An open space for nerding out


Avery Bliss

Co-presidents Kayla Flanagan and Rachel Braun

For most college students, the idea of watching anime probably doesn’t cross their minds. It either isn’t what they are used to seeing on their screens or isn’t appealing because they know nothing about it.



But the Anime and Video Game Club here at Johnson State College is trying to change those perceptions and bring more people into this strange new world.

The club, run by Co-Presidents Kayla Flanagan and Rachel Braun, started last fall during orientation weekend. Braun and Flanagan had assumed there was already such a club and, upon learning that one didn’t exist, decided to create their own.

“We found out there wasn’t, and then we also found out that there used to be a video game club, so we were like ‘why not just join the two?’” said Braun.

And so the club was formed, at first with close friends, slowly drawing in more and more members. These days, membership hovers around eight, which, with the club officers, brings the total up to around 14 full-time members.

After getting the idea for the club, Braun and Flanagan recruited from their friend pool first. “My boyfriend [CJ Safford] is the treasurer, our friend Naomi [Flemings] is the secretary,” said Braun. “We had our friend Hayley as our VP the first year, and now it’s Shania [Vigneau].”

The group meets on Wednesdays, on the top floor of Stearns Hall in the TV lounge. “So we always start off with the business-y type of stuff, is how we like to say it,” said Flanagan.

After the formal talk is out of the way, such as event planning, the meeting opens up, and members are free to do as they please. Some might leave due to homework or other pressing matters. But some people stay to talk about anime or what they did during the week. It provides a place for people to de-stress and nerd out.

“So whether we want to play board games, play video games or watch anime, I always bring my laptop and Xbox,” said Flanagan.

But why anime?

“I guess a lot of people watch it because it helps them,” said Flanagan. “I feel like the reason I watch it is because it’s better than actual cartoons, so it has more plot, it has more feelings, more meaning to it, I guess. So there’s always a back thing to it, there’s things about friends, family, love, revenge — stuff like that.”

Just because the club is about anime and video games does not mean that that is all that they do. Rather than solely focusing on those two areas, the club is an excuse to stop and nerd out with others who like the same things.

“We’re very open,” said Flanagan. “Sometimes I wonder why we’re called Anime and Video Game Club and not Fandom Club.”

For some, anime is just a good way to experience another culture through cartoons, with its hundreds of varieties. For others, it’s a chance to connect with like-minded people or a form of getaway. The reasons for watching anime are as varied as the people who enjoy watching them.

“I became obsessed with it back in seventh and eighth grade and it was a form of escape for me,” said Braun. “I’d be like, ‘Time for some anime.’”

On the video game side of the club, anything goes. From League of Legends to Smash Brothers Melee, the club will play just about anything a member brings forward.

“Some people are there just because they like video games, some people are there just because they like anime. Being able to jump across each side and connect the two, that’s really fun to me,” said Braun.

Just getting together in the TV lounge isn’t all they do with the club. In the last several weeks, they also rented out the Stearns Cinema to put on two Studio Ghibli movies: “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

“They do those really weird . . . it’s basically the same style for all the movies, except somehow they make it different in their own,” said Flanagan. “It depends on who you are. For a lot of people, it’s a stress reliever.”

And in the future, the club would like to branch out to being able to help others. “We want to do some community service as well,” said Braun, “because we want to be out there.”

As well as helping others, Braun and Flanagan think this would be a good way to advertise for the club. “We want to be out there, we don’t want to be forgotten in the back corner, like, ‘Hey, that’s the anime and video game club, they’re kind of weird,”’ said Braun. “We want to be in your face, and like, ‘Hello. We are here.”’

“We’re just trying to be really in your face and out there and want to do everything we can this year,” said Flanagan.