“Welcome to the Club” is a weekly op-ed series, featuring columns inspired by Yale’s undergraduate organizations and written by their officers — from Anime Society to Zeta Psi.
What’s there to do early on a Friday evening? Parties don’t begin until 10, and pregaming in your suite at 7:30 is generally a bad idea. Clearly, you should come and watch critically acclaimed Japanimated fiction with the Anime Club.
I know what you’re thinking: “How could I like anime? Anime is for nerds! As a neurotic, hyper-competitive student at one of the most elite universities in the world, I can’t possibly be a nerd!” Well, sorry to drop a truth bomb on your ignorance bunker (and your denial bunker to boot), but chances are, you’re exactly the sort of genre-savvy, knowledgeable person (read: adorable nerd) that would love anime.
Anime — the animation of America’s craziest but most lovable friend, Japan — is often unfairly associated with children’s cartoons. Yes, Pokemon does count as anime. But not all anime consists of brutal gladiatorial-style combat thrust upon sentient animals that are enslaved in plastic balls (an objective summary of the plot of Pokemon, if you think about it). Unfortunately, most Americans think of unexceptional children’s shows when they conceive of the Platonic form of “anime” — but this is because of a lack of experience rather than a lack of brilliant material.
From Hayao Miyazaki’s cinematic masterpieces, like “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” to gripping action/drama series, like “Ghost in the Shell,” there are hundreds of incredible anime movies and series that transcend the genre-stereotypes of the West. Animation may exist in the United States as a medium for children’s shows and sitcoms, but in Japan, animated works are often serious works aimed at adult audiences. These high-quality works are the sort we attempt to show in anime club.
A bit of disbelief on your part is natural, as animated works are simply not taken seriously in the United States. However, in Japan, animation fills many of the media roles live-action productions fill here. Anime is treated as a technological expansion of serious art, and the visual style of many productions shows the influence of uniquely Japanese drawing, calligraphy and watercolor painting. Beautiful stylizations once used for serene works and representations of nature are repurposed to convey dramatic, action-filled scenes in predominantly urban settings, creating a truly artistic fusion in the hands of skillful animators. Indeed, the greatest anime directors and animators, like the aforementioned legend Hayao Miyazaki, are talented artists who frequently begin their careers as painters and comic-book illustrators.
Before you get any ideas, we’re not haughty deconstructionists putting on airs. The works we show are thrilling, not art-house snore-fests. The plots move fast, the action is explosive and the romance is subversive — the good and bad alike tend to get caught in the crossfire before the smoke settles. One week we watch a Celtic biker spirit resolve a Tokyo gang war, and the next, we see a sci-fi dystopia with sympathetic villains and more than a hint of “Blade Runner.” All that’s guaranteed is that our anime selections subvert every trope you can imagine, lampshade the rest and leave you wondering how you ever considered life complete without the awesomeness of Japanese imagination.
Come for the shows, meet interesting, funny people, and have your preconceptions about anime turned upside down — all you have to do is give anime a fair chance. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more welcoming group on campus, and even harder-pressed to find a better show or movie to watch. You only live once — why live without anime?
Trevor Wagener is a senior in Pierson College, the treasurer of the Yale Anime Society and a staff columnist for the News.