For those who know me in real life, I am the President of the Anime Club at my school. The club itself has been around for over 2 years and I have remained president for a little over 1 year. Due to our small campus and the fact we are a commuter school, our club boasts a small membership of about 5 people on a good day.
Whether fortunate or unfortunate, I am graduating from my school by March of this year; and therefore will not be able to continue my role as president of this club. Seeing that it is the longest-lasting student-led club on our campus though, I hope to see the club continue. If it doesn’t, I personally won’t be too hurt; but it would be nice for me to look back on it when I decide to return as an alumnus.
That being said, some people may wonder how I, the president of an unpopular club that normally would go against the views of the majority of the student body and the administration, kept its doors open for so long? To be completely honest, I wonder how I managed to do that also. Regardless, here are a few elements I thought I did right and what I hope other anime clubs from other schools (as well as my own once I’m gone) would at least think about in order to continue their clubs.
Have a mission and follow it.
Chances are, if your anime club had to establish itself as an organization on any campus, you needed to have a mission statement in order to define what you guys actually do. Unfortunately like most organizations, the people involved can’t possibly remember a mission statement because they get so worked up in activities and trying to control them. My mission for the Anime Club was to expand students’ minds into critically looking at culture and the entertainment industry through the anime/manga perspective (it worked out that way anyway because I go to a “career college”). I tried my best to keep this mission alive by having members discuss what we watch just after we watch it as well as host a debate event for the school to understand an issue that deals with the anime industry. This event is coming soon!
Let’s face it: no one likes a tyrant, or an elitist. So why be one? Too many “otakus” I know have a very exclusive understanding of who should enjoy anime and how they should enjoy it. I suppose I’m considered Asian, and I prefer watching anime in its original format, but I don’t insist that my club members have to enjoy certain aspects of anime. I mean, I would like members to think critically about what they are watching and consider discussing and reviewing material at a more qualitative level. On the other hand, if my club members just want to discuss who’s going to end up with who at the end or who’s going to kick the crap out of what, I’ll let that slide. We are an anime club because we enjoy watching films and television animations in this format, granted for different reasons. There’s no reason for us to be exclusive because we are already on the outlying parts of American society anyway! I also needed an excuse for us to be a legitimate club and not a cult; after all, being exclusive goes against school policy.
Work with other groups.
I actually just had guest students come over to my college from a local high school who were interested in running their own anime club. They wanted to pick my brain to discover not only what college was like but also how I ran my club. Networking with other anime club chapters is a great way to meet other anime/manga fans; but why stop there? Collaborate with other clubs on your own campus! I try not to hog time slots of other major clubs on my campus, such as the career club due to conflicting interest and demand among the same targeted audience. If relationships are strong enough between clubs, host an event together. Anime Clubs have a lot of common ground with other organizations; show them that you can interact with other groups by interest too.
Keep members well-informed.
To be honest, this is the one rule I don’t follow very well. Because I go to a commuter school, I’m not sure what members would be interested in attending anime club. Students normally come to our school for class or work-study and then leave, even if there is an hour of down-time between tasks or events. That’s why one has to establish a “what’s in it for them” clause, hooking various members to want to come to club. And how do you hook people into coming? Telling them exactly what the club’s activities are and sticking to them! Making sure you’re noticed on campus also helps; something I halfheartedly do already.
Leave your personal interests at home.
Like all other subjects, people stick to their genres in anime. It’s very tempting to simply watch only one kind of show and targeting only one group of anime fans. I personally like slice-of-life dramas myself; but I have learned to tolerate the majority of fans’ tastes and watch action-packed fantasy series as well. Also, our club (and school) has a policy against piracy, so watching any fan-subbed streams on third party sites for free or downloading torrents and watching those are absolutely prohibited. In order to watch anything in our club, we use a licensed streamer such as Crunchyroll or Netflix or use the retail DVD copy that any one of our members own. If you want to watch your own favorite series that’s not available for free by these legal methods, do it on your own time!
That’s all the advice I can think of giving. I will be passing this on to the officers of my anime club who will continue to run the club after I leave. Best of luck to starting your own clubs!