As the spring quarter winds down, students may actually find themselves with an excess of free time. For those who enjoyed watching cartoons and playing video games when they were young, the Davis Anime Club provides a Japanese twist to a childhood pastime.
Referred to as the DAC by its members, the club is composed of students who share an appreciation for animated TV shows and movies produced and distributed in Japan. They hold meetings twice a week on Wednesdays and Thursdays in Wellman Hall from 8 to 10 p.m., where they typically enjoy viewing different types of anime shows and engaging in activities such as Super Smash Bros. or Pokémon tournaments.
These gatherings provide a welcoming venue for students who have either cherished a long-time interest in anime or are newer to the genre and its corresponding culture.
“We’re a social club with a really strong community,” said Reiko Yamamoto-Kirby, a junior biological and agricultural systems engineering major and DAC’s event coordinator.
On May 21, the DAC hosted a convention called DAiCon, their biggest event of the year. Renamed from its previous title, Big Showing, this year’s event served a double role as both an end-of-the-year celebration and as an outreach event to the university and to the Davis community.
“Before, it was just members and alumni who would come, and we’d announce the future officers and have an auction and whatnot, but this year we opened it up to the public,” said Brian Wu, a senior psychology major who has served as the club’s president for the past two years. “We rented out the whole first floor of Wellman and had the highest amount of people in recent years. There were even middle-schoolers with their parents. We’ve finally made it into a real mini-convention.”
During the year, the DAC enjoys regular viewings of anime shows chosen from the wealth of available material released from Japan every day. Anime evolved from manga, Japanese print comics, in the 1950s. Made vastly popular by Tetsuwan Atomu in 1963 with his television series “Astro Boy,” anime today includes a wide variety of shows and movies that appeal to audiences of any age.
“The thing about anime is that it encompasses pretty much every single genre,” said Alexander Church, a sophomore design and psychology major and DAC’s public relations agent. Some sub-genres include slice of life, gag, adventure, comedy and magical girl.
In a typical meeting, members will watch three shows, chosen from a list maintained by the officers of what the club wants to see. These shows are all unlicensed in the U.S. and are posted online almost immediately after their release by a network of independent people in Japan called fansubs.
“They record the show the moment that it airs, and then get everything translated with subtitles,” Wu said. “The fansubs keep everything available so that people can learn about the culture and what is out there. Without the fansubs, I would say anime wouldn’t be as prevalent in America.”
American companies then decide which shows are popular enough to license and dub them with English voice actors. For this reason, fan bases such as the DAC can be extremely influential to the production of Japanese anime abroad.
Although the title of the DAC implies that the members’ activities are streamlined only toward anime, they explore other aspects of Japanese culture. For example, many members of the club are interested in drawing, cooking and costume play, a type of performance art derived from the characters in both manga and anime.
“Usually we have events that have to do with the shows we are watching,” Yamamoto-Kirby said “If we are watching a series about cooking, such as ‘Yakitate Japan,’ then we would have cooking parties.”
The club also makes trips to Japantown in San Francisco every quarter, and hosts frequent game nights, scavenger hunts and tournaments.
Wu does acknowledge the common perception that many of the people who come to anime club are “kind of geeky,” and therefore very quiet.
“They’re not always the most socially competent,” he laughed.
The club is even publicly described by some officers as a social club for the socially awkward. For this reason, one aim of the club’s activities is to create an environment that encourages active participation without putting excessive pressure on the less outspoken members.
“[The viewings] encourage others to scream out their comments. It’s a dark room! Nobody knows who’s screaming it out,” Wu said.
Besides looking forward to even bigger turnouts at next year’s DAiCon, the DAC is currently planning a larger new member outreach for first-years that will take place the weekend after Welcome Week in the fall. The club has also been working on finding a permanent home for a manga library that has been steadily growing over the past years.
“Now, it’s in four giant cardboard boxes that we have to lug around, and it has come to be around 300 pounds of books,” Wu said. He hopes a university department such as the Cross Cultural Center will provide the space for the collection to be easily accessible to students on campus.
For more information on the DAC, visit their Davis Wiki page and find them on Facebook for upcoming events.
LANI CHAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.