Q&A with Anime Club president Justin Yeh

Anime Club president Justin Yeh keeps the creativity alive through the group’s creative efforts. Over the past few years, Anime Club created an amateur J-rock band and recruited members to create a video game.

Tanner Maxwell/Daily Senior Staffer

Anime Club president Justin Yeh keeps the creativity alive through the group’s creative efforts. Over the past few years, Anime Club created an amateur J-rock band and recruited members to create a video game.

Sam Freedman, Writer

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The ever-burgeoning Anime Club at Northwestern is a haven for fans of the famed Japanese animation style. The Current recently spoke with its president, Justin Yeh, a Weinberg senior who’s also developing a visual novel group at NU, to discuss the club and its genre of choice.

The Current: Do you mainly focus on discussing anime or creating it?

Justin Yeh: We can’t really create anime because that’s really business-oriented and as students, we of course don’t have (those) resources. Initially as an anime club, it used to be a club for anime lovers, and just to watch anime every Friday …  At least for me, I wanted the members to enjoy anime not just from a consumer perspective. I feel it’s more fun if you can actually participate in it and actually create something out of it. Basically, I just want to give members a chance to know what you can do as anime fans outside of just watching anime.

The Current: How have things changed since you took over?

JY: First of all, it’s definitely more organized. We initially (were) a group that you can’t even find on the Northwestern website — like I remember when I first came here as a freshman, I tried to search online for Northwestern Anime Club; I could not find anything until someone from Japan Club said, “Oh, there’s an anime club!” (and) he referred me to Anime Club club members … That definitely made us not able to contact some potential anime lovers, so that’s why we applied for ASG (recognition). We’ve also connected with other anime clubs — one of the major examples is the one from UChicago, (University of Chicago Japanese Anime Society). We’ve started to do some co-op events with them, social events … We’ve also started inviting some professors and outside speakers to talk about some topics that might be anime-related.

The Current: How do you think anime is evolving, given new animation technology?

JY: There’s better CGI, so of course, compared to the past, the anime definitely looks prettier. Whether (that makes) the content better, that might be doubtful. For some people like me, we feel like anime had its renaissance during the ‘90s period, and it kind of (went) downward … It’s become more targeted toward a specific niche — like, anime is already a niche interest, but it goes to a niche of the niche. You can call me hipster or something like that; we just don’t feel that that might (improve) the anime.

The Current: What is one of your favorite anime series?

JY: My favorite series is called “Mobile Suit Gundam.” It is a Mecha series that aired around 1978 or 1979-ish, so it is a really old anime … Mecha’s a specific genre that you cannot see in Western animation or even in the cinematic area; you seldom see an American movie about big robots. “Gundam” is revolutionary because before that, there was always a guy in a big robot defeating a monster or other big robots … But since “Gundam,” they’ve introduced a new idea that the robot inside is (just a) simple war machine. The plot is no (longer) about justice or defeating evil — it’s actually about a war … It’s really interesting to see how the anime goes through an area that other shows never really covered before.

The Current: We hear you’re part of a visual novel group at Northwestern. Can you tell us about your plans for that?

JY: (We’re) definitely still trying to expand ourselves, because the problem is that it’s still a little difficult for us to reach out to other groups. We hope to gather some talent especially from the arts, which surprisingly is hard to find … We definitely hope once we can make some progress on that, we can (throw for) the school some kinds of events, and hopefully soon we can recruit some more members for that effort.

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