Our Genshiken Diaries: The Greek Community Part 3

Our Genshiken Diairies: The Greek Community Part 3
Now it is time for the third part of our project “Our Genshiken Diaries: The Greek Community.” On part three of our series, we invited some good friends to write about their own experience as members of the j-community.
 
First comes Marilena, whose blog you can visit here, who speaks about how j-culture and those who care about it influenced her life. Afterwards, Gina, also known as Yu~Kun, a veteran otaku herself, gives us a more detailed version of our story.
I. Impressions about the anime/j community in Greece, by Marilena
Our Genshiken Diairies: The Greek Community Part 3All began, when I came across some manga in the Fnac store in Toulouse in December 2003. In 2006 I started listening to Japanese pop music. I have watched a few anime, but I never got hooked.
When looking back to what attracted me to Japanese culture, I think it’s the design of the comic books, the sound of the Japanese language in the songs, and of course the melodies that could make me high. There is also something equally important: Japanese culture presents a set of aesthetics very different to what we are used to here in Greece and there is a whole mindset behind them which is very important to me and the other fans. I find the fact that it exists comforting by itself.
About the Japanese/anime community in Greece, I admit my experience is limited. I once participated in a forum and I met a few friends, but besides them my experience is mainly solitary. Sometimes I wish I was still in school and fangirled with my schoolmates, but this isn’t going to happen.

The times I participated in two Greek forums about Japanese culture and music, I understood that the Greek community is mostly focused on manga/anime and rock music. Since I am mostly focused on pop music and idols, I can’t really be a part of the community any more. There are all kinds of people there and you can expect to meet every kind of person. They belong to both sexes, all ages, they are from all over Greece and have many other interests besides Japan and many different viewpoints and attitudes. During the parties I went to, I noticed that their cosplaying revealed people with a lot of creativity. I also noticed that in the parties they tended to recreate what they do at home in relation to Japanese music: watching videos and cheering at their favorite artists. Maybe this reflects how much they want to watch their favorite artists live one day.

Another great desire of people in the j-community is to learn Japanese and travel to Japan. It’s almost in anyone, and I find this normal. What I find highly interesting are the net and every day life talk of people in Japanese culture. They use specific Japanese words a lot, even if they are not exactly ‘weeboos’. For me, it is indicative of how immersed people can be in the Japanese culture.

The few people that I hang out with and are interested in the Japanese community can keep me in touch with the current events. I also love commenting on my favorite j-pop group and fangirling in Facebook and Twitter. It can always brighten my day. I am sure, that since there are relatively few people interested in modern Japanese culture, it is important for most of us to be in touch with people with the same interests.


II. Melodies, memories and my experience in the Greek Otaku community, by Gina

Our Genshiken Diairies: The Greek Community Part 3 a. Kavatza

In summer 2007, I had one of those rare experiences when you get to have a small but real, tangible, illustration of a dream. Me and my friend Keru came to fully realize that our interests and a part of our personal little universe is actually appreciated and liked by a respectable amount of people. It was the first Japanese music party, organized by Jmusic.gr that we attended where we first had this realization, which took place in Bios, a place hosting various cultural and art events.
From the moment we stepped our foot until the moment we left, it was as if we were living inside a box where a small reconstruction of Japan’s popular culture was taking place. We saw our first cosplays, we had a small remote controlled robot serve us sake, and the music played was exclusively by Japanese artists. At the same time, there was a big projector that was screening various Jpop/Jrock videos and anime openings/endings. But the most important detail is that we would catch various familiar keywords from people sitting next to us talking about “the latest Naruto chapter”, or if we walked around the place we would see other people discussing about which is “Miyavi’s best PV” or anything of the sort. 
That moment would officially be for both of us our “official” start of our involvement in the Greek community of Japanese popular culture. But even though it was our first “shock”, because it was the first  organized event that we got to see all these people being as enchanted as we were by this cultural wave, it definitely wasn’t the first time that we realized that we weren’t the only ones from Greece  that were drawn into this universe.“Wouldn’t it be funny if someone actually knew him here?” I would say to Keru while were listening to Gackt during one of our breaks between classes in high school. She too would look at me in a funny way and thus we were once again considered a freak duo, this time by listening to weird “cross-dressing Chinese people” or watching “Pokemon-like cartoon”. However, almost by extreme coincidence and through a random acquaintance we got to know the person that not only shared the same interests with us, but also got us into the whole culture for good and is still one of our dearest friends.That friend, who goes by the nickname “Katan”, got us more into the whole culture and community especially the Anime and Manga part of it. Also, through Katan we got to know other people that are still in the range of our closest and dearest friends. And with Katan and those friends we actually attended the first party of Jmusic.gr in summer 2007. From that event and onwards, we got to widen our acquaintances in the community even more, especially through the forum of Jmusic.gr, the first Greek forum of Japanese Music and popular culture that we both signed in.

The second and bigger shock came not only to me and Keru, but to most people that were a little or a lot involved with the community up until that moment. At the second party that Jmusic.gr threw, that took place again in Bios in fall 2007, if you weren’t there really early to grab a seat or even a small space on the floor, then you would had to stand up all night together with an amount of J-Rock, J-Pop and Anime fans that was unheard of back then. They would dance, jump up and down by excitement, scream and hug each other when a favourite song came up (and I am guilty of all those actions as well).

“I can’t believe I’m actually listening to this without my earphones and this place is not my house!” I thought, and according to the reactions of my friends and to the rest of the people that attended, they probably shared the same feelings.
b. Sugizo and the community’s growth
From the 2nd party in Bios until April 2008, things began to grow even more in the community. We got to meet even more people and attend other activities of the community that other friends of us who weren’t involved with this specific culture would think that we are either wasting our time or we’re just stuck forever in another universe. The latter wasn’t really untrue, but it sure was maybe the most fulfilling reality of my life back then. We got to attend Anime projections in Downtown that were specialized in hosting various cultural events. The peculiar image of that time would be a bunch of Anime fans either standing or sitting on the floor, because no chairs were available, in a room that was definitely not big enough for all those people to relax and have their own personal space.

But hardly anyone stopped coming. Every week all these “people who don’t come to actually listen to poetry deliveries on the 1st floor” would go to that small room to enjoy sharing a favourite Anime together with others who had the same desire. Together with the anime projections, there were also various meet ups of certain forums that we were part of like Anime,gr and Jmusic.gr and those were the times that it sure wasn’t easy to find a place that had a table for 30 people and serve them coffee. The activities began to slowly but steadily grow even more. I volunteered to write in JaME.gr, since my first and as it seems eternal passion in contemporary Japanese culture is the music, and I was beginning to become even more informed about new artists and gaining more information about the artists that I already knew. Another highlight of that “in-between” era, before the real breakthrough of the community occurred, were the concerts of two Japanese bands that took place in Athens, and that was for sure a meaningful experience for all of us since it felt like a part of the place that we are all drawn to visited our home. And as a very good omen, that meaningful experience exceeded any expectations we had in April 2008, when Sugizo with Juno Reactor visited Athens.

“….I think you should know that Sugizo will be in an hour at Kavatza, you better hurry up” said Keru on the phone to me, the next day after Juno Reactor’s concert with Sugizo( Luna Sea’s and X Japan’s current lead guitarist). After a mind blowing concert, the information that I was listening sounded surreal to me. I hang up the phone almost run throughout my whole way to Kavatza, the place were a Japanese Music and Cosplay party was being held by “Ordre De Ciel”, a team that was still foreign to me at that time, except a collaboration that had been done with Jmusic.gr. From the moment Sugizo arrived until he left the place it was like living in a parallel Universe. A legendary Japanese rocker was actually flesh and blood at a bar in Athens, drinking and talking and laughing with us, people from the ridiculously small community of Japanese popular culture comparing to the ones in France, or Germany and many other countries.
c. An era of fun

 

But the important thing that came out from Sugizo’s presence that day in Kavatza wasn’t the sole fact that he was there. That day marks the beginning of, in my opinion, the best era of this community in Greece. We got to know Ordre De Ciel, and start attending their weekly events that consisted of Japanese music of almost any kind. At that time, a weekly event of this kind was something so unheard of that I was almost sure that it had zero chances of success, given the fact that the community was too small and wasn’t used to attending these kind events in such a frequent manner and even if it was possible they would all get tired of it within a month. However, the reality was that it was one of the few times in my life that I was happy I was so wrong.


From the moment Sugizo left in April until May 2008 the number of people who attended the events of Ordre de Ciel had already grown rapidly.  From May to July, Ordre de Ciel’s events was almost every person’s from the community weekly party time. But what makes those events so important, in my opinion, is not only the fact that everyone considered each other family. Through all this excitement and happiness that filled that place every week, there was hardly any distinction between people who were more interested in Anime and people who were interested more in J-rock, or people interested more in J-pop and those interested more in Cosplay or any other sort of distinguished subcategories in the community.That was because everyone was motivated to learn something new through something that was already familiar. An anime opening song would be heard by a J-Rock fan and he/she would research the anime and watch it, or an Anime fan would listen and get to learn J-Rock bands through an Anime OST.  Video gamers would get to learn even more games that interest them through cosplay or through the projections of various videos that were screened through Kavatza’s small TVs that were placed in various spots in the bar. The line between all those subcategories was almost completely invisible at that time and nobody seemed to complain about it.

Kavatza was located in one of the areas in Athens with a really bad reputation and criminal activity. Even today I’m still surprised that we managed to go there every week, without facing any sort of problem, (except the times that the neighbours would yell at us at 3am or throw us eggs because we were always too loud) and the fact that we didn’t seem to care about any warning of danger. It was almost as if the road from the subway until Kavatza was just the line that will get us to a different dimension. One time, I managed to go to an event right after an eight hour trip and walked that road in high heels and dragging a big suitcase behind me. Maybe we never faced any problems because perhaps we were the scary ones to the eyes of the rest of the people. But no matter what we looked like to outsiders, no matter how alien all this culture appeared to them, and no matter how many times they were confused whether it’s the Carnival time of the year or not every time they witnessed a bunch of cosplayers in public, anyone that managed to get a glimpse of those events in Kavatza would say that we sure knew how to have fun better than anyone.

On August 2008 the Ordre De Ciel events were transferred from Kavatza to Underworld club. Many were sad and disappointed because there was a big emotional attachment to the place by all the regulars but at the same time many conveniences came up like better sound quality, the place was more approachable in terms of both distance and safety, and more. But no matter what the advantages and disadvantages were, the people maintained their warmth and excitement for these events for approximately the first two and a half months.On November 2008 Ordre De Ciel changed their name to Le Ciel because of the departure of some team members and on December 2008 there was the final event in Underworld which was highlighted by Ryo Fujimura’s acoustic live. In the middle of winter 2009, Le Ciel put their activities on hiatus, and that’s when we started experiencing the biggest changes in the community that had either been happening a few months ago without us noticing or actually started to show their face from that moment and onwards. Many said that it was due to personal issues between people, othesr said that it was because everybody grew tired of the weekly happenings. Many theories were rumoured, but not matter what caused all this, the result was the exact opposite of what first made that era unique and that is the unity of the fandoms.d. Decline and future prospectsFrom winter 2009 we started facing the problems and the different attitudes of every fandom. The Anime fans wouldn’t stand too much J-Rock/Visual kei, J-Pop fans grew tired of listening to “too many guitars” and all the rest of the categories would have a reason to separate themselves from the others. Me and Keru, even though we have our own personal preferences, were always into most of these categories, so watching this semi-silent war, that was happening mainly behind the scenes, greatly disappointed us and mainly alienated us.However, we frequently attended Akai Panda’s events, a team which was created in early 2009. Even though it supported all kinds of music genres of the community ( even Kpop which had been around for some time but it was slowly becoming more popular) the best part in Akai Panda’s events in my opinion will always be the spectacular participation and organized nature of Cosplay contests. While walking towards Eksarxeia square to go to DaSein, which was the place that hosted most of Akai Panda’s events back then, we would spot a parade of cosplayers from miles away taking pictures of each other. Together with Akai Panda’s events, we were also attending Sakura Syndrome’s events, a team whose base was in Salonika, but they would visit Athens once a month to throw a party.

After half a year, Le Ciel began their activities again in Skullbar, and even though there wasn’t any change to the quality or the nature of their events, they were characterized as the team that supported more the J-Rock scene. But even though Le Ciel’s parties were back again and even though we greatly enjoyed Akai Panda’s and Sakura Syndrome’s parties, from the beginning of 2010 until today we started to be more and more absent from all  the events. I can’t be sure if this is the actual reality of the problem or not, but two things happened from our perspective. The first was that the different fandoms grew even more apart from each other, to the point of mainly criticizing each other and forgetting the purpose of actually having fun. The second thing that happened was the departure of people we knew and the arrival of completely new people.

Of course, one could say that we consider ourselves elitists if we have this view on new people, but this really isn’t the case here. I was always happy to see new people getting in the community and for some time it was my actual purpose to get more people into it. But the problems with the new people were two; 1) Their age  mainly varied from 14 to 17 and it was really hard to approach them 2) These  new people were either hardly ever passionate or they showed it in a way which is foreign to us. None of them would get excited, none of them would dance, and none of them would headbang, none of them would talk or smile to anyone or anything else. They would all just sit there, existing in the place were the events took place. This isn’t generally a problem because nobody can force someone to express himself/herself, but it was definitely something that was alien to us in relation to this community and these events.

In 2011 until today our participation in the community has been unfortunately very selective. That is not because we have lost interest in this culture, because that is highly unlikely to ever happen, but because when we attend a happening we feel as if we’re alone inside a bubble. It’s not a matter of socializing; it’s a matter of being passionate about something. Passion, excitement and the desire to share these feelings with someone that has them mutual is what should really characterize this culture and its community in Greece. And even though things are not the same as they were before, the mere fact that they had reached the top in the past, it means that they can also exceed it in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Our Genshiken Diaries: The Greek Community Part 3

  1. It seems like the Greek anime community is…not dying, but going through a metamorphosis of kinds. I wonder what the ultimate outcome will be…

    Anyway, great post! I love the way you got other people involved too. This project has really got me thinking about my involvement in the community, so thanks for that as well.

    Like

  2. Well unfortunately I had the chance to witness only parts c and d from Yu-kun's journal for myself but I can say she's pretty accurate in everything. For a year or two these events were so filled with like and passion that you couldn't help but be swept away by those feelings as well. But for the past 2 years we've entered a mostly…. idle state in a declined situation. Personally, although I was once one of the most passionate participants. never missing an event, a meeting or a party if it wasn't for a close friend of mine that is the leader(and sole member nowadays) of a certain group organising those, I would have stopped attending overall… 😦

    But yeah, awesome job guys ^.^

    Like

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