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July 26th 1999, Tokyo, Japan. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the bugs are noisy as all hell and it's hot enough to make a salamandar self-combust.

Yours truly was merrily going about her job in a small but well-respected Japanese software systems company, when bam! two e-mails from Nikkou at Anipike suddenly arrived in my mailbox. The first one was a congratulatory message on being selected as a Weekly Web Pick, and the second was a really nice invitation to write a Guest Pick. Wow... Until today I didn't even realize the 'Pike had a Guest Picks section. ^^;;
(Anibot note: *ouch!* :)

As far as anime fans go, I think I'm pretty much run-of-the-mill, except that I managed to actually make it to Japan. It was ostensibly to further my Japanese; if I was told to be honest I'd have to admit I just wanted to be closer the "da source". Getting a degree in Japanese was the same thing - I mean, what the heck is someone supposed to do with a Japanese degree?! Unless you plan to teach or translate, which are perfectly wonderful careers that disagree quite unhappily with me. No... I took up Japanese because I wanted to be able to see more anime without waiting for subs to come out. When I was a kid, I used to read translated manga back in Malaysia and Thailand. It always frustrated me that I had to rely on the whims of publishers for my favourite titles to come out.

Back then I loved Cobra, and Dragonball, and Dragonquest. Later it was Nausicaa, Robotech (gasp! the horror!) and Lodoss. Then I went to college and there was Vampire Princess Miyu, and Kimagure Orange Road, and Yotoden, and then this Sailormoon thing that was just starting up in Japan... A friend of mine was a magical girls fan, and he single-handedly converted half the anime club over on raw LDs from Japan, courtesy of a nice Japanese store called (whom I was also highly indebted to for my various purchases). Or perhaps it was Nikaku Animart. My memory fails me.

Speaking of all these anime, does anyone still remember venice? Back then anime pages were few and far between, and to satisfy our unholy desires for images (especially of Madoka!) everyone would go to the venice ftp site, which is now . The images archived there are probably floating around in various incarnations around the 'Net now, but I thought I'd give a salute to this fond memory.

You might be wondering why I don't give links to the anime I've listed. Hmm... I guess the easiest explanation is that none of the pages I visited made an especially deep impression on me. All I wanted was pics, really, and that's all I remember. Image galleries are a dime a dozen these days, although you'd have a hard time sorting the good from the bad. I don't surf for anime pages much anymore, for reasons that will be revealed if you actually make it to the end of this article. ^^;;

One place that did stick with me was Mark Neidengard's archive, which is an incredible labour of love currently down for restructuring. I haven't taken a look at it lately, but at last count several years ago (I know, I know, I'm an old baasan now), it had excellent screen captures of Magic Knight Rayearth and other CLAMP anime. I'm not sure when it will be up, so for the time being I give you his .

While we're on the topic of CLAMP and images, about a year ago I discovered that you can be pretty creative with pics. Yes, I mean Winamp skins. Archives and galleries are great, but sometimes it's even more interesting to see something made of it. I don't surf galleries anymore, but I enjoy good art any day, and , which has a really long official title so I'm not going to stick it here, is a wonderful place to see your favourite CLAMP and other anime characters in a new setting. Now, if only Ragabash would become a Shiina Hekiru fan... eh, oops, nothing. ^^

Ragabash also did some great skins of this incredible, gorgeous anime that for some reason isn't getting released in the US - Shamanic Princess! When I first saw this at Katsucon II, or was it III, I was completely blown away by the art and style and atmosphere. Ever since, I've been on the lookout for a page that does it justice, in vain, and so I grudgingly give you Shamanic Princess, which would have been an awesome site had the maintainer not stopped updating it at Episode 3!! Simple but elegant layout, synopses, character intros, image gallery, voice actor information, CD listings, even gif animations! What a shame it was abandoned halfway through. Hey Krian! If you are reading this this is a very subtle hint!

I came to Japan in the fall of '97, and upon discovery of a decently-stocked video store near my homestay, I embarked on two new vices, Shoujo Kakumei Utena and Gundam Wing. Since the movie of the former just came out recently in Japan, I hunted out for some info, and found The End of the Innocence. It's been Picked by Anipike several times already, so I'm not adding anything new, but it's a good page with plenty of up-to-date information and deserves it. Another page I found was The Utena Network which piqued my interest because it's a collaborative effort by several web authors who maintain their own individual sections. While I definitely put content over design, it is nonetheless very pleasant to see graphic creativity and talent in action.

As for Gundam Wing, I searched high and low, and came up with a whole lotta fanfiction sites. Which brings me to my other compulsive hobby, reading fanfics.

It's strange how, after I came to Japan, my interest in anime started dropping. One reason is probably that you are surrounded with it, and so you start taking it for granted. Another is that, unlike in the US where fans usually get together in clubs or informally, anime fandom in Japan is essentially a solitary sport. Doesn't help when you're not Japanese...

So instead of watching new anime, I started devouring fanfics. I'm not a fan of yaoi, hence the disappointment concerning Gundam Wing, but I did find a lot of other good fanfics that strike me as far better than some of the sci-fi coming out these days!