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JPST 215 Intro to Contemporary Japan Through Pop Culture

Instructor: Alwyn Spies

Pre-requisites: 3 credits of 1st-year English, or CULT 100

A thematic exploration of contemporary Japanese society through popular culture narratives (such as manga, anime, film, and video games) in English translation.

Learning Outcomes

  1. knowledge of key social structures in contemporary Japanese culture, such as hierarchies of family, work and school
  2. recognition of key social, political and economic problems affecting life in contemporary Japan, (such as rising youth crime rates and violence, education inflation, hikikomori, and the freeta phenomenon)
  3. ability to use key Cultural Studies concepts (such as but not limited to identity, race, gender, sexuality, class, nostalgia, modernity and technology) to analyze and categorize various contemporary Japanese media narratives
  4. ability to apply basic audience reception theories to analyze, compare and contrast the reception of Japanese popular culture texts inside and outside of Japan as well as between academia, mainstream journalism and fan subcultures


  • Takaya, Natsuki. 2003. Fruitsbasket (Volume 1). TokyoPop
  • Aida, Yu. 2003. Gunslinger Girl (Volume 1). ADV Manga
  • Takemiya, Keiko. 2007. To Terra… (Volumes 1-3). Vertical.
  • Jones, Diana Wynne. 1986. Howl’s moving castle. HarperCollins.
  • McLoud, Scott. 1994. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Harper Paperbacks
  • Coursepack with academic articles


  • Ghost in the Shell (1996, Manga Entertainment Inc., Oshii Mamoru)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (2004, Disney Home Entertainment. Miyazaki Hayao)
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena – The Movie (2002, Software Sculptures, Ikuhara Kunihiko)
  • Densha Otoko (Train Man – the movie) (2005, Toho Cinema / Viz Pictures, Murakami Shosuke)
  • Final Fantasy VII – Advent Children (2005, Sony Pictures, Nomura Tetsuya and Nozue Takeshi)
  • Avalon (2001, Miramax, Oshii Mamoru)

Assignments & Grading

Response Journals 30%
In-class exercises20%
Mid-term exam 15%
Final exam (24-hour take-home)35%

Last reviewed shim9/17/2012 11:15:19 AM


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Nina Langton
Associate Professor, Department of Critical Studies 

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Alwyn Spies
Assistant Professor, Department of Critical Studies 


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