indeed, we forget just how public the internet is. So perhaps Mr. Levasseur was just making an idiotic comment that one might make at a bar with friends, where some of his actual meat-space friends would say, “Nick, come on, that’s not cool.” And perhaps, he would have relented thinking that maybe “jokes” about thousands of people instantly dying are not funny in the least.

Perhaps this statement is also an example of someone simply being uneducated. As any Tom Clancy fan will know, a highly-charged Russian insult is to call someone Nekulturny, meaning “Uncultured.” A boorish, loud person might be prone to say such things. A person without deeper historic, or cultural appreciation for Japan might think it OK to say something like this. Maybe a way to prevent this kind of thinking is education.

Sure, there are things in anime that I find detestable, and I would not advise people to pick up and enjoy those titles. But, there is a huge variety of excellent, deep, moving, refreshing content within the anime genre that deserves to be seen and enjoyed. Most anime that we might find objectionable in the west is created for a subset of a purely Japanese audience, who has a different sense of what it means to enjoy something versus acting out on it. (We Americans seem to act out our violent fantasies, rather than leaving them in the realm of fantasy…just look at the murder/rape rate and compare to Japan.) But, to say anime is a reason a country should have been wiped out, and that a state representative is saying such things, is really inexcusable. If he read up a bit, he might realize, as Takashi Murakami posits, anime and the otaku subculture is really in response to the atomic vaporization of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So, I humbly submit a short reading list for the state representative, and hope he will begin to do some homework before shooting of his mouth again.

  1. Dower, John. Embracing Defeat
  2. Drazen, Patrick. Anime Explosion
  3. Gravett, Paul. Manga, 60 Years of Japanese Comics
  4. Hendry, Joy. Understanding Japanese Society
  5. Ibuse, Masuji. Black Rain
  6. Kelts, Roland. Japanamerica
  7. De Bary, Keene, Tsunoda, and Varley. Sources of Japanese Tradition, vols 1-3
  8. Napier, Susan. Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle.
  9. Schodt, Frederick L. Dreamland Japan
  10. Schodt, Frederick L. Manga, Manga, Manga
  11. Sugimoto, Yoshio. An Introduction to Japanese Society