From the screen to the soul

A member from the Anime Appreciation and Philanthropy Club sits in Celebration Cinema to watch Demon Slayer--The Movie: Mugen Train

Amidst the whirlwind of academic pursuits and extracurricular activities stands a vibrant community of people who immerse themselves in the captivating world of Japanese animation. It’s here that Kya Garner-Minnick and Jake Bonacci found more than just a pastime, but a home. 

Garner-Minnick, a rising senior majoring in cinema arts, said she grew to like anime through her love of film before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She came to Central Michigan University in 2021 where she befriended fellow anime enthusiast Bonacci. 

Bonacci, an animation major, said he’s always enjoyed watching animated content, which was how he had gotten into anime. 

During their sophomore year, the duo joined the Anime Appreciation and Philanthropy Club to connect with others with similar interests. They ran for E-board positions for the following year. 

During the 2023-24 academic year, Garner-Minnick served as the club’s president while Bonacci was the secretary/treasurer. 

“It’s been such a fun activity to just host for CMU because you don’t see a lot of pop culture (clubs) here,” Garner-Minnick said. 

Bonacci said that because the club isn’t academically centered, and because everyone from the group shares the same interests, the club has a more laid-back atmosphere. 

“I really like the people there,” he said. “We have a good group that we all can just joke around and be casual and get stuff off our chest, so it’s just a very chill environment.” 

Each week, the club gets together to watch different genres of anime. Garner-Minnick said that members have the chance to give suggestions. 

On the day of the meeting, she said, they spin a wheel to determine what anime they watch that day. At the end, they hold a debriefing session in which the members will discuss the production. 

Members of the Anime Appreciation and Philanthropy Club play Kahoot.

In addition to the screenings, the club will also host activities. In the past Garner-Minnick said they’ve done debates, Kahoots and even made a Tinder profile for a character. 

Garner-Minnick and Bonacci said they keep most of their events open to the public to encourage new members to join. However, they said they struggled with attendance numbers during the spring semester. 

“We were trying to formulate events that we thought people would be more likely to come to, but we also think that was just a scheduling conflict with a bunch of members with meetings being on Thursdays,” Garner-Minnick said. 

They said their group had drawn a lot of interest during this year's MainStage events. In the fall, they said they had roughly 300 people visit their table, from which 50 people joined their group meeting. 

They said they’re looking to make some changes with the upcoming fall semester to bring their numbers back up, such as potentially moving the day of their weekly meetings by asking members which days work best for them. 

As for the members, Garner-Minnick and Bonacci said they get a diverse range of people from all over campus. 

“We have extroverts and introverts,”Garner-Minnick said. “Major wise, we’ve had computer science people, we’ve had education people, we have some music majors. So, it’s a pretty diverse group that all share the same thing, which I think is really unique.” 

They said their members also have a wide range of anime interests, but do tend to be drawn towards sports, romance and shounen anime – anime targeted towards boys. 

In the upcoming semester, Garner-Minnick and Bonacci said they hope to add new members, fundraise and plan more off-campus events such as going to a Comic-Con, a convention focused on comic books and other forms of pop culture entertainment. 

Bonacci said he hopes the club can become a place of solace for its members. 

“We want it to be a place for people to come to just feel welcome,” he said. “And just to enjoy something that everybody collectively enjoys, a place where people can watch a show they like and not feel judged or pressured by it.” 

Garner-Minnick said she wants the club to become more than just a place to watch anime, but a place where others can make life-long connections. 

“I’m a firm believer that the friends you make in college are going to be the closest ones that you have in your lifetime, and I want to provide that for the people here,” she said.