All About Japan

Teaching English Through Anime

Anime Video Sailor Moon Otaku

Picking which classes to take at college can be tough sometimes, but when you see a class called “Reading and Writing About Magical Girls,” suddenly the choice becomes a lot easier.

That exact class was held last semester at the University of South Carolina as an English 101 course, and after finishing it the professor provided an in-depth analysis of the class over on Reddit. Here’s an abbreviated list of the objectives of the course:

• Understand the basic tropes and methodologies of the magical girl genre.
• Use the genre to introduce basic tenets of feminism.
• Question whether niche interests like anime can elaborate on theoretical questions of aesthetics versus politics in a meaningful way.
• Connect the magical girl genre to larger questions of political importance.
• Teach students how to write (this is, after all, an introductory level English course).

Here are some of the materials used in the course, taking episodes from all fine works of magical girl anime, as well as some American cartoons:

Little Witch Academia
Sailor Moon: “A Moon Star is Born!”
Cardcaptor Sakura: “Sakura and the Blacked Out School Arts Festival”
Revolutionary Girl Utena: “Nanami’s Egg”
Bakemonogatari: “Tsubasa Cat, Part 2”
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, in its entirety.
The Powerpuff Girls: “Equal Fights”
Steven Universe: “An Indirect Kiss”

And here’s just an excerpt from the class syllabus:

Week 7
Mon. Sept. 26 – Reading: “Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism.”
Wed. Sept. 28 – From Bakemonogatari: “Tsubasa Cat, Part 2”
Fri. Sept. 30 – Reading: Sianne Ngai: “The Cuteness of the Avant-garde”

The professor who taught the class uploaded a lecture he gave, titled “Grace v. Glamour: The Duality of Sailor Moon.” You can watch it in the video above, as well as many other similar videos on his YouTube channel.

With the professor getting rave reviews online and most people being enthusiastic for the class rather than cynical, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before similar courses start popping up all over the rest of the world.

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