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ESSAY
Confessions of a Former High School Anime Club Co-President
Hannah Cohen

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Sometimes I really suck at being in charge of things. I know this because I once tried to host a monthly poetry reading series in my city—it died when it was my turn to find a suitable place to hold the reading (to be fair, the too-fancy-for-you chocolate shop never answered my emails or calls). I was briefly the co-president of the high school literary magazine, and I ended up "publishing" everyone's angsty poems in folders purchased from Walmart. Classy.

Probably one of my more memorable failures in positions of power was my time as co-president of the anime club in my senior year of high school. I had been robbed of the role in my junior year, and held a grudge against several members of that shady Hot Topic-wearing elite cabinet. I think they chose Cameron over me because she liked Inuyasha and I didn't like spending several minutes of our precious after school time talking about how smexy Sesshomaru was. 

You have to understand why I was angry at Cameron’s appointment as president. I loved the anime club. It was my only shelter. I attended high school from 2006 to 2010, before Funko Pop! figures and billion-dollar superhero movie franchises were even a thing. Being a nerd wasn’t cool. My love for big-eyed manga and anime resulted in side-eye glances from teachers and severe bullying from those I perceived as preps.

I spent years of my teenager life attending almost every meeting, participating in every discussion, and even using my allowance money to pay for dues. I’d play along. I would wait for my turn, and then the anime club would be mine.

***

I was disgusted at how Cameron controlled the anime club. Or rather, how the Hot Topic-wearing elites wanted Cameron to run the anime club. Gone were the days of watching the school-approved Studio Ghibli movies, discussing the newest manga on the Barnes & Noble shelves, or the Pirates vs. Ninjas debate. No, all we did was talk about yaoi. Talk about yaoi fanfiction, or unrelated videogames. I suffered through it because I wanted to save the anime club’s soul.

I don't remember where Mrs. Harding, our club sponsor/art teacher, was during all this. Probably in the art department's ventilation room. But I guess she needed to be high or whatever to deal with a bunch of fourteen to eighteen year olds singing in broken Japanese and wearing Naruto headbands.

***

Junior year ended, and Cameron reluctantly agreed to step down as anime club president. I don't remember what exactly changed her mind, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with Mrs. Harding getting tired of us talking about sex between fictional male characters. With the Hot Topic elites graduating, no one opposed me for taking the reins. And I happily became the next president. Well, co-president. My friend Jazmine was brought on board, but it didn’t matter. The high school anime club was finally mine.

I was ambitious. I wanted advertising, parties, the works. I had spreadsheets for this shit. I wanted to make anime club the place to be after school. This was 2009, and anime was being recognized by normal people as enjoyable cartoons, not Japanese tentacle porn. I would usher in a Golden Age, and everyone would like me forever. We’d be as memorable as Emily and what’s-her-name, the club’s founders.

I had dreams for the anime club, and they were dashed on the first day when a rowdy clan of freshman and sophomores disagreed with me about the movie I had planned for us to watch. They didn't want to watch Howl's Moving Castle. No, they wanted to watch something else. 

I was shocked at this change. We always watched Studio Ghibli movies. It was sacred. It was one of the divine rules of anime club, and these newbies had no idea how important it was. I told them no, and those kids got pissed. Many stopped showing up to anime club meetings. That should have been my warning that I wasn't cut out to be president, but I was determined.

***

It was middle of the year, and I was supposed to order t-shirts. There had been anime club t-shirts since the very beginning, and I wanted the best shirts. When it came down to the wire, eternally-uncaring Mrs. Harding never directly told me where she had them designed or ordered. The envelope that held club dues disappeared at times. Cameron refused to tell me anything, and had been subsequently absent from anime club meetings.

Without a fancy design shop or really any help, I had to be cheap and hit up Michael's for iron-on transfers. I enlisted Jazmine (read: bribed her with cupcakes) to help me iron 22 black t-shirts. Everything was going great, until we realized that we had bought black t-shirts and the transfer sheets were meant for light color shirts. Desperate to have something for the club meeting that Friday, we ironed into the night and produced some shitty shirts. They were so bad that I threw mine away a few days later. I still toss and turn at night dreaming about the transfer sheets sticking to our irons.

***

I think about all the cringe-worthy things I did when I was in love with anime and manga. I haven't read or watched much since high school or even my community college years, but I'm a weeb at heart, as evidenced by my Danganronpa poster and my Magic Knight Rayearth volumes.

My sister attends the same high school I went to, and tells me that the anime club is still around, in the same classroom. She says it’s become more like a fandom club, to make room for all those Reddit and Tumblr kids.

At my current job, I manage student employees and others in my portfolio. Though I’m not making t-shirts or discussing the best anime ships with my constituents, I often find myself thinking about how ruthless/disastrous I was, and how that character trait carried over into my adulthood. That, and I had no life in high school. 


Hannah Cohen lives in Virginia. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Bad Anatomy (Glass Poetry Press, 2018). She's a contributing editor for Platypus Press and co-editor of Cotton Xenomorph. Recent and forthcoming publications include Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Yes Poetry, Gravel, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.