By Renee Senzatimore
Ever since the 1980’s, Anime, or Japanese animation, has been growing rapidly in popularity in the West. Today, it has a considerably expansive fan base, with a large percentage of that fanbase being comprised of late teens to mid-twenty year olds-the most common age bracket for students attending community colleges.
For those reading who have limited knowledge about anime, it is an art form which has attracted the interest of viewers all over the world, especially in the United States. There are many different genres of anime, from the most general ones such as Romance, Comedy, and Science-Fiction, to the less obvious ones to newcomers such as Mecha, Harem, and Slice-of-Life.
What particular traits of anime attract such vast audiences varies among the people watching; some love the animation style, which is very different from what is commonly seen in the West, but many simply love the many different kinds of stories which have been told in these shows, and also the comics and novels from which many of them are based, which range from high-action shows like “Dragon-Ball Z”, to dramatic love stories like “Clannad.”
Many anime fans would agree that there is a comic or show for just about everyone, and perhaps this is why the anime has amassed such a large fan base.
Overtime, the anime fandom has developed what can only be called a fan-culture; fans have debates over the quality of English dub work, many dress as their favorite characters and attend conventions, and online, they create websites that stream anime and forum sites where discussion on anime can be held.
The advent of the internet has allowed this fan base to grow and flourish; to unite people from all over the world that simply adore anime and manga.
Anime culture is alive and well on Suffolk’s Ammerman Campus; there is an anime club which has roughly 25-30 members, according to Anime Club President, Sam Pratt. At the club, a variety of activities take place at each meeting, mainly group discussions that cover various topics that pertain to anime and manga.
One segment of the club period is called “Manga-Talk “which is where individual members each stand in front of the group and talk about a series they enjoy, sometimes showing clips of the show or passing around one of the volumes of the comic for people to look at.
Usually after “Manga-Talk,” a larger portion of the meeting is devoted to a particular subject of anime culture. At one meeting, this subject was the “Dub vs. Sub debate. Within the anime fandom, there are people who prefer watching the original Japanese versions of shows with subtitles over the English versions, some of which admittedly are done poorly, or involve huge amounts of editing and re-writing of the original material. But some people also prefer dubs; it is surprisingly a very divisive topic within the fandom.
At this meeting however, both sides of this issue were covered in great depth. Clips of a show called “Ghost Stories,” were shown, which is infamous for having a laughable English version which alters much of the plot to almost non-existence and has many of the characters spouting hysterical lines that were never uttered once in the Japanese version.
This is an example of one of those dubs that has been altered in some ways for the better, as the dialogue is so hilarious that it makes the show ten times as entertaining.
However, other anime fans would argue that altering the dialogue so much is horrible, as it is completely unfaithful to the original material. As with everything, it’s all a matter of personal viewpoint.
Another show used to illustrate another aspect of the argument was Lupin III, a show featuring a lecherous thief; a common archetype in American television and cinema. An argument was presented in the discussion that American actors are more suited to playing certain roles, because the characters in the shows are modeled off of characters in our own media.
Although Japanese animation has a highly distinct style and presentation, one will notice that a lot of anime does reflect certain distinctions of our own media as well, borrowing classic American archetypes and themes and morphing it with their some of their own to create something truly unique.
However, sometimes the term “unique” when being used to describe anime, can be easily interchanged with the term “weird.” Anime, in general, tends to be weird. Very weird. Even the most commonly named shows among the fandom have concepts that would probably seem very strange to people unacquainted with anime whatsoever. At one meeting a student introduced the group to a show called “Fighting Foodons,” which is a show about people who cook food which morphs into monsters which are sent into battle.
Many other anime share this common theme. Another anime called “Pokémon” also features battling monsters, and while the anime has fallen off in terms of popularity, the games for the franchise remain extremely popular. A testament to this would be the Pokémon Tournament that was recently held in the Babylon Student Center on February 26th, which had a turnout of thirty-two contestants.
Within the anime fandom, there are certain anime directors and writers that are extremely recognizable by those even outside of the fandom. One of those directors is Hayao Miyazaki. Founder of Studio Ghibli, producers of such films as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle, Miyazaki is hailed by anime fans and critics alike as one of the most talented animation directors in Japan.
At one of the meetings, a question was posed by the president; “What is your favorite Miyazaki movie?” Hands shot up in the air as the names of the films were said, and it quickly became apparent that the vast majority of the group assembled had seen at least one of Miyazaki’s films. Miyazaki has recently come out with a new film called “The Wind Rises,” a trailer of which was viewed at the meeting.
In addition to hosting highly involved group discussions, the anime club also organizes trips to anime conventions, such as Comic-Con and I-Con, which are major gatherings for people who have an intense interest in anime and manga.
It became clear over the course of attending these meetings that anime has a huge place in the lives of the people who attend this club. This opinion was upheld by anime club President, Sam Pratt.
“I think everyone is here (anime club) because anime is at the top of their agenda,” Pratt stated.
Anime plays a very personal role in the life of the Sam Pratt. During one of the meetings, an anime creator was introduced to the group called Jun Maeda, head of Key Visual Arts, a software company which has designed computer games and anime based on those games. He has written several notable shows such as “Kanon,” “Clannad,” and “Air.”
Pratt, who is a creative writing major, said that Jun Maeda, particularly his shows “Air” and “Clannad” were his main inspiration towards being a writer, but that anime in general has been his primary inspiration for deciding to go into the writing field.
“Anime is the inspiration for making me want to be a writer.” Pratt said.
Pratt is not the only person who has had anime inspire him in this way. Anime club member Sean Kelleher, who has been into anime for several years, also expressed a deeply personal interest in anime that has ultimately guided him in his creative pursuits as well.
“It (anime) has had a huge impact on my life,” Kelleher said, “It’s inspired me to write my own comic book, as it shares a lot of themes of anime.”
The main goal of the anime club at Suffolk, according to Sam Pratt, is to form a community for people who have a common interest in anime and manga, and this goal it seems to have accomplished very well. The students seem highly satisfied with the current incarnation of the anime club, and are clearly very passionate about what goes on there.
For many students that attend Suffolk, anime is far more than a hobby or passing interest; for some of them, it is a clear inspiration behind their very reasons for being at Suffolk. Anime culture is thriving on campus and this doesn’t look like a trend that will diminish, but rather grow only with time.
The anime club meets every Wednesday at Common Hour from 11:00 to 12:15.