If you went ahead and read KC Green's “The Anime Club”, you might have gotten the idea that every gathering of anime geeks in America
"Letters from the New York Otaku"
By David Cabrera
#54 - Anime Club Isn't Necessarily So Bad, You Know
If you went ahead and read KC Green's “The Anime Club”, you might have gotten the idea that every gathering of anime geeks in America is some kind of terrible horror scenario from which none escape sane. I won't refute that.
The most “real” scene in the Anime Club comic, I believe, is the one where the president of the high school anime club won't stop laughing-- even though there is nothing to laugh about-- as she describes the plot of the latest Naruto movie. She eventually just breaks out into screaming. On the next page we see a whole group of fans laughing at nothing, looking like they're about to melt into a single, formless, howling monster.
I have definitely seen a group of otaku look like that. Perhaps you have as well.
However, that's not actually my own anime club experience. My experience was actually very pleasant. The people were welcoming, easy to talk to, and quite sane. I thought I would talk about that as a counterpoint to the comic.
The Polytechnic Anime Society (PAS) met on the second floor at the student union when I first got there, but due to complaints over noise from Dance Dance Revolution play in the office (like Pocky and Ramune, American anime fans are forever connected with DDR for reasons unknown) we were shooed into a basement, where we would remain forever.
The office, strewn with posters, wallscrolls and figures-- I believe even our clock was a Digi Charat model-- was home base. After class, we got together to trade the material, talk about what we'd watched that week, and otherwise just relax. We weren't the kind of club to stage very many viewings, major events or activities. Our first priority was just hanging out-- and our second priority was a decent Internet connection for videogames. Eventually, though, a small convention grew out of the club which continues to operate today. (http://springfestny.com/)
This was a new experience for me. I didn't have any friends who were big into anime before. In junior high, the other anime club kids were much older than we were. I transferred to another high school with a serious “jocks vs. nerds” mentality, and I hid my Slayers tapes. But this was very different. I'd found a good place with good people who happened to be huge anime nerds. People tell me otaku are antisocial and awful and all that... but I've made a lot of great friends through otaku stuff.
A lot of those guys became friends who I still hang out with today, long after the anime club. One of them just had a housewarming party for his beautiful new apartment in Queens. Once we'd caught up on our lives, it was back to talking about basically the same things we talked about years before.
“You up to date on that show?” “See the new figure coming out?”
Except now there was whiskey. Getting older isn't bad at all.
Because it wasn't all roses at the anime club, here is a bonus story. One time, a girl I'd been getting along very well with walked into the office for some homework help from one of the other guys. As she walked in, her eyes darted to me, surprised. “Dave?”
When she saw that I was watching Azumanga Daioh on my laptop, her face went from surprise to clear contempt. What was I doing watching these cartoon schoolgirls? What did I have to say for myself?