There are several factors behind the popularity of Japanese at Hendon. One is the sheer excitement at studying a language so different in sound and appearance to English. As the subject head, Helen Langsam, explains: "Japanese seems to appeal to students who maybe lose their concentration and focus in school. These sorts of children tend to persevere with Japanese and continue to learn and do well in it and I think this is because it's seen as a cool language to learn."It's great to see that some students start to do better in school when offered something they are interested in.
I didn't get the chance to learn a foreign language until I was in junior high. Japanese wasn't offered, though I would have loved to take it. I took Spanish, and all the pop culture we got was Spanish versions of songs by Sting and Abba. When I started Chinese in college, no pop culture was employed at all in the classroom, but my abilities took off when I discovered Faye Wong and Cui Jian on my own. I don't know if it qualifies as manga or even pop culture, but Tsai Chih-chung's comic-book versions of the Chinese classics were also a big help in learning Chinese for me.