Every Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m., the Japanese Animation Society meets in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center to watch popular Japanese programs, known as anime. An estimated 20 students regularly attend. Japanese Animation Society // Photo Provided
Japanese Animation Society builds friendships, expands membership
Sunday morning television is often associated with cartoons, but for members of the Japanese Animation Society, Sundays are a time for a different type of animation.
Every Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m., the Japanese Animation Society meets in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center to watch popular Japanese programs, known as anime.
Anime is not, however, the Japanese equivalent of American cartoons.
"I just see it as a different form of entertainment. America has a lot of live-action entertainment that we kind of latch onto and Japan has kind of branched out more into the animated style," said Travis Newman, the group's president. "It allows them some freedoms when it comes to ways they tell different stories, things we couldn’t do in the real world."
Newman, who is now a senior, recalls there being about six members total in JAS his freshman year.
It was that year that the club almost had to disband.
"There comes a point where you're running a club and it's just the officers and a couple other people, and you have to really wonder if it's worth the time and effort to keep something going," he said.
When it came time to elect officers, only two had volunteered and JAS was left to recruit the rest. Because of this, Newman was offered the position of treasurer even though he was a new member.
He slowly rose to his current position as president and with each year he gained new members and even more appreciation for the club.
When Newman came to Ball State, he had no idea what anime was until stumbling upon the JAS booth at the activity fair.
It wasn't the anime alone that kept him interested — he even admitted that he probably wouldn't have returned if it weren't for the people he met. Though the club was small, Newman enjoyed spending every Sunday with his new group of friends.
"There's something about the appeal of being around people who have a similar interest as you and experiencing the same thing that you both have the same interest in," Newman said. "It really breaks down that barrier and allows you to be friends with someone very easily."
As president, Newman tries to maintain the laid-back atmosphere of the club. While interested students come and go from week to week, he estimates about 20 students regularly attend.
Every week the club's officers get together separately and decide on a theme for the meeting. At the conclusion of each club meeting, the rest of the members decide on shows that go along with the theme.
Newman hopes the club will continue to grow as it has throughout his time at Ball State, but knows that he, and the other officers, must work hard to keep the club going.
Allyson McClain, the club's public relations coordinator, said she isn't worried about the club's future.
McClain's older brother introduced her to the vast world of anime when she was 7 years old, with the popular show "Naruto."
Anime is a big part of her life, so much so that she founded a graphic novel club in high school to share her passion for anime with others.
When McClain went to Ball State's activity fair, she was thrilled to see that there was a similar club she could join.
"I have never run up to a table faster," she said. "I scared the people at the stand because I ran up to them."
While McClain doesn't have time for many extracurricular activities, the unusual meeting time has allowed her to be a member. She also has enjoyed the friends she has made through this club and the relaxed, fun atmosphere it provides.
"Its like being in a movie theater with people who actually get you, and you're all friends." McClain said.
McClain knows that the common misconception about anime is that it is for children, but she loves showing people that it is in fact for teens and adults and introducing them to the different genres and storytelling styles of the Japanese culture.
"I love the fact that I'm able to get more people into this," McClain said. "I love watching when people really figure out what it is and seeing this new world, seeing this absolutely new place."
As the club prepares for its second Cardinal Con, a campus pop culture convention, in February, both McClain and Newman are hard at work.
JAS participates in several events, from Cardinal Con to video game tournaments, which serve as fundraisers.
It hopes to also join with other clubs and host more events in the future, which will hopefully help to further expose more people to their Sunday evening tradition.