Anime exposed

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

Naota Nandaba’s head was killing him. As the 12-year-old stumbled around a small town bridge in Mabase, Japan, two giant robots came bursting from a portal on his forehead — one shaped like an enormous hand, the other, a human with a television for a head.

They immediately engaged in a vicious battle and were joined moments later by an eccentric, pink-haired girl riding a Vespa and wielding a Rickenbacker bass guitar.

If you think that’s weird, get this: that scene, which is part of an episode of the anime “Fooly Cooly,” acts as one of the texts students are using in a new anime class the U is offering.

Lien Fan Shen, a professor in animation and a life long fan of anime, instructs anime history and perspective, the first course at the U to use Japanese animation, or anime, and graphic novels called manga as its core subject. The class examines many aspects of anime, such as the artistic use of lines and color, and delves into subjects like post-modern theory.

Shen said she has found that talking cats and skyscraper-tall robots succeed in teaching students in unconventional ways. Through anime and manga, Shen makes the complexity of post-modern theories accessible to students who would otherwise be apprehensive of the traditional, more difficult approach to texts.

Not only does Shen’s unique course defy the subject’s teaching conventions, but it also undermines a common American misconception that anime is simple children’s fare, she said.

“It’s a lot more interesting and in-depth than you would expect it to be,” said Matthew Bond, a senior in film studies and English.

For example, Shen’s curriculum includes “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” the robot-centered anime classic as the over-arching series to “explain everything that I lay out in my curriculum,” she said.

When “Evangelion’s” three main characters aren’t saving Tokyo from an onslaught of monstrous beings known as Angels, teenagers Shinji, Rae and Asuka discover and shape their identities through interaction with the people and world around them.

Ultimately, the characters forget they are people and must choose between being an individual and being part of the cosmos.

But Shen’s course isn’t a single

show class. For psychoanalysis, she uses Yukiko’s Spinach, a romance manga that uses its first-person perspective frames to illustrate all the different aspects of its main characters’ relationship.

Yukiko’s Spinach was introduced to Shen in 2003 when she created the course at Ohio State.

At the beginning of every course in the four years she has taught it, Shen has asked the students what anime or manga they would like to view or read for the semester.

This year, Shen’s students recommended Battle Angel, a manga about a reanimated cyborg out to discover her lost identity as well as Kino’s Journey, an anime and manga series about a man and his talking motorcycle’s adventure into different worlds to learn everything about them in three days.

The Wachowski brothers’ “Animatrix” and the surreal, post-modern themed “Cat Soup” are among other animes in Shen’s unconventional curriculum.

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