“To watch an anime film is to travel to a foreign country—to a place where people think in unfamiliar ways about nature, history, technology, and spirituality; and where the animated film itself presupposes an audience quite different from that of the latest Disney feature.”
So states the proposal for an inaugural honors composition course titled Anime and Worldview that explores the world of Japanese animation and challenges students to engage contemporary culture as Christian thinkers.
Japanese “anime” differs from American animation in everything from characterization to landscapes. Dr. Mark Jones, professor of English, compares the experience to “walking through an art gallery.”
Jones said anime makes an ideal subject for the study of world view. While some anime films are informed by a set of religious and cultural values that are distinctly non Western, others display biblical story and Christian theology in ways that are de-familiarizing and thought provoking.
Trinity’s English department has incorporated more visual literacy into its first-year curriculum, including the work of photojournalists and graphic novels such as Maus, an illustrated narrative of Holocaust survival.
Japanese anime was recently introduced to Trinity students as part of another writing course. After viewing “My Neighbor Totoro,” a pastoral children’s fantasy, and “Grave of the Fireflies,” a film about war, students noted interesting parallels in the two films, such as relationships between parents and children and the way children find beauty in desperate circumstances.
“A single film may offer insight not only into the worldviews of others, but also into the ways in which those others think about Western, and specifically Christian, ways of seeing,” said Jones.
Jones takes the teaching of this course beyond the purely academic, having participated over the years in viewing the films with his children and attending yearly conventions with hordes of anime fans, a group he calls an “accepting” and “cross-generational” sub-culture. For the past several years, he and his neighbors have brought several children from their Blue Island community to ACen (Anime Central), a local convention. This year, interest was so high that a school board member worked with the city’s park district to provide a bus trip to bring even more children to the convention.
In the Anime and Worldview course, anime films will form the main body of “text” for study, with supplemental reading and weekly writing assignments. This course will be offered as part of the Honors Program.