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continued...

Crisis in Tomobiki-cho part 2 -
Coma & Reawakenings

1997 to 1999 were the salad days of Tomobiki-cho. The site had grown to be one of the most popular anime fan sites on the web. My inbox was constantly full of letters of praise and people claiming they had become UY fans thanks to my site (which is the nicest compliment I can get). It was practically a ministry into itself. Soon I had so many ideas that I started creating other fan sites such as my short lived Patlabor site and my more permanent guide to Japanese rock and pop music. Eventually I began to concentrate more on my J-pop site and let the nearly complete Urusei Yatsura site stand on its own, without any updates for years to come.

After staying in Japan in the summer 2000 and then starting college back home in the fall, things changed for me. Having done web professionally for so long, I was just plain sick of it. It was no longer fun for me, just a lot of work with no benefit. The dot.com boom had also lent a sickly smarminess to the whole web mystique that began to turn me off. I didn't want to have anything more to do with the internet for the rest of my life. Just the thought of having to update Tomobiki-cho gave me a heavy, uncomfortable feeling. Besides, my studies had taken me in other directions and the web was a part of my old life. I didn't feel like revisiting the past so Tomobiki-cho just stayed there untouched for the next few years, growing moldier by the day.

I'd still get e-mails every day with requests, questions and comments, but if I'm being completely honest here, I didn't even open them to read. I regret shunning all of those who came to me, but the fact is that I just wanted to forget all about my site and didn't want to explain that over and over to a hundred people. It was just easier to ignore it. I was content enough that my site was merely around to provide a resource.

Things came full circle in the summer of 2002. After having been out of the country for a while I had come back home to find my inbox flooded with e-mails asking "Where did Tomobiki-cho go?" It was true, my host cut off access to my site even though I was still paying for it. Apparently even though I hadn't touched the site for years, it kept exceeding its 8 Gigabyte traffic limit each month, so they decided to shut it down. After a mild dispute, I was considering cutting my loses and letting the site die (saving myself a lot future payments in the process). Frankly I was embarassed by how my site had aged. My design and coding skills had become exceptionally good in recent years, but Tomobiki-cho featured the same tired old look from back in 1997. Redesigning the site had always been on my mind, but it would take so much hard work to revamp it that I just wasn't up to it. Since I was so embarrassed by the site, I just would rather not see it anymore. I decided to shut down Tomobiki-cho forever.

Just then as I was catching up on my backlogged e-mail, I found a divine message in my inbox (sent several months earlier) from the webmasters of www.furinkan.com. They had created an excellent network of Rumiko Takahashi pages partly inspired my Tomobiki-cho and were inquiring why my site was no longer running. They offered to host it if I was in need of a new place. After talking to them and seeing what passionate guys they were (they reminded me of myself a few years ago before I became all jaded) I accepted their offer. They would have a UY page to add to their Takahashi network, and I would be able to give my site to someone else and wash my hands of it.

But then, inspiration hit me out of nowhere. Maybe their enthusiasm was catching because I suddenly I cared about Tomobiki-cho again. Feeling motivated, I began to work on several design ideas and that same day I had my home page all designed and assembled. It was official. Tomobiki-cho was coming back and better than ever. For the next few weeks I spent most of my free time designing the site, scanning, assembling the pages, rewriting some of the text and adding new content. The results are what you see here. Version 7.0 of Tomobiki-cho in all its glory.

Daring to be different

I'm proud of the fact that my page was always built entirely upon my own merits. No text or images were swiped from any other sources in building this site. Everything you see here is original and created exclusively for this site.

Borrowing content from another page is standard practice on the web. It's not entirely wrong, and everyone does it anyway, but personally I have no respect for it. When I started the site, as I looked around the web very few of the other anime pages out there were truly unique. Everyone was stealing ideas and pictures from each other so that most anime pages were incestuously identical to one another. Site after site said the same bloody boring things about Urusei Yatsura like a broken record.

I was intent on making a site that was entirely from my heart, not some rip-off. In that spirit, every graphic and written word on this site was created by me (or donated to me for the purpose of this site). I obtained each piece of UY art myself whether I scanned it from my own collection of UY paraphernalia or I got a friend to scan it for me. Even though it's a common thing, I feel that stealing other people's page content is a corrupting practice on the web. It shows a lack of imagination and all you're doing is adding another aimless page in a sea of similar web pages with nothing new to say. If you can't contribute anything original to the web, what purpose is there in having a web page?

From the start I set out present something completely different than what was currently on the internet and I feel that I've exceeded my expectations. By now I've reached a position where people steal subject matter from my site and put it on their own. There must have been a dozen Tomobiki-cho clones out there. To be perfectly honest, this development is quite flattering yet insulting at the same time. I'm happy that people appreciate my work and that it's now a part of anime culture on the internet. It tells me that I must have done something right. But on the other side of the coin, it disturbs me to see my work which I've spent years laboring over, slapped onto someone else's page willy nilly with little regard for all of the time I spent researching, editing phrases, scanning images, perfecting code and creating graphics. I'm not naive though. I know this is inevitable when you create your own material on the internet. There's not much you can do about it. All I can do is continue to be creative and keep the site as dynamic as possible. If this is one of the only sites that keeps offering new and original content, people will keep coming back.

I'm almost done here. Just a little bit more. Honest.

This site has been a great success and it's poised to keep going strong for years to come. Now that I have a great community behind this site, I finally have the support I always wanted.

Some people may wonder why I do all of this? I certainly never stooped to advertising and don't make any money off of the site. I suppose just because I'm in constant need of a creative outlet. Simply put it's fun to see my work come to life like this. But also I do it because I want the world to know how wonderful Urusei Yatsura is. UY being over 20 years old often gets snubbed by anime fans in favor of newer releases. But I believe anime was really at its most genuine and original back in those days, not the derivative fluff that passes for entertainment nowadays. And Urusei Yatsura was among the best.

It makes my day whenever I get an e-mail from some newbie anime fan who tells me that they went out and rented a few tapes of Urusei Yatsura because my site peaked their interest. It's comments such as those that makes it seem worthwhile. I've gotten my share of awards and accolades but they mean nothing to me (of course web awards are a dime a dozen). I only want to do my part to make sure that even with all of the influx of flashy domestic titles flooding the market today that Urusei Yatsura doesn't become another forgotten classic. It's been a part of my life for 14 years and I want to know that other people are experiencing the same joy that Urusei Yatsura has brought to my life.

This whole page was mostly just a sentimental journey for me so please forgive me for rambling on like this. If you have read this far, I hope you've learned something about this site and perhaps have gained an increased appreciation for it. That's all I have to say, I'm done here.
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