Teens enjoy new anime club at Suntree/Viera Public Library


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Several teens watch an animation cartoon during an anime club meeting at the Suntree/Viera Public Library.

VIERA VOICE Courtesy of Katie Ballagh

A new and exciting club for children and young adults is being offered monthly at the Suntree/Viera Public Library — an anime club.

Anime is a style of hand-drawn and computer animation originating in, and commonly associated with, Japan. The word anime is the Japanese term for animation, which means all forms of animated media. It is often characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters and fantastical themes.

Katie Ballagh, a library assistant who started the teen department at the Suntree/Viera Public Library, noticed several months ago that a lot of kids were interested in animation material.

“We started the anime club in April,” she said. “I noticed there was a steady amount of teens participating in anime.”

Ballagh said one of the online services the club uses is crunchyroll. Crunchyroll is an American distributor, publisher, licensing company and international online community focused on video streaming East Asian media including anime, manga, drama, music, electronic entertainment and content.

One of the most popular anime programs is Gundam, Ballagh said. Gundam, also known as the Gundam Series, is a science fiction media franchise that features giant robots called mobile suits bearing the name Gundam.

The Gundam Series began April 7, 1979 as ”Mobile Suit Gundam,’’ a TV series that defined the real robot "mecha" anime genre by featuring giant robots in a militaristic setting. The popularity of the series and its merchandise spawned a franchise that includes a television series, films, manga, novels and video games.

Gunpla (plastic Gundam models) make up 90 percent of the Japanese character plastic-model market.

“At the library, students play with them (Gundam models) on a virtual reality space,” Ballagh said. “The models look very realistic. The kids really like that.”

Besides watching the Gundam Series, Ballagh said the kids like to read manga material. The term manga in Japan is a word used to refer to both comics and cartooning. It conforms to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th century. They have a long and complex pre-history in earlier Japanese art.

Four students who regularly attend the club are the children of Clare and Nicholas Saint Gabriel of Melbourne.

The children are Adelie, 12; River, 11; Duncan, 10, and Austin, 8.

“I love the club,” said Adelie, a student at McNair Middle School in Rockledge. “I get the chance to meet new people and to watch the latest anime programs.”

Adelie said one of her favorite anime series is “Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the

Sea.” The fantasy series centers on five middle school friends: Manaka Mukaido, Hikari Sakishima, Chisaki Hiradaira, Kaname Isaki, who have looked after Manaka since they were children; and Tsumugu Kihara, their new friend from the surface.

Ballagh said she screens and hand-picks what programs the kids can watch and read and hopes to develop future programs to include manga discussions and drawing workshops.

“For now, we all just come to hang out and watch some of our favorite anime and check out what’s new on Crunchyroll,” she said.

The club meets from 2 to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of every month in the library's conference room.