UT Dallas Magazine

Anime Experts Share Knowledge with UTD Class

Students take notes while anime expert Helen McCarthy speaks via Skype.

Some of the leading researchers in the field of Japanese anime are speaking to UT Dallas students in a class that delves deeply into the popular animation genre.

Recently, Helen McCarthy spoke to the “Literature of Science Fiction – Anime/Manga – Apocalypse How?” class via Skype, from London, England. She shared her research about Hayao Miyazaki, widely regarded as one of the greatest storytellers and animation directors in the world. In 1999, McCarthy wrote the first English-language book about Miyazaki. She had earlier written the first English-language book about anime, which was published in 1993.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Japanese anime industry pulled in a record $17.7 billion in 2016, boosted by the smash hit film Your Name, growing exports, and revenue from mobile game licensing.

Dr. Pamela Gossin, a professor of the history of science and literary studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, co-teaches the University’s anime class with Dr. Marc Hairston, a research scientist with the Hanson Center for Space Sciences in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Gossin said their goal is to help students develop their abilities in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural interpretations of Japanese storytelling.

“These visual and verbal narratives are being told on a very high level. Anime and manga creators combine complex artistic, philosophical, scientific and technological themes and materials,” she said. “Casual viewers and readers who tend to watch ‘cartoons’ or read ‘comics’ literally for plot action and character development often miss deeper levels of visual and symbolic representation that a little extra background and guided discussion can help them see and understand.”

Hairston said anime has become popular because it’s very different from typical American entertainment.

“One of the hallmarks of anime is its interesting storytelling. You have interesting characters and, surprisingly, you may have characters who die,” Hairston said.

“This level of realism was a revelation when it first came to this country back in the ’70s and ’80s. That was not normal for U.S. audiences watching cartoons at the time”

– Dr. Marc Hairston

Gossin said the anime class is valuable because the artistic and cultural aspects of the form are unfamiliar in some way to almost every student on campus, which means everyone in the class has to dive deeper at some point to understand the works more fully.

“If you pick something that’s unfamiliar, then you’ve got a unique opportunity to bring a very diverse group of students together and help them understand that we all carry cultural baggage and biases into even our best and most beautiful attempts to express our thoughts and feelings and communicate with each other,” she said.

Gossin and Hairston plan to offer more guest lectures from anime experts, including well-known voice actors as well as literary and cultural scholars.

–Phil Roth