Who is THEM? Why Anime Reviews?
April 14, 2004
One of the things that fell by the wayside during our recent site conversion was the FAQ. Looking back on it, I realized there were a few things that had become out-of-date, or weren't fleshed out very well, and I have decided to give our readers a brief history of THEM and the now-vibrant reviews site spun off from THEM, which you see here.
THEM was founded in 1993 by a group of Arizona State University students who were surprised by the lack of a science-fiction / fantasy club on the university campus. However, unlike most SF/F clubs, THEM was not founded to be just a venue for book discussion, but rather, a social organization for fans. Many THEM events have absolutely nothing to do with science-fiction or fantasy, like formal dinners, laser tag games, and hiking ... but with a group of people with similar interests who no longer have to feel isolated, this proved a very successful formula for the last eleven years.
Though founded at Arizona State University's Honors College, THEM does not bar non-students from joining -- despite the inevitable turnaround from graduation and transfers, there are still a few people who remember the club's early days, including at least one co-founder (Dave the Inverted).
About three years in (1996), the then-Crazed Scribbler (club secretary) Raphael See came up with a bright idea -- since anime showings were getting very popular with the club, why not write reviews of the anime being shown? Back then, there were few anime review sites of note -- an example of a "notable anime review site" was serpent.org, which had short synopses of a whopping 300 series. Many of our sister sites, like Anime Cafe and the Anime Critic, had either just started, or were about to begin posting.
In 1999, I was recruited to be the new writer for THEM, and I soon exhausted the library of anime titles available at the video store I was working at during that time. When Raph announced his departure for medical school a couple of years later, I offered to take over. At that point, we'd reached a plateau -- many of the students had either graduated or were too busy to write reviews, myself included. But THEM Anime kept chugging along, and eventually I got the site moved off the asu.edu domain in order to allow reviews of a wider range of titles without the possibility of incurring the wrath of school administrators. During the transition between Raph's reign and my own, we even got the last guest spot on the Anime Web Turnpike of 1999 ... anyone remember when that site was the big man in town?
The next two years were difficult. Despite recruiting several reviewers, such as Jake Churosh and Eric Gaede, we had difficulty accessing the site, as I had dropped out of school due to personal issues. No one at THEM was able to take over, either, so we entered a sort of limbo. While I was under encouragement from Christi, my then-girlfriend (who I married in 2001), to keep it going, THEM Anime had virtually become a one-man show, and I was both burning out and worried about the ethical dilemma of basically "being" THEM Anime. It was a *club* site after all ... shouldn't it be run by club members?
THEM itself was facing much the same dilemma of stagnation and ennui in those years -- but we solved it by aggressive recruiting and diversifying our membership, returning to the formula that had worked so well for us in the past. I realized that the online THEM could and *should* be just as inclusive as the offline THEM.
So instead of limiting the pool of reviewers to people in the offline club, I opened the floor to our readership, which was highly responsive. While some of our current reviewers worry that they are unable to keep the "quirky" qualities that made THEM unique in the early days (ie Raph's sense of humor), I feel that our reviewing staff does an awesome job of upholding the tradition, and in some cases, forming new traditions of their own.
You see, the plan has always been to expand the concept of THEM as a social organization for fans, starting from ASU and moving outward to the greater world. Like Cthulhu, but less slimy and more benign. THEM Anime has taken it a step further -- with writers from Malaysia, Singapore, and Norway, and readership from literally all over the world, we are carrying the traditions of our social organization farther afield than some of its founders even know.
So who is THEM? THEM ... is a group of fans, just like you.
You may even be one of THEM ... and not even know it yet. :)
As for the site itself: I don't see us stopping until there is no longer any anime of interest being made. Considering Japan hasn't been nuked (again), this shouldn't happen for some time, so we'll be right here, letting you know our take on this great pop culture medium.
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