The cast of hit anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica take a break from saving the world to help teens learn English by learning about France.

While Japan is generally more accepting of the notion that anime can be for adults too, a lot of anime is designed specifically to appeal to teenagers. As a matter of fact, some parents are so worried about the ability of anime to captivate young minds that they go so far as to forbid their children to watch it until they’ve gotten accepted to college.

But at least one textbook publisher thinks that rather than being a distraction, it can channel the passion that anime fans feel for the medium into improved academic performance. That’s why when some Japanese students flip open the pages of a new English textbook, they’ll encounter the cast of magical girl anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

This isn’t a self-published fan work, either, like the English-learning KanColle book from last year. No, Madoka and her witch-hunting cohorts appear in a legitimate textbook that’s being used in actual schools in Japan.

“Check it out! There’s a Madoka Magica illustration in my high school textbook.”

But despite the eye-catching anime artwork taking up half a page, the associated reading exercise isn’t about the characters shown, but about the popularization of Japanese food overseas. The passage reads:

“How about a piece of karaage?” says a girl.

“Thanks!” answers her friend.

The above is one scene from an anime. School girls are eating bentos at lunch time. You’ve probably had a bento for lunch like these girls many times.

Most French people, however, had never seen such a lunch before they watched Japanese anime. They took a great interest in the scenes of people eating bentos. To French people, they looked like full-course meals of rice and other delicious things packed into little boxes.

The French have always loved cooking and eating good food, and France is famous for its gourmet culture. The Japanese bento appealed to people in France so much that it has become popular there. Now it has also spread to other countries.

Hard-charging linguists and multiculturalists might find it odd that the writers of an English-as-a-second-language text decided to use a lesson to highlight how cool Japanese food is and how well it’s been received in a French-speaking country. The untranslated instances of “karaage” and “bento” also seem like a missed opportunity to introduce some easy-to-remember vocabulary (“Japanese-style fried chicken” and “boxed lunch”) and their usefully flexible grammatical construction.

Still, it’s important to keep your spirits up while studying, and just as many people have an easier time concentrating in a comfortable cafe than a dusty old library, perhaps the surprise appearance of these characters will give them the emotional boost they need to keep trying even if the material is difficult for them.

And who knows? Maybe the results will be so impressive that the Madoka cast will start showing up in books for other subjects too. With all of the series’ talk about contracts, they’d be a good fit for a business law text…or, considering how some of the anime’s magical girls end up losing their souls or minds through those deals, maybe an ethics course too.

Source: Jin, Twitter/@Nonon_ii_

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’d like to see Madoka Magica remade with Orange Road’s Madoka Ayukawa in the lead role.