A deafening scream rips through the sky as the black Night Fury dragon pelts down into a dangerous free-fall. It wasn’t until the frightened female viking Astrid apologized for insulting him that the creature slowed to a gentler flight. The dragon flew her through the soft pink sunset, and Astrid ran her fingers through the clouds as they passed.
“It’s like Aladdin,” one audience member said, referring to the Disney movie’s iconic magic carpet scene.
Another jokingly sang, “I can show you the world,” which elicited laughter from the rest of the club.
The screening of the animated film How To Train Your Dragon is one of many Thursday-night activities put on by the Mills College Anime Alliance. The club screens a different movie every week in order to showcase all flavors of animation.
Senior and Alliance president Alliah Gilman Bey started the club in early Fall 2009 as a way for students who affectionately call themselves otaku – a Japanese slang term for ‘an obsessive fan’ – to get together. Bey realized that quite a few Mills students she talked to were interested in anime but there wasn’t a way for them to connect, to organize or to go to a convention.
“(Having this club) makes me feel more open and less ashamed about loving anime so I’m not such an anomaly,” Bey said. “When people think of anime, they think of Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon and Japanese stereotypes when it’s so much more than that. If I tell people I enjoy it, they look at me strangely and ask me a million questions. I mean, I can collect 150 Barbies but the moment I collect a Gundam Wing figure, I’m weird?”
Bey was still in the process of transferring into Mills College when she met up with Mandy Benson, the assistant director of Student Activities, in Summer 2009 who sparked her interest in creating a new student group.
“(Bey) was hesitant to, probably because she was a new student, until I showed her how easy the process was,” Benson said. “I see Japanese animation getting even more and more popular. It’s not the fringe culture it once was here and its ripple effect is definitely becoming a big part of our entertainment.”
The Alliance is admittedly small – less than ten people regularly show up – but the high energy makes it easier for a newcomer to relate. The members engage in rapid-fire discussions about anime, manga and video games and then watch movies on a huge projection screen. It isn’t strange to see students sitting in the back to do their homework under dimmed lights while still participating.
“I know these three girls who have such different majors and schedules that they wouldn’t have become really good friends if it hadn’t been for (the Alliance),” Bey said.
Wearing a screened T-shirt with Mickey and Minnie Mouse kissing in a tree and showing off silly photos from Space Mountain, junior Hannah Muenchau is no doubt a huge Disney fan. However, she regularly shows up for screenings of anime movies and is now the Alliance’s treasurer.
“I really like the social aspect of the club. It’s fun and recreational, and they can always bribe me with Disney movies,“ Muenchau said.
Bey said people join to make friends and the quieter people in the club would find the courage to interact more with others than they did before. In addition to weekly meetings, The Alliance organizes group outings such as karaoke, spa and costume-shopping days. Sometimes, they even cosplay, or dress up as their favorite anime characters on the club’s annual event Hero Day.
Bey was especially proud of a quiet first year, who was unavailable for comment, who bravely walked across campus wearing yellow hair ties, a white and blue schoolgirl outfit and a red armband unique to her character, Haruhi from the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series.
“She was very cute,” Bey said of the member.
Alongside academic clubs and sports teams, The Alliance remains one of the only organizations on-campus that caters to pop culture and media crazes. They have big plans this semester that include group outings to the Cherry Blossom Festival and WonderCon events at San Francisco in April. With OSA, The Anime Alliance is also going to be hosting a Final Friday special with a Little Mermaid sing-along and karaoke event on Toyon Meadow on April 29.
“I admire students like (Bey) who have a vision then go on to create a community, bringing a fun, lighthearted social activity to Mills that hasn’t happened on campus before,” Benson said.
The Anime Alliance meets every Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at Lucie Stern 107. They’ll be screening Disney film The Emperor’s New Groove on Feb. 10. You can contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They are also currently looking for design submissions for their official club T-shirt.
REQUIREMENTS: a parade that includes a tall schoolgirl, a little Chibi girl, an evil rabbit (no cute bunny) and a squirrel holding an acorn all lifting up a banner with the title ‘Anime Alliance’ across it.
Moscone Center South, San Francisco
April 1-3, 2011
Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
Japantown, San Francisco
Festival: Saturday and Sunday, April 9 & 10, 16 & 17, 2011
Grand Parade: Sunday, April 17, 2011
Final Friday: Little Mermaid Sing-Along/Karaoke with OSA
April 29, 2011
Toyon Meadow, Mills College