Club Scene: School's in!
With September upon us, it's time to look at a very common venue for anime clubs: the classroom.
This is the first summer where I've been actually looking forward to school starting. Not that I didn't have a lot of fun at the beach and hanging out, but I've been eager to start university and to organize an anime club there.
Many, if not most, anime clubs are school clubs. Whether you are a student in college, university, high school, or even middle school, you're likely to know of at least one other classmate who likes anime. From there, you can start a small group of anime fans that can become an anime club at your school. Procedures change from school to school, but here are some basics for setting up an anime club at your alma mater, starting with high school.
First of all, make sure there is enough interest in an anime club. If it's just going to be you and a friend, you might as well just watch anime at home. If you have a fair number of people, anywhere from five and up, then you can move onto the next step. Make sure to check if your school has a certain club membership quota that you must meet.
Next, you will need support from a member of the school's faculty. This can be a teacher, or even another staff member, such as a librarian. Pick a teacher that you are on good terms with, one who would be willingly to not only entrust you with their classroom, but one who would also be willing to sit in on your meetings. The faculty supervisor supports you on the school front, but remember that they are not in charge of the anime club. Don't expect your supervisor to help you schedule which anime to watch or to run the meetings; that's your job. If you want to continue using their classroom as your meeting room, make sure to keep it neat and the meetings civil. They don't need to be at school after hours with you, as they would probably like to be off marking papers or something, so treat your faculty member with respect and say thanks from time to time.
Showing anime in the school will depend on how well stocked the AV room at your school is. Most schools have at least a TV and VCR that you can borrow, while some high schools have LCD projectors that can show anime on a pull-down screen. It shouldn't be too much of a hassle to use the school’s equipment, but always be careful when handling it.
Aside from trashing a classroom or breaking a DVD player, the quickest way to get your club disbarred would be to show an anime that is just, well, too weird. It should be common sense on what is appropriate to be shown in school and what is not, but the judgment of some anime fans can be a bit skewered. For example, I stopped thinking of the nudity in Rumiko Takashi's works as nudity a long time ago. It's just something that's there, and I've gotten used to it without even noticing anymore. However, when a non-anime fan sees a Rumiko Takashi manga, oftentimes they will label it as porn, which wouldn't even occur to me after reading twenty volumes of Ranma ½. Likewise, anime fans can watch Tetsuo turn into a blubbering monstrous mound of human flesh in the climax of Akira without rising an eyebrow, while someone watching it as their first anime film would probably be struck by how incredible crazy it seems. Anime fans are desensitized to weirdness. What an anime fan picks as a 'safe' title may not be a series that you will want the principal to walk in on. It's hard to enjoy the hot springs episode of your favorite series when at the back of your mind there's the lingering fear that a teacher will come in and turn off the sex-crazed high jinxes. Save Adolescence of Utena for an anime club meeting off of school grounds, and stick to things such as Ghibli films instead.
University offers more freedom in what you can show at your meetings, but there's also a lot more paper work involved. The best place to find out how to get official status for your club would be to drop by the Student Union or Student Council building. Most likely, they will give you an information packet with the criteria for club status. They'll want to know the aims and purposes of your club, what its planned activities are, and how much money you’ll need. Yes, universities will give you money to help fund your club, although you'll have to carefully account for it. Don't expect to get funding next year when you blow all your funds on almond crush pocky.
There can be a lot of rules and regulations to slog through, but once your club is up and running and past the set-up stage, there won't be as much red tape to trip you up. Just keep the school's rules in mind, and remember that no matter how much of a headache that paper work will give you, it will be worth it when you have your club established.