Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Religion in Anime and Manga


In contemporary Japan, manga (Japanese comics) and anime (animated films or TV series) are extremely popular. In trains or subways, for example, Japanese of all age groups can be seen reading manga. Many works have been translated into Western languages, and thus manga and anime have become very popular in America and Europe as well. Remarkably, we also find many religious themes in manga and anime.

In this seminar, we will study the history of these new media and examine how religions are represented in them. With that goal in mind,  we will analyze the content and religious background of popular anime and manga, such as Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke or Tezuka Osamu’s The Buddha. Additionally, we will read manga produced by Japanese religious groups for propagation purposes. Our seminar includes such activities as giving presentations, working in small groups, and writing papers. 

During the seminar, you will further have the chance to participate in a Japanese tea ceremony and receive a brief introduction to Zen meditation. When you have completed this seminar, you will have acquired a basic knowledge of Buddhism and Shintō, and an understanding of how these religions have shaped Japanese society and popular culture.


Meet the Instructor(s)

Michaela Mross

Michaela Mross

"Before starting my position as assistant professor for Japanese Buddhism in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford, I was a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley. I completed a Ph.D. in Japanese Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich with a dissertation on Zen rituals. In total, I studied over six years in Japan. My research focuses on Japanese Buddhism, rituals, and sacred music. I have always been fascinated by religious themes in manga and anime, because these hint at the continuing influence of religions in contemporary Japan."