Ah, anime: awesome, bold, and weird.
If I, not living in any major metro area, wanted to express my fandom, where would I go? I was pleasantly surprised to find a local anime club, Valdosta State University’s Anime Aftermath. The people have been nice and enthusiastic in the brief time I’ve followed the club. I was bummed after finding out the final meeting was this Saturday. The following is an interview with Anime Aftermath president Shela Amienyi:
RHM: What was your first exposure of anime & manga?
SHELA: I can’t even remember when I first started watching anime. I was one of those kids who woke up at seven on a Saturday morning to watch Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Digimon on TV. I had to, at least, be around the age of ten, if not before.
I first got into manga in the sixth grade. My very first manga was Fruits Basket, volume 2. From there, I would spend so much time in Borders reading manga that Borders became my second home.
RHM: What do you tell someone who confuses anime with children’s cartoons made for a Western (i.e. Non-Asian) audience?
SHELA: Anime is a very different from the average cartoon. Whereas most cartoons are garnered more towards children, anime is a whole new genre of production, which varies in its target market and content. There are anime for children, true; but there are also adult-rated anime.
RHM: Was there an anime club at VSU before Anime Aftermath?
SHELA: I have no knowledge of an anime club before the Anime Aftermath. When I applied to Valdosta, I looked to see if the college had an anime club and the Anime Aftermath page was linked.
RHM: How were the choices for showings in the AA meetings done?
SHELA: To make decisions for Anime Aftermath meetings, the Cabinet sets aside time to meet together (most often in Centennial) to set the event schedule. This includes choosing titles, planning the food and games, creating decorations, putting together the flyers, etc.
Most often, deciding which anime will be shown takes the longest, because of the theme parameters of whichever event we are planning, and because we all have different tastes in anime. That said, our differences help make the events more interesting, because it shows that there are many different types of anime even within one genre. The shortest Cabinet Meeting recorded was about a half an hour; the longest meeting took an entire weekend, from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.
RHM: How much planning goes into Kaji-Con?
SHELA: Kaji-Con requires quite a bit of planning. As the person running the con, you have to know what panels will be there, what anime will be shown, who will help you work the con, how you are getting your prizes, how to get your guest speaker to the convention, where the convention will be held (and will there be enough space), and much more.
For the Anime Aftermath to plan Kaji, an entire semester’s time must be set aside so that everything is there when it is supposed to happen, and so that enough money is raised to get the convention running.
RHM: How has the greater Valdosta community reacted to AA?
SHELA: Most of the feedback from the community had been quite uplifting; last semester, we put on an anime event for the high schools in the greater Valdosta area and they really seemed to enjoy themselves.
One of the more extravagant things we have done was in preparation for this past Kaji-Con – we got into costume and paraded through the mall and promoted the convention. It was a very fun experience, and we got a pretty decent show at the con.
RHM: What were some highlights of previous Kaji-Cons (e.g. costumes, guests, weird stuff)? What do the guests think of Valdosta?
SHELA: The main highlights would definitely be having out FUNimation representative, Sophie McNutt be able to attend again, as well as the House of Torture.
Though I was not able to see it this past semester, I was recording the previous one and I can imagine all the wonderful things that were presented in that time. There is also some amount of enjoyment in hosting a panel at a convention, but I also enjoyed working the convention floor and meeting all the people and seeing great cosplays.
Kaji-Con Costume Contest:
RHM: Have you ever been to Japan?
SHELA: I have not been to Japan, but I plan to go as soon as I am able. Anime has given me an appreciation for Japanese culture, and I would like to learn so much more about it than the exaggerations shown in anime. That includes learning Japanese: I have taken Japanese I, but I plan to tackle the language on my own after I finish college.
RHM: Of the many tropes used in anime, which is your favorite? Which is the one you dislike most?
SHELA: Though I have not heard of them being labeled as tropes, I am most interested in Youkai, cherry blossoms, and kitsune. I have found an interest in cherry blossoms mostly in thanks to the different anime that portray its beauty. My fantasy-based nature is what reached out to Youkai and kitsune. I cannot see any that I particular dislike, though fanservice can sometimes become monotonous.
RHM: What are you looking forward to in Japanese media?
SHELA: I am looking to get more into the musical side of Japanese culture, but I am ever mindful of the newest releases in anime and manga. I never want the creative energy to flow out of Japan – I live off of it.
Many thanks to Shela for the insightful interview! The final party will be on Saturday from 6 PM to 11 at VSU’s Student Union!