There have been a few questions that have popped up here and again in our mail, so we here at T.H.E.M. decided to add a brief FAQ (as it were) to answer some of them. However, it hasn't turned out so brief after all. ^_^
Question #1: What is T.H.E.M.? For those of you who haven't gone to visit the club's main homepage, T.H.E.M. is a science-fiction/fantasy society based at Arizona State University's Honors College. No, we're not all Honors students. In fact, several of us reviewers never even attended ASU! T.H.E.M. is a fully sponsored club and meets Thursday afternoons on the second floor of the Memorial Union and often holds anime showings on Friday nights.
Question #2: What does T.H.E.M. stand for? You are not cleared for that information. We could tell you, but we might not live to see the light of day. Next question.
Question #3: What's your view on sex and nudity in anime? Casual nudity is a complete non-factor in Japanese culture, and therefore is a complete non-factor in our reviews of anime. Ranma 1/2 is a perfect example of casual nudity as comedy - sure it's embarrassing, but it's not terribly important. Gratuitous sex is another story entirely. If it gets in the way of the plot or storyline, it distracts and detracts from the quality of a film. We're not saying sex should not be portrayed at all - it is a necessary fact of life, and hardly should be taboo, but it shouldn't be excessively glorified, either. We don't rate hentai for a reason - the same reason movie critics don't rate pornographic movies. They are a fringe on the medium of anime, one meant purely for obviously sexual purposes, and do not represent the medium as a whole. That so many people have only experienced anime only through titles like Urotsukidoji gives a black eye to fandom in general. Yes, we acknowledge hentai exists, but we leave that for other sites to discuss.
Question #4: Why do you rate violent anime so badly? That is a very common question we are asked here, and we actually don't rate violence as inherently a bad thing. Ninja Scroll rated ***** (five stars), and it's a pretty darn violent flick. However, excessive violence without reason is just not what we consider to be fine entertainment for all. When the only purpose of a film or OAV is to load the screen with as much blood and body parts as possible, it's dehumanizing and degrading. And again, it's stuff like this that gives anime a bad name. However, violence is inherent in human culture, and it may encompass anything from actual bloodshed to Akane hitting Ranma over the head with a mallet. (Hardly offensive fare.) But there's a difference between fantasy slapstick and gory carnage. There's enough violence in the world as it is, why should we seek more as entertainment?
Question #5: Are you anime fans or what? You have so many one-star ratings that you must be against anime as a genre. We wouldn't be rating anime if we didn't take the time to watch them. And we wouldn't take the time to watch anime if we didn't love the medium. We don't consider anime to be a "hip", "edgy" genre: it's a medium that has been an important form of entertainment in Japan for decades that is just now seeing the light of day in the United States. It is truly no different to Japan than Disney, Warner Brothers, and Hanna Barbera are to us. Asking a Japanese person if they like anime is like asking an American if they like watching television. It's a moot point. Just as Disney, Warner Brothers, and Hanna Barbera aren't perfect (remember Captain Planet, folks?), anime has its missteps too. Not separating the bad from the good is a true disservice to the anime viewer, and the medium itself. It's up to the audience to be discriminating enough to demand quality out of the releases in America and not accept any old thing released as "anime" whether it is a good representation of anime or not. We *love* anime...but not all of it. (Would you say we hated food as a whole if we don't like pizza? Really silly when you think about it, huh?)
Question #6: You like Miyazaki, but you don't like Dragon Ball Z? Do you hate popular anime just because it's popular? Popularity has *nothing* to do with our reviews, because it has nothing to do with the quality of an anime. The first two seasons of Sailormoon, as well as Pokemon both rated four stars, and they're popular series. They also happen to be fun, enjoyable viewing. However, we won't say Dragon Ball Z is great because people want us to. To be honest, we found it repetitive and dull. (We've heard the nickname Drag-On Ball Z *numerous* times, and not only from THEM members, either.) We still didn't rate it as a one-star, though, because we enjoyed some of the episodes and characters, but overall, it really wasn't that great. As for our perceived bias to Miyazaki - well, most of his works are beautifully animated and beautifully told. Most Miyazaki detractors we've talked to have *never seen a Miyazaki movie*. That really isn't a fair judgment, in our opinion. Mind you, Studio Ghibli is not perfect (read our Ponpoko review). We try our best to rate everything according to our honest opinion of them, regardless of how much money or hype a title has. Money and hype are worth very little if an anime is genuinely bad. (Not naming any names...just read our reviews.)
Question #7: Who's this Kevin guy? That would probably be Kevin Chasse. He hasn't written any reviews on this site, but he *is* one of the founding members of THEM, and as such, still has at least some formative influence on the club.
Question #8: Is T.H.E.M. an anime club? If not, where can I find one in the Tempe/Arizona State area? Well, we're not strictly an anime club per se. Again, we meet to discuss science fiction and fantasy, whether novels, movies, or commonly conventions. (Most of THEM can be found at LepreCon and CopperCon in the Phoenix area, as well as the San Diego Comic-Con.) Many of us, however, are anime fans, some more casual than others. As far as a pure anime-only club is concerned, one does meet around five o'clock on Friday nights in the auditorium in the Computing Commons, and it may very well be worth a shot. (I'd stop by myself, but I work Friday nights.) Another good place to look would be the Japanese Student Association, which includes anyone interested in Japanese culture.
Question #9: How do I join T.H.E.M? Well, if you happen upon our meetings on the second floor of the ASU Memorial Union at 5:30 on Thursday evenings, drop on in! It's that simple.
Question #10: How old ARE you guys? Between twenty and thirty years old. That's as much as we'll tell.
Any other questions? Just write us at email@example.com. We'd be glad to answer them for you! Until then...
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T.H.E.M., Student Development, Box 72, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281-3001