We're not going to be at Cornell forever, and eventually, we'll all have to move on from this place and our Golden Club to the harsh "real world." Yeah, right. I'll find anime and anime fans wherever I go, and if they're not there, I'll do my best to show the unwashed masses the glorious light that is anime and manga (grin). But wherever you go (in my case, grad school in California), remember that anime clubs and fans are not all the same everywhere. That I'm leaving has even more firmly ingrained this fact into my mind, so I'm enjoying CJAS while I can.
So what I'd like to discuss is this: How is CJAS different from the other anime clubs out there?
1. We are a large group. We are one of the largest, if not the largest, individual anime clubs on the East Coast. This was particularly evident at the anime conventions I have attended, where I found out that even the more well-known clubs tended to be small in number. Cornell being the largest Ivy League school is one reason why CJAS is so big. Although college and university clubs are common, a good number of clubs out there are not school-affiliated at all and, without a large fan base and limited showing space, tend to be smaller in size.
2. As a club, we have a long history. Taking the day Masaki (our first president) first showed anime on a weekly basis in his apartment to a bunch of friends, we're even older than Cal-Animage Alpha, one of the country's most well-known anime clubs. They started in 1989, so we're older than them by a few months. Most anime clubs in the United States tend to be young clubs by comparison, with a lot of clubs recently popping up as anime has started to become more mainstream.
3. Related to our large size and long history, we have developed (over the years) an administrative structure that is much more organized and democratic than many other clubs. In our open-to-members e-board system where any member who shows up can participate, we vote on all matters of import. Many clubs still rely on a dictatorial system where one person or a few people decide, without member input, what is shown or not shown. In addition, unlike many clubs, we plan our showing schedules one semester in advance, whereas some clubs decide on a week-by-week basis.
4. Our schedule is very dense, and we try to incorporate into it as many different types of shows as possible. Anime, as a medium, is highly diverse and varied, so it is our goal to introduce the Cornell community to as many different anime perspectives as possible. In addition to showing variety, we try very hard to finish series that we begin, a policy that not all clubs adhere to, or only do so with single series, whereas we try to finish multiple series.
5. Despite what I would consider our great success as an anime club, with our ever-growing numbers and the great stuff we show, I feel that we have been pretty down-to-earth about it. From what I have seen, our e-board members do not see themselves as being elite and above other fans who may not be as knowledgeable as them. Rather, we've got a great group of people who are willing to work for the club and its members, who have managed to defuse and avoid the personality conflicts which so often plague fandom, and who really enjoy anime. I hope that the club leaders will continue in this tradition and seek to serve the club, rather than themselves and their egos through the club.
Smaller items worth noting are our weekly newsletter, organized events (such as paintballing), a snazzy-looking homepage, an alumni society, mailing lists, a newsgroup, an IRC channel, and the fact that we have our own projector and therefore are not limited to where we can have our showings.
I hope that the club will improve in a few specific areas. I hope that we can continue to know each other more than just "the guy sitting next to me who likes Kanuka in Patlabor." If you come out of your years at CJAS not having made at least one friend of someone who used to be a stranger, we're not doing enough as a club. I also hope that our members try to learn something about the Japanese culture, even if it's just a little bit. After all, anime is a product of Japan and reflects its culture in so many interesting ways. Hopefully, you will know more about Japan than your non-Japanese, non-CJAS-going friends, or at least more than before you started watching anime. To strip the Japanese culture from anime is to butcher it. It may not be a bad butchery (like a fine steak carved from a cow), but it is a butchery nonetheless. That's how I see it, anyway.
Although other anime clubs may have more or less members than us, or do things differently, some better and some worse, it is always interesting to see how other fans are watching anime. All clubs have their good and bad points, CJAS included, but having spent so much time with the club, working for the club, and enjoying what the club had and continues to offer, CJAS will always hold a special place in my heart. Later all!
[12/2/04 Update: For further articles by Lawrence Eng, see his anime page.]