As someone who reports on anime-related stuff from Tokyo, I often have to downplay the idea of Japan-as-otaku-paradise. No, no, I explain sagely, Japan is no more geeky than America.
Then, inevitably, a news story like this comes along and smashes that theory.
Yahoo.jp reports that a professor at the Aichi of University Education is using light novels like Bakemonogatari and Sword Art Online as texts for in a modern Japanese literature course.
The professor, Masahiro Hirose, is a well-known expert on subculture, focused on anime and music as well as modern lit. Hirose has written scholarly papers on anime like K-On!, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Hirose uses novels like Sword Art Online and Bakemonogatari in his course to teach reading comprehension and to explore topics like modern Japanese society and culture.
Wait, hold the presses – it’s pretty commonly accepted in western academia these days that pop culture has at least as much to teach us about society as high culture, and a quick search reveals there are plenty of American colleges with their own anime and manga courses. My theory that Japan and the States aren’t so different after all is saved. Whew.