Anime clubs spark creativity for all ages

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Alando Vanegas, 12, center, celebrated with Johnathan Mackey, Kaitlyn Chandler, André Painter and Casey Decker, far left, all of Huntingburg, as they simultaneously won a cover-all game of anime-themed bingo facilitated by Phyllisha Huckelby, left, during Animanga Club at the Huntingburg Public Library on Thursday evening. The group listened to Japanese pop music as they played for prizes of sword-shaped pens and dreamcatchers.


HUNTINGBURG — Five people ranging in age from 12 to 31 competed for sword-shaped pens and dreamcatchers Thursday night in an anime-themed Bingo game at Huntingburg Public Library’s Animanga Club.

The club’s name is a combination of the Japanese words anime and manga, which refer to a style of art and storytelling distinguished by complex plots, two-dimensional animation, a focus on Japanese culture and exaggerated physical features, most notably larger eyes. Anime refers to animated TV shows done in that art style, and manga refers to comic books using the same style. Both have gained international followings in the last 40 years.

“It has a lot of creativity and a unique art design,” said Kaitlyn Chandler, 18, of Huntingburg.

Phyllisha Huckelby, 19, of Huntingburg, works at the library and started the club because people kept asking for it. Now, the club meets twice a month and has five to 10 attendees each time. The Jasper Public Library also has an animanga club that meets once a month with about five attendees. Jasper Children’s Librarian Lisa McWilliams started the club about two years ago after she noticed a group of teenagers gathering at the library and sharing their drawings and shows. She wanted to give them a place to gather and meet new people.

Each month, McWilliams has a new anime  for the club to watch and provides art supplies so the kids can draw. Usually, she has other crafts as well. Once the club watches the anime, it’s added to the library’s general collection in the children’s section.

“Some of them can be kind of violent,” McWilliams said. “We try not to get anything too edgy back there with the kids.”

Casey Decker of Huntingburg placed a marker over an anime-related word during a game of bingo at Animanga Club at the Huntingburg Public Library on Thursday evening.

Anime and manga cover a variety of genres and age groups. Most of the people at Huntingburg’s club first discovered anime and manga in middle and high school.

“We just kind of grew up with it,” said Casey Decker, 31, of Huntingburg.

One of the most recognizable anime programs in the U.S. is Pokemon, which follows the character Ash as he travels the world catching and training the creatures that inspired the show’s name. The franchise also includes video games, movies and trading cards. Pokemon is so popular that the Jasper library has a group, Pokemon Playgroup, dedicated to the franchise.

Connor Fair, 11, of Jasper, regularly attends the Pokemon group to play the video game with other kids, and he found his way to the anime club through Pokemon. Huckelby came to anime through Pokemon as well. She’d watched the show since middle school, but didn’t branch out until she started the club.

When asked why they prefer anime and manga to American cartoons and comics, Chandler and her friend, André Painter, 18, of Huntingburg, described the characteristics that make the style unique.

“It has better characters and storylines,” said Kaitlyn Chandler, 18, of Huntingburg.

“And it looks more realistic (than American animation),” added Painter, 18, of Huntingburg.

As the Bingo game wound down, Chandler, Painter and their friend, Johnathan Mackey, 20, planned what they’d do next: Go to someone’s house and watch anime.

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