Friday, March 22, 2019

The End of Anime Nite Orlando. What's Next?


This month marked six years of showing anime at Bikkuri Lounge, and Propeller Anime has showed fans great anime of different genres and eras for over 12 years.

Last night, we showed Akira, an essential anime classic that takes place in 2019, and Redline, a film that many consider to be the turning point from anime would exit the dark ages. This massive double-feature was not just a way to celebrate six years with Bikkuri Lounge, but a way to end Anime Nite Orlando.

After our 10 year anniversary, I had thought how much longer we were going to keep going. Orlando is a transient town, and while the membership of our club changes every several years, I have always remained. From our first meeting on October 22nd, 2006, to March 21st, 2019, regardless of my health, financial situation, career situation, or anything else, I was at every anime showing we had.

Most people don't do that. That is not a normal thing for someone to do. Nobody in their right mind runs an anime club for over 12 years. But I did, because I love anime and because I enjoy the camaraderie of fellow anime fans who are passionate of this fun and exciting art form.

Over our 12 years, Propeller Anime, held around 250 showings, spread across Full Sail University, Tatame Lounge, The Geek Easy, Bikkuri Lounge, and even that one time at the downtown Cobb Cinema. Imagine being at all those. I was.

For the last several years, turnouts at Anime Nite Orlando have been steady and meetings have been fun. Our relationship at Bikkuri Lounge has been great during that whole time, so what happened?

I had a conversation with Diana Galvin in 2017. I have known Diana for over 8 years. I first met her when she was the president of Anime Spot at the University of Central Florida. Her dedication to the anime community here with her work at Anime Festival Orlando, Holiday Matsuri, and elsewhere is outstanding. She has been a great friend and someone I could always confide in on matters both personal and relative to the anime community here in Orlando. It was before our 11th anniversary. I told her I felt I was ready to start moving on, and discussed how I should end it.

I had decided that December 2018 would be the final Anime Nite Orlando. As we got close, I realized that the holidays would make it challenging to get everyone there. So I decided that ending the event in March, after 6 years at Bikkuri Lounge, would be just as good if not better. (Plus, I could fit in a couple more bucket-list items like Giant Robo and Patlabor.)

For those who don't know, I used to work for Anime Festival Orlando. I believe I was officially made staff after the 2009 edition. (The years blur after a while.) I was really excited for the opportunity and busted my ass for that convention for many years. Along the way, I started traveling. I went to  big conventions like Anime Weekend Atlanta, Otakon, and MAGFest. Seeing each of those events for the first time were life changing experiences. Those events are light years ahead of anything we have in Florida, and they showed me that we could do more, do better.

I started to learn how certain things were done at these conventions, what they did different from us, what they did better, and what fans got really excited for. I spent several years do whatever I could to influence change toward that direction. Beyond overhauling the approach to panel programming, it was for naught. AFO was not my convention; it was someone else's and it seemed like they were content with how the convention has been. After a few more years of working for AFO, I decided to move on. It shocked a lot of people, because everyone just assumed I would always be a part of AFO.

During time, I accepted an offer to work for CEO Gaming and my other event, Ongaku Overdrive, had finally started to take off with big, video game-themed events. While my workload for CEO is not as intense as it was for AFO, I expect it to ramp up. As for Ongaku Overdrive, I have nearly gone all in on it, short of quitting my job to have more time for it. Not only that, there were other endeavors and goals I had and they thing that has kept me from pursuing those has been time.

Over the last couple years, if I could find ways to make it easier for me to run Anime Nite Orlando and Propeller Anime so it took up less of my time, I would. I don't think that is fair to those who were supporters of ours. But my passion for running an anime club has waned over the last couple years. It's not just figuring out what anime to show each month, but interacting with so many people.

While I am lucky and grateful to meet so many wonderful people over these 12 years, there were some who were life lessons. That can be draining and I think that is part of the reason many people who start running events don't stick around for long. (Well, that and the whole "it's work" part.) While hanging out and watching anime with a venue full of people and eating sushi is a lot of fun, everything that goes into that became very routine. Like with AFO, I think people just assumed I would always run Anime Nite Orlando.

I didn't want to overstay our welcome. Past anime clubs here in Florida have, much to the detriment of the community. I didn't want Propeller Anime to be like that. I don't want to be one of those guys in his 40s hanging out at anime conventions trying to cling to relevance at the expense of everything else. That's a sad existence. While I dedicate a lot of myself to putting on all kinds of events, I do have a life outside of it as well.

My only regret is  that I could not find a successor. I didn't want to pass on Propeller Anime, Anime Nite Orlando, and all the responsibilities and expectations of those things if nobody could handle it long-term. I know a few of you are thinking "Why not Diana?" Diana is very competent, but her plate is full and I think it's unfair that every time something related to anime around here needs to be rescued, it's either me or Diana that is depended on to do it. It's time for some new people to step up and start something new and exciting.

What I hope with this announcement is that someone, preferably much younger and energetic than me, will step up and start their own anime club somewhere in Orlando. New blood is a good thing and Orlando desperately needs some. It's a lot more work than it looks, but it's very rewarding. Propeller Anime helped me grow as a person, opened up a lot of opportunities for me, started hundred of friendships, and even resulted in having a wonderful girlfriend. (Follow Stellarnan!)

I will still be around of course. If you have not been to an Ongaku Overdrive event, you definitely should do that this year. They are a lot of fun and I have been working to make those events be more than music.  Plus, CEO Daytona and CEOtaku are going to be amazing. I'll be at Anime Festival Orlando, Free Play Florida, MomoCon, and Anime Weekend Atlanta. Maybe Otakon and Holiday Matsuri too. I'll still be at local spots like The Geek Easy and Player 1. (Maybe I'll try going to some other places too!) So this is not goodbye, but the end of a chapter of my life that you all let me have.

Since I made that very difficult announcement last night I got some questions, and I will answer them here:

Can we still do meetups like bowling? I'll think about it. Just because I ended Anime Nite Orlando, doesn't mean I am done hanging out with friends. Humans like me still crave social interaction and fun times. I do have a lot on my plate right now, but maybe in a month or so I can put together an organised hangout.

Will you still use the Propeller Anime social media? We spent so many years building it up. I notice when I post neat anime news and fun memes, you guys react to that a lot, so I will still use our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for that on occasion.

Are you done doing panels at conventions? What about MANIME? While I promoted It's MANIME! The Manly Anime Panel! through Propeller Anime and vice-versa, it has developed it's own identity and the world needs MANIME, now more than ever. (I feel like I say this every year. The world really needs to get its act together.) I plan to submit a couple panels to Anime Festival Orlando, Otakon, and Anime Weekend Atlanta. If those get approved, you will find out about it here and elsewhere. I will probably change my approach to panels as well the content I present next year.

What about the Halloween/anniversary party? - That party has caused me a lot of stress over the years. Plus, I pay all expenses out of pocket. We sell raffle tickets for prizes to recoup some costs, but that party bleeds money from my bank account. That was okay for a while, because I wanted to show thanks for the support you guys give all year-round, but we are no longer year-round. On top of that, I have a really big event in November that I want to focus on. Last year's party was really fun, but I highly doubt I will do it again.

Are you selling your projector and screen? No. Actually, those will be making an appearance at CEO Daytona and any local convention that wants to rent from me. I also can compliment your game room with good game setups and monitors. I offer low rates.

Are nerdcore and video game music really that good? It is at Onagku Overdrive. Come through!

What about charity events? We've had drives the last few years at Anime Nite Orlando. They were super awesome and helped out so many people in need. I miss doing an actual event, and would be open to working with some good people on something. I have ideas. Hit me up if you are down.

Will you still watch anime? Hell yeah! They just greenlit another season of Baki. My body is ready.. I will die an anime fan. It has been decided.

Wow, you made it all the way here. I am as shocked as you. But seriously, thank you all for coming out, whether it was every month or once in a while. It means a lot to me. Also shoutouts to FUNimation, Discotek Media, Sentai Filmworks, and Aniplex USA for letting us show their titles, and to our friends at Anime Orlando Inc and Anime Spot for their support. Anime is pretty cool and brings a lot of people from all walks of life together. Let's hope that keeps going in the future. I wish the next generation, should they step up, the best of luck.

Much Love,

Kent Ward
Founder of Propeller Anime

TL;DR I am ending Anime Nite Orlando because I have done this for so long and it's time to move on. Thank you.

3 comments:

  1. Much love to you and cherished memories for ANO. Thank you for your work, Kent. You know many of us truly appreciate all you have done.

    Here's to your next chapters. I'll be rooting for you whether I'm in town or far away.

    "Of this life I have no regrets!"
    Carry on, brother.

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