Last Friday I went to another hybrid event: this time the Pirate Party Society (seriously) were teaming up with the Japanese Society for a talk about fanslation, followed by a film called The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Needless to say, I had heard of neither of those things before I walked into the Hist Conversation Room that evening. Despite being distracted by a group of people who insisted on talking loudly while the it was going on (highly unfair, because I find it hard enough to concentrate on anime as it is), and by the prevalent Hist propaganda (did you know that there was no Hist auditor from 1830-32? Neither did I), I think I can safely say I learnt something about this ‘fanslation’ lark (it’s when fans translate manga so that English speakers can read it. But there’s a big piracy issue. That’s where the Pirate Party come in. Linkage). With the talk itself aimed at readers of manga and members of its community, I was, needless to say, slightly out of my depth. But after Arann McMahon, Japanese Soc’s PRO, told me that you don’t have to like manga ‘at all’ to be in the Japanese Society, I felt like I was back in familiar society territory, where people tell me what they do, what events they have, and who’s in their society. I did learn a bit about manga, though. Seriously.
Before I talked to Arann, however, I had business to attend to with the Pirate Party Society (yes, that is their official name). First of all, who are they? “Pirate Party was formed in Sweden a good couple of years back,” their PRO Ian Hunter tells me. “They’re a political party and they’ve got three things on their agenda.” The first, copyright reform, the second, patent reform, “and the final one is privacy and freedom of speech, so here in Trinity we do a lot of stuff with privacy on the internet.” And there I was thinking that all they did was dress up as Captain Jack and have ‘expeditions’, something I recommended they do in their down time. “We have to, we really do,” says Ian, laughing. The chair, Mike Gallagher, says that they’re already halfway there. “In the constitution, I’m the captain,” he says. I suggest using that in their publicity more. After all, who doesn’t want to mess around with wooden legs and neckerchiefs?
Aside from that, though, they are a serious society who don’t like “filler events”. “We try to have meaningful events,” says Mike, that involve speakers. As for the committee, they’re mainly computer science students for whom the issue of piracy, and practically anything else concerning the internet, is close to home. However, they are keen to express that their society “does apply to everyone because everyone does use the internet,” and that their membership has doubled to 120 in the past year. But what’s the main thing on their agenda? Ian explains. “We get in contact with external groups, so this year we hosted the CryptoParty Ireland, which is newly formed. They’re an external group and it was their first meet up so we helped host them… and then also the protest for SOPA [Stop Online Piracy Act] last year, we had a lot of involvement with that.” These computer heads don’t faff about, but I want to know what their main belief is, before letting them go to watch the film. “We believe in the fundamental ideas of equal rights… we think people’s rights are more important than profits,” says Mike. And who can refute that?
The crossover between the societies did lie in manga, so I had to learn a little bit about it. I’m going to be honest, though: to me, manga just looked like Japanese versions of the Beano and Dandy. Arann explains its cross-cultural appeal: “part of it is just wanting to escape from western culture into something that’s completely different,” he says. “It’s like the cartoons people watched when they were kids, except it’s the evolution of that in that it’s more mature.” But if the superheroes and high-school dramas of manga aren’t your thing, it doesn’t matter. The main aim of the society is to “run regular cultural events to try to promote Japanese culture.” There are language classes, sushi tastings, and origami nights. Arann himself teaches the beginner classes. “I think that’s awesome because I feel like I’m imparting some of what makes the society and Japanese important to me, and spreading that to other people.” There are the obligatory film nights “because people can easily identify with that aspect of Japanese culture,” but although they attract lots of anime fans, “we do get lots of people who are just curious and have never eaten sushi before. It’s not all raw fish!” Their film pick this week, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, is an independent film, “it’s also quite a popular one, so small studios can do excellent films as well”. Sort of like how small societies can pull of good events, right? Finally, I ask, why should one join the Japanese Society? “We offer an insight into a culture that is something completely different to anything we have in the west and anything the vast majority of students would have experienced before,” says Arann. And they have free origami classes. You can’t mess with that kind of awesome.
For more information check out www.pirates.ie and www.japanese.csc.tcdlife.ie