Animekai seeks to break cultural stereotypes

Organization uses anime to teach students about Japanese culture

The word anime might leave visions of Pokemon dancing in heads.

But, one campus registered student organization wants students to know the art of anime is more than just stereotypes and children’s animation.

Animekai is an RSO that introduces students to Japanese culture using anime. Nichole Lechner, a senior from Jasper, Ind., studying computer science, said anime can be found in various forms.

“Anime is essentially Japanese animation,” she said. “You have your kids’ (shows), you have adult ones, you have a wide variety.”

Club president Johnathan Flowers, a graduate student in philosophy from Oak Park who studied in Japan and teaches an Asian religions course, said anime is as big a deal in Japan as sitcoms are in America. Animation in Japan is meant for everyone, not just the children, he said.

“You have anime that deals with adults daily life, you have anime that deals with high school life, you have anime that deals with coming of age-what do you do after you graduate high school, how you find your way in the world,” Flowers said. “You have anime that deals with themes of war, oppression.”

Flowers said the intention of the RSO is to give students a way to understand Japanese culture.

“The goal of Animekai is to introduce students to the Japanese culture through anime,” he said. “The main way I do this is when we’re showing a particular anime, I try to explicate various pieces of culture that show up through the series.”

Flowers said he acknowledges that there are many misconceptions and stereotypes about the anime community. A major misunderstanding he regularly fights is that anime is just for kids, gratuitous violence or porn, he said.

“Fans of anime may run from someone like me, who is a Ph.D. student in the philosophy department, to business majors, to athletes, to people who are very socially expressive, very much involved with what we would call mainstream culture,” he said. “It’s not just nerds that watch anime. Anime is more than people throwing fireballs and that kind of thing.”

The members of Animekai said they enjoy the club not only for the series viewings, but also for the knowledge they gain. Kristian Peterson, a graduate student from Downers Grove studying civil engineering, has been in the club for six years. He said he enjoys Animekai because of the wealth of knowledge Flowers has on the subject, including various cultural references that could easily be missed by the average American viewer.

“(Flowers) teaches us about the Japanese culture surrounding the anime that we watch and will pause the anime and explain things that are blatantly over any American person’s head,” Peterson said.

Learning about a new culture isn’t the only thing that draws students to Animekai. It’s a place where they can find people with common interests, Peterson said.

“I wanted to find a club that focused on my anime interests and at the RSO fair this was the only club that actually did so,” he said. “It was full of like-minded people that were fun to hang out with and would share my interest.”

Animekai is currently looking for more members to add to their current 25.

“Even if you’re mildly curious about anime, we want you to come out,” Flowers said.

Animekai meets from 5 – 9 p.m. every Friday in Lawson room 141.

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