Anime Club Escapades: 04/04/14

I meet a lot of people on campus who say they like Attack on Titan. I mean, it’s a nice series. Certainly not my favorite, but it’s popular for a reason. It’s a proper mix of recency and accessibility for any casual anime fan, as well as a servicable gateway for the uninitiated crowd to discover anime as a legitimate vehicle for good storytelling. I use the term “good” loosely, personally, but that’s not something I point towards when I speak to these people every time I table for more members. My smile could easily be interpreted as a grimace when I must talk about Attack on Titan with passersby for the sixteenth time in a row, but I can tell that they don’t realize my disdain. This is the story of many of the faces that pass by, then pass by again, then pass by for a third time because they’re too awkward to approach our table and inquire if that’s really the Bakemonogatari ED playing on our portable speaker. Man, now that I think about it, Genshiken was really on-point when it came to how socially awkward it really was when actually approaching a booth. Or, perhaps, it reflects just how powerful anime’s influence is on a person’s identity.

Personally I’ve met with many people who openly admit that they’re serious anime fans, but I know of the precious few who wear their otaku label proudly. And in the context of anime clubs, I think the term “label” fits aptly. It’s a stereotype. It only reflects a small percentage of people who are anime fans, and smaller still the percentage of people who casually watch anime. And just one of those people who reflect that stereotype is enough to ruin an anime club’s image. I don’t blame people who like anime, yet find it hard, or perhaps disgusting, to associate themselves with anime club. Sometimes it’s a legitimate reason such as a class schedule not lining up right, but avoidance of anime clubs is common amongst the people I meet with, who say that they’ll definitely attend yet stop after the first visit. My vision of what club should be like does not match with theirs. Realistically, it never will. It’s something I’ve learned to live with, but it’s frustrating. If I really wanted to bring in the most amount of people into the anime club, I’d have to be the type of person who is willing to go casual for the sake of membership. Meaning we’d only be watching, discussing, and experiencing anime that’s already popular. I don’t like that kind of club. The people who already come to the weekly meetings don’t like that idea either. But it would increase membership. If only because the fanbase is larger.

What I’ve understood after these few years of being in an anime club is the primary motivation of people who go to anime club: they want to meet people who like anime. This is the kind of thought that runs in every newcomer’s mind when they shuffle into the clubroom, sit in the back, and just stare at the screen without even once trying to reach out to us, and then leave because they fulfilled their own anti-social prophecy. Sometimes they’re vocal; they complain to me that we should watch what they personally like before disappearing from my life permanently from impatience. Should it have to be like this? After all, we all like anime, don’t we? Wrong. We want to meet people who like our anime. It’s not a one-way street either; I enjoy meeting people who like my anime a lot more than trying to discuss it with people who like their anime. I try to frame our anime club in a way that’s acceptable to my tastes and my officers’ respective tastes, and we end up watching series such as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Captain Earth and Mushishi, basically a mirror to what the aniblog sphere collectively appreciates. However, the people I meet on campus are a constant reminder that perhaps the anime I like isn’t as universally acclaimed as I like to believe. There’s always going to be someone who would prefer we watch Mahouka. Mekaku City Actors. No Game, No Life. This is obviously omitting what I personally would like to show in club, such as Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii, Isshukan Friends, and WIXOSS. There’s just too much to cover, and my sanity can only stretch so far to appease the masses if we are to seriously consider the will of the people.

That’s why I grimace when I talk to casual anime fans on campus. It means I can only talk about the surface of my anime fandom. I’ve tried in the past to not make anime club about people’s taste in anime, but an anime club exists to watch anime, and with our limited time and our restrictive schedules it’s hard to appease everyone. Even if we were to approach anime from a more intellectual standpoint, something that should seem apparent because we’re in a university, no one likes to think about their cartoons academically. Form a comprehensive opinion on this anime episode in preparation for a discussion the next meeting? Who the fuck would do that other than me? Why can’t these people just enjoy their anime and revel in their own shit taste? Because we cannot answer those questions without stepping on someone’s toes, our membership subsequently suffers.

To be honest, when people hold their own membership hostage over something as frivolous as watching an anime they don’t like, I can’t take them seriously. I am very lucky that the 12 or so people who attended club last Friday did not mind that we showed JoJo and Mushishi. I would not trade them for an army of Titan fans. Not to say that Titan fans are completely incompatible with how our club is run. I just use that anime as a lame stereotype for the typical 2014 casual anime fan. It’s just hard for that kind of fan to join our club, and harder still to explain to people that anime club does not necessarily mean that we’re gonna be watching your anime, not because of the difficulty of explaining but instead the fear of losing the person’s interest without even attending a meeting. And nothing feels more disappointing than realizing you are the reason they lost interest.

I used to be upset over the fact that people avoided anime club because their reasons aren’t completely wrong. We have our smelly, socially awkward manchildren as well as our stuck-up elitist pricks who refuse to respect anyone’s taste but their own, and there’s no running away from the social stigma of anime fans being the most embarrassing thing to witness on the face of the Earth. No one, me included, wants to be stuck with that image in their social life. But I’m over that now. I’ve come to realize that anime is just too big a genre to please everyone with, and that I have the capacity to tell people (mentally, of course) to fuck off if they don’t like how I run things. If they want to watch anime they like without the “annoyance” of other people talking over it, they can do that in the privacy of their own room. That is not what you come to anime club for. Hell, that’s not what you come to my anime club for. It’s my room, my rules, and I fully expect you to participate in our madness whether we prompt you to or not.

Addendum

  1. As you may have witnessed, we’re back to watching currently airing stuff. Shit’s convenient when Spring 2014 is filled with so much promising anime.
  2. Ping Pong still gonna save anime.
  3. We’re watching JoJo 2012 alongside JoJo 2014, with the added detail that we watch JoJo 2012 on all of the available DUWANG subs. Since the response was amazing, we’re going to stick with it for the rest of the quarter.
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5 comments

  1. Isn’t watching both of the JoJo series concurrently a bit confusing for people who have never seen JoJo before?

    1. Everyone in the room has already seen JoJo 2012. Besides, every part of JoJo is sufficiently self-contained to the point where you don’t really need to watch previous parts and the stories themselves are simple to understand.

  2. You, my friend, would have just won a convert to your club if I went to your university.

    1. That is quite nice to hear, random internet person.

  3. tamerlane · · Reply

    Very interesting article. The miasma of the anime nerd stereotype is hard to break, and I think what’s needed is, for lack of a better term, more anime hipsters. People that are concerned with their own cultural capital, that have a deep knowledge of the field and value novelty. People that are into noitaminA shit and know every Oshii film by heart. These people exist, and are probably the only reason directors like Yuasa can stay in business, but they don’t really have a big presence offline. Nerd shit is huge right now, but anime seems to have missed the boat. I still see dudes with thousands of hours logged into Steam unironically lord over anime fans for being perverts with bad taste.

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