Go to Anime club, they said.
There are no words to describe what I’ve just experienced. I feel like Brad Pitt at the end of Seven. I feel like the crying Indian chief in those old “Save the Earth” commercials, just observing the wreckage and wondering to myself “…what happened here?” Right now, I’m cradling my head in my arms; I want to laugh and cry because I feel like I’ve just been prison-raped.
Where to begin?
So I was on my way back to my dorm from a meeting. It was a formal meeting, so I had on my whole yuppie get-up (three-piece suit and leather shoes), looking totally out of place for a Friday night. I arrived on campus at around 7:45 pm. Now, I knew that our school had an Anime club that would meet every Friday at around 8:00 pm. I was never really against the idea of joining an Anime club, so I would occasionally peek my head in to see what was going on but never really summoned the willpower to actually commit to joining. But, retrospectively speaking, I guess I was feeling particularly masochistic ’cause, against my better judgment, I decided to sit in on a meeting for the day and see what it was like.
And, well, you can guess how that turned out.
(I’m sighing as I write this.)
So I found my way to the building that hosted the Anime club meeting. It turns out that in that very same building and on that very same floor, there was also a meeting for some kind of Asian cultural association in a room adjacent to that of the Anime club’s. Admittedly I was a little lost, so I would occasionally pass their room and hear them speaking in hushed tones. They would shoot glances at me as if they were expecting me to join them because of what I was wearing.
I eventually found the room and introduced myself to some of the members who were already there and busily fumbling with a projector. Turns out that it’s not so much a “club” with actual discussion as it is just a weekly screening of some of the Anime they owned on DVD, which I would later realize meant that they were limited to licensed shows usually played in dub. After we were done exchanging formalities, I took a look around the room and found a small snack table comprised of soda and …Pocky and wasabi peas and other Asian snacks. No chips or cookies, just Asian snacks. Yeah. I should have taken this as a sign to just leave, but I stifled that urge and thought nothing of it.
More people filtered in, and mother of God, Steve Urkel was less of a cliché. Every other phrase they uttered was some stupid Internet meme like “It’s a trap!” which they wouldn’t even use in context. One of the members – a guy with a really shrill voice who would always shout when he spoke – would tell what I assumed was supposed to be a joke, and when nobody responded, he would scream “Why doesn’t anyone get my references?!” Another member, a girl, was playing around with Google Maps on her laptop, typing in things like “G-Spot” and “Heaven,” and would proceed to giggle-snort whenever she got a successful result.
The Vice President of the club announced that they would be screening shows based on popular vote. I told him that I had the DVDs for Mushi-shi, Golden Boy, and Cromartie High School, so he added them to the list. In the end, the top three titles were the last 6 episodes of Outlaw Star, Azumanga Daioh, and I think, Claymore. When they were finished tabulating the votes, another member walked in – a guy who looked to be well into his 40s, with grey-speckled hair and deep-set facial wrinkles. It wasn’t enough for him to just give his vote and get it over with, he had to voice his opinion about everything as if anyone gave a shit about what he thought. He skimmed the available choices and said things like “Azumanga Daioh is bad. It’s so slow-paced and badly written” and “What’s Mushi-shi-shi?” Needless to say, I nearly developed a peptic ulcer.
They ultimately decided on Outlaw Star, the dub, which I had no problem with being that I grew up with the dub on Toonami. I was already fed up at this point, but I really wanted to stick it out and see through it to the end, so I took a seat in the back and got out my iPod, preparing for the worst. Thank God for Wi-Fi, I thought. So they pop in the disc, the opening song plays, and what do they do? They proceed to sing and dance to it. First of all, how in the ever-loving fuck do you dance to Through the Night? It’s not exactly club music, and yet they were gyrating their hips and mispronouncing the spoken lyrics as if it was routine for them. The lights were mercifully dim, otherwise they would’ve seen my look of utter shock and disgust. As Joseph Conrad would say, “the horror, the horror…”
Thank God for Twitter, I thought, something I would never admit outright because of my love/hate attitude towards Twitter. I tweeted like mad to distract myself from what was going on. Things like:
Thankfully, angelsharkbite was on and kept me company.
I should have heeded his advice, but, being the polite bastard that I am, decided to soldier on.
I really, truly believe that I was becoming progressively crazy throughout the course of the screening. They – these Anime club members – continued to shout stupid Internet memes and catchphrases with absolutely no context or provocation. When Gene said “It’s a lizard,” someone would shout “It’s a trap!” and everyone would giggle as if it was the funniest shit in the world. Gritting my teeth and clenching my fists, I kept thinking “shut the fuck up oh god please just stop talking you guys have the most punch-able voices.” The overly-opinionated, middle-aged guy would laugh at completely inappropriate moments, like in that scene where Jim unknowingly kills Hanmyo, the girl he meets and falls in love with but turns out to be a member of the Anten Seven, or the Big Bads of Outlaw Star. What was supposed to be a heart-wrenching scene was completely spoiled by this one asshole, the same guy who would repeatedly state throughout the meeting that “Azumanga Daioh is so bad.” Nobody asked for your input, you horrible creep. I kept thinking “Wow, I hate you. I’ve never hated anyone as much as I hate you.”
After three episodes, we had a bathroom break. Taking this as an opportunity, I quickly gathered my things and briskly headed for the door. On my way out, that old guy repeated once again, as if for good measure, that “Azumanga Daioh isn’t even so bad that it’s good. It’s just bad.” He had his hands behind his head, all smug and self-assured. A girl responded with “It’s a show that more girls than guys would like,” to which he responded “Okay, that’s just what you think” with his nose in the air. I swear to Christ, that simple exchange took years off my life.
When I entered the hallway, I couldn’t help but notice how different the air was, probably from leaving a room that reeked of half-eaten wasabi peas. The Vice President was coming back from the bathroom. I told him that I’d be back next week, maybe. He gave a really half-hearted “okay, nice meeting you” without even looking at or facing me. As I walked down the hallway, I made eye contact with someone in the Asian cultural meeting room. A girl, a normal girl. For some reason, I held eye contact and just breathed a heavy sigh. I saw her giggle as if in response, as if she understood my pain.
On my way back to my dorm, I plugged in my iPod and listened to the loudest death metal track on my playlist, imagining unholy things about the people I hated. If I had a cigarette, I would have smoked it. But I don’t smoke.