Manga U

September 28, 2006

In my occasional wanderings through the wonders of Lexis-Nexis, I’ve found an article on Kyoto Seika University’s six-year-old manga program. It’s appeared in both The Chronicle of Higher Education (“Mad About Manga,” July 28, 2006) and the South China Morning Post (“Magic Manga Mania,” Sept. 23, 2006). Neither version is available for free on line, so let’s hope I don’t violate the Fair Use principle too badly in quoting from Alan Brender’s work.

Several universities in Japan have started similar programs since, but KSU was the first, graduating its first class in 2004 (and granting someone a doctorate in manga this spring):

“About 10 percent of them now work as professional manga artists, while others hold jobs in related fields such as illustration and advertising. [Manga artist and KSU instructor] Ms. [Keiko] Takemiya says the fact that some graduates were able to immediately find work bodes well in a low-paying field that still relies heavily on proven talent and graduates of technical schools.”

One thing every manga program seems to need is a name: a professional manga artist to lend credibility to the institution’s academic offerings. The manga-ka-in-residence also influences student demographics:

“About 80 percent of the students in Seika’s program, for example, are women, to whom Ms. Takemiya’s work seems to appeal the most. The majority of students at Takarazuka [University of Art and Design] are men, drawn to Mr. [Reiji] Matsumoto’s macho characters [from works such as Galaxy Express 999].”

Despite somewhat limited job prospects, enrollments tend to be high, and new programs are popping up all the time. And they’re drawing significant interest from international students:

“About 10 percent of the students at Seika’s manga school are international students, mainly from South Korea and China. There are no Americans in the program, but Manabu Kitawaki, director of the international office, says he receives several serious inquiries every week from the United States.”

This is all fascinating to me as someone who works in higher education marketing. It can be worrying when a discipline becomes a bandwagon program (it’s hot, and everyone has to have one, even if the graduate placement rates aren’t great). But arts education isn’t known for the vast majority of its graduates working in their field of study (as my dust-covered theatre diploma will attest).

But the selfish part of me hopes that someone from the United States does enroll in Seika’s program. And then starts keeping a blog.