Library draws in anime, manga fans

After-school club attracts teenage enthusiasts who share DVDs, artwork and opinions at meetings


The 15 teens gathered at the Mountain Road library are way past Speed Racer.

The classic 1960s Japanese cartoon featuring characters with unnaturally large eyes and tiny noses was the precursor to anime, an art form that has won over many American youths.

Jessica Lindsay, 14, a freshman at Chesapeake High School, said her favorite show is Sailor Moon, which is about a 14-year-old girl with superpowers.

Anime, she said, "brings more depth to the stories." She also likes manga, the graphic novel form of the art.

Since February, she has been attending the monthly meetings of the Anime and Manga Club at the library in Pasadena. The meetings, for ages 11 to 17, give her a chance to hang out with like-minded teens.

Librarian Beth Chandler, a fan of the Japanese art form herself, started the club in January with the idea that it would bring children to the library.

The high school students, who have a shorter walk to the library, arrived about 2:30 p.m. on a recent afternoon. Jessica thumbed through a large stack of magazines about anime and manga.

Shannon Speakman, 15, a Chesapeake High sophomore, said she likes the club because "it's a whole lot of people, and everybody is so much fun."

At 3 p.m., about five pupils from Chesapeake Bay Middle School arrived. One, Robbie Stitz, 13, said he likes the club because "everyone has the same interests so it's really easy to make friends."

During the meetings, which generally last one to two hours, Chandler shows anime videos and allows plenty of time for children to talk about anime and manga.

"We watch TV like the anime junkies we are," said Stephanie Kellum, 13, a pupil at Chesapeake Bay Middle. She said she likes anime because "it's much different than American TV. The stories are much better."

In particular, she enjoys a show called Chrono Crusade, which is about a demon-exorcising team in 1928 Brooklyn, N.Y. She also likes a show called Fruits Basket, which is about a family whose members transform into animals when embraced by a person of the opposite gender.

According to Business Week, anime DVDs and movies were expected to rake in $5.2 billion worldwide last year. Anime toys and video games were worth another $18.5 billion in Japan alone.

"It's something that's a bit off the beaten track, and young people are looking for something a bit new and a bit different and a bit countercultural, and it draws them in," Chandler said.

She said the Annapolis and Brooklyn Park library branches have also started anime and manga clubs, and both Brooklyn Park and Mountain Road have recently held miniconventions, attracting library visitors who participated in a costume contest, a drawing workshop and anime and manga swaps.

Though some anime shows are available through cable or satellite, the teens said they mostly buy DVDs of their shows. They bring the series to the meetings to share.

Many of the teens attending the club meetings are accomplished manga artists and bring along sketch books. One is Kristin Sponar, 15, a student at Chesapeake Bay Middle, who was attending her first club meeting.

Why did she come? "I love anime, and I like the library," she said.

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