Advice on How to Start an Anime Club
People often write us to ask for advice on how to start an anime club. Unfortunately, our club is now so old that no one really remembers how we started it. Those who might remember, sadly enough, have scrambled their brain-cells by watching too much ancient anime and are now only able to communicate in a fractured pidgin Nihongo. Consider yourself warned.
Finding clubs in your area
If you haven't done so already, take a look at the Anime Web Turnpike. In particular, their geographic guide to anime clubs in the United States and anime clubs outside the US may help you find a club near you. Local clubs may have good local advice, and may agree to swap DVDs with you, giving you access to yet more anime.
Convincing parents, teachers, etc., that an anime club is worthwhile
If you're high school students looking to start a club, you may find this Parents' guide to anime helpful when arguing that there are anime which can be shown on campus without inundating the school administration with calls from irate parents ranting about the school showing violent animated Japanese pornography. The books listed at our anime-related books link may help convince your school's faculty that an interest in anime might serve an educational purpose. In particular, see Gilles Poitras' Teacher's companion to The anime companion.
In addition to showing anime, our club has had fun with the following activities:
- Group discounts at local cons (with the more dedicated going to non-local cons as well).
- A cosplay contest, particularly around Halloween.
- Cosplay workshops: get together and share ideas, techniques, and sewing machines.
- Karaoke events using anime or J-Pop music with timed lyrics.
- Group expeditions to local Japanese restaurants and/or bookstores.
- Inviting speakers on anime-related topics: animation, comics, film, popular culture, or Japanese culture.
- A club newsletter.
Building an extensive anime library requires a fair amount of money, it also requires a good deal of patience --- we have been building our library since 1991.
We have financed our club operations in the following ways:
- University (and perhaps high-school) clubs may be able to get funding as student activities.
- University (and perhaps high-school) clubs may fall under the "educational, non-profit" umbrella of their parent institution, letting you reward contributions with a letter that will permit the contributor to take the value of their contribution as a tax-deduction.
- We charge a small membership fee. This fee goes to defraying the costs of running the club (buying anime and other media for the library, advertising, hosting various showings and events).
- Since our showings are at dinner time, one of us takes pizza orders and gets pizza and soda which we sell at a small profit. We get about a quarter of our funding this way.
- We have a (clean) jar that we put on the front desk for people to drop small change into. After a semester, that change really add up. It's silly, but it works.
Getting permission to show anime
If your club grows larger than a handful of friends, your showings become public exhibitions, and you should get permission to show the anime you are screening; this way, you don't have to pretend you're distracted when the "FBI Warning" comes onto the screen. Most companies recognize the promotional opportunity that club showings represent, and are happy to give permission for you to show the material they have licensed.
These days, getting permission has gotten pretty easy since most companies have email addresses for fan relations, and these people can usually at least put you in contact with the person who can authorize a showing. Some companies even have web-forms you can fill out to get showing permissions!
High school clubs
Is the club just a gathering place for people who like anime to come to meetings and talk? If this is the case, you might not have a big membership depending on your classmates. For an anime club to be successful, it generally needs actual anime, owned either by the club or officers/members, that can be accessed by other members in some way. Either that, or you're going to need a bunch of hard-core fans who like just talking about anime.
High school clubs are a little tricky, since they generally have more rules to work. Some clubs have short showings once a week or a few times a month during lunch or after school, in somewhere like a club supervisor's room. The anime can come from the officers' collections, though one has to be careful what is shown since many high schools are conservative and may refuse certain shows for violence or sexual themes. One way around that is to have a few parties during some holidays at various officers/members' houses.
If you can hold meetings outside of school time, that's great, since showings can be longer. If your club is allowed to own anime and keep a library, even better.
It's usually good to have a low (or even no) membership fee, since that brings in more people. Club dues are only needed if you're going to do stuff that takes more than pocket money to accomplish as a club.
A good place to start is Gilles Poitras's book, Anime essentials: every thing a fan needs to know (Stone Bridge Press, 2001). Anime essentials is a handbook of US and Canadian otaku culture, and contains a chapter with pointers on how to start your own anime club.