Anime audience, assemble

As the end credits rolled, the excitement of watching the film was palpable among viewers.
Anime audience, assemble

CHENNAI: The gym thrummed with raw energy. Roars of the crowd echoed off the rafters, punctuated by the screech of sneakers pivoting on polished wood. Beads of sweat, glistening under the harsh lights, sprayed with every jump. A guttural roar erupted as a player ripped a ferocious spike, met head-on by a desperate, one-handed save that sent the ball rocketing across the net. Anticipation hung heavy as a perfectly judged pass arced through the air, landing softly as a feather in the setter’s outstretched palms. In a collective gasp, the audience leaned forward, a single word escaping their lips in unison – “Chance ball!”

This wasn’t a scene from a real volleyball match, rather from the recently released anime film Haikyuu!!: The Dumpster Battle, playing to a packed audience in city’s theatres. This scene perfectly captures the rise of anime culture here. Just a few years ago, things were quite different. Arjun, one of the admins of the Chennai Anime Club, recalls starting the club in 2018 with a handful of friends. What started with just five-ten people now boasts over 1,000 members, a testament to the growing popularity of anime. Arjun shares, “We have members who’ve gone on to learn Japanese, even taking JLPT exams (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) to levels 1 and 2.”

Cosdemon, another club member with a name that reflects his love for cosplay, adds, “Anime is finally getting the recognition it deserves. It’s no longer something people shy away from talking about. Anyone can watch anime and interpret it according to how they relate to it.” With a hint of nostalgia, he says, “Of course, some of us miss the niche days, when it felt like a special comfort space for a smaller group.”

The club recently hosted screenings of two films — The Blue Giant and Haikyuu!!. Tickets sold out in a flash. Cosdemon, a musician, describes  The Blue Giant as “a love letter to jazz.” “The story of a young man chasing his dreams resonated deeply,” he says, praising the film’s emotional score. Haikyuu!! on the other hand, was an entirely different experience. “It was pure adrenaline,” exclaims Cosdemon. “There were three types of people in the audience — hardcore fans who loved the movie’s references, casual viewers who got hooked and want to watch the series now, and complete newcomers who were blown away by the entire world of anime.”

Fans worldwide shared this sentiment, although some were disappointed by the film format. The series had previously aired four seasons, but the makers chose to make two films instead of a fifth season. This did not dampen the spirits of Chennai’s anime fans, many of whom went out dressed as characters from the film and wearing the black and orange jerseys of the Karasuno High volleyball team.

As the end credits rolled, the excitement of watching the film was palpable among viewers. “The fast pace was amazing, especially the scene where Hinata finally breaks free,” said one. Another chimed in, “I laughed, I cheered, I cried — a rollercoaster of emotions! Definitely recommend it.” One teenage fan said, “It’s crazy how a bunch of fictional high schoolers have taught me life lessons.”

The rise of anime in Chennai is a story of passion, community, and the power of storytelling. As the city spikes with anime fever, one thing is certain — the future looks bright for this vibrant cultural phenomenon.

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The New Indian Express
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