by Mizuko Ito
In her master's thesis submitted to the East Asian Studies Center at USC, Annie Manion argues that among college students in the US, anime has become one of the most important drivers of interest in Japan and Japanese language study. Drawing from surveys and interviews of students taking Japanese language classes and anime club members, Manion suggests that "there is a good deal of overlap" between young people studying Japanese and those involved with the anime fan community. Over half of Japanese language students cited "understanding Japanese anime, music, etc." as one reason they are taking a Japanese class.
... over the last few years the type of student interest in Japan has been changing. Where in the past Japanese language programs attracted people interested in learning about Japanese economic growth and business practices, recently Japanese language students seem more interested in Japanese culture. A recent article for the Wall Street Journal addressed the trend, saying that in the past nine years, the majority of Japanese language students at the University of Georgia are no longer international business majors, but rather Japanese culture fanatics.
In line with other research by scholars such as Susan Napier or Anne Allison, Annie has found that national origin is not necessarily what atracts young people to anime. But she has also found that once someone becomes an anime fan, they often develop an interest in learning more about Japan. "The fact is that people who like anime, depending on their exposure to Japanese culture, tend to like many aspects of Japanese culture, from popular to traditional, as well, and develop at some point either the desire to learn Japanese or visit Japan."
I had been hearing a lot of anecdotal information from faculty and students at USC about how the tide has shifted in the kinds of interests that bring young Americans to an interest in Japan. While anime is not the only type of Japanese popular culture that has gotten interest among American children and youth, it is probably the most dominant. Annie's thesis makes a strong case about these trends. She also argues that it is high time we took anime seriouly in the academy as an ambassador for Japanese culture. She notes that anime continues to be marginalized in the US despite its broad appeal among young people. "Because of this many young people are not encouraged to pursue their interest in anime, and it is still uncommon for anime to be used in formal classroom settings as a means to teach about Japan." As a member of the academy who is researching and teaching about anime, I couldn't agree more.
Posted by Mizuko Ito at 2005年10月11日 21:28