Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - Ninjas and Clubs

by Allen Divers,

Format for me is always a killer. After a while of writing, I often feel that I've pigeon-holed myself with my writing and style and I struggle to come up with openers, themes and a large tie-in for what I'm writing. After all, it's all about entertainment, and if I'm not entertained, how can I possible expect you to be.

What's been bothering me lately, aside from all my bills, my two jobs, as well as all my classes, is the fact I can't find a good way to incorporate my idea of running columns talking about Anime clubs with my regular look at upcoming Anime series. I know what I want to say, but what format would I use? Do I tell you about clubs first, and then end things with an Anime series? Do I start in on a series, then work my way from there to the club stuff? I might even need to just forget the whole thing. Ah, the dilemma I face!

Why even talk about club stuff? Well, if you're like many people I know you just don't have access to the latest and greatest hitting the shelves of the local video store. Whether it is money or simply you don't have much of a local video store, the simple answer is you can't get your hands on the good stuff. That's where a club comes in. When you add more people to the mix, someone, somewhere will have access to something you don't. Throw on top of that many companies are willing to send screeners to a club, you can even get a chance to watch stuff that hasn't even hit the street.

So, now you know the basics. A club can help expose you and your friends to more Anime. And when it comes down to it, it's often more fun to enjoy Anime with a large group. Social interaction can go a long way in helping you to get more out of a viewing experience. Maybe you didn't get the significance or the nuance of a character's action or you simply missed a line. Not a problem, your friends will be happy to share their insights.

So where to begin? Nothing is ever as easy as it seems, so there's quite a few things to consider when beginning. First, find others who would be interested. Start with your friends. From there, get them to go to their friends and just keep going like that for a while. One important step is to develop a method of communication. Thanks to the Internet, it's easy to set up a mailing list which can serve as a line of communication. There are a ton of free services available for more robust list serves, but the easiest way is to work with your email program and its list feature.

Now you have people, time to find a location. There are quite a few options, and they all deal with what situation you are in. Being in graduate school, the simple choice for me, aside from having a ton of people in my living room, was to organize the club on campus and use school resources. Depending on your University, the process of creating a club is pretty well-defined. The basic process is finding a faculty member to act as a club advisor, creating a constitution and joining the student government. At this point, the hardest thing to do is find a faculty member. In my case, one of my instructors from my undergraduate studies was looking to advise a club. I told him of my intentions to start an Anime club and he said he would sponsor us. (Since I've set the club up, he's managed to start a few other groups and we've become lumped together with those other groups. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that one is the Video Game Club and the other is the Ghost Hunter's Club.)

If you're not in a situation like I was, you may have to resort to other methods. One would be approaching the language department, especially if Japanese language classes are taught. If not there, try with the art department. You'll have to approach them with the idea that the club is a cultural/film study group, or something else of that nature. While this is not a sure fire method, and every school is different, that should be enough to help move in the right direction.

Now for those of you not associated with a school or university, it becomes a bit more difficult but not impossible. Whether you realize it or not, there are quite a few resources available to you. One is your local library. Many libraries have meeting rooms designed for large groups. There are also the options of going to a community center or some other public meeting area.

One thing to keep in mind is how you present what your club will be doing. When I was talking about working with a University, I mentioned the idea of presenting the group as a cultural study group. You'll most likely be taken more seriously if you can logical present what you are trying to accomplish with the group. While the real reason may be as simple as watching some Anime with a bunch of people, other people will be watching what your group does. This often means you have to be careful of what you show. Because of the more conservative nature of my University, it's necessary for me to screen everything we show. I do this mostly to screen for things that may be questionable should someone walk in at the wrong time. I've also had to assure the department head for the room we're using that while the content will be mature in nature, it wouldn't cross a line. That line is different for everyone, and it's a bit fuzzy for us as well, but let's just say we won't be showing Dragon Pink anytime soon. I also had to assure him that no one under 18 would be allowed into screenings without parental consent. It all comes down to accountability, and we are getting to use the rooms for free.

Now back to our regular programming

Well, looks like I'm going with the format of club stuff first, Anime second. This will probably change as I tend to do that for no particular reason.

At some point in time, every boy is fascinated with the idea of Ninjas. Most of us have been down the road where we picked up some Ninja stars, pulled a shirt over our head and snuck around looking rather silly. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that a little series entitled Naruto quickly grabbed my attention.

First a Manga and now an Anime, Naruto follows Uzumaki Naruto, a young orphan of the Hidden Leaf Village. Because of his past, Naruto is looked down upon by the rest of the village, and has become the class clown in his quest for attention. He's also decided that he will become the Hokage, the greatest ninja in the village. There's just a little thing dealing with the 9-tailed fox demon that nearly destroyed the village 14 years ago and the fact that he's not really good at his ninja skills. Naruto is your typical mix of comedy, drama and action based around a fictional world where ninjas exist as the enforcers of everything. It's also a coming of age story as young Naruto must meet his fears head on to grow into the greatest ninja ever. A bit derivative, Naruto is a well wrought story with plenty of action to keep the masses happy.

Coming from a well drawn manga, Naruto's visual style takes on a bit of an Akira Toriyama feel with its tone and look. Of course the artist/author/creator, Masashi Kishimoto is a big Toriyama fan, so the similarities are quite obvious. While many may be running in fear of yet another Dragonball Z rip off, Naruto takes off in a new direction with its well crafted plots. One other thing of note, so far the battles have maintained a quick pace, with only 2 or 3 episodes being tied up with the action.

For those of you who can't wait to take a look at Naruto, the Manga has already made its way here via the pages of Shonen Jump, released by Viz. Being printed with Dragonball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh and Yu Yu Hakusho will surely help this show find an eager audience. With its visual style, heavy action plotlines, the Anime will surely make its way to North America in the next year and could be a strong contender on TV.

With this one being a ready-made TV product, competition to license it should be fierce. Viz has their foot in the door with the Manga, and with Inu-Yasha doing well for them, they could be looking for another big TV hit. Of course, FUNimation surprised everyone with their pickup of the One Piece Anime. They could sneak in again with this one, but they might be a bit busy this year with Tenchi Muyo! GXP and the surprise release of Dragonball GT. Of course, with GXP being limited to 26 episodes, FUNimation could be looking for another series to work with after.

Well, that's all for this week. Next time it's sports mania as I take a look at a few of the sports related Anime showing in Japan. This is a genre that has yet to really take off with North American fans, so many of this shows may take quite a while to get here.

Until next time!

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