Provided by Raymond Chhan
Pokemon, Naruto, Dragon Ball and One Piece—these are just some of the most popular and most viewed animes in the world during the summer of 2019, according to Anime streaming service Crunchyroll. Whether it be watching anime shows or movies, anime has been part of many Bonita Vista High (BVH) students’ daily lives. Anime includes various Japanese animated shows and movies depicted by colorful graphics, vibrant characters and action-filled plots. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, students passionate about anime have come together to create the Anime Club. The Anime Club aims to provide a platform and environment for students to discuss and watch anime together.
“[Due to] COVID-19, it’s been hard for people to meet up together, to join calls and to have the same environment as if we were at school. Through [Anime] Club, we hope to emulate that sense of community by having watch parties, coming together and talking about anime,” co-President of Anime Club and senior Darrius Montefalcon said.
Co-President of Anime Club and senior Ivan Vergara has been considered by fellow officers as the founder of Anime Club. Similar to Vergara, English 9 Accelerated, International Baccalaureate English Higher Level 1 and 2 teacher and Anime Club Advisor Raymond Chhan both share their passion and love for anime. Despite not having Chhan as an English teacher throughout his four years in high school, Vergara and Chhan connected with one another by talking about certain anime shows or recent updates about new and upcoming anime.
“I was hesitant to [start Anime Club] because I was really nervous. I’ve never managed [a club] before, but Mr. Chhan persuaded me into starting [Anime Club],” Vergara said.
Montefalcon furthers by saying that anime’s increasing popularity and impact on BVH students’ lives caused by extended amounts of time staying at home have both been reasons why the club’s officers and Chhan expressed their desire to create the Anime Club.
“Due to quarantine, a lot of people are starting to take up on anime as another form of entertainment since what we would normally do after school is to go out with our friends, play sports or do certain club activities, which is limited now,” Montefalcon said. “[As a result,] people have turned to playing video games [or watching] anime.”
Anime Club meetings are held on Thursdays during lunch at 12:20 p.m. According to Anime Club Vice President and senior Tyler Carter, officers are currently working on planning future activities for club members, such as hosting “watch parties” on Discord, a messaging, communication and video streaming platform, where Chhan or an officer shares their screen, streams a movie and watch the movie together with all the club members. Anime Club officers plan on hosting the watch parties sometime after the week of finals.
“We’ve planned a watch party after finals to take a breather from semester one stress. Having watch parties allows [club] members to react and discuss what we just watched with other peers,” Secretary and senior Justin Gomez said.
Other than students, teachers at BVH are also encouraged to join the watch parties hosted by Anime Club. Chhan believes that having both students and teachers involved in the Anime Club helps de-emphasize the focus on academics within the BVH community.
“We’re reaching out to other teachers who might be interested in joining the watch parties. Rather than focusing only on academics, it gives teachers an opportunity to share what they’re interested in so that students can see their teachers in not just a professional setting,” Chhan said.
During quarantine, it has been hard for many students to maintain social interaction with one another. Many have their cameras and microphones turned off during virtual classes, so little communication is passed between the students and teachers. Consequently, developing relationships with people during online learning can be difficult. It can be especially hard for freshmen since it is their first time attending BVH. However, the Anime Club seeks to solve the problem as it is easier to find fellow students who share common interests.
“It’s really easy to feel isolated, especially when [freshman students are] starting [their] first year of high school,” Montefalcon said. “That’s why we’re planning on advertising towards a lot of freshmen classes in order to get them out of their shell and introduce new people to [peers] that would also like to help them during high school.”
In addition, teachers face the struggle of not being able to connect and relate with their students since students’ faces are hidden behind the screen. Not only this, but teachers carry out a constant routine of making assignments and teaching classes, so they rarely have the opportunity to personally talk to their students. For Chhan, Anime Club provides an opportunity for him to get to know his students better and to talk about common interests.
“From a teacher’s perspective, it’s nice to not talk about school,” Chhan said. “It humanizes teachers a little bit more; it makes us feel like we can have the same interest just like you, no matter what they are.”
A major challenge that Anime Club is currently facing is the fact that a majority of the officers are seniors who will be graduating next semester. However, both the club officers and Chhan wish to continue this club in the following years by recruiting more members.
“In hopes of keeping the club alive, we’re only seeking for more people or underclassmen,” Vergara said. “We [are looking] for people [who] have the same devotion and commitment to Anime Club as [us].”
Moreover, Carter shines a light on a problem present among club members where they feel they are “the odd one out.” According to Gomez, some students are criticized for simply watching and enjoying anime, however, the Anime Club grants students a safe space to join and express their passion for anime.
“People who watch anime sometimes get judged for liking it, but this club creates a place where no one will be judged for watching it,” Gomez said. “Students will be able to discuss their favorite shows and recommend a series in the club.”
Some extracurricular activities, clubs, organizations and sports teams require a lot of time, attention and effort from students. However, Chhan assures team members that there is no sense of obligation in being a part of the Anime Club as the club is more “recreational,” and gives students a place to meet one another and discuss anime.
“The purpose of this club is to be an outlet and to decompress from school. So there isn’t going to be any requirements like, ‘Oh, you have to watch a certain amount of episodes in this amount of weeks,’” Montefalcon said. “We want to offer a place for people to pop in [and] watch an episode or watch a movie and invite some of their teachers and relax.”
Chhan and officers alike believe that the Anime Club creates a welcoming environment as it is not only a place for people who already enjoy anime but a place to encourage others who are unfamiliar with anime as well.
“[The officers] are passionate about anime. They really enjoy it and [Anime Club is a way to] raise awareness for what is important to them,” Chhan said. “[Anime] is something that they’re interested in personally, so they had that investment to keep that going. [Anime Club is] not only for the students who like it, but to expose students that have never watched it as well.”
Ultimately, Anime Club is a place where students can come together and talk about anime without fear of judgment. Anime Club not only promotes an inclusive environment but provides a community for students to de-stress by separating themselves from their academics and interacting with others in a non-academic setting.
“It’s difficult right now to separate school from home because [students] are at home doing school. [Joining Anime Club] is one of those ways to find that balance and to strike that separation. It’s important to not work all the time and to have some leisure,” Chhan said. “This is an opportunity to meet and interact with other students [about] another form of entertainment. If [students] are interested, check us out.”