What comes to mind when you hear the word “anime?” Strange Japanese cartoons? Pokemon Go? Or a fascinating world in which anything can happen?
If you chose the last option, you have a kindred spirit in Sonja Grasman, a Lowell High School senior and president of the Lowell Anime Club. “When you’re explaining it to people, it seems weird, but you can literally do anything,” she says of the world of anime.
While some people may not understand the appeal of Japanese animation, Grasman has found at least 20 people who do. They are the other members of the Lowell Anime Club, a student-led group that meets weekly to discuss all things anime.
The club is currently working its way through the show Hunter x Hunter, and members often share their own creative stories and artwork with one another. However, something even bigger is on the horizon. The students are currently producing their own anime-inspired film and hoping the community will step up to support them.
Friends Who Are More Like Family
The members of the Lowell Anime Club are well aware their love of anime means they don’t necessarily fit the mold of typical teens. Grasman describes the group as a “happy family of strange people,” and family seems to be the common theme when you ask members what they love about the group.
When asked what she likes about the club, Rose, a senior, was quick to say, “You meet interesting people, and we’re like a family.” Others chimed in to say the same. And when Lowell’s First Look stopped by during a recent meeting, there was little doubt these teens like each other as much as they like anime.
In a world in which many see anime as being outside the mainstream, the members have found others who also embrace the art form and appreciate its many nuances. “The people here remind me of the people at the anime conventions,” says Trinity, a freshman. But rather than having to travel to find like-minded people, Trinity and other members are fortunate to have a whole group of devoted fans right in the same building.
Misconceptions About Anime
Club members say those not familiar with anime may have misconceptions about it. One’s that it is just for kids. It could be that since anime is animation, people assume it’s geared toward children only.
At the other extreme, some anime can be highly suggestive which can lead to the assumption all anime is that way. Ashton Charron, a junior, recalls the first time her dad tried searching for anime on the internet. He came across what Charron describes as something “highly inappropriate,” and she had to quickly explain this wasn’t the type of anime she was watching.
Grasman says anime is just like any other type of film. Movies can be rated anywhere from G to NC-17, and anime runs along the same spectrum. Some shows and films are appropriate for all ages while others may not be appropriate for even older teens.
The anime club president adds people also have to remember that some content which is completely normal in Japan may seem odd or inappropriate for U.S. audiences. For example, in My Neighbor Totoro, a G-rated film from the acclaimed Studio Ghibli, there is a scene in which two young girls are taking a bath with their father. Although U.S. parents may raise their eyebrows, it is culturally acceptable and appropriate in Japan.
Making an Anime-Inspired Movie
Although the Lowell Anime Club has long included writing and drawing prompts as part of their weekly meetings, they decided it was time to up the ante a year ago. The group decided they wanted to make their own anime.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to produce something in the anime style,” Charron says. She was finally inspired when watching a poorly made anime and decided she could take the storyline and make it better.
Since animation can be expensive, the group is making a live-action movie in the anime style. Called Rainy September, it will follow a group of students at an all-girl school and be published as a YouTube series. Charron, who wrote the script and is co-directing the film, notes it will have Japanese archetypes and incorporate Native American folklore.
The club isn’t counting on making money from the project, but YouTube videos can be monetized. Should the series bring in any revenue, Charron says the plan is to donate profits to two charities: one that supports intercity schools and a second which preserves Native American culture.
If you would like to support the Lowell Anime Club, they have an online fundraising shop and a GoFundMe page for those who would like to make a direct contribution. You can also follow their progress on Twitter and Instagram.
Anime Recommendations for You
If you want to check out anime for yourself, Charron says her favorite series right now is Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It’s about magical girls and, according to Common Sense Media, is suitable for teens and adults.
Grasman doesn’t have a favorite anime but is a fan of Studio Ghibli. The production company won the 2003 Oscar for Best Animated Feature for its film Spirited Away (PG – may be too intense for younger audiences). Other popular films from Studio Ghibli include the Ponyo (G), Princess Mononoke (PG-13) and Howl’s Moving Castle (PG).
Do you like anime? If so, let us know your favorite film in the comments below!