My exams are all done with, I have a shiny new monitor for my PS3 and I now have a week off before the new semester starts! I got an email newsletter from the local anime society today which inspired me to write a (rather self-indulgent) blog post.
Back when I was applying to university, I made a point of looking at the social side of the university – specifically the clubs and societies – because I was looking forward to the prospect of finding more people who I shared hobbies with. I was really excited to see that Sheffield – my first choice for educational reasons – also happened to be home to an anime society. I was accepted to Sheffield to study Japanese, and of course I joined the anime society right away.
As a first year I really enjoyed being part of the society – everything was new and shiny and I got on well enough with the members. The society held its roughly annual charity fundraising ‘all-nighter’ in which members pay a fee that goes to a charity and spend 28 hours watching anime. This was loads of fun, since some of the members at the time were highly knowledgeable about older and more obscure anime, which I feel really broadened my horizons as an anime fan. I watched Cowboy Bebop for the first time, a long overdue introduction to a classic among Western anime fans.
As a second year, a few months in things began to go down hill a little. This was nothing to do with the club members as a whole, or the anime being shown – it was the unfortunate consequences of a short, disastrous relationship and a really messy breakup (that was woefully prolonged against my will) with a classmate who was also a member of the anime society. It was an interesting year in other ways, though. We had some of the Japanese exchange students join the society (which later resulted in my contribution to a doujinshi) and I also got on really well with some of the new first year students. The society showed Revolutionary Girl Utena as part of that year’s lineup, something I had heard a lot about but never watched for myself, to mixed reactions from the society members, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann which was loved by everyone.
Then came the year abroad, so of course I couldn’t be part of the anime society that year. I actually found myself watching far less anime while living in Japan than I had done in the UK, but on the other hand I made plenty of trips to Akihabara, conventions like Comiket and Wonder Festival, and of course I bought a lot of manga and figures. I branched out into things that would challenge my Japanese reading abilities, and I began to read less and less scanlations for lack of need.
Now I’m in my fourth and final year, and something seems to have gone rather wrong with me and my relationship to Sheffield Anime. When the list of titles for the first semester were posted, I was disappointed. There was one show I really wanted to see, and one show that I liked but had already seen. Nothing else caught my eye at all (and some of it actively repelled me!) which is something I never experienced in my first two years there. There was always enough ‘hey, that looks interesting’ to balance out the ‘not my sort of thing’ and my taste in anime isn’t all that narrow. I went along anyway, just to see if the social side could make up for things. Having been away for a year, I now found myself with two years worth of people I did not know (this year’s new students, and last year’s who I never met). There were certainly people I knew part of the society as well, but everything was out of sync – few people had even heard of the anime I liked, post-showing socials were spent talking about video games I don’t play and internet memes I don’t care about. Half way through the semester I just stopped going, not an intentional break, but rather a lack of motivation to go and stress from the workload on my course.
Today they sent out the newsletter with the new anime for the Spring semester, and I was hoping for something more interesting but my reaction was about the same as last time, and this time I know the social side isn’t going to make up for that. Now, I didn’t write this post with the aim of complaining that the society don’t cater to my interests. Rather, I simply don’t ‘belong’ there any more. When I was a new student, I had never met so many anime fans in real life before and I felt a sense of community, but now simply being an anime fan isn’t enough for me to have common ground with someone. We’re all anime fans and most like gaming as well, but aside from that I have very little in common with any of the society members.
Did my taste in anime change irrevocably during my year abroad so that I can no longer relate to the average British anime fan? Am I a different person now, more suited to different social circles (certainly my social circle is drastically different now to the one I had as a second year)? Did this year’s committee simply pick a poor lineup of anime? I don’t really know, but I can definitely say that my time at Sheffield Anime has come to an end. I’m going to miss seeing the members I do get along well with, whose departments are so different that I never see them around the university, but there’s no use in trying to force myself to be a part of something that just isn’t working for me any more. I’m still going to keep watching anime, but no more anime clubs for me, I think. I’m not going to make an announcement of my leaving (and I haven’t mentioned this blog before) or anything like that, but I won’t be going again.