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Girl (and Boy) Troubles in Animeland: Exploring Representations of Gender in Japanese Animation Films

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The interest in things Japanese among the American public reached an all-time peak in the late 1990s. One form of Japanese popular culture that has penetrated American consciousness, especially among the younger population, is Japanese animation, or anime. Fan groups, Web sites, and college clubs devoted
to anime appreciation are found in almost every major American city. Japanese animation is increasingly one of the most frequently rented genres in video stores. In recent years, several monographs focusing on anime have been published, supplying vital consumer information for the connoisseur, reviews of and references to
numerous titles, and academic analyses of their forms and contents.1 Given this popularity, Japanese animation ought to be one of the most convenient tools for teaching American students about Japanese culture and society. At least in theory, that is. In truth, it is not apparent at all how Japanese animation can be employed for pedagogic purposes. What can our students learn from this outrageously popular artform? This essay is a small attempt to address that question.