Over the past few years, Penn State Scranton's Anime Club has been gaining a lot of new members, becoming one of the largest and most popular clubs on campus and joining a growing nationwide trend that began with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantining in 2020 and is continuing through 2022.
“We have been told that we are the most active club on campus,” said John Giguere, president of the Anime Club at Penn State Scranton.
Anime is a particular form of animation in television series and movies that originated in Japan, while manga, also Japanese in origin, is a form of graphic novels and comics that are released via chapters or volumes and are the base of many anime titles.
Industry watchers have noticed increased interest in both art forms, with more people streaming anime titles now and sales of manga books and graphic novels growing nationwide. In fact, publishing experts are seeing anime, manga and graphic novels becoming more mainstream in 2022, with sales of the publications having soared 126% within the last year, moving from a niche category to mainstream, according to a recent article from Publisher’s Weekly.
Much of manga’s increased growth is being attributed to a popular social media hashtag, #BookTok, a subcommunity on TikTok featuring reviews, videos, discussion and comment about what users are reading.
At Penn State Scranton, the Anime Club hosts Anime Nights, conventions and discord calls to interact with their members. “The way we engage and acquire new members is we have a very friendly bunch who interact with a big part of the student body. They constantly make friends and ask if they are into anime and see if they know anybody who is into anime. Just reaching out and talking to people is one of the ways we get people,” Giguere said. “Plus, our members reach out to their friends to see if their friends like it or are interested in making friends.”
When asked if there was any special approach to getting Penn State Scranton students involved with the club, Giguere said they haven’t had to use any incentives to get people to join. “I guess one of them would be making friends. A lot of anime watchers don’t really come out and say they watch anime because a lot of people think that it is childish and that adults shouldn’t be watching it. There has been a bad stigma around anime. However, having an anime club and a place to be able to relax, discuss anime, and make friends is its own incentive to come and join the club. Plus, our club welcomes anybody. Those who watch anime and those who don’t. Anybody who wants to make friends.”
The Anime Club holds a multitude of meetings throughout the semester and offers students a variety of different ways to get involved within the club and connect with their members. “We do a lot of different activities to get people to interact and join the club. We hold Anime Nights, Discord Nights, Anime Conventions, and hanging out outside of school” said Giguere.
“Anime Nights is a simple thing. We rent out a room on campus at around 6 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday. A lot of people come to hang out, relax and watch some anime. In the beginning of the night, we talk and chat for a while, then we throw on some anime. Some of our favorites are That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen, Horimiya and a bunch of others. After we watch about three or four, we talk about them and see who liked what, and talk some more about anime. We usually have about 10 to 15 people show up and enjoy.”
Aside from the club’s Anime Nights, the Anime Club gets Penn State Scranton students involved with many other activities that include both virtual and hands-on experiences. “Discord Nights are when a few of us just hang out in the discord, chat and talk. It allows people to interact with others and enjoy everyone’s company. On our discord, “Anime Central,” we have people from other campuses who are friends of those in the club. It is not just for Penn State students, it is for anyone who wants a safe space to enjoy anime and make some friends. We currently have over 50 active members on there” said Giguere.
Conventions are another way the club gets together to enjoy all things anime, Giguere said. “Anime Conventions is our big thing. Our club attends different conventions that are all about anime. The main convention that we attend is Katsucon . . . a four-day event in Maryland during February. We have had this convention happen once before and we had a lot of people enjoy it. The Anime club is going again this February 2022. We have about 15 people going. Everyone is excited to go and enjoy it. We also attend Colossal Con East which happens at the Kalahari Convention Center (in the Poconos). This is a three-day event that happens in September. We only have around seven to 10 members going. Everyone really enjoys this convention. Plus, this convention is easier to get to since it is only 30 minutes from Penn State Scranton’s campus. Our last convention that we plan to attend is Setsucon, which Penn State Altoona holds. We plan to attend this one next year. It will be our first time attending this one. We hope to be able to attend a lot more conventions as a club and get a lot more people interacting with the club.”
Club members also enjoy casually getting together to share their love and passion for anime. “Hangouts is an easy one. Every now and again the club members will go out and have dinner together or hang out somewhere. This isn’t an official club thing, it’s just something we do on the side to get new members out and interact with all of us. We have had a lot of people enjoy going out and hanging out together.”
If he had to describe the campus’ anime club in three words, they would be “amazing, active and friendly. We are an amazing club with a lot of amazing members. Everyone in the club is good friends and we all get along with each other. We all love making new friends and welcoming new members. We are a very active club, since we do a lot of different events and do a lot of different things to get the community to interact with us and see what we are all about. Lastly, we are a very friendly club. A lot of us love making new friends with those who enter the club and love seeing new people.”
Like all student clubs, the Anime Club has a staff advisor -- Staff Assistant Brent Wilson has been the club’s advisor since 2019, but admits he had no idea what he was getting himself into. However, a few key factors played into his decision to step forward and guide the newly created club.
“I had been looking to advise a student club since my hire the year before due to the opportunities it would provide me to have direct interactions with students, as, being only in my upper 20s, I honestly relate more to that age group than to most of my co-workers,” Wilson remarked. “Sometime during the spring of 2019, I was approached with the offer to serve as the advisor of Anime, and after a short meeting with the club's president, John Giguere, I agreed.”
Wilson has tremendous praise for Giguere and his efforts to lead the club and its members.
“John is extraordinarily dedicated to the club's success and proliferation,” Wilson said. “Every time I speak to him, he is always planning a new social or recruitment event/fundraiser/activity for the club's members. His sense of dedication is continuous and his enthusiasm for all things anime infinite.”
Wilson then went on to give one recent example of how Giguere’s dedication has resulted in the creation of a large activity for the club.
“He organized an upcoming trip to Katsucon, an anime convention, almost single-handedly, assembling the school-related preparations for the event over the past few months. Thanks to his tireless efforts, the details of the trip are, to the best of my knowledge, all arranged and settled weeks in advance of the actual trip.”
Though Wilson is not the largest follower of anime, he has certainly learned a lot from the role. “If there's one thing I've learned from serving as Anime's advisor for the last three years, it's that the art of anime has a much-broader consumer appeal than I had initially assumed, and one that reaches across all demographics - both domestic and international students, and even some adult students.”
He has also been astonished to see the exponential growth of the club over the years, and again lauded Giguere as a catalyst for this rise in popularity.
"I think that such growth, in large measure, is again, due to the passion that John, the club president, has for the art,” Wilson remarked. “It is his fervor for all things anime that has led him to initiate club events that are both accessible and fun to new prospective members of the club, and therefore successful in enticing them to join.”
Wilson also said that he has heard some discussions of collaboration between the anime club and other campus clubs, as well as collaborations with anime clubs across the Commonwealth.
In addition to the club’s activities, Penn State Scranton’s library now houses many manga related graphic novels and nonfiction collections. Penn State Scranton’s Reference and Instruction Librarian Kristin Green began creating the graphic novel and nonfiction collection at the library in 2016 with a focus on collecting graphic works ranging from adaptations of classical literature and scientific texts to inspiring memoirs and superhero comics. “The collection currently contains almost 900 books. While most titles in our collection are superhero comics, almost 20% are manga,” she said.
Information Resources and Services Support Specialist Mary Ann Joyce explained that the manga collection at the Penn State Scranton Library is a specialized collection, unlike the books that “float.” Joyce noted that many of the other collections within the Penn State Library system are transferred from campus to campus, and then stay on the shelves of the library where they are returned. However, when students from other Penn State campuses borrow a book from the graphic novel and manga collection, once they return it, it comes directly back to Penn State Scranton’s Library.
“Manga, a type of Japanese comic that crosses all literary genres such as fantasy or horror, has become an increasingly popular part of our collection,” said Green. “With the help of Cameron Nielsen, reference and instruction librarian at Penn State Wilkes-Barre and manga aficionado, the manga available at our library has expanded tremendously to reflect the reading interests of our students. The most popular manga titles in our collection are The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, The Girl from the Other Side, My Hero Academia, and Beserk with many volumes in these series currently checked out.”
And, the librarians also rely on students to help them decide whichi books to get. “Student recommendations have been a very important aspect of building this and other collections at the Penn State Scranton Library,” Green said. “We always welcome new purchase suggestions for titles that are not currently part of our collections, so please feel free to share.”
Anyone curious about anime, manga or graphic novels is encouraged to get in touch with the Anime Club or go to the campus library to check out its collection. To learn more abou the Anime Club, or to join, you can go to Engage.