Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Half-Arsed History of Anime Fandom in Canberra 1995 - 2006, Part 2

On to second part of the not very comprehensive or all that well researched history of anime fandom in Canberra. The second anime club in Canberra was the ANU Otaku Council: the Asian Film Society. This odd name I think was in part based upon similar sounding otaku subject “research clubs” names on campuses at Japanese universities. When Peter left the Canberra Anime Society (CAS) sometime in 1997, it soon became quite apparent who the main supplier of material for the club was. The line-up at each subsequent CAS screening just got worse and worse. They ended up showing stuff like the dubbed version of the “Fatal Fury” movie and “Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer” which people just hated. People had become a little sick of CAS. By the time early 1998 rolled around, this flyer appeared in comic book shops around town (as always click to enlarge all images);

This new club was run by Matt Birks and Sam Wilson, two ANU students who had essentially set up the club to put CAS out of business. I kid you not. Note that the annual membership cost that same amount as one screening at CAS. It was a pretty fucking spiteful state of affairs. Of course they could do this as their club was an official Australian National University (ANU) club, they had free access to one of the small theatres there. However Bruce and Dave over at CAS had to deal with hiring out the theatre at UC which was getting close to $100 per screening, because they weren’t students. They had full time jobs.

In the previous year I had heavily got into fansubs and had begun to start trading with people overseas. I had acquired some great shows not available on commercial VHS and was trading some stuff with Bruce and Dave (mostly the former). I was rather sick of CAS and decided to help out Matt and Sam. I even did up a couple of their early flyers;

However it soon became apparent I was being used as a tape library and essentially I told them so. I was then subjected to some rather spiteful and awful emails which I thought was rather shitty. That’s when I joined forces with my fried Nathan and took over CAS for a couple of years. Regardless, the ANU club keep going and must have sourced tapes from elsewhere. As you can see from the flyer below they also played Hong Kong cinema and Japanese sci-fi films;

I sort of lost contact with the club over the next year and half. I had no idea what they were really up to. I do know in the end they stopped mimicking CAS’ schedule and in the last quarter of 1999 started playing some of the latter “Sailor Moon” series. I knew people weren’t all that interested in the ANU club and our patrons had actually increased in number dramatically. There was a bit of tit for tat during 1998 as we played some of the things on their schedule including the “Rurouni Kenshin” movie, because they were playing the series. For a while there, they had actually stopped promoting the club. There were no flyers or anything about. Eventually I made up with Sam. Both Matt and Sam had left the club and in late 1999 the new president Ross (whom I have forgotten his last name…) paid a visit to one of our screenings. From there I decided to wind up CAS permanently and help out the ANU club. I helped with programming stuff, supplying tapes and even the flyers;

As you can see, from 2000 the club was rechristened as the ANU Anime Society, shortened to the rather unfortunate ANUAS which almost reads as ANUS if you’re not careful… The live action Asian films did continue on for a little while, but all but disappeared from the schedule by 2002. Being there was quite fun and I made a few friends, all of which I have lost contact with. But anyhow… Sometime in 2003 the club thought up the crazy idea of doing a convention. Because every other bloody club in Australia was doing it and you know, it couldn’t be that hard, could it? Well it was. You now this stuff works; people put up their hands and then a few fail to do that task. I was programming a lot of older anime material generally because I saw that the video rooms of other conventions in Australia were kind of shit. I also did the basics for the program booklet which I kind of fucked up because I had too much on my plate (both private, club and work). It all came together on 3 April 2004 as In the end it was a pretty successful event; we had some great cosplay, the ANU Go club set up and played some rounds, there were martial arts demonstrations, a band who played J-rock and a Para Para demonstration performed by some really hard core devotees. All in all despite some minor problems I think the organising committee were pretty pleased at what they had achieved. Both the booklets for that year and following had artwork by Kyoto based doujinshi artist Colorful Biscuit;

Not too sure if she is still active now. Her website is here. Her art work seems to be mostly of J-Pop group Perfume, which I think is great. No other convention in Australia could claim that all of their official artwork (and mascots!) were produced by a Japanese doujinshi artist. There was too much rushing about to enjoy anything going on at the convention, so one year was enough for me. I crossed “participating in an anime convention” off my otaku things to do list and I was done with it. For a while there, the conventions continued in the form of mini-conventions such as;

And a summer mini-con;

I haven’t really kept up with what has been going on in the club, but it looks like they’ve had conventions on and off for a few years, with 2012 being the last one from what I can gather. Sometime in 2005 or 2006, I sort of began to felt like a bit of a dinosaur and started to come less frequently. I only had commercial DVDs and tapes, and they didn’t want any of that stuff. It was the age of digital fansubs. Also I probably was bit of a pain in the arse of times, they were probably glad to see the back of me...

I tried coming back to the club, but really felt out of place. It was sort of the beginning of the end between me and the social aspects of fandom. Regardless the club continues on and was renamed the ANU Anime and Gaming Society 2012. The website isn’t very active, but the facebook page is. As you can see they still do screenings and other assorted social outings. Next year will be their 20th year of operation. I did some research and was really surprised to find out they aren't the oldest club in Australia. A couple other clubs are around the same age or older, one over 25 years old.

In the third part of this series, I’ll be looking at the other two (defunct) anime clubs in the city plus a not very comprehensive look at number of anime related events that took place in the decade from 1995.

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