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Special Guest: Sakurazuka Val

I guess I should start this article by saying hi to everyone who might be about to bore him/herself with reading my shameless anime ramblings, but that would be completely unoriginal, ne? Oh well ^_^ My name is Vallantine A. Rivers, though I'm better known as Val Sakurazuka or just Val in this wide online anime world. I'm the webmistress of two large anime sites, as my TB domain and my CLAMP websites collective can be called, as well as the manager of the . Perhaps you're already seeing a trend up there.

In fact, I'm here to talk about one of my greatest passions along with music and literature, which is manga and of course, anime. If the question of why did I happen to put manga first casually crossed your mind while reading the previous lines, I guess I should clarify that by telling you my personal answer to the eternal otaku controversy of which is the best, manga or anime stands for the first one. Why do I think so? It's mainly because in my opinion, manga is the prime source for anime: the original work from which anime flows and finds its basements, and even though many anime productions adapted from manga keep their original traits untouched, one usually feels the need to go check on its origin just to see the story as it was before being pushed into the screen. But that's just what yours truly believes.

If I've already scared you enough, run away now you're still in time.

The Beginnings
Ever since I have memory, anime has been a part of my life. Even as I watched Robotech, Akira, Kimba the white lion or even older anime titles I knew it'll be a very important influence and now, older as I am and with all my childhood and adolescence spent growing up with anime, I'm able to say my love for the Japanese culture can be entirely blamed on it.

Everything that has to do with anime or manga catches my interest, even if it's about series I don't totally like. I just sit in front of my giant TV screen and enjoy the lines of the drawing, the special effects, wonder about the time the mangakas could have spent drawing each sequence.

It's something like I carry it in my blood. I dream of being a mangaka myself.

Genre Preferences :
Firstly lured by the action-based shounen genre, I now feel myself mostly drawn to shoujo stories, with their deeper, more psychologically elaborated plots. The one thing I die about, that for which you'll see me pick up every little, totally unknown title to see what is it about is that 21st century wonder called Shounen Ai.

Call me a freak, but my tastes significantly differ from the ones of the masses. I detest Sailormoon, and you'll have to bond me to a chair to have me watch Fushigi Yuugi. Usually when it comes to me, the weirdest, less popular a title is, the more I like it. Of course, there are various exceptions but I do enjoy discovering series that may have gone unnoticed to the crowd and which, almost surely, I'll love with all my heart once I explore their hidden richness.

Authors :
I know I'm going to gain many enemies because of this, but there I go: CLAMP is the ultimate embodiment of graphical perfection. Masami Kurumada a shounen writer that constantly caresses the depth of shoujo. Minami Ozaki is just a step away from graphical utopia. Naoko Takeuchi is only an author for the masses. Chiho Saitoh seemed more like a pink novelist than a mangaka before she got influenced by CLAMP and wrote Shoujo Kakumei Utena. Masakazu Katsura's style is too messy and real to catch my eye.

CLAMP in general is what I love the most, and I'm certainly glad to see how sites dedicated to this absolutely amazing mangaka group are growing around the net. My favorite general CLAMP sources apart from the so famous CLAMP official site are my own two hostees, and . They offer an overall CLAMP variety of quality sites that surely cover every CLAMP otaku's taste, and must say I'm more than proud to give a home to such great pieces of html artwork. and Katko's CLAMP Celebration are also the places to go if you're looking for rare CLAMP stuff.

If you already feel you hate me after reading my authors' comments just wait until you read my series pick.

+ Tokyo Babylon

What can I say? Perfection. It's by far the best anime//manga series I've ever laid eyes upon and all my otakuhood keeps revolving around it. The depth of the plot, the mysteries and complex personalities of the three main characters together with the mystic aura and Shounen AI touch make it the most faultlessly balanced combination. I'm just devoted to the tragic love story. Another series which is fortunately gaining adepts and websites on the net. My current favorites are and , not because of the information they provide on the series, but mainly for the rich character analysis they feature.

+ Wish

Even though our stupidly hetero-restricted, homophobic society disagrees to find both Kohaku and Hisui male, I think Wish is one of the most tender shounen AI stories out there. It's so full of sweetness, cuteness and magic and proves CLAMP's versatility and how unfair it'd be to label them as just angsty stories producers. I certainly hope my own contribution to increasing the number of Wish sites, is ready soon, but for now and 's amazing Wish collective certainly make up for the lack of Wish online material.

+ Card Captor Sakura

Hontouni Kawaii. Has everything a mahou shoujo series needs and more. Some authors of the same genre could learn a bit of originality from it. My all-times favorite Sakura site, even though it's very hard to pick one from the wide range the Internet offers us, is surely Clow Card Quest from everyone's fave independent anime network .

+ Magic Knight Rayearth

It kicks Sailormoon's ass and everyone knows it. The shoujo heroine style reaches its glory with Hikaru and Umi and the settings and characters are just amazing. A pity the plot lacks a bit of substance, but CLAMP's romantic allure surely makes it up to the reader. Again, choosing the best sites is a difficult task. Guess my preference is for an overall Rayearth view, for Umi and for Fuu-chan. Don't ask me to pick up a site for Hikaru because I just couldn't.

Another interesting Rayearth site which completely differs from the usual ones is Margot's , a shrine to the male characters in Rayearth that offers a very complete analysis on those whose personalities are normally left behind their gorgeous looks.

+ Clover

The saddest, weirdest though most romantic cyber punk story ever written. Gingetsu and Lan themselves justify the whole creation of this series, and Suu's ethereal nature grants it the charm it needs to be irresistible. and are certainly must-visits for everyone who's looking for Clover eyecandy and material.

+ X/1999

I'm not a very loyal fan of the series, but considering my two all-times favorite anime//manga characters Subaru Sumeragi and Seishirou Sakurazuka are participating in the plot (though not as actively as I'd like) and the fact it's by far CLAMP's most richly designed series, I must confess I wait eagerly until each Asuka comes out. , an X-timed Subaru site, and Natalie Baan's amazing X/TB fanfic Sakura and Snow located at are my two most visited X web locations. I'm still waiting for my top favorite X site Fate is reborn at

Apart from my CLAMP fanaticism, I also enjoy paying a visit to the following:
The Utena Network, which has lately been lacking updates but is still as impeccable as a SKU site as it can be, the which is the main source for any yaoi/shounen AI stuff you might be looking for, and of course my favorite Shounen AI webring out there which is , of which I'm proud to say my CLAMP homosexuality issues site, is a member. Three of my favorite anime general news and material sites are the , , and the .

As a closure to this oh-so-long article I'd like to replevy the concept of the anime collective. Most can call them trendy, but IMHO it's one of the best ways to keep one's sites together in a directory, and must confess I take special pleasure in surfing through many of them and discovering what talented webmasters such as the maintainers of , , , and a thousand others may come up with next.

I surely might end up forgetting something, so my final advice is that if you're an anime fan, go surf the net and scout for your favorite anime series. If it exists, you'll surely find a site or two about it, as we're lucky enough to be part of a wide, extremely heterogeneous and ever-growing online community as the anime//manga one is.


Anipike not being responsible for Acts of God or the vaguaries of humans  ;)
this column will appear 'as and when' articles come in. New articles will
be announced on the "New List" page. (So original, da yo..^^)

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