Japanese Animation Watchers’ Society (JAWS) History – draft

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Japanese Animation Watchers’ Society (JAWS) History – draft

Post by anifan »

Dear JAWS members:

Here is the first edition of a written history of JAWS. It could be made more concise and selective for a pamphlet, etc. Kim now has on her computer the old JAWS website of former President Karl Reichert which has his DVD library on it; some of these shows were played for JAWS then.

Japanese Animation Watchers’ Society (JAWS) History – initial draft – July 2012 (with ongoing updates)
By Greg Lang, based primarily on Kim Brown’s information


JAWS is probably the second oldest continuously running anime (Japanese animation) club in North America, after the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization (http://c_fo.tripod.com/) was founded in Los Angeles in May 1977. It is likely the oldest organization exclusively dedicated to playing anime. JAWS has been the only non-post-secondary-student anime club in Calgary. Its original name was the Japanimation Avid Watchers’ Society, but this name was changed in the early 1990s, because the term “Japanimation” was falling out of favour and “anime” was replacing it. The names and their acronym, were a play on the titles, around the end of the series, of the popular “Jaws” movies of the 1970s-80s about predatory sharks. JAWS’ history reflects the contemporary experiences of other anime clubs.


JAWS was started about 1983 by Leonard Halmrast, then an employee at the Sentry Box gaming store. He lived upstairs in the second location of the Sentry Box in what’s now known as the Marda Loop area, on 33rd Avenue SW. (the Sentry Box was in two other locations previously, and may have been under different ownership); and showed anime in a small room beside his apartment, which had a TV with a top-loading VCR, and a couple of couches and chairs, which led to “standing room only” situations, with up to two dozen people. From the beginning – to the present – the meetings were always on the last Wednesday of the month. The first anime shown was a hodgepodge of: untranslated VHS tapes from Japan or copies of those; some fansubs; and the occasional North American release at first, until around the beginning of the 1990s. At the same time that the Sentry Box moved to its current location on 10th Avenue SW. downtown in 1994 and Leonard became a co-owner of the business, he resigned as JAWS president, and the club was taken over by Chris Guy. During the time the Sentry Box moved then, the club met in the basement of a member’s house for two months.


Chris Guy was assisted by Karl Reichert, who became President by the late 1990s. Sometime by the mid-1990s, commercially released DVDs started to be played by Chris and Karl, and an organized schedule was instituted, after the club’s VCR and then the TV were stolen from the After Hours Gaming/Meeting room at the back of the Sentry Box by six months after the club’s move; this was replaced with a home theatre system with a DVD player and projector with screen. Using an Amiga computer, online subtitles were occasionally streamed from the internet to Japanese DVDs. Started at this time were the club traditions of “Wasabii” (named after the Japanese horseradish) – the refreshment coordinator; and “lightboy” – the person manning the light switches. The club mascot Phin-Phin was also created at this time by Karl, a talented self-taught artist. The JAWS Xmas parties with special showings were instituted in 1999, because of the supposed Y2K threat. Later on in President Karl Reichert's time, Halloween showings were started, with cosplay then and at other times in the early 2000s. After consideration and talk starting about 2000, in 2002 JAWS’ first website – http://members.shaw.ca/nekosei/ – was started by Karl with the aid of a friend of his serving as webmistress; but although Karl’s library – which the JAWS playlist then was derived from – was displayed on it, there was no schedule posted until January 2005. JAWS began showing anime at the original Calgary Comic & Toy Expo in the early 2000s.


After Karl Reichert resigned in July 2005 to pursue work interests outside his father’s family business, a former member, Greg Wong, was recruited by Sentry Box gaming master Ray Harrison, starting in August as JAWS' first Eurasian President. Another website – www.jawscalgary.com/ – was initiated on December 31, 2006, with a friend of Greg Wong’s serving as webmaster; this then had a formally-posted schedule. Greg Wong and Greg Lang improvised a projection screen setup with old parts and wood. The longest-time member – since 1986, and missing only two meetings due to pneumonia – Kim Brown, with Greg Lang, took over restarting of refreshments. Greg Wong resigned for reasons of increased work hours, marriage and family, and Ray assumed leadership of JAWS in Summer 2009 – he had already begun running the anime showings. Terry Mah donated a projector screen and a video projector; Ray loaned a sound system. After Ray Harrison became President, special summer showings were tried. The oldest guest JAWS has had, is a man in 80s, visiting from out of town, who had picked up a JAWS flyer at Con-Version, Calgary’s science fiction convention (became defunct after 2010).


Member Ben Pepin won the 2012 Otafest Anime Trivia contest in May. On August 18, 2012, JAWS had its first booth and membership drive at the second annual Calgary OMatsuri Japanese Festival. JAWS lost its space in the After Hours Gaming/Meeting room in June 2012, after the Sentry Box stated that it could not justify giving free access to the space, when it was losing money selling anime and was thus discontinuing selling it (its distributor was not giving them a good deal). After then, JAWS began meeting in temporary locations; and voted at its July 2012 meeting to formally incorporate, in order to access a meeting space and to build a fund for equipment, etc. Greg Lang did the research that month on incorporation and relocation. JAWS’ first elections were held at the end of August 2012, and bylaws and policies were ratified then. The signing of incorporation papers was at the end of September 2012, then final revised ones at the end of December 2012. JAWS became an official non-profit society as of January 4, 2013.

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