Entertainment is rarely educational. In essence, it is hard to entertain and educate at the same time as the two acts are conflicting in nature. Needless to say, the upper echelons in the entertainment industry are cognizant of this fact, which is why we see instalment after instalment of the Fast and Furious saga, a franchise devoid of any educational value but is entertainment on steroids; watching cars fly off every platform imaginable and defy the laws of physics is nothing but not entertaining.
Be that as it may, there is educational content in western media, but they are very loosely considered “entertainment”. Most educational movies, shows, and content are often documentaries and biographical in nature whereas opposed to entertaining, they seek to educate. This highlights the inability of both aspects to coexist equally in western media. As a workaround, if educational content were to be more entertaining, it would mean adding elements of drama and intrigue. These elements, albeit effective, reduce the educational value in return for entertainment value and results in it being in a weird grey area where it is neither fully educational nor entertaining.
But what about Manga and Anime? They are known to be wildly entertaining by their readers/watchers and those from the outside looking in. However, there is a scarce discussion on the educational value of Manga and Anime as non-enthusiasts would logically assume a media so entertaining would surely be lacking in educational value; but is this true? I have been an avid consumer of both but it wasn’t until I was 15-16 did I realise I was learning from the Manga I was reading at the time. For context, it was a Science exam and I encountered a question on examples of neutralising acid. Short on examples, I wracked my brain for an answer and it was then that I remembered a tidbit of information from Detective Conan. I still remember happily capitalising knowledge from a Manga to get full marks on the question (If you were curious, the example I used was that tannin in ice tea can help neutralise the venom of a sea snake which was acidic).
It wasn’t a Eureka moment, but it raised a question; are Manga and Anime actually educational? Over the years, I consumed more and more material and arrived at the conclusion that they might actually be educational and entertaining. However, this clashes against the concept that entertainment and education can rarely coexist in the same material. Then, how do Manga and Anime make it work? How are they entertaining and educational?
There are a lot of Anime and Manga. To illustrate exactly how much, a little quick maths; Anime air in cours (a three-month unit of television broadcasting) in a 4-season rotation yearly. In a season, roughly 35-40 Anime air in an 11-13 episode cour. That brings it to about 100 Anime a year minimum, a staggering amount. The numbers for Manga are even more ridiculous as there are over 20 magazines publishing 5-10 series on a weekly – monthly basis. We’ve established the absurd number of Anime and Manga but how does it relate to the educational value of such materials?
Anime and Manga have seen evolution since their inception in the 20th century. What began as mindless entertainment has developed in sophistication exponentially. To compete with each other, they need a cutting edge that makes them original in their own right. Manga and Anime have continued to push the envelope and the result has created an incredibly vast range of content that is “specialised”. Today, a large number of Manga and Anime are incredibly niche and are no longer just about superheroes, fighting, and superpowers. While those still exist, the competition they invite created specialised Manga and Anime, which are high in both entertainment and educational value.
What are specialised Manga and Anime? These are content specialising in only one area, usually written by a specialist or expert in said area. Because it’s specialised, it is filled to the brim with information and knowledge about that field of speciality. For example, the incredibly popular volleyball Manga Haikyuu!!. Haikyuu!! was written by former volleyball player and art graduate Furudate Haruichi. It is not only an entertaining action-packed sports Manga but is highly educational as you will learn about basics, tactics, strategy, and the history of the sports, perfect to educate future prospects and aspiring volleyball players in terms of the game. Because Furudate has both a volleyball and art background, he can maximise both talents to make Haikyuu excel in both elements successfully.
Haikyuu!! is one of the many examples of Manga/Anime being immensely fun and entertaining and it has numbers and accolades to prove this; the manga won the 61st Shogakukan Manga Award for best shonen manga in 2017. As of November 2020, Haikyu!! had over 50 million copies in circulation and is also enjoyed by the volleyball players of the Japan national team. Nishida Yuuji of the national team in particular was impressed at how thorough and accurate Haikyuu!! was in depicting the sport.
There are countless Manga/Anime today specialising in numerous fields of expertise such as Shokugeki no Soma (cooking), Nami yo Kiitekure (radio broadcasting), Kuroko no Basket (Basketball), Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? (bodybuilding and health) and Runway de Waratte (modelling and fashion).
Something else to add to the evidence pile are educational Anime with academic value, such as Cells at Work (Biology) and Spice and Wolf (Economics). Cells at work in particular is an ingenious show about the inner workings of the human body, depicted refreshingly like a city. Each cell in the body is a humanoid and the show explains human biology in an extremely entertaining way that won’t bore you from start to finish. I can personally attest to enjoy learning more about the human body in this show than I did in classes. Cells at Work is something that should be recommended to children and adults alike as it makes learning something as tricky to teach effectively as Biology to everyone fun. At the very least, it will get the viewers interested in the subject, which is the all-important first step to learning.
Manga/Anime has evolved to become a medium that seeks to both entertain and educate to the best that they could, and the result has proven to already be quite visible. I look forward to the time when the public sees Manga and Anime for what they are today; entertaining AND educational.
Hartwick is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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