By Adrian Bueno
Butlers sporting bunny ears and bow ties politely lead a group of patrons into the Thomas Lounge of the Student Campus Centre. A server dressed in a maid outfit greets the group, cheerfully calling each of them “Ojou-sama,” a Japanese term that’s interpreted as master. Bouquets of flowers, white tablecloths and a menu featuring Japanese favourites like onigiri, a triangular rice ball, or dango, sweet skewered dumplings, await the customers.
It’s a dining experience like no other, and it’s one of the many entertaining events put on by Ryerson’s Anime Club.
Taking months of preparation, the Maid Cafe has been Ryerson Anime Club’s main attraction for years, but at its heart the club is still focused on being a place for Ryerson’s biggest anime fans to come together as a community.
“Usually, members of Anime Club are pretty introverted people…it’s hard to find friends around campus,” says Diane Tchoi, the club’s president. “Anime Club is one way for them to meet like-minded people.”
“My family even calls me a weeb”
Beyonce Angelica Cao, the club’s vice-president of promotion, credits the club with giving her a sense of belonging. In her first year, Cao says she never wanted to go to school. After finding the club, she now looks forward to the events, and says she has has opened up socially.
“[Starting off as a member] I wouldn’t open up as much, but you start to see that lots of people are in the same boat as you,” says Tchoi.
Other events the club hosts include an orientation, a year-end event and a group meetup at Anime North, the largest anime convention in Toronto. Events typically feature group viewings of popular anime series like Boku no Hero Academia and discussions about anime like Code Geass—another favourite series among the group—and socializers to help open members up.
The club even has a roster of mascots representing each faculty, led by Rye-Chan, a “bubbly” and “cute” blonde schoolgirl with ram horns. They created the mascots as original characters to represent them, much like Eggy the Ram represents the greater Ryerson community.
However, being a little too obsessed with a culture can rub some people the wrong way. For instance, some online communities, and even other anime groups, have associated anime fans with stereotypes of being socially different and off-putting. The term “weeaboo” has been thrown around in abusive ways.
Wong remembers how he used to be embarrassed to talk about his anime obsession in his first year. “I would definitely say I was worried about being labeled a weeb. A lot of my friends weren’t really into it, so I was just hiding to fit in,” he says.
According to Urban Dictionary, a weeb is “anyone obsessed with Japanese culture to the point where it is annoying.” However, even with the derogatory connotations of the word, the club has chosen to embrace the term.
“If someone [outside of anime circles] called me a weeb, I’d honestly probably just laugh,” says Calvin Huang, the club’s vice-president of finance. “We call each other weebs. We’re not ashamed about it. My family even calls me a weeb.”
“The meaning has kind of shifted as people started to embrace it. For me, it’s just people who love anime,” says Tchoi.
According to the club’s execs, the Anime community continues to grow, and they’re excited to see how the club progresses. “It really makes the effort worth it,” says Tchoi.