Anime: The Good, The Bad, and The Surprisingly Educational

lucky star chocolate cornet
There are a lot of important life lessons to be had from anime. Large breasts are immune to gravity. No matter how long you grow out your bangs, they will not impede your eyesight in the slightest. Never trust overly cute girls in wheelchairs. And perhaps most vital of all, the thin end of the chocolate cornet is the head.

In a slightly more serious vein, there are actually plenty of anime shows out there that have a big educational emphasis – and not just when it comes to titles aimed primarily at children. While anime has long been used as a vehicle for imparting wholesome moral codes to young audience members, there’s also been a fairly long history of anime that manage to educate older viewers on everything from politics to mahjong. In this article, I’ll be going over just a small handful of these (often weirdly) educational anime that, for better or for worse, made a lasting impression on me.

Miracle Train

miracle train anime

I suppose I’d better get this one out of the way first. Miracle Train is without a doubt one of the most unintentionally ridiculous anime shows I’ve seen to date, about a magical train that only ever appears to women in distress. Said train houses a bunch of bishounen who are actually manifestations of Tokyo’s Oedo Line subway stations – Shinjuku, Roppongi, Shiodome, Tsukushima, Ryogoku, and Tocho-mae. Yes, really. There’s no denying that Miracle Train is a hilariously bad series, but there’s also no getting around the fact that it’s a highly informative one, with each of the six stations constantly throwing around trivia regarding their statistics, general history, and culture of their surrounding areas. I’m unclear as to the exact target audience of this title (hardcore bishounen and/or reverse-harem fans who also happen to be train otaku?), but I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.

Antique Bakery

antique bakery anime

Another anime that’s heavy on the bishounen, Antique Bakery is thankfully a far, far better title than the one above – a heartfelt comedy/drama about four men (a former businessman, a world-class pâtissier, an ex-boxing champ and a house servant/bodyguard) who all end up working in a French-style bakery. As you can probably tell from the description, most of the plot of Antique Bakery isn’t a particularly complex one. The characters, however, have a surprising amount of depth to them, and their mostly lighthearted but genuine-feeling interactions are what make the show really work. Oh, and let’s not forget about the cakes. Lots and lots of cakes. If those elaborate and undoubtedly well-researched sales pitches aren’t enough to get you salivating, the equally as detailed artwork will be.

Gin no Saji

gin no saji

Gin no Saji is another anime about food. Or more specifically, it’s about farming and agriculture and often revolves around food. Set in Hokkaido, our main character enrolls in an agricultural high school in order to escape the pressures of his rigorous academic lifestyle and strained family relationships, and understandably learns not only a great deal about the physical realities of living and working in rural Japan, but also how these things impact the people and world around him. One of the stronger and more memorable anime shows to have aired in recent seasons, Gin no Saji has a lot to say but rarely gets overly preachy, and is paced pretty well to boot. From horse riding and dog training to cheese making and pig slaughtering, the series covers a lot of ground but never fails to lose its inherent charm. I can’t say that Gin no Saji encourages me to suddenly abandon my suburban lifestyle to make a living off the land, but it’s a fun and oddly compelling title nonetheless.

Bartender

bartender anime

How about a drink to wash all that food down? Bartender is possibly exactly what you’d expect from the title; an anime about a young but extremely skilled bartender who uses his talents to either solve or at least soothe away his customers’ worldly problems. I’m not a big drinker myself and was wondering whether to expect something crass or obnoxious about a show revolving entirely around alcohol, but Bartender could probably be accurately described as a healing anime – albeit one with an episodic focus on cocktails. It’s more than a little cheesy, sure, and the uneventful slice-of-life nature may well bore some viewers, but it’s not a bad little series. Since every episode features a different cocktail, usually accompanied by some historical tidbits and each with instructions on how to make them, Bartender is something that anyone with an interest in mixology should definitely watch. After all, you just never know when you’ll have to make up a Grasshopper, Margarita, or Rusty Nail on the fly.

Moyashimon

moyashimon

Want to learn all about bacteria? No? Well, you’re going to anyway – if you watch any of Moyashimon, that is. An educational comedy about a university student who can see and communicate with micro-organisms, Moyashimon admittedly isn’t my cup of tea but is undeniably informative, not to mention pretty darn cute in its own way. This is at least partially because to the main character, the microbes he sees with the naked eye aren’t at all similar in appearance (or behavior) to the microbes everyone else sees under a microscope; they’re actually adorable mascot-like characters that charm the pants off many a viewer with their oddly human-like antics. As with Miracle Train and Bartender, there’s very little in the way of overarching plot to be had here, but with a strong focus on the comical aspects and some interesting cast members, it’s no difficulty to see why Moyashimon has been so well-received by much of the anime fan community.

Hetalia: Axis Powers

hetalia axis powers

Isn’t history just so much better when it comes with moe anthropomorphism and a sarcastic narrator? Hetalia definitely seems to think so, and it’s been a fan favourite for several years now. The stereotypes should perhaps come across as racist – e.g. America is a cheeseburger-obsessed idiot with a hero complex, Japan is ridiculously polite and formal with a hidden otaku side, and France is an irrepressible romantic who never seems to lack for an excuse to take his clothes off – but the beauty of Hetalia is that it never takes itself the least bit seriously. The completely over-the-top accents in the English dub version pulls everything together in a way that I can only fondly describe as absurd, but I also have it on good report that several viewers credit the anime for helping them pass their history exams. Besides, it’s difficult to pass by on an anime that so gleefully pokes as much fun of its viewers as it does of itself. Remember kids: Poland is a country. In Europe!

Question of the post: How do you feel about anime that have a purposefully educational bent? Which educational titles have surprised or stuck out to you, either in a great or terrible way?

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “Anime: The Good, The Bad, and The Surprisingly Educational

  1. Gin no Saji is one of the best shows I have ever watched. I was kinda effy about a show about farming, but it was so incredibly heart-warming and informative and just overall brilliant. I actually would not mind a third season!

    Like

    • Agreed. Gin no Saji is the perfect blend of light-hearted idiocy and seriousness for me, in that it’s not what I’d call a dark or pessimistic slice-of-life series, but still tells a lot of hard truths. And then to make it all actually interesting when it’s basically also a show about farming… well, that’s definitely something to be praised.

      Like

    • The anime is one of my top ten. Funny, informative, heartwarming with characters that are endearing.

      Some of the things I learned managed to be funny and informative at the same time. The girls stating that second sons were good catches because they wouldn’t inherit their family’s farms so they would wind up working for the girl’s family farm! You not only get a husband but a farmhand too!

      It’s very true to the manga it’s based on and if you liked the anime I think you’ll like the manga. The mangaka is the one who wrote Full Metal Alchemist (and you can see some of her character designs reused in Gin no Saji).

      Like

      • Yeah, one of the reasons I ended up watching Gin no Saji back when it came out was because I knew the story was created by Arakawa Hiromu. That’s definitely not the only reason I kept watching though – it’s a fantastic show in its own right. 🙂 I don’t read manga as such, but I have no doubt it too is excellent, and all the more so if the anime is based so closely on it.

        Like

  2. My favourite “educational” anime is Initial D – you can learn really much about cars and driving technique. However sometimes Ryosuke annoys me because he’s talking too much. Sekaiichi Hatsukoi is also useful since it reveals the stages of creating a manga. And yes, Antique Bakery is really great. ^^

    Like

    • I tried watching Initial D back in the day but just couldn’t – anime is ALL about the artwork or animation for me, but I felt in serious danger of my eyes bleeding there. I don’t doubt it’s educational value though; if I had any interest at all in cars I would definitely have watched regardless of the visuals.

      Like

  3. Yeah, I know what Poland is, I live here 😉 However, Hetalia is not a very good or informative source to use when learning about history, and gave birth to a fandom that glorifies cute nazis and stuff.
    I genuinely liked Chu-Bra – it was stupid and ecchi, but I really learned stuff about underwear there, that I wish somebody would pass onto me when I was a teenager, like the heroines. Comical Psychosomatic Medicine was also a very lewd and very informative show – I didn’t research everything, but a few things I did and it was very accurate. On topic of lewds, there’s also Futari Ecchi, it had some OVAs, but I didn’t see them – instead I have read a few volumes of manga. It’s about two virgin newlyweds discovering sex in a comedic way. And educational, too.
    Somebody will probably mention Shirobako, but I didn’t get to it yet – and I don’t have, since we have Kurobako, a Hackadoll episode about anime production. The methods are very similar to those in Kuromi-chan, so looks like not much changed in the anime production industry.
    There are some shorts ordered by the regions to promote them, often by giving info about that part of Japan – like Haitai Nanafa (Okinawa), Urawa no Usagi-chan (Urawa city), and I’m pretty sure Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan has segments like that. Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan was about the language differences between Tokyo and Osaka. And while we’re with shorts – Yama no Susume had info about climbing, but since I detest moving, I don’t know how much true was all of it.
    I don’t know if Thermae Romae can be called educational – it certainly has some interesting trivia, but I was always under the impression that education should be at least a little useful. So I feel the same about anime with historical trivia about Sengoku period, and almost every Sengoku anime has at least some of it, maybe except for Basara, because it’s that much bonkers and separated from reality. Even Tono to Issho had some historical info.
    Oh , I now remembered Ijime, that ugly short OVA about how bullying is wrong, but I think it doesn’t count because it actually was for children, or at least that’s how I remember it.
    Oh, and not so long ago, Kennel Tokorozawa has taught me, that there are some things too horrible even after one is drunk.

    Like

  4. Oh Hetalia. Always gonna have a soft spot in my heart, even if early fandom educated me on history more than the actual series ever did (early fandom was good times).
    I’d have to throw Tsuritama on the list too – I now know an absurd amount about fishing in addition to getting my kitschy, adorable B-movie fish aliens.

    Like

    • Oh hey, Tsuritama, nice pick! Nice show too – I guess on that note, the mark of a great educational series is when it’s still a lot of fun even when you have zero interest in the subject, which is definitely me and fishing.

      Like

  5. I find Shirobako to be extremely educational for people wanting to know the business process of how an anime is made, and the politics involved in making an anime adaptation.

    I watched a bit of Miracle Train, but I could never figure out why the writers focused on a relatively modern subway line from the 2000s with not much history to it. For me, I’d prefer getting a history/culture course from the trendy Ginza station, or the classical Ueno-Asakusa stations. Those would be manifestations worth listening to!

    Oh, and here’s a Hetalia New Zealand for your discretion.

    Interestingly, there was supposed to be a Hetalia Korea in the anime, but Korean citizens reacted badly when they heard of it and it had to be cancelled. Koreans felt it was an excuse by their ex-colonial overlords to insult Korean culture and traditions again (given Japanese oppression of native Korean culture in the colonial era).

    Like

    • Yeah, I figured Shirobako would come up in the comments. I never did get around to watching anything past the first couple of episodes, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a hugely educational series.

      Like

  6. I’ve learned a lot of world and Japanese history from anime (well, revised history, but still)! In general, I also really like the educational series that put the protagonist in a position to learn and excel in a specific field; stuff like Moyashimon, Shirobako, and Silver Spoon, and sport series that focus on more niche/cultural variant like go, naginata, and karuta. Really looking forward to that upcoming anime about rakugo in Showa era.

    That Miracle Train thing sure sounds hilarious, and I might be tempted to track it down if only because I’d watch anything with a train setting (*have you written about Japanese trains, by chance?).

    Like

    • I’m looking forward to that upcoming show about rakugo set in the Showa period as well – looks like it could be really interesting!

      Miracle Train is indeed hilarious, and also awful. The first episode might be worth a look if only for the comedy value. I haven’t written anything on Otaku Lounge about trains, no, since I don’t have much of a personal interest in them myself. I’ve certainly been on a fair few though, because I’ve lived in Japan for going on 4 years now and like to travel a lot.

      Like

  7. You forgot one: Never trust ANYONE who has one eye covered by a bang.

    On topic, the most educational anime I’ve ever watched was Prince of Tennis. This show literally got me hooked on tennis. Every time I saw some crazy shot or listened to some ridiculous explanation for said shot I’d go to Google to see just how accurate it all was. It was quite the awesome experience

    Like

    • Good point!
      I watched a bit of Prince of Tennis back in the day, but it didn’t really do it for me. That said, I’m not a big fan of sports anime in general, so that’s not necessarily a negative reflection on the title itself.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I learn all the Japanese words for the countries in Hetalia, lol. Like Doitsu stands for Germany etc.

    Other than that, I guess I learn a lot about a sports from anime such as technical terms for a certain tennis move in Baby Steps or the positions of a basketball team in Kuroko’s Basketball. At least, these days when someone’s discussing about NBA, I know what they’re talking about. I don’t play sports myself so I find watching some sports anime educational in a way.

    Like

    • That’s a fair call – you can learn a lot of words you otherwise might not from anime (not that I’d recommend saying them all mind you), and sports anime can be pretty educational for those of us who might not otherwise follow sports at all.

      Like

LEAVE A COMMENT

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s