Anime — a style of Japanese film and television animation — is rapidly growing in popularity at the University of Mississippi, thanks to the UM Anime Club.
In October 2022, the UM Anime Club was created for students on campus who want to express and discuss their mutual love of anime and different mangas.
Sarah Perez, a sophomore business student, is the founder and president of the Anime Club.
“If I cannot find a group where I belong, I will make my own,” Perez said.
The club’s growth started off slow, with only three members consistently attending meetings.
“Finding members was the hardest,” Perez said. “But then a friend directed me toward a Discord (server) that had anime lovers like myself.”
Since the start of the 2023 spring semester, the membership list has increased to 30.
The club holds meetings every Wednesday at 5 p.m. and Friday at 4 p.m. to discuss their favorite anime and characters. They also occasionally meet on Sundays for watch parties.
“Anime has helped me through rough times,” Perez said. “I want us to be able to do group events and spread anime across the campus.”
Anime has become popular worldwide, especially in the United States and has over 40 genres and subgenres. Those genres include: shoujo (romantic), shounen (action), comedy and fantasy.
Manga, a style of Japanese comic book and graphic novel, goes hand in hand with anime, with many anime sources adapted from works of manga.
Some of the more popular current anime, deriving from manga, include “Attack on Titan,” “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba” and “My Hero Academia.”
Madeleine Dotson, a junior economics and political science major, spent a month in Kyoto, Japan, attending a class about manga and anime. During her time in Kyoto, Dotson experienced the influence that anime possesses in Japan.
“Everything had an animated character,” Dotson said. “Anime is a big part of their media and is a part of their culture.”
Dotson also gained insights into the creation of these artforms.
“I studied more about environmental anime and manga, but I also learned about the production process,” Dotson said. “The production style between the editor and the artist for the manga is an intense process.”
This fervent passion for anime expands even beyond the UM Anime Club, affecting the state of Mississippi as a whole.
Jay Branch, a native from Goodman, Mississippi. and owner of VXV Events, hosts events like the Mississippi Anime Fest despite having people doubt the success.
“A long time ago, people were like, ‘You’re never going to get someone (voice actors) this big to come.’ I enjoy bringing people to the South, and especially to Mississippi, to let them experience where I’m from,” Branch said.
They overcame that doubt with voice actors like Eric Stuart, Grey Delisle and Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario), who headlined the Mississippi Anime Fest on March 11 and 12 in Jackson.
The first year of the fest drew approximately 1,500 people. That number more than doubled in 2023 to 5,000 people.
Taylor Bridges, a professional cosplayer from Yazoo, Mississippi, was ecstatic but also surprised at the number of anime fans in the state.
“The anime scene is alot bigger than you’d expect,” Bridges said. “When I first started I thought there would be a small crowd, but then at my first convention I was like ‘wow.’”
There’s no doubt that anime draws a big crowd in Mississippi, and organizations like the UM Anime Club are only the tip of the iceberg in spreading this long-gestating passion.