A few days ago, RocketNews24 (which proclaims that its goal is to “to bring Asia’s own brand of strange to the English-speaking world) announced that a “U.S. university has ‘Reading and Writing About Magical Girls‘ as introductory English course”. Breaking news. Unique. Unprecedented. Worth the breathless – alternating with bemused – write-up. Oh, yeah, based entirely on a Reddit post and the resulting comments.
Susan Napier taught what I believe was the first course on Japanese animation at a U.S. college/university definitely in the fall semester of 2001 (an archived version of the syllabus for it is available via the Internet Archive) Since then, dozens of schools all around the U.S. have offered similar ones. And, one of the things that I try to do is track as many of them as possible. The College Classes on Anime/Manga page, on this site’s Resource section, is the full list. In the fall of 2015, I highlighted several new classes, including one at Harvard University.
That post definitely calls for an update, though. So, if you were a student at a U.S. college/university last year – or will be one this term, and want to take a class on anime/manga, what kinds of options do you have available for you?
The RocketNews24 article notes that the class in question was offered as one of the sections of the University of South Carolina’s required English 101: Critical Reading and Composition. As it turns out, this kind of approach is not unique. For the Spring 2017 semester, first-year students at Northern Arizona University can select to take Apocalyptic Anime – “This in-depth discussion and presentation-based seminar will provide students with a guided opportunity to delve deep below the surface of dystopian and apocalyptic anime and manga in order to examine ethical, moral, and human values attached to certain works”. Similarly, the list of courses that the University of California, Davis First-Year Seminar offered to students last fall included Ecology, Technology, and Anime. One more example of such a course is Washington University in St. Louis’s “Freshman Seminar: Anime as Popular Culture”, but it’s not clear when this was last actually taught. And, at Chapman University, Anime and War is only open to students in the university’s Honors Program.
On the other hand, several colleges are including classes on anime/manga in their general course offerings, not limited to students in particular programs. Emory University’s film studies department has a “Non-Western National Cinemas – Japanese Anime” class – and a librarian in Emory’s Music and Media Library has developed a specialized research guide for the students who will be taking it. The Film & Media Department at the University of California, Berkeley, is the home of “National Cinemas: Anime”. At Macalester College, “Girls’ Manga: Gender/Sexuality in Japan through Popular Culture” is cross-listed between Asian Languages & Cultures, Japanese, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, while at Ursinus College, “Anime” is offered jointly by the East Asian Studies and Film Studies departments – “The course fulfills the ‘G’ (Global Study) or ‘H’ (Humanities) core requirement and the national cinema requirement for the Film Studies minor.” And of course, while these types of classes are usually offered by Asian Studies and Film Studies programs, they do not need to be. At Stanford University, Religion in Anime and Manga is a Religious Studies class, and at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Understanding Manga is one of the undergraduate classes in the History of Art & Architecture department.
So, once again, if there is one thing to say about all of this, it’s that every year and every term, different colleges/universities around the U.S. will offer different types of classes on Japanese animation or Japanese comics. These kinds of classes are certainly not common – but nor are they unique or novel or unprecedented. Rather, they are another example of how anime/manga studies is now established as more than an academic “area of interest”. For that matter, just as academic writing on Japanese anime/manga has moved from commentary and plot descriptions to an ongoing dialogue, it is now possible to compare these classes, their approaches and topics, and actual anime/manga covered in them, to expand the definition of anime/manga studies as a formal academic field.