Can Watching Anime Make You Smarter?

Feature Anime Smart

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?

Why Dont 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?

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

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.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Why Is It So Hard to Find A Good Female Lead In Anime?

Friday's Feature

I know already some of you are shaking your heads because you can name a dozen or more female lead characters in anime. Possibly it is because of the genres I prefer, but finding a female lead in action, horror, science fiction, or even fantasy, is actually quite challenging. Finding a good female lead in anime, particularly in those genres is even harder. Though isekai lately seem to be making an effort at least in having more female leads.

There’s a reason so many people praise the Major from Ghost in the Shell. She stands out because she stands more or less alone in terms of a solid representation of a female character in the genre within anime (there are others but I’d challenge people to think of them off the top of their head and I’m sure more than a few of you are trying).

Major as portrayed in Scarlett Johansen.
Not the major most people talk about.

Hard to find a good female lead in anime – though some steps in the right direction.

Admittedly, this problem isn’t entirely unique to anime. There are arguments across almost every entertainment medium for better representation of women and more diverse leading roles and certainly we can then extend that same argument to pretty much every minority group.

Still, given there are some truly brilliant female characters in anime, I have to wonder why in my preferred genres they get shuffled to romantic interest, emotional support, angry girl who occasionally beats up protagonist but comes through when needed, etc. Very occasionally they get to be the strict person in charge and get to chastise and talk down to the young male protagonist giving us the illusion that we have a female in a position of authority.

Usually right before the male protagonist goes and does whatever he wants regardless.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these characters shouldn’t exist. There are some quite entertaining female supporting characters out there. I’m just wondering why we don’t have more well written leading females in these stories. And to be honest, it will largely come down to percentages. With less female leads in general if the same percent of female leads are good or memorable as male leads (lets be real, there’s a lot of poorly written male leads), that will result in very few memorably well written female leads.

Without looking it up, name 3 female
leads from popular anime.

Honestly, I would struggle with this. I can think of some great supporting characters from dramas, like the Kawamoto sisters in March Comes in Like a Lion. Seriously, Hina is just this side of a perfect supporting character with an incredible character arc in season two and she’s just amazing. Incidentally, go watch March Comes in Like a Lion.


But when going through the top 10 anime by popularity on MAL what I find is some truly great female characters but almost no female lead characters. I mean, Death Note… While Misa has her fans she’s not even close to a lead in the story. Skipping a few we get Sword Art Online and FMA Brotherhood. I would never be mean to Winry about her character, she’s awesome, and Asuna is one of my favourite female anime characters (at least in the first season of SAO). She’s actually a character I have a proper figure of, poised with her sword ready to strike. Amazing. But neither Winry or Asuna are actually a lead character.

At number seven on the list we get Steins;Gate and the amazing Kurisu Makise and the adorable but slightly less impressive Mayuri Shiina. However, no matter how you slice it, these characters exist around Okabe Rintarou and they aren’t leads (though they are highly enjoyable characters that should be celebrated in their own right).

steins microphone

In fact, it wasn’t until I got to number 10 on the list and saw Angel Beats that I thought we had any hope of finding a female lead. I mean, there’s Yuri in the centre of the promotional art holding her gun and looking for all the world like a leading character. But whose story does Angel Beats really tell? Almost the whole narrative is filtered through Otonashi’s experience and while the female characters certainly offer diversity (and one of the few that isn’t a harem in the process) it would actually be difficult to claim that Yuri is a leading female character.


Actually, I found that a lot. A story that seems to revolve around an interesting female character that is actually entirely filtered around a male character’s experience of the story. So Elfen Lied at 23 might count as a female lead in a horror, but I guess it depends if you think the story is Lucy’s. Certainly the opening few episodes are but then the story seems to get a little hijacked.

This begs the question:
with more female viewers watching anime
should there be more female leads?

Honestly, the answer to this, much like the question of should there be more diversity in general in entertainment, would be a resounding yes. At the same time though, creating a character just to check a box for diversity lends itself to pretty stale characters. Or characters that just miss the point of what the audience wanted when they asked for such a character.


Also, just because someone is a female viewer, does that mean they necessarily want a female lead? While I would certainly ask for a few more in my watch list, by and large I’m not concerned if the lead character of a show is male. I’m more concerned that they are an interesting character. If they are well realised and well developed as well we’re onto an absolute jack-pot of a character regardless of which box they’ll get placed in.

Female leads are scrutinised
within an inch of their life.

It is seriously tough being a female lead character (or a representation of any group that doesn’t get frequent representation). The audience that wants that type of character is frequently super critical of the way the character comes across or constructed. Doubly so if the person who wrote the character isn’t actually a representative of the group.


Poorly written female characters endless get criticism about existing only for fan-service, for being stupid or comic relief, for having no clear goal of their own… Yet there are so many more male characters who behave in the exact same way. We’re almost immune to these characters because we see them so often and we don’t bother to call them out, but when a female character comes along with the same flaws somehow this ignites the inner critic.

Criticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing mind you. Better written characters in general would make for more enjoyable stories. Very few people would say we need characters written with less integrity or care. Yet it seems counter productive to always focus on the negative when anime, or any entertainment medium, does try to branch out in their characters. Sometimes they deserve it when they are truly poorly researched or written, but when there’s a genuine attempt, should the positive not be noted? Or should we start lambasting all the terrible male leads out there and demand better representation for them as well?

It is difficult to understand what
the audience wants in a female lead.

Does the audience want strong women? Real women? Emotional women? Super women who can do everything? Vulnerable women? Stoic women? Do we want them all at various points and none at others?


Just making your lead character a female doesn’t mean that the anime is going to satisfy an audience seeking a female lead character. Just like not every male protagonist clicks with every male viewer. Again, having a range would be nice because statistically if there enough different kinds of female leads surely one would work for the member of the audience in question.

In short: The Key To Better Female Leads
Is Having More Female Leads

I’m kind of hoping this didn’t come off sounding like a rant against male leads or arguing that lack of female representation is the only representation issue in anime. If it did, that wasn’t the intention. I was just starting to short list my draft for top female characters this year and realised that other than Emma, from The Promised Neverland, I was coming up fairly short on leading female characters. I know that if I watched more CGDCT anime or school comedies or more slice of life I would probably encounter more female leads.

maka and soul

Anyway, I’d love to know your opinion on female leads in general and who your favourite female lead character is. Incidentally, mine is Maka from Soul Eater.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Anime Characters from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

In 2016 Yatorishino from Alderamin on the Sky took out my top female character. 2017 saw a tie between Hina (March Comes in Like a Lion) and Uraraka (My Hero Academia). This year the choices were really tough because there are some really solid choices as 2018 has given us some amazing female character. Here are my favourite female characters from the year but I’d love to know who your favourites are.

Honourable Mentions:

This year’s honourable mentions go to Nanami from Bloom Into You and Priestess from Goblin Slayer. These were both great characters and in prior years they probably would have earned a spot on my list. However, there were so many great characters this year so while I’m giving both of these characters a mention they haven’t made the top 5.

Number 5: Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card

Sakura has always been a great female character. While Clear Card wasn’t the strongest anime, Sakura’s character is still a fairly solid female in an anime. She is a strong character who faces some incredible challenges but remains sweet and optimistic. When I was young, I really admired Sakura and I think if I was still a kid I would have absolutely loved her in Clear Card. She definitely belongs in the top 5 list even if she doesn’t take it out like she would have once upon a time.

Number 4: Red Blood Cell from Cells at Work

This one probably shouldn’t be a surprise. Our favourite directionally challenged Red Blood Cell is all kinds of adorable but more than that she’s also driven and dedicated. For all that she freaks out when getting lost, at the sight of germs, and is inexperienced at her job, she’s also the one who sounds the alarm about Cancer and continues to do her job in all conditions. The most charming individual blood cell from a show full of truly charming characters.

Number 3: Yuu from Bloom Into You

It was a hard toss up between Nanami and Yuu for the spot on the list, but Yuu is the character who has grown the most over the run of the series. She’s learned a lot about herself and Nanami during the course of the show and by the penultimate episode she’s finally realised what she wants and is ready to take action. It has been a wonderful journey with Yuu this season and she definitely deserves recognition for being a solid female character this year.

Number 2: Sakurajima Mai from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

If only she had more screen time. Mai has been an amazing character. Sure, she was technically being rescued by Sakuta who is the main character, but she never lets herself be out shined on the screen. Mai is a solid character and highly entertaining. With the help of some well written dialogue and a great support cast, every scene Mai is in shines. Though that brings us back to wishing there was just more time where Mai was on the screen and not being sent away for some job or another.

Number 1: Hina from March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2

For the second year in a row Hina takes out my favourite female character, though this year she isn’t sharing the honour. She’s an adorable bundle of courage, resilience, and just solid character development and writing. If you ever wanted a character who could bring sunshine into your life just by being on screen, Hina is definitely your girl and I am hoping for more of her at some point because she is one character I can’t get enough of.

And that’s the list for 2018 of amazing female characters. That said, there are plenty that didn’t end up on my list so I’d love to hear who your favourites were.

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Friday’s Feature: Strong Female Character?


I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s work. As a teenager in the 90’s it was more or less impossible not to get on-board the Buffy bandwagon, and it was such a great bandwagon to be on. A female character who was reasonably attractive, had street smarts (though struggled at school), was articulate, and for the most part didn’t end up in ridiculously revealing outfits (after they got over the season 1 mini-skirt thing). Buffy kicked butt, literally, and was such a great character. Add in Willow, who also took the geek girl role and made it something empowering, and Cordelia, who proved that just because you are vapid doesn’t mean you can’t help save the world, and the story was full of these amazing characters that gave a range of ways to be feminine but not helpless.


One of the things that occasionally bothers me about anime is the lack of female characters that I can really get behind. Part of that is probably the genres I prefer to watch as I know there are more female characters in other genres, but at the same time, it seems odd that whole seasons can pass without a single female character that I actually like or admire. Female characters are there and sometimes they are doing the over-sexualised thing, the damsel in distress thing, or just come off as pretty useless and dead weight to the script. Worse, they exist just to be a love interest or to rotate around a central protagonist who is usually male.


That said, I find the statement that we need more ‘strong female characters’ to be a little bit mis-leading. Not every female character needs to be strong. Imagine how boring a show would be if every character was ‘strong’. And it isn’t as though every male character out there is strong. There are some pretty despicable depictions of masculinity to be found even in shows where there are some fantastic male characters. And that is more my point. What we need are more diverse female characters to be shown.


Shiaryuki from Snow White With The Red Hair is an excellent example of this. She isn’t a ‘strong’ character in that she doesn’t wield a sword and she isn’t a martial artist. Yet when you read descriptions of her, her strength always comes up. She has a strong moral character, strong willpower, strong belief in herself and in her actions, and so she gets the label of strong female character. And while she is an excellent example of a different kind of female character, neither the hero nor the damsel in distress (though at times moving through both roles), I think labelling her strong kind of minimises how interesting she is as a person.


See the strong label puts Shirayuki on the same stage as Erza and Buffy and at the end of the day, if we made this a test of strength, Shirayuki isn’t exactly going to hold her own in a fight against these two. She has a different kind of strength of character and is exceptional, but she isn’t a fighter and we wouldn’t want her to be. Though, while we’re on that note, Erza might be exceptional in her magical and physical strength but with where I’m up to in Fairy Tail it seems her personality is fairly fragile. And that’s fantastic that she is more than just stoic and tough because if that was all there was to her, strong as she might be, she’d be pretty boring.


However, I’m going to move away from red-heads for a moment (otherwise people might think I’m biased towards female characters with absolutely beautiful and stunning scarlet hair) and look at the cast from Princess Principal. This cast is kind of what I am talking about when I said earlier I think we need diverse female characters. None of the members of the squad in Princess Principal are useless and none of them are one-dimensional. Each comes into the squad with back-story, with some skills, some weaknesses, some baggage and motives, and they all contribute to the team. None of them fall into a single descriptor such as damsel-in-distress or childhood-friend (though those descriptors can be applied it isn’t the sum total of their character at any point) and as such the cast are really interesting to watch and the girls are characters I really enjoyed seeing on the screen. They all get moments where they can be strong, and other moments where we see them in a less desirable light as they crumble under emotional pressure, hesitate, or make poor decisions.


And that is where a show like Orange kind of annoyed me. Of the three females who had significant screen time, two of them had almost no development as characters. We don’t know their backstory or their motive, and mostly their interactions could have been cut down to a single character (there was no real reason for two of them as they didn’t add anything all that different from the other – lovers of these characters will now hate me). And Naho as a main character could be summed up as ‘nice, shy girl’. There really wasn’t much else to her. Sure she wanted to help the guy but that was kind of coming from the nice attribute and she wasn’t overly effective at actually helping him. One could argue that the male friend ended up doing all the actual work that succeeded at anything and Naho was merely the catalyst for him to act because he didn’t want to see her unhappy. Basically, I didn’t dislike these characters (well, I did dislike Naho) but I didn’t find anything appealing or memorable about them either and I only remember Naho’s name because I kind of prodded at her in my review of Orange and I can’t remember the other names at all.


Strength comes in many forms and even then, strength isn’t necessarily the only character trait female characters are sometimes missing in stories. Rather than fighting for stronger characters, I think what is really needed is diversity. If there were as many female characters out there and as many types of female characters as male ones, than most of us would be able to find a reasonable selection of characters that we can connect with or find interesting. Not every female character has to save the world or even shoulder the entire emotional burden, but it would be nice if we could see female characters carrying more roles than the traditionally assigned ones in stories. Or even if they have to carry the traditional role of mother and house-wife, at least let them do it with their own touch on the role so that it feels like they are a person and not a stand in for an understood convention.

As always, I’ll turn this over to the readers and ask you what you think.

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The Master Guide to Drawing Anime: Amazing Girls : How to Draw Essential Character Types from Simple TemplatesFThe Master Guide to Drawing Anime: Amazing Girls : How to Draw Essential Character Types from Simple Templatesimp