U of R Anime Club prefers to keep things low-key
Neon Genesis Evangelion (pronounced “eh-van-gell-ee-on”) is one of the biggest anime success stories of all time, earning billions of yen in profit, spawning multiple offshoots in forms of media like games, books, and films, and seeing translation into several languages. Its Wikipedia page is a hair shorter than the page for the Bible’s Book of Genesis. And, fifteen years from when it started, the franchise is in the midst of a Batman Begins–style reboot, the second film of which, the dourly-titled Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, is coming to Cineplex theatres in Canada for one night only on Thursday, Jan. 20.
But James Falconer isn’t that interested, and according to him neither are many members of the University of Regina’s Anime Club. The club, which has been around for five years, meets twice a week to watch and discuss anime, but Falconer said that something like the Evangelion screening just isn’t their style.
“I mentioned it to my members, and they were like, ‘What? Evangelion is coming?’” Falconer said. “I looked it up as soon as they gave me that reaction, and it’s actually just a re-release of the original tetralogy.
“… What they did was, they took groupings of episodes and turned them into a film, sort of like what you get with the InuYasha series,” he went on. “There are about four different InuYasha movies and each is a little extra side story that you don’t get in the original series.”
If you’re a bit lost at the mention of InuYasha, that’s all right; while that series has also had its fair share of spin-offs and merchandising cash-ins, it’s nowhere near as famous as animes like Dragon Ball Z, Gundam Wing, or even Pokémon, all of which had their runs on channels like YTV in the 1990s.
But a conversation with Falconer goes deeper than InuYasha; he constantly mentions anime series that haven’t seen the light of conventional English-language broadcasting yet – anime series that lack the stereotypical giant robots or outrageous super-powered battles. According to him, however, that’s one of the perks of the U of R Anime Club.
“You’ll see all kinds of genres within anime that coincide with a lot of regular stuff, like novels or movies,” Falconer said. “For instance, you get slice-of-life animes, which will follow, normally, high school students and their day-to-day occurrences and the relationships between the characters. And that’s the entire plotline.
“… I think for our anime club, what draws them is we never play anything mainstream. So we’ll occasionally get something … which they may know of, so they’ll come to see that particular showing that week, and then when they see what else is on, they’ll usually come and see what these other animes are. I know last year we had a bunch of members join us, and they were a little unsure, and then we got into a series called D.Grey-Man and they just wouldn’t leave.”
Other perks, he says, include the environment, which Falconer describes as comparatively freewheeling. During screenings, members of the club crack jokes and talk about what’s going on onscreen as it happens, giving the meetings less of a stoic air. They also participate in completely non-anime activities, like November’s laser tag outing in tandem with the UR Pride centre, cheekily named “Gayser Quest with Anime.”
But anime and manga are the core of the group; they’re the common media that the U of R Anime Club celebrates. Falconer believes that anime’s importance to the club’s members has deep roots.
“I think with our members it’s that we’ve grown up with it,” he mused. “Without realizing it, a lot of the shows we watched as cartoons as kids was actually anime. And as you get older, you start to realize it’s an entirely different culture that you’re watching, and yet you can identify with it.”
Correction: This article originally stated that Neon Genesis Evangelion is screening at theatres across the country, the Galaxy Cinemas location in Northwest Regina included, on Jan. 2. The correct date is Jan. 20.