AnimeChicago’s Spotlight interview series highlights local organization leaders, artists and personalities. We’re chatting with Justin Yeh, president of the Northwestern University Anime Club during the 2012–2013 school year.
AC: When was Northwestern Anime Club founded and how has the membership grown?
JY: It was founded in 2008, so about a year before I got enrolled to Northwestern. The membership has grown around three to four times since then. Though it is a little hard to tell since we don’t force member participation and seldom do head counts.
AC: How long have you been a member? What was your role in the organization? How did that evolve with time?
JY: It has been 4 years for me since I became a NU student. As for my role, I was picked as the “treasurer” by previous execs. Despite being picked as the “treasurer”, I actually didn’t touch money often since back then Anime Club didn’t have funding support from ASG (NU’s student government), so my job back then was more as PR person and tried to connect the club with the NU campus community (professors or other clubs) or local anime community (UCJAS for instance). Along with other execs, I also tried to introduce more diversity of activities events to the club, including Alluvion Project, a visual novel team that I created. I was later elected as president during my senior year. I still continued my old task of creating connections for the club, and actually went a step further by starting inviting speakers to the club. We also got raised to B-status as an ASG organization, which finally allows us to apply for funding, which obviously gave us more possibilities of things we can do.
AC: What are some challenges of running an academic-based anime club?
JY: The biggest challenge might be to “dig out” the potential members considering anime is a relatively niche interest here and most people won’t express thier interest in that category openly, as well as motivates them to participate in club events considering NU’s quarter system really can drive a student nut when it comes to study schedule. However, I also believe considering all members are part of the NU communtiy, the physical and psychological proximity (relaitvley of course) among us might be actually an advantage from some perspective comparing to non-academic community.
AC: How does Chicago play a role at Northwestern Anime Club?
JY: Attending Anime Central has always been a tradition for NU Anime Club since it was founded. Since 2011, we also started to do social events and co-ops with UCJAS. We also start to attend more conventions like Uchicon, Kollision Con, or Anime World Chicago as participants of Artist Alley or panel speakers. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, we invited speakers from local anime community to deliver talks with the topics ranging from mecha, cosplay, figure collection etc. Another special event worth mentioning was when we attend the movie showing of Madoka, which was a great experience for all the members who participated.
AC: What advice would impart to other anime club leaders?
JY: In my opinion, diversity is really the key as the leader of an anime community. Despite being a niche interest, Anime (or I personally prefer calling ACG: Anime Comics & Gaming) still cover quite some areas, thus allowing one to do things more than just “watching anime.” In fact, if taking a closer look at Eastern Asian anime community, one would be suprised how involved they are in creativity events, like making their own game or creating their own doujinshi. Of course, it requires effort and devotion, but at the end of the day, the sense of fulfillment you get from these participation is definetly more wonderful and memorable than, say, watching anime for 6 hours every week.
AC: Now that you’re graduating, what’s your next endeavor in Chicago’s anime scene?
JY: Hard to say, since I don’t even know if I will stay at Chicago after graduation. But if I do, I think I will continue participating in NU anime club events, not as an exec, but just as an old member. Of course, being part of the anime artist group myself, I will continue participating in various conventions or even joining some local anime community. I am always enthusiastic about anime and always love to share it to others.