Can Watching Anime Make You Smarter?

It almost goes without saying that stories are the most excellent teachers. Long before schools with stuffy classrooms felt the need to bore people to death by drumming obscure factoids into their head and make them show working for problems that could be faster solved by using a calculator, people told stories to pass on knowledge about the world. you could learn about the seasons, various plants and animals, and even be warned of dark and dangerous things.

Which is why I’m always surprised by people who tell children that TV is inherently bad for them. Sure, there’s the question of what they are watching and how long they are sitting stagnant on the couch, but there are some truly great TV shows out there with an educational bent and even those that don’t intend it can be instructional. I find most reality TV shows end up being an excellent guide as to how not to interact with other humans when I am forced to watch an episode in a social setting.

Bakugo - My Hero Academia

However, while I’m all for stories being great teachers, I’m not entirely convinced watching TV, anime, or even reading books makes you smarter. Each viewer will take away something different and while you might learn a thing or two while watching an anime, there’s always the question of whether you ever intend to apply that knowledge for anything useful other than the next round of Trivial Pursuit (not that seeking to be a champion trivia player is actually a bad idea).

You Didn’t Plan To Learn;
You Watched Anime To Be Entertained

For some it will never matter whether or not there is inherent educational value in anime. They watch merely for the fun. Whether that fun comes in the form of guys hitting each other with impossibly long swords, screaming characters, cute girls running amok in a school setting or anything else, learning isn’t the objective. And honestly, it would be a rare person who said their primary objective was learning. Even those who watch to pick up some Japanese generally enjoy anime for other reasons.

But, as they say in a particularly cute taco advertisement: Why don’t we have both?

Just because you are watching for fun doesn’t mean you aren’t picking up a thing or two and there are plenty of anime you could watch if your intention was to learn something.

For instance, if someone told me they wanted to learn the rules for Volleyball, I’d absolutely recommend Haikyuu. Despite my absolute desire not to be involved in sport, having watched Haikyuu, I’ve found myself able to help others on the team I joined this season because of that knowledge. Admittedly, I still suck at playing, but at least I know what I’m supposed to be trying to do and get the basic way the game works.

Haikyuu - Hinata and Kageyama

I certainly didn’t watch Haikyuu to learn volleyball. I didn’t really believe I’d actually be playing volleyball again though I had played socially once before and kind of sucked then and didn’t know the rules either. But despite not watching with the intention of learning, a lot of what volleyball is about managed to stick very firmly in my head. I wonder how many other random bits of knowledge are floating around in there that would come to the surface if I put myself in a situation where they’d be useful?

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When You Still Don’t Understand
That’s When Google Comes To The Rescue

Admittedly, there are some anime and topics that aren’t as clear cut as the rules of volleyball. Despite watching Shion no Ou and March Comes in Like a Lion, I still don’t actually get all the rules of Shogi. I get the basics and the overall point of the game. I understand enough to know more or less what is going on in the shows, but not enough that I could actually play a game.

Then again, I kind of feel that kind of specialist and precise knowledge would end up being fairly tedious is explained in depth in the anime. They give enough to sketch the picture but not enough to bore (too much). Though, tragically, the shogi cat song from March Comes in Like a Lion is more or less stuck in my head forever so I remember how the different pieces are allowed to move even if I don’t get why.

Rei providing commentary on the game

Yet, both of these anime made me inherently interested in learning more. I bought a travel shogi board on my last trip to Japan and my intention is to eventually figure it out and be able to play. I’ll download some rules at some point and work through some example games until I get it enough. That’s something I wouldn’t have ever done if I hadn’t come across it in anime.

Anime Has You Covered For Facts,
Skills, And Life Advice

Outside of sports and games though, anime teaches us the simple everyday things. If you want to know more about how your body works, Cells at Work will give you a great high school biology refresher course. Then we have Are You Lost? which fills us in on some survival knowledge (though that one should come with a ‘don’t try this at home’ style warning as some of the advice is a little less than complete).

However, the anime that has everyone talking this season is Dr Stone and how it explains science. I’m going to admit, I’m finding they are skimming over the surface of some of the explanations, probably to avoid bogging down in details and drowning the audience in jargon. Still, there’s some solid scientific basics to be found and certainly if you are looking to inspire people to experiment and look at the world a bit differently, Dr Stone is certainly making a great case for it.

Dr Stone - Senku's plan for medication

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What Anime Gave You The Best
Edutainment Experience?

After thinking about this, I am genuinely curious. Earlier this year I made a top 5 list of things I learned from anime last year and while some of them were pretty obvious, it was nice to be reminded. On the other hand, I feel that every anime I watch gives me something new to think about or consider. Even if it is just why the anime isn’t working.

Fruits Basket - Megumi

So I’d love to know which anime you enjoyed the most for its edutainment value? Be sure to share in the comments below and maybe we’ll all find something new to learn from the medium we love.


Karandi - Avatar
Karandi James



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15 thoughts on “Can Watching Anime Make You Smarter?

  1. aside from the obvious exceptions of japanese culture and language, i tend to treat the kind of information you’d get from anime as “trivia” knowledge. you’re more learning neat facts (when it comes to science shows, the accuracy can be questionable) i think media can be great for inspiring people to learn about a certain thing, but i would personally shy away from calling it “education”. and that’s not a bad thing. id more call it an expected restriction of the medium

    1. Accuracy is definitely a concern if a narrative is the only way you’ve learned about it without supporting the information with additional reading or sources.

  2. I definitely do think anime makes you smarter or at least you can learn a lot of things you wouldn’t otherwise know. I feel like I’ve learned the most from Hunter X Hunter as it deals with the human psyche so much. For more science related knowledge though I’d have to go with Dr. Stone even though it’s so recent. They’re already dealing with a bunch of chemical transformations and other stuff that feels like it’d be pretty handy in the woods

  3. In terms of exposing me to certain aspects of Japanese culture, anime has been very educational although there is always that caveat of anime adding a unique playful twist to everything.

    Then there are shows like Cells At Work, Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? and Rāmen Daisuki Koizumi-san which do possess insightful and educational content. I don’t know if this makes us “smarter” but certainly more enlightened and informed about Japanese culture,

  4. I’ve learned about lots of stuff from anime, from esoteric games like Karuta (Chihayafuru) to historical and mythical figures I didn’t know much – or anything – about (Fate franchise), to how NOT to behave around women (almost every harem anime ever). One especially memorable one for me was the kuchikamizake from Your Name. I remember looking that up on Google the second I got home from the theater to find out if it was actually real or not, which led me into an hour-long rabbit hole of research into that and other types of saliva-fermented alcohols like masato and chicha in South America, when I had never even known there was such a thing before that movie.

    For pure edutainment, though, I don’t think anything’s ever topped Silver Spoon for me – you learn so much from that series about modern agriculture and farming and food science and livestock animals, stuff that most of us who don’t live and work on farms would never know about or even think about..

  5. I certainly learned different things from anime. Hikaru no Go was like that with Go for me much like how Shogi was for those who liked March Comes In like a Lion. Also, props for knowing about Shion no Ou, I want to watch that series. Some other edutainment experiences involved baking and breadmaking with Yakitate!! Japan. Soccer with Whistle (moreso the manga) certainly helped. I even learned about geography, cultural aspects, and some survival skills from Yugo the Negotiator. Of course the dub doesn’t make the rookie mistake of the Japanese version by claiming Pakistan’s national language is Arabic when it’s clearly Urdu (even I knew that during my teenage years when I would research cultures and growing up watching Carmen Sandiego REALLY helped).

    1. Carmen was definitely helpful in learning a bit about the world growing up. I loved the game and loved solving the clues and figuring out where the criminals were. Thanks for sharing your picks for edutainment experiences.

      1. You were into the Carmen Sandiego series, too? Sweet! The games were fun and I learned a lot. I saw the cartoon which was okay, but the game show was amazing. Apparently, they remade the cartoon on Netflix and I’m tempted to watch and review it. Haha! No problem, Karandi!

        1. Man, I so wanted to be on that game show when I was a kid! They seriously need to bring that back over the Netflix show. Carmen is supposed to be mysterious!

          But yes, I’ve learned a lot from anime. Sometimes it’s not even Japanese culture but some of the foreign words they put into titles and songs. But for more historical series or cultural shows, I do want to be more in the mood to to watch/read versus a school comedy.

          1. Same here! I always wanted to be on that show, get to the bonus round and say “Do it, Rockapella!” Right at the end. The theme song is one of the best themes in the history of TV and I felt proud of myself for figuring it out on guitar and ukulele. Hahaha! I agree that they need to bring back the show for this new generation to teach geography.

            That’s cool. I find that interesting, too. That’s fine about different way to enjoy different genres.

I'd love to know what you think.

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