St. Mary’s professors to lead panel at weekend anime convention

Arts and Humanities
August 31, 2023

English and Philosophy duo offers anime analysis at San Japan and in class  

by Jayden Mendez   

Benjamin “Josh” Doty, Ph.D., said he has been an anime fan since he first stumbled upon an episode of Dragon Ball as a child.  

In this courtesy photo from San Japan, panelists address a group of attendees at the annual convention in San Antonio.

From that moment, Doty said he would wake up before his parents and turn on the living room television to watch this new show that had captured his attention.   

“It was a cartoon unlike any I’d ever seen before,” Doty said. “And here I am now 30 years later.”  

Now the Chair of the Department of English Literature and Language and an Associate Professor of English, Literature and Language at St. Mary’s University, Doty has found a kindred anime fan in Associate Professor of Philosophy Eric Chelstrom, Ph.D.  

The two will have the opportunity to share their passion for the medium with the public while linking it to their work in the classrooms.  

Bringing St. Mary’s to San Japan  

The two professors will present a panel entitled “Anime at St. Mary’s University” at San Japan, the largest anime and gaming convention in the South Texas region, taking place at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center from Friday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Sept. 3.   

Scheduled at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, the two professors will promote how they incorporate anime and manga into their curriculum while also introducing St. Mary’s to a diverse group of people who also share a love for Japanese cartoons.  

Anime is animation, while manga are comics and graphic novels, both of which originated in Japan.  

Their goal is to show how seriously St. Mary’s takes the art and culture surrounding anime. Doty and Chelstrom intend to illustrate how much viewers can learn from their favorite shows, such as pondering philosophical questions or looking deeper into the meanings of characters and scenes.   

“St. Mary’s is a place where, if you are more artistically or culturally inclined, if you’re someone who just loves reading manga to death, you can come here and find professors who will sit down and take you seriously,” Doty said.   

Chelstrom said that he hopes to use the panel not only to talk about philosophy in anime, but also to show that, as a professor, he is no different from any other anime fan.  

“We can meet you where you’re at, and we share interests with you,” Chelstrom said. “Professors are not these alien creatures.”  

Adding graphic appeal to English and Philosophy studies  

Doty said in the last few years, he has seen more students show an interest in the genre. Both Doty and Chelstrom plan to give students new ways to review titles, from the manga series Blue Exorcist to the anime film Howl’s Moving Castle, while learning.   

In their classes, the two professors are using anime that is approachable to both fans and newcomers. Chelstrom said he hopes to have students bring in their own clips for discussion in class.  

In Spring 2024, Doty will teach English 2381, Introduction to Fantasy, which will include Japanese media and how it is viewed through a Western lens. Meanwhile, Chelstrom has already begun integrating readings and themes from Japanese literature into his First-Year Experience classes.   

“St. Mary’s is a place where, if you are more artistically or culturally inclined, if you’re someone who just loves reading manga to death, you can come here and find professors who will sit down and take you seriously.”    

Benjamin “Josh” Doty, Ph.D.

“It’s an alternative sort of daily assignment that allows students to show the clip and then give some kind of analysis of how they think it relates to what we’ve done in the reading,” Chelstrom said.  

Doty said he hopes to find ways to show current and newer fans of anime, both on campus and at the convention that he and Chelstrom are more than just professors; they are professors who are anime fans.   

They aspire to take St. Mary’s students to Japan to continue studying this unique approach to storytelling.   

“I hope people see we are, in fact, two normal guys who have families and we’re not just twisting our mustaches,” Doty said. “We’re here because we take our educational mission seriously.” 

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