Mesa's Rhodes Junior High School will hold a meeting today to educate parents about Japanese animation and graphic novels, known as anime and manga.
"It's going to be for parents to know what their children are reading and watching, where it comes from, what its roots are and, hopefully, a little bit about its history - so they can make informed decisions about what they want their children reading and watching," said Deborah Deacon, a professor from Arizona State University's Department of Asian Research.
Deacon, an art historian, will lead the presentation.
"A lot of people think this is very foreign, and they don't understand it," she said.
The meeting is one of several geography-related events sponsored by the school's social studies club this year, and Japanese snacks and drinks will be sold at the event.
Manga is the term given to Japanese graphic novels. Anime is the word for Japanese animation, which can include movies or television shows.
"I don't want to use the term 'cartoon,' because in American culture, cartoons are aimed at children. Not all, by any stretch of the imagination, is anime aimed at children. A lot of it is quite sophisticated," Deacon said.
Rhodes teacher Jeannine Kuropatkin, who helped organize the event, said one of the goals she has for the meeting is for parents to understand that not all anime is suitable for their children.
"In our culture, comics and cartoons are viewed as harmless, and in Japanese culture, it's viewed as a major genre for things that aren't always funny," Kuropatkin said, adding that some manga includes scenes of graphic violence and sexual situations.
At the meeting, parents will learn how to find suitable manga and anime for middle school students, she said.
Deacon said age-appropriate manga is a good thing for kids.
"I happen to feel that it is a form of visual literacy, so I think it does have a place in children's lives and in their education," she said. "And I think as we live in a more and more global world, it's important to understand things that are coming into our own culture and how they're being adapted and used."