I’m going to come right out and say this: I’m stealing a Char quote for the title of this post and it’s intellectually dishonest to do so because I really haven’t watched much early Gundam. I did buy the box set of the movies (Gundam I-III) that were made from the TV series footage, because I kind of thought it was Something Significant That I Should See, but my attempt to watch them resulted in actually falling asleep partway through the first one, never getting around to going back to watching it, and then selling the box set for practically nothing. So, it really doesn’t have much significance to me.
Still, “wakasa yue no ayamachi” is one of those Famous Quotes and I’m going to steal it.
I got sucked into reading a blog recently where the author was doing an awful lot of navel gazing about his days as a young anime fan, when everything was Exciting and New, and I wound up doing a bit of reminiscing myself, and the collection of memories that bubbled to the top THIS time were some really cringe-worthy ones, so of course I decided I’d share them.
I used to run an anime club. Hell, I thought it was my Solemn Duty to run an anime club.
See, back in the Wayback When, the halcyon years after I first got hooked on watching cartoons produced in a language I couldn’t understand, people didn’t have ready access to the internet, so getting new anime and talking to other people about anime involved making actual human face-to-face contact with other freaks who were also crazy about foreign cartoons.
So, for a few years, and with the help of a good friend who was bad about saying “No, you’re crazy, I’m not doing that”, I ran an anime club.
We even made a newsletter. Ranma 1/2 was big at the time, so we called it “Panda Tracks”, and we put out three whole issues. I was only able to find two to scan for your amusement, here they are:
Beyond newsletters, we had periodic meetings where we showed mostly-subtitled anime (although I did subject people to raw-Japanese, unsubtitled episodes of Sailor Moon and Miracle Girls back when those were airing in Japan). It was those early meetings that sowed the seeds of what would later become my current rather jaded attitude towards fans.
Our first two meetings were held in local pizza restaurants, because neither I nor my easily-influenced friend were college students and we were used to fan clubs that met in pizza restaurants. It made sense to us. Pizza places had nice large private rooms that they were happy to set aside for a few hours based on the idea that the people in the rooms would be eating pizza and drinking appropriate beverages, and we needed a large private room. It seemed win-win.
For our first meeting, we reserved a room, borrowed a largeish TV with built-in VCR from my friend’s workplace, and did as much advertising as we could to get people to show up. If I recall right, we actually had a fairly good turnout, probably 20 people or so.
The first problem was that I didn’t realize just how cheap anime fans were until I saw that some of them had brought bag lunches into the restaurant, which didn’t exactly endear us to the management. We also had a little drama at the end of the night because some people had agreed to split the cost of pizzas and then people had trickled out during the showings, so when it actually came time to settle up the bill, some of the people who’d agreed to split costs on the pizzas had quietly left some time before, so we wound up covering the rest and then tipping rather heavily by way of apology.
We had a second meeting at a different pizza place, and, while the people-skipping-on-the-bill thing didn’t reoccur, the bag lunches thing DID, so it was obvious that we needed to change our tactics before we ran out of pizza places willing to host large groups.
Our savior came to us in the form of the Golden Arches. It turned out that a local McDonalds had a private room they used for groups to watch sporting events in, it had a big-screen TV built in and was shielded from the rest of the restaurant by blinds that could be closed. Also, the food was cheap enough that people actually bought it as opposed to packing in their own.
I actually have mostly good memories from that time. We’d get fifteen or twenty people at any given meeting, we’d watch anime together and eat McDonalds, we set aside a bit of every meeting for Show-And-Tell, where people could show off their latest purchases, and the management loved us because we ate lots of food and didn’t make a problem of ourselves.
We did have one time when, well, see, there was this show called Video Girl Ai, and we got the first three episodes of it and watched them and loved it, and then we got the last three episodes of it and decided that we’d make a meeting out of watching the whole thing together as a group, and then the last episode had an awful lot of blood in it and an employee happened to walk in right during the middle of the gory bit… I don’t think the restaurant actually SAID anything to us but we did adopt a “watch everything BEFORE showing it at the club” policy after that point.
Also, there were some issues with, let’s say, “social graces”. We did have to turn down an awful lot of requests from people to show various sorts of porn (Urotsukidoji had just come out and was All The Rage), and The First Time We Had a Girl Show Up was, well, a little embarrassing.
Still, we were Fighting The Good Fight at getting anime out to the masses, and I was young enough that that actually motivated me.
After about three years of this, I moved out of town and handed the reins over to my friend, and he took the helm for a little while longer – how’s that for mixing metaphors – and then handed them off again, and the whole thing lasted for well over a decade before it finally disbanded.
So on one hand I feel pretty good about having started something that lasted that long, and on the other hand it makes me cringe to think about how naive I was.