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Japanese Visual Culture Association creates a place for Rutgers students to appreciate anime films and TV shows


The Japanese Visual Culture Association is a Rutgers club for fans of anime, live action Japanese movies and other aspects of Japanese culture.

The club meets every Friday night, and the main event of the meeting is the viewing of a selection of anime episodes. Episodes are chosen according to the night's theme, said Ashley Toner, the president of the club and a Mason Gross School of the Arts sophomore.

“It's not like, 'here's a bunch of random shows that we just picked out of a hat.' That wouldn't be exciting in that way. But if it's connected to an event, then people are more invested that way. Like if (the theme is) mystery genre, we do something mystery related, then we watch a show like that to keep the mood going,” she said.

The club tends to favor comedies and action shows, genres that are more fun to watch in a group setting, Toner said. Recently "Gundam" and "Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun" have been popular among club members, she said.

“We try to stay away from the very stereotypical shows like 'Naruto.' Everyone's seen that. We don't need to show it,” Toner said. “Unless it's like April Fools or something.”

Toner said that the club tries to branch out with activities and occasional field trips so that it is not simply a film club.

“You can gather a bunch of people who are interested in anime and Japanese culture, but then it's like, 'What do you do?'” she said.

For club meetings, games are planned according to the night's theme, and larger events are planned for holidays. Toner said that the club is planning a masquerade showcase for Halloween, where members will show off their costumes in a competition. The club is also looking forward to planning something for Rutgers' "Geek Week."

The club also coordinates a few field trips each year, Toner said. Some of these are trips to New York, where they go to karaoke and eat at authentic Japanese restaurants. 

Other trips have more specific goals. In April, the group visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see the sakura cherry blossoms at the annual blooming of the cherry trees, traditionally celebrated in Japan. 

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's cherry blossom exhibition was attended by various Japanese cultural groups, with people picnicking, wearing kimonos and playing tenko drums, Toner said.

Michael Scognamiglio, the club's secretary and a School of Engineering senior, said the club appeals to a niche group because of differences between American and Japanese attitudes toward animated movies.

“Animation in Japan and the U.S. is so different in terms of who they market it to,” Scognamiglio said. “Here it's mostly for kids. Or, if it's for adults, it's a comedy like 'Family Guy.'”

Similarly, Toner said that Japanese and American audiences have different sensibilities.

“If you're a foreigner looking in and trying to analyze this and like, 'How can I make this appeal to a different market?' There's no way you can make it ... and expect it to sell,” Toner said. “But then, you can't do so much to it that it's not the same.”

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