Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

We understand that prospective students and offer holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Read our latest coronavirus information

Holding an offer for 2020 entry? Visit our dedicated offer-holders page to find out if Manchester's right for you.

Information for offer-holders

BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Core Themes in Animation and Visual Culture of Postwar Japan

Unit code JAPA20131
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Spanish, Portuguese and Latin
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will introduce students to the most influential and cannonical works of Japanese animation and several related live action fims which can be closely connected to the evolution of the themes of animation. Students will explore core themes developing in and through animation: nationalism, race, and the recovery of national identity; mutant bodies of youth; the heroic ‘shojo’ (girl), technological interface and human evolution; apocalyptic visions; and environmentalism. Each week there will be full screenings of film or animation OVA (film length versions). The course begins with the early origins of postwar animation and ‘monster film’ in the 1950s and traces its development and expansion into a major media particularly from the 1980s to the 2000s.


  • To provide students with an understanding of the key themes and genres of film and animation
  • To introduce the major concepts and aspects of the 21st century historical background necessary for a fuller understanding of contemporary culture in Japan
  • To enable students to analyse cultural problems and dynamics in contemporary Japan in an informed and critical way
  • To prepare students with skills for independent source gathering in their year abroad and for more robust essay writing skills in the final year

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course the student will be able to: 


Screening Week 1 Godzilla [live action] (1954) + Astro Boy (1963)

Lecture 1 Monsters, ghosts, recuperating folk lore and early postwar Japan

Screening Week 2 Grave of the Fireflies

Lecture 2 War, animated propaganda, perspective and ‘ballistic vision’

Screening Week 3 Space Battleship Yamato (Uchu Senkan Yamato 1977)

Lecture 3 Science fiction heroes and reimagining Japan

Screening Week 4 Akira 1988.

Lecture 4 Mutating bodies, industry and masculinity

Screening Week 5 Tetsuo Iron Man [live action] (1989) + Tetsuo II

Lecture 5 Girls becoming heroines

Screening Week 6 Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997) + episodes of Sailor Moon (1992)

Screening Week 7 Nausicaa (1984)

Lecture 6 Cyborg heroines challenging the boundaries of Humanity

Screening Week 8 Patlabor (1989)

Lecture 7 Otaku-ism and Animation

Screening Week 9 Perfect Blue (1997)

Lecture 8 Postmodern war, distance, loneliness and reality

Screening Week 11 Evangelion (1995-2012) + Voices of a Distant Star (2003) 

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and class discussion of the readings

Discussion of animation screened in relation to readings and lectures

Written feedback on class presentation and mid-term essays

Oral feedback on contributions to seminars and assessment of written work

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of major trends and formations of animation and contemporary culture in Japan in the context of the postwar environment
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of key analytical concepts related to the study of animation and film in contemporary Japan
  • Knowledge of several key genres and cultural themes within animation and overlapping into other media and social discussion

Intellectual skills

  • Engage in informed critical analysis of Japanese animation and film
  • Read and watch critically
  • Write analytically

Practical skills

  • Construct ideas and arguments from own research and apply knowledge to finding solutions to authentic real world problems.
  • Improve basic skills for academic writing, in particular reviewing academic literature.
  • Improve presentation skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Have honed their skills for reasoned presentation, discussion and argument
  • Be able to find and use critically a range of materials such as books, journals and web-based resources relevant to the topics studied in the course. Develop personal qualities of independence of mind in order to make ethical judgments.
  • Have honed their skills for reasoned presentation, discussion and argument

Employability skills

Project management
Students taking this unit will be learning to work towards deadlines, work independently and to manage their time effectively.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to communicate a coherent and critical argument of depth and complexity in written form and to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods


Assessment task


Weighting within unit

  1. solo class presentation, 10 minutes, notes on class presentation to be submitted on Tii before the presentation

600-800 words of notes outlining the points and ideas in the presentation


  1. participation in seminar

index cards with notes to be collected at the end of seminars


  1. essay

Year 2 students 1800 words, Week 7




  1. fictional text: a story board for a new animation film with attached explanatory commentary

1200 words (600 words story board + 600 words commentary)

Week 12




Assessment task



3000 words


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

  • Written feedback on class presentation


  • Written feedback on fictional text and commentary Week 7 (can be submitted at any point until this final deadline)

summative and formative (contributing towards the final essay)

  • Written feedback on final essay


  • Written and oral feedback on class participation and written assessments available to all students during office hours and by arrangement



Recommended reading

Susan Napier (2001) Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle

Susan Napier (2018) Miyazakiworld

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sharon Kinsella Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Students are required to visit the lecturer by appointment in office hours no later than 1 week prior to the class presentation, to have a tutorial to discuss developing specific themes and angles and suitable reading.

Return to course details