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Profile of Lecturer

Name: Akiko Sugawa-Shimada

Title: Assistant Professor at Kansai Gaidai University since 2010

Current Research: Learning "Japanese-ness" through Anime & Manga

Research Interests:

  • Gender
  • Intercultural Communication
  • Manga and Anime Studies
  • Media Education
  • Popular Culture

Teaching Experience: Part-time lecturer at Aoyama Gakuin University (School of International Politics, Economics & Communication), Keio University (Faculty of Science and Technology), Chuo University (Faculty of Law and Faculty of Policy Studies)



Dr. Sugawa completed her English Literature at Hosei University, Film Studies at University of Chicago and Television Studies at University of Warwick.

She has published a few papers on topics related to Anime/Manga and females in Japan. The papers include," 'Wiches', Witchcraft, and Feminism: Functions of Magical Girl TV anime for Girls in Japan" (published in Magma: Subculture Pop Magazine, PB5: 2-13, 2012), "Functions and Possibilities of Female 'Essay Manga': Resistance, Negotiation and Pleasure" (published in "International Journal of Comic Art" 13 (2): pp. 103-115, 2012) and "Rebel with causes and laughter for relief: 'essay manga' of Tenten Hosokawa and Rieko Saibara, and Japanese female readership" (published in Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 2 (2): 169-185, 2011). For abstracts of her papers, please refer to her online academic profile.

Last year (2011), Dr.Sugawa has presented her research topics at a few multinational conferences such as Program for Women's Manga Beyond Japan:Contemporary Comics as Cultural Crossroads in Asia at National University of Singapore (February), the eighth Kinema Club Conference at Nippon Connection held in Frankfurt, Germany (April), Cool Japan Program at Meiji University (July).



The interview is divided into 3 parts that focus on different areas of her teaching experience.

Part 1:Conducting Lessons

Q1: I understand that you conduct lessons on manga and anime in English and Japanese for international and Japanese students. What are the difficulties or interesting situations that you face in facilitating Japanese/foreign students' participation in classes that are conducted in their second language?

It depends on the class size, the proportion of Japanese students and non-Japanese students as well as the students’ purposes in taking my classes.

In the case of the lectures that I conduct in Japanese, most of the students are Chinese. As they tend to be aggressive in class, whenever they talk, most of the Japanese students would rather keep quiet and seem unwilling to voice their opinions.

On the other hand, for lectures that I conduct in English, most of the students are Japanese. They are quite outspoken in public as they tend to speak up in class and other students from English-speaking countries are also very eager in voicing their thoughts.

For another module that I teach also in English, most of the students are Americans. They are very active and enthusiastic as compared to the minor group of Japanese students who hardly join in the discussions. So I will make an effort to give the Japanese students a chance to talk and they are always willing to express their opinions.

Therefore in general, foreign students are always willing to share their thoughts while the activeness of Japanese students differs largely according to whether they are the majority or minority in the class.


Q2: I realised that you have taught in many different universities. What are some of the changes you have made to your teaching/modules from the time you taught in the first school till now?

The universities that I have taught at concentrate on different areas of discipline. If the department focuses on Japanese culture, I will teach mainly topics regarding Japanese culture. If the department focuses on liberal arts, I will design my lectures to cover general topics. It depends on the size of the class, and also whether a certain area of interest is required, partially required, or not at all required by the departments.

Part 2: Teaching Topics and Materials

Q3: Popular Culture, especially in Japan, is progressing at a rapid pace with new things and phenomena appearing now and then. What usually inspires you to modify the syllabus or bring up something new as a topic in class?

I try to connect what we do in class to current issues in Japan. For example, after the 311 earthquake, I added a lecture topic to explore the representations of nuclear power in anime and analyze how Japanese views on nuclear power (images of nuclear weapon, A-bombs etc.) have changed since then. By doing so, I get my students to think more critically about the nuclear energy policy in Japan.

Q4: I learnt that you show films to your students during class. Personally,I feel it is difficult as a beginner, to look at an entertainment text critically. How do you engage them to observe and analyse the films in an academic context? 

I offer a workshop on how to read audio visual materials at the beginning of the lecture. Most of my students will get to know how to analyze these materials by attending my workshop.


Part 3: Contact with Students

Q5: I believe that you have been in close contact with both Japanese and international students. Through lectures and class discussions, what are some of the similarities/ differences between their perspectives towards Japanese Pop Culture/ Anime & Manga? 

Most of my Japanese students are not familiar with anime and manga that I deal with in the lectures, while international students know almost all of the pop-cultural products that I mention in lessons. So before having the students discuss and share their perspectives, I need to explain Japanese history and content of anime and manga to the Japanese students. (Many have never seen even NARUTO or Bleach anime). The gap in knowledge in terms of Popular Culture is very huge, so naturally the gap between the perspectives of Japanese students and international students is also huge.


Q6: When you assess students' projects and assignments, what are the common problems or tendencies that you have observed in their framework? How do you help them to look at "Popular culture" from an academic perspective? 

For the Japanese students, their common problem is that they just do not know how to write critically in English unless they have spent some time in English-speaking countries. One of the problems we have now is that we do not provide specific academic writing classes to prepare the Japanese students for critical writing.

As for international students, especially Westerners, they tend to reproduce ‘Orientalist’ views when they analyse anime and manga. Of course, such views are acceptable if they sound persuasive enough, but sometimes they tend to be quite extreme.

International students usually write good papers that analyze topics critically. In order to teach Japanese students to adopt an academic perspective, I usually share A+ papers in class and have them to critique.

-Interviewer: Lin Yi Xiu-

Dr. Sugawa is currently conducting an online survey for her research topic on Manga. To participate or view more information, please click here.

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