Building a Course

This is a pretty cool way to get your canon or must-watch hard-on addressed. I mean, if you want to approach it academically and build a syllabus or something, the end result would be a little bit focused on ideas, than just what you like.

Because a liberal education approach seems to fit in this topic most easily. It’s not like people want to become animators, right? Right? We’re beyond just posting our favorites here.

So what would I do? I’m going to start where once upon a time when Satoshi Kon was answering a question at the screening of Paprika during one of this so-called “retrospective” Q&A session. The question was about what Kon would recommend an aspiring animator to do, and the answer was something like he wouldn’t recommend you to become an animator in Japan. Not that he recommends against it, but I hope you know how it goes. The notion is that a good survey of anime information today will give you the full picture as to why he said what he said, and understand why he said what he said. In more details, these are the concepts and questions that will guide this hypothetical course:

Why would a well-recognized and talented Japanese animator not recommend being one? What sits at the core of this conflicting opinion? Why would we accept this opinion as reasonable (or not)? And so, in other words:

Why would Japanese young adults aspire to become animators?

As for the substantive portion of the course, I’m not sure how I would approach it–maybe from a film study perspective? It’s not an area of expertise for me, but I think for a semester survey class worth of maybe 3 credits (I guess that typically translates to 6-9hr/wk since credits are often tabulated differently) US undergraduate workload, the amount of work you can assign really is the number one limitation rather than how good the prof is at demonstrating knowledge and analysis. (Is this how all film studies prof feel?)

The topics? I guess to use the question I set up as a guide, it would include at least (in no order):

  • brief history of modern anime
  • the finance structure of anime today
  • change in animation technology in the past 20 yr
  • popular subject matter, theme
  • mobile and internet consumption

Then to address the “why would” question, probably case-study some shows that were quoted as “top” picks? Here are some examples; I don’t have the time to really dig into which animator quoted for which shows–shows that were singled out by other animators as their favorites or as example of great anime–but just a few off the top of my mind (in show – director pair)

Anne of Green Gables (select eps)  – Yamakan

Future Boy Conan (select eps) – Kazuya Murata

Gundam (original movie trilogy) – somebody?

Lupin III (select eps) – someone else?

Castle in the Sky – Shinkai

Rose of Versailles – STAR DRIVERUtena/Ikuhara


For each named director I would probably select something more excerpted. The chronology of the course and syllabus would follow by the study of the specific works, and the topics will be worked into the syllabus based on what gets studied. For example:

  1. Week 1:
    • Admin stuff
    • Anne of Green Gables (select eps)
    • Some history stuff, basic what is anime questions
    • Ground work for visuals and direction in anime.
  2. Week 2:
    • Kannagi (select eps)
    • more finance stuff
    • changes production techniques
  3. Week 3:
    • Future Boy Conan (select eps)
    • more history stuff, some spotlight on Miyazaki, etc.
    • more on themes, etc
  4. Week 4:
    • Eureka 7/White Reflection/whatever
    • more production technique
    • more on themes
    • op/ed/music video biz
    • change in technology

et cetera.

Depends on the course load, you can add more content per week and the compare-contrast sharper (I was party hardy at undergrad and the weekend would toast my memory with a DC10 save vs willpower or something) so the material could be better viewed back to back in the same week. Also that would free up later parts of the semester to watch the really interesting things. Like Nanoha or Fractale. LOL.

Man, now I want to go and dig out all those interview questions about what shows Satoshi Kon watched when he was young. I remember him making references to it but I don’t remember what it was. Because I have to work in Millennium Actress in there somehow. Maybe some future animator can call dibs back?

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