From the Desk of an Anime Club President

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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!

Be inclusive.

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!

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Anime Review: Traveling Daru

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Reposted from my Facebook 26 September 2012

Traveling Daru is an animated short by Ushio Tazawa. Since the movie is only 10 minutes long, I’ll try to keep this review consistently short as well.

Tazawa touches a lot of hearts in this short movie, regardless of its lack of dialogue, as a handmade stuffed daruma doll travels the world in search of the little girl that drops him at an airport one day. Over time, the toy whom we can simply call “Daru” travels all over the world in the span of what appears to be a generation. On his way, he talks with other local toys and animals in search of his maker and childhood friend, only to come up short everywhere he goes. Still, Daru looks for his friend no matter how long or how far he goes.

Like most shorts, Traveling Daru has a lot of loving themes, but to me one of the more underlying themes is change. Daru is the representation of a Dharma doll in Japanese folklore, a charm that businesses and people often have to set a goal by filling in one of its eyes and achieving the goal by filling its other eye over time. The doll itself represents some degree of progress and good luck in doing so, a reflection shown in this movie as Daru travels the world over a long span of time.

Again, another great anime movie, regardless of its shortness; but still a wonderful story to be had.

Anime Review: Tari Tari

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Reposted from my Facebook 24 September 2012.

I was looking through my Crunchyroll queue for things I had skipped over the Summer because I had to focus so much on school (among other things) and therefore had no time to watch it serially each week. Some things I plan to shelve and say “never mind, I’ll have to skip it for the next round of Fall stuff” or have it sit on my on-hold list for an indefinite amount of time. That’s when I came across Tari Tari, and thought I might have to do that to this one. It’s a typical school genre anime about kids who want to follow their dreams at a very crucial point of their lives while having to deal with typical teenage problems. Sounds like a Disney movie, right?

I suppose Tari Tari started out that way, but I was actually somewhat glad that I sat through its entirety. Call me biased, but I even gave the series a 10-point rating on My Anime List’s website. Why would I enjoy something that clearly wasn’t very original? I suppose it’s because it made me feel like I related to the problems of forming and maintaining the status and reputation of a school club.

Tari Tari is about 5 high school students who decide to form a Choir Club despite the fact that the Choral Club is already in full force. As you can imagine, each of the five members have their own motives from the git-go, especially when it comes down to putting a musician, a diva, a jockey, a foreigner, and a badminton player together in one room for the purpose of singing. This obviously leads to those typical teenage problems I was talking about earlier: anorexia, student politics, and lack of interest or direction, to name a few. And yet I feel pretty much the same way when it comes to organizing my club activities because the interest level and motives of my club members are extremely diverse. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we can’t possibly find common ground to get something going; otherwise my club wouldn’t exist!

The main conflict, however, arises about halfway into the series when the Choir Club (and sometimes Badminton Club) hit a road block because the school’s Cultural Festival is being cancelled for reconstruction of the school. Yes, due to the growing Japanese problem of a declining birth rate, the school board has decided to dismantle the school and build (ironically) an apartment complex in its place. While everyone from the school’s administration to the student council are quite depressed by this situation, the five brave students decide to continue on with their performance in order to sing their original work one last time.

I won’t give away the ending, but rest assured, I felt something very heartwarming about this series. Again, maybe I’m a little biased, but I felt that this series touched upon my own personal experience. It goes to prove what I like to do as a school club president and ultimately supports an education industry that I would like to take part in. After all, it seems that even in America we are totally focused on business and standards in the education system that we forget about the passion and joy we have when we put in the effort for doing the things we love. This is a theme I would love to teach to the next generation of students because I believe that finding that direction in your life is extremely important at the adolescent and young adult ages.

So yes, this series, as cliche as it might look on the surface, comes highly recommended by me personally. Heck, I might even consider it one of the anime series that truly highlights my own life!

Anime Review: The Ambition of Oda Nobuna

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Reposted from my Facebook 24 September 2012.

Yes, it’s that time of the season again where an animated series ends so another can come in its place; granted my watch list hasn’t quite changed since Spring. Oh, and by the way, that title is NOT a typo. Ever heard of the Japanese champion Oda Nobunaga, who united Japan during a time of civil war long before the United States was even a country? No, I’m not referring to him, and neither is this TV series.

The Ambition of Oda Nobuna (Oda Nobuna no Yabou) is an anime inspired by the manga of the same title by Mikage Kasuga. Dare I say, it’s listed in the historical genre, but truly nothing is historical about it other than all the namesakes of the characters involved are real men who fought in the civil war. Did I say “men?” I’m sorry. I totally forgot this is Oda Nobuna we’re talking about.

The series takes place when a teenage boy from the present day gets stuck in an alternate (and past) universe when Japan was in a civil war during what we know of as the 16th century; only this time, both men AND women were allowed to rule as feudal lords and military personnel. In this mess of literally gender-bending history, the boy known only to his fellow comrades as Saru (literally “monkey”) meets a rather promiscuous Oda Nobuna(ga?), a lower Japanese noble who desires to unite Japan and extend its diplomacy to the coming European nations. Together with her clansmen and retainers, Oda Nobuna and Saru plan to conquer Japan with the least amount of bloodshed while having a typical anime romance sequence (and by that, I mean loving each other without ever admitting it).

Overall, nothing is terribly wrong with the series, considering it obviously plays to an audience of the typical male otaku who enjoy seeing women playing sexual warrior roles. However, I can’t help but wonder why anyone would decide to write about a gender-bending of a truly historical figure like Oda Nobunaga. That has the same effect as if an American novelist decided to say Abraham Lincoln doubled as a vampire hunter as well as President of the United States (oh wait, that’s already been done). I just hope that fans of this show appreciate that this is totally FICTION and not actually real; and therefore has nothing to do with historical fact.

On the other hand, I really like the series’ portrayal of Oda Nobunaga’s military adviser Niwa Nagahide. Like all the other characters in this series, the retainer is portrayed as an illustrious female whom I’d personally have a crush on if she were actually real. She’s beautiful, she’s tactical, and best of all, she uses the point system that I and some members of my anime club adopted a couple of years ago! 50 points to an amazing character!

Still however, there are times I wonder if the series was really pushing the loli-con agenda. Saru, the main character, has his own personal bodyguard, military adviser, ninja, and wife, all of which are girls who are no taller than say, four feet. I don’t think I need to say it, but, that’s just freakin’ awkward, especially when there’s plenty of other awesome women in the show. I mean, come on, what was the writer thinking?

Anime Review: Chihayafuru

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Reposted from Facebook 27 June 2012.

It comes to no surprise to anyone that I really like this series. Chihayafuru is an ongoing manga series written by Yuki Suetsugu, and has gotten quite popular among shoujo manga readers. An animation was then created by Madhouse Studios (yes, they’re going to be there for Anime Expo) for the Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 lineup. While I haven’t quite caught up with the manga, due to some obvious language barriers, I watched the entire series eagerly from beginning to end, and believe me, I will be tracking the second season when it comes out!

Chihayafuru follows the story of Chihaya Ayase; and more specifically, her obsession with Karuta or Hyakunin Isshu (literally The Hundred Songs): a card game of memory, speed, and stamina (for competitive Karuta). This game consists of, you guessed it, 100 songs written in tanka form (5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure) which are read aloud. Players must find the card in a sea of as many as 50 cards which has the last three lines of that song written on it. Hyakunin Isshu has been around for centuries in Japan, so it is taught in elementary and middle schools for kids to learn the Japanese alphabet and literature. For competitive players, each song can be recognized by the sixth, third, or even first syllable! Well anyway, that’s the basics of the game, and I don’t want to take up this entire review explaining a game that even most Japanese people don’t bother to play due to its difficulty.

Our heroine is introduced to karuta in the sixth grade, when she meets Arata Wataya (which one of these days I will cosplay because his character is simple, but awesome). Arata’s grandfather was a meijin of Hyakunin Isshu, a well-respected master in this sport (yes, I said “sport”); but since being a master of an esoteric game is not very profitable, the Wataya family was relatively poor. Arata plays a game of Karuta with Chihaya and after a quick match, a lasting bond of friendship began. Soon after, Chihaya’s childhood friend Taichi who is considerably good at everything (and comparably rich as well) develops a brotherly rivalry with Arata. Thus, this triple friendship grew through the karuta game. However, Arata moves back to his hometown in Fukui due to family circumstances, leaving Chihaya and Taichi behind in Tokyo. Three years pass, and Chihaya is determined to reach the top in competitive Karuta, in hopes to someday play against Arata again.

Well, that’s the general back story, anyway. I like the series overall, so reviewing it in my fanboy perspective won’t really do it a lot of justice. I will say that I definitely like how this series combines the storyline beautifully with the songs of Hyakunin Isshu in a present-day setting. One example would be when Chihaya finally gets in touch with Arata just after the annual Meijin and Queen tournament qualifiers. At this point in the series, we discover that Arata’s grandfather had passed away; and Arata himself has barely started playing Karuta again. Chihaya knows that Arata’s fragile spirit might never get past the grief; and yet in this moment, she was relieved to know that Arata was still determined to do his best in Karuta because he, too, wanted to see Chihaya again. Now, if I haven’t lost you in this storytelling yet, Chihaya then remembers this poem (translated loosely in English from Crunchyroll):

When the misty bridge of the

magpie feathers comes into sight,

the night is nearly past.

This poem among the Hyakunin Isshu, for those who don’t know, refers to the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi, which is celebrated during the Tanabata festival (which is coming up starting July 7!). For those who get the reference, Chihaya (Orihime) awaits the day she is reunited with Arata (Hikoboshi); and even if it is just for a moment in time, it is the most loving moment she will definitely never forget.

You don’t have to be a karuta player, a girl, or a Japanese culture enthusiast to appreciate this series. It has a great storyline, wonderful art, and very heart-warming themes. I definitely hope the series continues to do well.