How Do I Introduce Old Anime To Younger Fans?

by Justin Sevakis,

Heather asks:

I work at a local community college and have become involved with the anime club at the school. As a 30-something anime fan, my approach to and experience with anime is quite different from the younger people in the club. I was involved in a college anime club myself back when I was in high school and it allowed me to see a lot of things I might not have found otherwise. Obviously, things were very different as I was apart of that club in the late 90s. That club relied on fansubs and the type of shows we watched was very different. Programming for this club is difficult because I want to be a good mentor and show these kids the "good stuff", classics and whatnot but also just stuff they might not try otherwise, but I don't want to force my tastes on them. But these kids really know so little about anime outside the Shounen Jump line-up and what I call the Holy Trinity of DBZ, One Piece, and Naruto. So I want to expose them to new things and maybe help them develop their tastes in anime and media in general, but how can I do this in a gentle manner that doesn't scare them off? Do you have any tips or advice for running a college anime club in this modern age of streaming?

It's good that you're cognizant of forcing your tastes on others. Good recommendations are like giving good presents: they require that you consider the other person's point of view, what they want, and new ways that they might be pleasantly surprised. If you ignore all of that and just show them what you like and want, you might luck out and still hit on something that they'll enjoy, but it's just as likely that they'll end up annoyed.

I have a number of younger friends to whom I've pushed a few anime onto with good results, so hopefully this technique works for you too.

Step 1: Get to know your audience

Every member of your club is an individual, with different tastes and interests. If they only know a handful of anime, their tastes in that category aren't yet fully formed, so it's important to learn other things: their favorite movies and TV shows, and their other outside interests. Some might be into sports, some might be into celebrity gossip. Some people might absolutely adore superheroes, while others are addicted to soap operas. While not every interest and taste necessarily points to anime, the broader picture will definitely point towards some obvious categories.

Step 2: Plant the seeds

Your goal is to introduce the club members to things they might like, and that's it. When it comes to fun things, people tend to enjoy them more if the idea occurred to them "naturally." You don't want to push too hard, because that makes people's defenses go up. So rather than immediately say, "I'm going to show you all some amazing anime that you've never heard of and you'll love it!" just casually drop that you have a massive stockpile of time-tested classics, and that such-and-such anime is a really good show and thematically similar to something you know they already enjoy. And then just leave it at that. Be coy. As time goes on, and casual conversation has proven your knowledge over time, you can suggest "maybe just showing, like, one or two things." You know, just for fun.

Step 3: Start with movies and short OVAs

Even short 10-13 episode series can be a daunting amount of viewing to get someone to sit through, and for an experience to be really memorable, it should really have a satisfying conclusion. For that reason, it's probably best to start them off with something short and self-contained. A good crowd-pleaser would be something not too far off from what they already enjoy. For Shonen Jump fighting anime fans, a good place to start might be Sword of the Stranger or Summer Wars.

Step 4: Lay a foundation, build on it

Once the other members start knowing and trusting your tastes, you can start getting far more adventurous with your programming. Blow their minds with Satoshi Kon movies, or classics like Memories, Macross Plus and the like. If a longer series is available streaming somewhere, show the first 1-2 episodes and tell them where to finish it. Always keep your audience in mind: if you find they're open to darker and emotional works, nerdier political action shows like Gundam, or cerebral esoteric stuff, by all means go in that direction. And do keep your nostalgia in check: not everything we remember fondly would be enjoyable by younger generations -- comedies in particular tend to age very poorly.

Step 5: Have a good time

While it's really a great feeling to introduce things you love to new people, it's important to keep the priority on everyone having a good time. This can mean letting them introduce you to new shows (even if you hate them), and being mindful of when people are appearing to get bored. This isn't a battle of tastes or a show of dominance -- too many times, things like this tend to go in that direction. College kids might be young, but they're (hopefully) not dumb, and they almost certainly have a strong sense of what they like too. The more you involve and engage with them, the more they become friends and peers. And that, ultimately, is what's really important. Because we sure didn't all sit through all those Shonen shows without learning about the power of friendship.

This is one of those times where our forum members are sure to have some good tips for you, so be sure to check the forum thread. Good luck!

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    Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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