Anthropology 383a: Japanimation and Manga

aka History and Material Culture in Modern Japan

Instructor: Karen Nakamura
Office Location: 158 Whitney Avenue Room 34
Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:30 - 3:30pm

Last offered: Fall 2005
Next offered: -
Enrollment limit: 15 students

Location: 158 Whitney Avenue Room 21 (new location)

Yale Classes V2 Server


Tuesdays / Thursdays
1:00 - 2:15 158 Whitney Avenue Room 21
Film Screenings:
4:00-5:30 158 Whitney Avenue Room 1
[ Jump to Course Discussion e-Group]

Brief Course Description

This course explores animation (anime) and graphic novels (manga) in 20th century Japan. Special attention is paid to the social and historical context of the production and consumption of manga and anime. This course is reading intensive with mandatory film screenings. No knowledge of Japanese required.

Expanded Course Description

Japanese animation (Japanimation or anime) and manga comic books are dynamic forms of popular and material culture in Japan. However, despite anime constantly outselling Japanese film at box offices and manga outselling Japanese novels, there has been little academic interest in this field until very recently. This is rapidly changing as scholars become aware of the richness and diversity of these genres.

This course approaches the issue of anime and manga from several directions. In many ways, this is a Japanese Culture and History course in disguise. We view anime and manga as narrative forms that can be analyzed in terms of their thematic tropes. We explore the cultural and historical background to the production and consumption of manga and anime and trace the one-hundred (and so) year history of Modern Japan, exploring the genealogies of these thematic elements. A significant portion of the class will be spent looking at issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and religion within manga and anime.

Our readings draw from historical and cultural analyses of 20th century Japan designed to provide deeper understanding of the factors underlying the production and consumption of animation and manga. We will also be reading several graphic novels during the semester. There is a mandatory film screening each week. No knowledge of the Japanese language is necessary.


Course Prerequisites

Permission of instructor is required. In general, you must have completed coursework in some aspect of modern Japan, including but not limited to:

Although students who have taken one or more of the above classes will have priority, please show up on the first day of class if you wish to enroll, regardless of your qualifications. If you missed the first week of classes and wish to enroll, please contact the instructor.


Required Books

This is the list of required books for this course. There will also be online articles on the Classes V2 server.

Required Textbooks:

Manga Graphic Novels:

All of these works have been translated into English. You may choose to read these in the original Japanese if you like (although no extra credit will be assigned for this). To purchase the Japanese originals, try a mail-order used book store such as Suzuran (in Boston) . In New York City try the used bookstore BookOff which sells many of these manga in the original Japanese for $1 to $3. I strongly encourage you to create "reading circles" of friends in the class to share the cost of purchasing the manga.

Anime Film Screenings:

All films will be screened in Room 1 of 158 Whitney Avneue on Wednesday afternoons at 4:00pm. Most of the films will be screened in Japanese with English subtitles. Some films are only available (horribly) dubbed in English. A few films will be screened in Japanese only with screening notes attached.

1 Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) (DVD; Japanese dialogue; English subtitles) 1997 ®
2 Rurouni Kenshin (VHS; dubbed) 1996 ®
3 Early Showa Anime (VHS: Japanese dialogue; English subtitles) 1930s G
4 Grave of the Fireflies(DVD: Japanese dialogue; English subtitles)1988 (1945)®
5 Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) (VHS; Japanese with screening notes)
Doraemon (VHS; Japanese with screening notes)
Janguru Taitei (Kimba the White Lion) (VHS; dubbed in English)
6 Uchuu Senkan Yamato (Star Blazers); (DVD; Japanese dialogue; English subtitles)1977G
7 Kaze no Tani no Naushika (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds) (VHS; fan subbed)1984 G
8 Koukaku Kidoutai (Ghost in the Shell) (DVD; Japanese dialogue; English subtitles)1988®
9 Akira (DVD; Japanese dialogue; English subtitles)1995®
10 Roujin-Z (DVD; Japanese dialogue; English subtitles)1991PG-13
11 Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) (VHS; dubbed in English)1988G
12 Spirited Away (DVD; Japanese dialogue; English subtitles) 2001PG-13
13 Neon Genesis Evangelion (DVD; Japanese dialogue; English subtitles)1995PG-13

All films are open to the public, however films marked with an ® contain scenes of graphic violence or of a sexual nature and are not suitable for young children.

Assignments and Course Calendar


Course Participation10%
Short Papers (5-7 pp): 3 x 10% = 30%
Final paper (15-20 pages) 40%
Quizzes 10%

Library and other Resources

Other Recommended Reading:

Otaku Supplies

Online Articles

Film Information

Bonus! Online Comics that I like

Last modified: , .