Sowing the Seeds
Tomobiki-cho began almost 8 years ago as a simple idea I had to increase awareness of Urusei Yatsura. I thought of starting a fanzine, but didn't have the resources or the energy to do so. I let the idea go until the spring of 1995 when I was introduced to the World Wide Web. I was no newbie to the internet though. I had already been playing around on Usenet and bulletin board services years earlier, but this world wide web thing was really revolutional. The browsers of choice were Mosaic or Netscape 1.0 so everything was on a ugly grey background with no attention to page design. But it still knocked my socks off. Finally the internet had images and words along with a point and click interface. But everyone here already knows how the internet used to be so I'll spare you.
I had been an anime fan for years back when it was a secretive hobby that no one but the fortunate few had any knowledge of, but now it felt as if the doors were blown wide open. The internet helped paint a much grander picture of the anime fan scene than what I had previously experienced. It was becoming less and less of an underground cabal of university fan clubs. Anime was finally coming into the public consciousness, thanks to the internet.
Urusei Yatsura in need of a boost
I went through an obsessive phase for a while, often browsing 12 hours a day. However one thing really bugged me. All over the web there was a wealth of information about most of my favorite anime series, but next to nothing about my number one favorite series Urusei Yatsura. Back then there was the old Urusei Yatsura Homepage hosted on the UC Berkeley servers, a couple of FTP sites with UY image files and fanfics and that was all. Sure there were a few fan pages, but nothing worth mentioning. In the days of Usenet, students had placed a fair number of UY images on the net, but afterwards, no-one bothered to add more images. As I searched the web I saw nothing that would attract new fans to Urusei Yatsura. There was only one UY web page and it had all the appeal of a political science textbook. Just skin and bones with sparse, inacurate information and a few unimpressive images. The fact was that there was nothing at all on the web that would peak someone's interest and I could plainly see that Urusei Yatsura would slowly vanish from consciousness of the fan community in favor of newer releases.
In the beginning...
Urusei Yatsura was once the king of all anime back in the golden days of western anime fandom around the late 80's to early 90's. Back when being a North American otaku meant that you were either a University student participating in your anime club, or that you lived in a Japanese community. Sure there were the old time Robotech and Star Blazers fans who embraced Streamline's titles such as Akira and Fist of the North Star. But they weren't exactly an organized fan community, just casual buyers. Only the Universities offered that kind of fan scene and Urusei Yatsura was the title on the lips of every hard-core fan.
Urusei Yatsura on the Decline
Around the time I was introduced to the web, the anime scene was also starting to gain some momentum as a lot of newcomers were getting into anime. In response, more and more new titles were beginning to be released. Gradually people were starting to overlook UY. I saw the huge internet community of anime fans, but since UY was getting very little representation, not many of the new generation fans even heard of Urusei Yatsura.
The UY mailing list was the only place I could find where people wanted to talk about Urusei Yatsura. It was a very different list back then. A lot larger and made up of vetran fans since the underground days when ex-pats made up most of the fan base. Compared to these guys even I was a newbie. But over the year, I began to notice that the mailing list was on the decline. An increased number of people were leaving the list. It seemed to me that most of these guys were college post-grads who just couldn't find time for anime anymore. After the year was over only a small handful of them remained. Now the already small UY fan community was even smaller and it felt rather lonely. As always, I was very active in newsgroups and mailing lists so I did my part through word of mouth, doing my best to avocate Urusei Yatsura. Even so, I was fighting a losing battle. No new pages had shown up in over a year. Not a single new graphic or multimedia file had been uploaded. While Ranma ½ and Kimagure Orange Road fans were running rampant, UY fandom had remained stagnant.
The sluggish birth of Tomobiki-cho
I was tired of sitting on the sidelines, I wanted to make a difference. No one else was doing anything about it so I decided to step up to the plate. While I didn't know anything about HTML, I made a commitment to create my own UY web site. My mission was fairly straightforward; to create the definitive UY site which would encompass everything I love about the series. A one stop shop for all your UY needs. My hope was to ultimately introduce newcomers to the series while pumping a little enthusiasm into those stagnating fans.
Slowly I began to teach myself how to create web pages and haphazardly put together the first working version of Tomobiki-cho. It made its debut March 1996. In all honesty, I was still learning so it wasn't good at all. I remember the green background with the embossed UY logo, the cover of wideban #1 on top, and a rather messy collection of links encased in a bordered table. The images were just thrown on unoptomized with little regard for download time. The writing was childlike. There were only 5 sections and each was mostly incomplete. It wasn't much better than the other UY pages out there that I wanted to beat. In short, it was pretty bad. At the time I was attempting to create a huge database on nearly all of my favorite anime. I eventually decided to scrap the idea and dedicate my site only to Urusei Yatsura.
I began to concentrate on the one section I knew I could write, the character bios. For months I tried my best to write essays about all of the cast that truly captured their personalities in a way no other mere character description page had ever done on the web. Little by little I would finish each essay, and then spent even longer making constant revisions. The Ataru page for example must have been fully revised at least 20 times over the years. It took a lot of hard work but I eventually completed all the main characters. This was the moment when the site started to take shape. To this day, the character biographies remain the part of the site I'm most proud of.
In the beginning, while I was starting to write the bios, the site was only called "Mason's Urusei Yatsura Page". The name "Tomobiki-cho" came to me two months later. I was watching a copy of a UY Laserdisc that a friend recorded for me. After it finished, the trailer for Urusei Yatsura movie 5 "The final chapter" came on. It certainly wasn't the first time I had seen this trailer, but this time it gave me some inspiration. It started with the words "As the world looked on, Earth's fate hung in balance. The fight for survival now begins. Final battle in...TOMOBIKI-CHO." Right then I started thinking what better name for a definitive Urusei Yatsura site than the town where it all takes place? So I used the town's name and even borrowed my logo from the very trailer that inspired me. From that point on, I worked like mad to make it a site worthy of the name. It was at that point that I believe my site was truly born. continue to page 2