The year has ended.
The anime club had its last gathering for the quarter yesterday. In typical weeb fashion we looked for some Japanese recipes that we could use to fittingly end another year of anime club, but due to time constraints and general lack of culinary skills we went with curry. Golden Curry brand, of course. I don’t think anyone knew that you could get other varieteies of Japanese curry in the local Asian market. We had also planned for Onigiri, mochi ice cream and curry bread, but kitchen we were using had a broken fridge and the prep for the bread was severely lacking. So we just did curry and onigiri that night. It was pretty good, not going to lie.
The attendance for the event is indicative of the performance of the club for that entire year: the same as ever, around 12 people showed up in total. I was honestly expecting more people. In fact, I expected a lot more than just a boost in attendance. There were promises of more events and the fundraising to finance these events, as well as plans to liven up biweekly meetings with… whatever they thought would make the club more exciting. I’m not part of the decision making process this year, so I don’t have much of an idea what the current iteration of anime club staff wanted to do with their club. A general shift away from just sitting around watching illegal copies of anime transformed into just sitting around watching legal copies of anime (due to the new advisor), and I’m not sure that this was what the staff had in mind when it came to the changes they were looking for. In fact, I don’t think they, as a whole, had much of an idea about the club’s future either. I don’t blame them. I haven’t written about the club for a long time because I just didn’t go to meetings as much anymore.
It’s a bit enlightening, being on the other side of the issue this time around. When I was president, thinking about why someone would leave the club and not come back was a near futile exercise, especially if you don’t talk to them about why they left. Perhaps that’s the root of the problem with this club: a general lack of talking to strangers. Admittedly, I’m one of those people. I rarely ask for names, about interests, or what anime people watch. Correction, I always do that with the friends I already know. Who wouldn’t? It’s so much less effort to improve relationships between people you already talk with on a regular basis. You’re already attuned to each others schedules, too, so that’s another worry that doesn’t crop up. Unfortunately, I think many people, both those who stayed in and left the club, had the same idea. Small, visible groups were forming in the club. Topics became more inaccessible the more insular the discussion became amongst existing friends. Soon it became apparent that few were actually ready and/or willing to make new friends.
I clearly wasn’t ready to become the type of charismatic icon that the anime club needed to prosper, and to see the same thing happen this year really drives that point home from a member’s point of view. When I hesitated to join meetings when I clearly had the time, it reminded me of the times I myself wondered why people wouldn’t show up to meetings. Sometimes I just considered that the room was too far away for some people. Maybe Friday nights were a bad time. Now I figure that, while both are legitimate reasons, neither are very significant. People didn’t show up to meetings because the meetings themselves were boring. We, as an extension, were also boring. Members were boring, too. Everything we did, and appeared to do, was boring. And we failed to convince them otherwise. Well, I don’t think boring is the right way to put it. I found the experience in club meetings to be unsatisfying.
This is an entirely personal distinction I placed upon the club, based on the ideas I had for its improvement and proliferation. See, what I envisioned for my own anime club was something more discussion-based, like a book club. What I know now, and what I was really aiming for, was that I tried and failed to push my blogging/Twitter experience onto my friends. And so I learned the hard way that most people in real life don’t really like to think that way about anime, or even their media in general. I like being critical. I like being unsatisfied with a lot of currently airing shows, and thinking thoroughly about the reasons as to why a certain show may not have impacted me when it certainly impacts others. I watch shows that I know I won’t like and say mean things about them sometimes. I want to understand what people mean when they say they like or don’t like things. By popular standards, that means I’m pretty cynical. The problem is that what I like to do isn’t considered fun, and it was my responsibility to show members that there was, in fact, a way to have fun with the things I do. Unfortunately, speaking as someone who has been on the Speech and Debate Team for three years and have taken (and enjoyed) multiple college courses in literature, I realize this passion isn’t something so easily fostered in people within a few week’s time.
What does this all mean for this year’s anime club? Put simply, the staff’s idea for the club was to foster more group activity and social links. They were to show less anime and cater more time towards group socializing and bringing in new people. People were supposed to feel more welcome to the club. That sentiment, as I saw it, did not exist in execution. Socializing is hard. Especially hard for people who don’t socialize. Especially harder for people who aren’t interested in socializing with strangers. These days I understand that the feeling exists, but back then I did not have much courage to act upon it and open myself up for others. Seeing that happen again with the current staff makes my own failures as president, while still painful, a bit less exclusive. Perhaps, now, my struggles are understood.
Though sometimes I wonder if I’ve been going through this wrong the entire time. Now that I think about it, clubs in anime are hardly more than a 5-person thing. Even in bigger groups, the focus is usually on a smaller subsection. Perhaps this is just to save time as well as establish a more secure cast, but I’ve always felt as though those clubs existed with such small populations for a good reason. Other than to feed upon the social anxieties of its target audience, I imagine most clubs are formed as a secondary hangout spot in addition to the actual objective of the club. Put in simpler terms, clubs are merely an excuse to hang out more with friends. If that’s the case, should I really care as much that a club as specific and insular as and anime club didn’t gather that many people? In fact, should I be proud that we were able to acquire more than 15 annual members on a consistent basis? Even the likes of Genshiken could not muster those kinds of numbers.
Yes, having bigger numbers for the club was my primary goal for the club and I failed spectacularly on that front. But when I think about the things I’ve done with my friends and the wonderful experiences I’ve shared, as well as the sense of community that fostered between that small group of people, I feel a lot better about the years I’ve spent on this club. I like to think I didn’t waste my time here, and knowing that I potentially did not makes me feel very, very happy.
- This is the end of my fourth year in college, meaning that I’m graduating. Since I live in the area, however, that means I’m still going to be around should I still be interested in going to the club meetings. My friends have also entertained the idea of revisiting the club at some point in time, so that’s a plus.
- The next rotation of staff is almost entirely female, and with me still being around we’ve already joked that the club is literally S3 of Genshiken and that, in the end, I have become Madarame-sempai. Shit.
- The next SAO post is in the works.