Those of us who grew up watching Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z can step through the double doors of Hoover 100 every Friday for a full rush of nostalgia with Whittier’s Anime Club, which now includes movie nights, cosplay days, gaming nights and other fun events (on top of the usual anime watching).
Junior Charlie Newman, Anime Club’s President and Treasurer, plans to use the club to show, discuss and promote anime in a friendly community setting. “The main thing is for this to be interactive. Last year, it was just watch an episode of anime, talk for like 10 seconds about it, watch another, and so on.” The new direction is echoed in the club’s purpose statement, which includes missions of broadening a Japanese cultural understanding. “Now that we have a pretty solid idea of where we want the club to go, we’re ready to go,” says Newman.
Anime is extremely popular in Japan, but there is still a notable Western following for the genre and there are TV networks that show mainstream anime. For Example, Cartoon Network’s Toonami has streamed shows such as Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh and many more. There are also a wide variety of trading card games, and with shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, the cards were deeply integrated, providing another medium for people to get into anime. As someone who was inspired by this trend, Newman tells the story of how his soccer buddy gave him two Yu-Gi-Oh cards in kindergarten. “I asked what they were and he showed me an episode of the show, and I was hooked,” Newman said.
While some anime is aimed at children, Newman believes anime resonates much deeper than being just a kid’s cartoon. “I think the number one misconception about anime is that it’s a kid’s thing,” said Newman. “People usually associate anime with Pokemon, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, but in reality there is a HUGE variety.”
“With roughly eleven thousand anime shows out there, there are so many options for variety. “There are shows that are horrifying, heart-breaking, crudely funny and full of mystery,” said Newman. “On top of all the shows we started watching as kids.” One example is the show Anpanman, which has more than thirteen thousand episodes and is still going strong.
When asked why people love anime, Newman talks of the genres’ themes and messages. “I think people love it because some of the shows hit really hard on personal topics such as being an outcast, having close friends taken away from you and family issues.”
Although anime might feel completely unrelatable to American viewers, the themes and basic story lines are universal. Freaks and Geeks is a show that deals with American teen drama and shows characters navigation through their days in high school. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu is also a show about students navigating their way through high school and trying to get good grades.
Firefly is an American space drama of a renegade crew surviving the trials of the galaxy, and with only one season in its helm, Firefly developed a huge cult following. Cowboy Bebop is also a space drama with a team of renegades fighting through the galaxy and also had one season with a huge cult following.
“I love anime because there’s so much to choose from because of genres that cater to so many interests,” says sophomore Anime Club’s PR and Secretary Angela Swenson. Newman goes on to say that “It’s the variety. Everyone can get something out of anime, and some of the shows speak to fans in a way that is truly amazing.”