Ah, fall. That special time of year when young people’s thoughts turn lightly to … exams. My first one is tomorrow as I type. Are you ready?
This time, our very own Samuru asks, Do your students know you watch anime, or have you shared that with them? If yes, what were some of those experiences like? A few of my students know, but only those who hang around my office after asking their questions. Sometimes I get into conversations with such students. The subject of language learning often comes up, because I think learning a foreign language is one of the best things you can do for your brain. If the subject then turns to Asian languages in general, or Japanese in particular, sometimes a student will ask me what prompted me to start learning Japanese, and the subject of anime comes up that way. In fact, just this past week something like that happened. Not only that, it turns out that one of my former students is planning to go to Osaka University as an exchange student this coming term, and I am hoping to catch up with him in Japan the following summer. You never know what you’ll find out about your students!
Also, Joshua Rubley asks, What is an anime you enjoyed the most or noted specially for its use of jokes that require understanding of Japanese culture or other things that are unique to Japan? One show that falls into that category for me, as well as the category of I Can’t Believe I Watched The Whole Thing, is Yakitate!! Japan, whose very title is a pun. And the puns certainly don’t end with the title. Back then, I was just starting to learn about Japanese language and culture, and how intertwined they are. While I don’t remember much in particular about the show (apart from one especially horrible pun on umai, “delicious,” which used the character for 馬 uma, “horse”), I realize now that it was through such shows in my early anime-watching years that I really began to soak up basic everyday elements of Japanese life. These ranged from the required onsen episode (of COURSE we went to the onsen, as well as to the beach, where I’m nearly positive we smashed watermelons as is contractually required), to typical city and small-town streets with their abundance of vending machines; from a language that is so full of double-entendres that it sometimes seems difficult to make any statement that doesn’t involve a pun if one wishes to pursue it, to the Japanese sense of nationalism and pride that shows through in the care they put into making food, whether it’s something authentically Japanese like nattou or something borrowed like bread. When I finally arrived for the first time in Japan in 2012, I perhaps shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was to find that it seemed familiar somehow, thanks to the faithful rendering of typical Japanese settings in many anime series — even those like One Punch Man or Boku no Hero Academia, neither of which we’d normally associate with the expectation of realism.
But reality sets in again for me too at the moment, and I should get back to my students. Surely someone will be along with questions fairly soon. Right?