Almira Yausheva interviews Senpai board member Aurora Lipiäinen

Podcast: Colours of UniTurku | Apple Green: Senpai

Colours of UniTurku introduces Senpai, the anime community of the University of Turku. #utuambassador Almira Yausheva and board member of Senpai Aurora Lipiäinen talk about what is anime, what  they do as a club and how it all started. Aurora also shares how events can solve your problems, or at least bring some fun to your day! 

Colours of UniTurku is a podcast by international student ambassadors of the University of Turku, introducing the unique student life and colourful student organisations in Turku, Finland.

You can also listen the episode on Spotify.


Text alternative for the podcast episode:

Host: Hi everyone, and welcome to Colours of UniTurku, a podcast about student organisations at the University of Turku. For those not familiar, student organisations are kind of like a hobby group where students gather around things they like or things they study. I am Almira, also a student, and today's theme is apple green. I'll be talking to Aurora from Senpai. Thank you for joining us, Aurora. Could you introduce yourself and your organisation?

Guest: Hello everyone! Like said, my name is Aurora, and I come from Senpai. Senpai is the anime club from Turku University.

Host: I think in the modern days everyone should know what anime is, but maybe if not, can you explain?

Guest: So, anime refers to Japanese animated series. It’s often accompanied with manga, which is Japanese comic books.

Host: So the only difference between anime and other animated series would be Japanese origins?

Guest: Well, that’s quite of a debate in the anime community. Like… what counts as anime, like, if we get, like, really deep into it, then it’s like what exactly is anime, but… Usually when you see it, you recognise that Japanese stuff.

Host: Okay. And how long do you have your organisation? When was it found?

Guest: It was founded at the end of 1999, so it’s quite old already. It kinda started as, like, one guy and his friends in their living room, and watching anime. Because, like, at the beginning of the millennium it was kind of hard to get into, like, find anime to watch. So, like, if someone had ways to watch it somewhere, then the world would go around, and, like, people would gather around. I guess at some point, they were like “you know what, you could make, like, a real association out of it”. And then they did! Nowadays the problem is quite the opposite, that there is just so much anime that you don’t really, like, know where to start. It’s like one click on the internet and there is, like, thousands of animes to watch. And, like, where do you even start? But twenty plus years ago the problems were really different at that time.

Host: That sounds so relatable. In my country it was the same! So, organisation started very small, but how many members do you have now?

Guest: I just checked and we have little over 100 members.

Host: That’s a lot.

Guest: A lot, really.

Host: And how many international students you have?

Guest: Ah… I am not quite sure, because we don’t really ask like “are you an international student or not”. But I guess there is like 10 or 20 maybe, I guess.

Host: That could be. Because I was at one of the meetings, and you always have some internationals coming in, which is nice.

Guest: Yeah, true, like the people come and go. Sometimes it feels, like, there is only Finns in there, and then sometimes there is, like, many internationals. Who comes and who is in the meetings changes a lot.

Host: What is the purpose of your organisation? So, what do you do? It’s all about anime, but how does it work?

Guest: We gather once a week, usually on Fridays, we watch anime. We have choosed series that we watch. Usually series are like 12 or 13 episodes, each episode is 23 minutes long. The doors open at 5, and the anime starts at 6, and then we just watch it till 11 o’clock. It’s quite intense sessions, really.

Host: What other types of events do you host during the year?

Guest: So, the video sessions are kinda like the main thing. Of course, those are like the most common what we do. But sometimes we also just hang around, like, no need to watch anything. You can just chill out and, like, actually get in conversation. Talk about things more deeply. Though, usually those hangout evenings turn into gaming nights. We have couple of people who are very passionate about Mahjong Riichi…

Host: What is that?

Guest: It’s like… do you know Mahjong… how is it pronounced? There are like those small tiles… Yeah. You can play different games with them.

Host: Yeah, okay. I believe it is a Chinese origin game?

Guest: Yeah, originally. Yeah, that’s like, kinda like solitaire. You can play it on your own. That’s usually what people know when Mahjong is mentioned. But this is like, you need 4 players and you need to like… oh man, how to explain that… you need to gather tiles. I am not… I really like playing it, but I am such a noob with it, like I don’t really know how to explain it. But it’s really nice. We have very passionate members, who are very happy to teach anyone who is interested.

Host: Oh yeah, that’s nice! If you come and you have no idea how to play it, then you can learn. And that’s also usually fun! Do you have any huge events, once in a year or like once in two years even?

Guest: Yes, actually! We, just at the end of the year, we have this gathering called “Bartender”, cause we usually don’t drink alcohol in our events. But this is like inspired by this anime called “Bartender”. Where like people come to this mysterious bar, it’s really high class bar, and there this bartender. And then the customers pour their problems, and then bartender makes this amazing drink which solves their problems. We took inspiration out of that. And that’s like a classy gathering, where we drink fancy drinks and pretend to be in this world of high class bar.

Host: Do your drinks also solve problems?

Guest: Hmm… well… at least we have fun (laughs). Maybe that’s one problem solved. And then more often, apart from anime sessions and hangouts, we also have karaoke nights, where we sing songs from… well, opening songs and endings songs. Those are also very popular.

Host: Out all of this, which one do suggest to our audience to attend?

Guest: Oh man… Everything? (laughs) I would say what I would recommend is that like… come with an open mind. Because like, I remember when I have just become a member, and there was this anime called Houseki no Kuni, Land of the Lustrous. And I remember I didn’t have any prior knowledge about this anime, but people at Senpai were like “Oh it’s good! Let’s watch it!”. And I just went there knowing nothing about it, and it was really good! I remember really, like, talking about it, we were like.. trying to come up with theories about it. It’s been years now, but sometimes I still, like, stop and think “Man, this anime was really, really good”. I think that’s the best thing about Senpai, cause someone picks up series and you can just go and sit back and enjoy. You can stumble on really, really good series that way. 

Host: Oh, that sounds really cool! So you just mentioned the first time that you came, why did you personally join the organisation?

Guest: Well… because my friend recommended it. I remember how it happened, actually. I had had a really bad day at the university. I had failed one pop test, and the cafeteria didn’t have food that I like, and I was, like, visibly really, really sad. And then my friend cheered me up. He knew that I studied Japanese at the time. So he asked “Wow, why study Japanese?”, and like “You know, because I like anime, manga and stuff”. And then he was like “You know, there is this anime club in here, Turku University. Would you like to go and see what it’s all about, like be there for a while at that time”. And then was like “Sure, okay, let’s go there”. And like that’s how it started.

Host: Oh wow! So basically Senpai became a highlight of your not that nice day!

Guest: Yeah, exactly! And… I am still on that road (laughs) to this day.

Host: What is the best thing about being a member of your organisation?

Guest: Really like, being surrounded by like-minded people. You can… I mean, okay, nowadays, anime has become more mainstream. Which is a really good thing, I think. I don’t want to gatekeep anyone. If they like anime a lot, that’s good, if they just seen a couple of series, that’s also fine. It’s really nice to go to a place and know that there are people who enjoy things that you enjoy as well. And you can, like, be yourself, and talk about stuff in there. Also, I think, it’s a very good place to, like, balance your academic life and your everyday life. No need to think about… so much about studying and stuff. And also, even though we are association of Turku University, student organisation, there are still a lot of members who are not who are not students in Turku University. There are also students from Abo Akademi, and like the other schools around. And people who have already graduated or who are not in academia at all. So, I think, it’s important to, like, know that there is life outside academia as well.

Host: Oh yeah, that’s for sure! Because when you are at university, at some point, whole your life becomes the university. And I feel that’s why also having hobby organisations is important. 

Guest: Yeah, I agree. Totally. Oh! And also, if you are a member, you get a little discounts in the local comic shops and some little restaurants around Turku.

Host: That’s actually really nice! Because I feel, if people can get discounts on food, they will be down to join anything! (both laughing) I hope they also like anime.

Guest: (laughs) Come to the dark side, we have manga and food in here (laughs)

Host: Just for our audience, what is your favourite anime? 

Guest: Ohhh, I… I thought about it. And, well, obviously, there is a lot of good series around. But one I want to talk about… is this anime called Osama Ranking. Ranking of the Kings. It came out last year, and it’s about this little boy who’s supposed to be a giant. But, because he’s been cursed he is like not a giant sized, and also he is deaf. And he is like the oldest son of the king, but because of his size and disability everyone is like really not sure if he would be a good king. And that’s like the starting point. Probably, what I like most about it, like the art style is really… It looks like a little kids cartoon, like they are very round… and how do you say? Caricaturish. Really not what you would expect from anime for like mature audience. It’s, like, this kinda interesting dissonance, like this looks like little kids anime but it’s actually complicated plot, and I really enjoy it. And the music is good in it, as well

Host: I never heard about this one. But that sounds very intriguing. And I also, it’s nice that you bring up something less popular than those names which are, like, on everyone ‘s mind right now. So maybe, someone who didn’t watch it should go watch it now.

Guest: Please do! And then come to our meetings and tell me what you thought about it (laughs)

Host: Do you have some funny memory which you can share from your organisation?

Guest: Well… Not exactly a memory, because I wasn’t present at that time. But I have heard like one time within a year… Cause how we watch anime, we have like this canvas and like a video projector which we use. And one time, for some reason, when they plugged it in and were ready to watch anime, all of a sudden smoke started to come out of it. And of course, they deplug it really fast and were like “Hmm, what’s the problem?” They tried to change the power cord, and then they waited a couple of seconds, maybe that would work. And no, smoke started to come again. And yeah, that’s what I heard that “Yeah, bad news, we don’t have a video projector anymore, but good news, now we have a fog machine!” 

Host: (laughs)

Guest: And maybe that’s inspirational, like follow your dreams! If you don’t want to be video projector anymore, you can always change your career into a fog machine!

Host: How did they watch anime after that? Did they just cancel?

Guest: Oh, actually, we do have this small TV in the room that we use. So, thankfully, we didn’t have to cancel the whole thing. But of course, the size was a little bit smaller. 

Host: And let’s talk about future , maybe, what are your plans for the next year? 

Guest: Next year, well, as I mentioned, Senpai is quite an old organisation. And in 2024 it will be the 25th annual celebration for Senpai. So, planning for that will be gone in the next year, very soon actually.

Host: Oh wow, that’s like should be a big event!

Guest: Exactly. I was, actually, I went to the 20th anniversary celebration, and that was really nice. Really good balance between like…  a little more sophisticated than just watching anime in your tracking suit, but still very relaxed and like a really warm event where you could learn from your older members. What was it like when there was no internet? 

Host: (laughs)

Guest: Hear stories about the dark times!

Host: And talking about closer future, are there any anime you are looking forward to in a new season? 

Guest: Hm, quite a lot. Vinland Saga will finally get its second season. Coming in January. That’s one. Like the manga is very popular. It’s about vikings in the a thousand years ago. It’s very realistic and there is violence, there is kinda philosophic pondering about… life and what not. That’s I am really looking forward to. 

Host: And a finishing touch, do you have any message for our viewers? 

Guest: If you like anime or even if you don’t like anime, come and see what’s this fuzz is all about. Our doors are open for everyone.

Host: Thank you for joining us today, Aurora. If people want to know more about Senpai, where can they find you?

Guest: We have our website “senpai piste (.) fi”. There is also information in English. From there you can find links to our Facebook, Discord, Instagram and mailing list.

Host: Okay! All these links will be in the podcast description along with links to the University of Turku, the Student Blog, and the UTU Instagram account. So please follow and subscribe to us as well! Thank you everyone for listening and see you next time!