A while ago, one of my friends and I were reflecting on my experience joining anime club with vision impairment. It seemed like a strange thing to do at the time, because I knew absolutely nothing about anime or any of its related entities, and I also couldn’t see very much. I’m happy to say though that it was a very positive decision, as I was able to make many friends and learn to fit in at a new school. I can’t take all the credit for this decision though, because it was my guidance counselor who convinced me to join, but I enjoyed the club all the same. Today, I will be sharing my experiences of joining anime club with vision impairment at my high school, and why other students can benefit from joining as well.
What is anime club?
Anime club is an extracurricular club that allows for students to gather and talk about anime, manga, and other elements of school-appropriate Japanese entertainment. Many anime clubs also incorporate discussions about video games, trading cards, cosplay, comics, and other elements of nerd culture. Anime clubs are most often found in the high school and college setting, though some middle schools may have an anime club as well.
How I was convinced to join
My guidance counselor convinced me to join anime club, as they knew it would help me with transition. When I started at my new high school junior year, my guidance counselor asked me to describe what my friends were like at my old school. I mentioned that they enjoyed anime and manga, and that I felt like I wouldn’t find any friends like them at my new school. Once they heard me say that, they told me there were a few students in my classes that were part of anime club, and I should ask them when the next meeting was going to be. I knew they wouldn’t be a replacement for my friends at my old school, but I was excited to meet new people like them.
What club meetings were like
At my high school, the biweekly anime club meetings met after school in a classroom. There were approximately 50 members, though only 30-40 showed up for each meeting. The club had an even representation of all genders and grade levels.
Activities included discussions about different topics and types of media, and members would often show photos of their latest cosplays or newest art creations. After all of the discussion, we would watch at least one or two episodes of an anime that had been approved by the supervising teacher or a Hiyao Miyazaki movie. After the episodes or movie ended, students would leave to go home and would often talk amongst themselves. Meetings lasted an hour and a half to two hours.
How I made friends
Since I have low vision and am sensitive to flashing lights, I didn’t know a whole lot about anime or any other media. However, I found that many of the people I met in anime club were very accepting and friendly, always willing to say hi to the new kid. I quickly discovered that there were many people from anime club in my classes, and they approached me after I joined to say hello. Often times, I ended up sitting next to these friends in my classes and getting to know them better. This helped tremendously with making friends at a new school and allowed me to learn about something I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. It’s worth noting I’m still friends with many of these people five years later!
Ask for “dubbed” anime whenever possible
When I told my guidance counselor that I would go to anime club, they talked to the club sponsor on my behalf and asked that they use “dubbed” anime, meaning anime with English audio. This was an alternative to the “subbed” anime, which has Japanese audio with English subtitles. The sponsor was happy to make this accommodation so that many people could be included, and I would listen to the audio of the video with my eyes closed to avoid flashing lights.
Watch on a separate device
One of my friends was part of an anime club at another school, and they have trouble seeing items that are projected on a screen. The solution they came up with was to get the link to the episode or movie in advance and watch it on their tablet, or they would watch it on a school-owned computer with the audio muted. This way, they could still see the visuals and feel included with the rest of the club.
Even though I still don’t have much of an opinion on anime, I am forever grateful for my guidance counselor for introducing me to anime club. In addition to being in band, anime club helped tremendously with helping me feel included at my new school, and giving me a social group. I went to school dances and parties with many of my anime club friends, and never felt left out because I had a disability. I highly recommend that students who are interested in joining anime club with vision impairment do so, because it’s a great way to learn about other cultures and make some awesome friends.