Web Japan >   Trends in Japan >   Pop Culture >  Anime Goes Academic

Anime Goes Academic

Universities Launch Animation Courses


The Yokohama campus of Tokyo University of the Arts. (C)Tokyo University of the Arts

Japanese anime has avid fans the world over, a phenomenon that is sometimes known by the name Japanimation. Anime's sophisticated storylines and high level of artistic expression have for years made it an object of respect both in Japan and overseas. But until recently it was regarded only as a subcultural form and rarely as art - a situation that is now undergoing a sea change. There is a growing movement among Japanese universities and graduate schools to take an academic approach to anime and manga. Once seen as children's entertainment, these forms are coming to be viewed in an entirely new light.

Studying Animation
Epitomizing these changes is the establishment in spring 2008 (the beginning of the new academic year) of the Department of Animation at the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts. While there have been departments and courses at private universities focusing on manga or anime, this is a first for a national university. Moreover, the birth of an animation department at one of Japan's top graduate schools in the arts effectively signifies state approval of animation as an academic subject.

The curriculum is aimed at those who have graduated from art colleges or have worked in animation production, and courses will be offered in four areas: three-dimensional animation, two-dimensional animation, project planning, and story writing. Each student will be required to complete two works during the two-year master's program. The faculty will comprise leading figures in the anime industry, including Yamamura Koji, whose anime short Atama-Yama (Mt. Head) won an Academy Award nomination. The program will aim to produce animation creators through practical training, as well as develop discourse and theory on animation as a cultural form.


Vantan Career School offers a course in Cosplay. (C)VANTAN CAREER SCHOOL

Changes Extend to Vocational Colleges
Departments and courses for studying anime and manga have been around for some years at several universities, including Tokyo Polytechnic University, Osaka Electro-Communication University, and Kyoto Seika University, which set up its Faculty of Manga in 2000. Classes on manga will also be offered at Nagoya Zokei University of Art & Design and Gakushuin University - the latter at graduate level - starting in April 2008.

Forays into the study of anime and manga by undergraduate and graduate schools are having an effect on vocational colleges as well. In January 2008, moreover, the Vantan Career School, which has campuses in Tokyo and Osaka, launched a Cosplayers Course for studying costume production, special makeup effects, and other aspects of the art of cosplay (dressing up as characters from manga and anime).

These developments are an indication that the subculture of manga and anime and its offshoots are coming into the mainstream at various levels of society. (February 6, 2008)