At the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake and District children and teens are given chances to connect and bond over a wide range of mutual interests, including the newly introduced Anime Club.
First started in the Spring of 2019, executive director Deana Conde Garza said that they began this club at the request of Interior Health and Canadian Youth Mental Health (CYMH). The purpose was to bring like-minded children and youth together in a new way.
Conde Garza said initially the club was run by all three organizations but as the other two have backed off, the Boys and Girls Club has continued to support the initiative by running a weekly program on Monday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. out of their all-purpose room.
She said she applied for a grant from the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society who provided them with a $1,000 grant to help move the program forward.
“It has been a real eye-opener for the club,” Conde Garza said. “The children who attend are quite different than your regular group, they are often considered awkward, not outspoken, shy, quiet but all of them have one common thing, and that is to “come together to meet like-minded individuals who talk the same language – Anime.”
For those in the lakecity who don’t know, anime is a style of animation for TV and film that originates and is largely produced in Japan aimed at both adults as well as children. This had led to a unique visual style that has become easily recognizable across multiple different shows, genres and studios.
Unlike contemporary western animation, until recent years, anime tends to follow a more serialized format where each episode of the season builds on one overarching story, rather than be one-off stories involving the same characters, like Scooby-Doo, for example. Most anime also are based on or are adaptations of Japanese graphic novels, referred to as manga, which are published in weekly or monthly installments.
Examples of anime include the likes of Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and Cowboy Bebop to name some classics as well as contemporary works such as Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia and Vinland Saga. Since the late 80s and early 90s, anime has become increasingly popular in the west, made more so by rise of streaming services, the introduction of fan conventions and even something as humble as a simple Anime Club.
In the case of the Boys and Girls Club, Conde Garza said they did have a facilitator who would supervise and direct Anime Club members, but as she has since left for further education they are looking to hire someone new to fill the roll. Until then, Conde Garza and other staff members will fill in on Mondays.
“I love this program. It reminds me of me back in the day. I was very similar to the children who attend in my characteristic traits,” Conde Garza said.
She said that she hopes the club will be able to showcase some of their talents and interests at Tim Hurley’s upcoming Hobby Con through showing off their art and possibly some cosplay.
“I would love for this program to even grow more. It is two hours of total amazement, fun and laughter that you hear,” Garza said. “It is amazing therapy for me to be part of it and for the kids to finally find somewhere to be themselves.”
For some club members like Kaden Craig, the club has been a great way to make and spend time with new friends. Craig is a Columneetza student who joined the Anime Club right from the start in March.
Initially, it was her love of anime that attracted her to the club, as they were the main shows she watched growing up. These included the likes of the popular Naruto, Dragon Ball, One Piece, Black Clover and Cardcaptor Sakura, some of which, in the case of Naruto and One Piece, have literally hundreds of episodes. At last count One Piece consists of 908 episodes and counting, notwithstanding 13 TV specials and 14 movies.
“I didn’t think anyone else watched anime because none of my friends watched anime so when Anime Club was posted up I was like ‘Ooooh, I’ll go there,’” Craig said.
Craig is drawn to anime for the artwork, the plot of shows like Naruto and the cute characters, boys and girls. The way anime builds and brings characters to life specifically really interests her, especially the way they make many of them loveable.
Throughout the Tribune’s interview with Craig, she would frequently joke and quip with a friend that she met through the club. The friendship and camaraderie were easy to see and are a big reason Craig continues to come to Anime Club.
“I have friends here, my only friends,” Craig joked. “They actually socialize unlike people who stereotype people who like anime and they’re quite friendly.”
Topics of conversation are not just limited to anime, Craig said, as they’ll also regularly discuss memes, bands and everything else know and enjoy discussing.
She feels groups like this are an important way for people to find others with similar interests, as she did with her friends. Craig intends to continue to attend to hang out with her friends and discuss what she loves with them well into the future.
Craig hopes more people will join in the future, as she feels many who enjoy anime still are “introverted and don’t come out of their shell” but says that if they come they will, much like her, realize there are people they can talk to about them.
If anyone is looking to try out anime for themselves, Craig advises they start with a show like Naruto for its themes of sticking beside your friends and sacrifice.
“Join anime club, it’s fun, we have food,” Craig laughed.