2002 - Death of Anime Websites in Review

by George Phillips,
Every year, dozens of anime websites shut down. In some cases, their owners became bored with anime, or with the responsibility of presenting content to growing numbers of readers. Unfortunately, many more websites shut down not due to a lack of interest, but due to a lack of funding. Popularity means bandwidth, and bandwidth means money. As the online economy continues to drag its feet, popularity suddenly becomes both a blessing and a curse for many websites. With the seemingly permanent slump in the online ad industry, not only is it difficult to break even, but many websites can't even cover their month-to-month costs! While most websites will put up with minor losses, sometimes this adds up to hundreds of dollars a month, and even the most affluent of website owners run into difficulties maintaining the site.

Planet Namek began prior to 1999 as a fansite with fanfics, Dragon Ball fansubs for sale, and original articles discussing the history behind Dragon Ball as well as its mystical origins. Only a year or two later, most of these articles had been duplicated by other websites (either with or without permission), and Planet Namek's popularity grew rapidly. Planet Namek was a new-generation DBZ website, taking the forefront in DBZ evangelism after numerous older DBZ websites shut down, including Wuken's famous Suushinchuu in 1998. Planet Namek continued to expand and gain popularity, eventually becoming one of the largest, most updated Dragon Ball websites on the Internet.

With the fame came increased server load and bandwidth costs, and so Planet Namek began cutting features, such as their massive image archive and manga scans, and quickly following their lightening of the servers came complaints about the reduced content. As advertising continued to plummet, Mr. E decided that he would no longer cover PN's growing server costs. Other staff members agreed, as the "golden age" of Planet Namek was long past and many had other commitments and a waning interest in Dragon Ball itself. In February of this year, Planet Namek shut down for good.

Another series-specific website, Gundam Project, also turned off its servers earlier this year.

"There were a number of reasons, but the biggest would be time & money... To some extent, the Gundam Project has been a casualty of its own success." -- Mark Simmons, Former Webmaster of the Gundam Project

The Gundam Project was created to be a database of all things Gundam. Story arcs, technology trees, plot summaries and much more were at the very core of Gundam's existence. But when Gundam Wing appeared on Cartoon Network, it marked the beginning of the end of the Project. GP grew from a small, low-cost and low-maintenance website, into a website that consumed far too much time and money for the owner.

EX.org, the e-Zine division of the SPJA (also known for Anime Expo) has not updated in months. Interestingly enough, the site's most recent information is surprisingly the same as what is just hitting the shelves today. In an industry that continues to grow ever faster, EX.org managed to stay ten steps ahead of other websites, even when it didn't update!

In 1996, when the Internet became readily accessible for many, EX.org kicked off its first issue with a look at Gundam X, an interview with Scott Frazier, and commentary on the failure of Sailor Moon by Running Ink Animation Productions' David Ho. For five volumes and 7 issues, into late 2000, EX.org remained a semi-regular monthly read for many fans. After faltering and idling in early 2001, EX.org revamped itself into a site with daily updates into early 2002. By the end of February, however, EX.org stopped updating again, apparently for good.

Will EX.org ever go offline? It remains to be seen, but running a website without content is throwing away money.

While some sites died their final death, and others fell into disuse, some webmasters couldn't bear shutting down their site, and restarted it, or passed the torch to other sites.

Saiyanz Rage (http://www.saiyanz-rage.net/), a large Dragon Ball fansite from the same time period as Planet Namek, returned when thousands of fans e-mailed the maintainer, asking him to return his site to activity. SZR staffers obliged and once again, the site is bustling with activity. While SzR continues to focus on Dragon Ball, much of the information on the site is for other new anime shows, like Reign and .hack//SIGN.

Anime-Daisuki.com was one of the most up-to-date English resources for anime titles, and its maintainer, "purara", began a monthly Ani-Magazine in the fall of 2002. It quickly reverted to webpage format, and is now available here (http://scac.prohosting.com/anime-caravan/).

When A-D went offline, a digisubbing group, named Anime-Fansubs began tracking information from various anime sites. They took the name Anime-Daisuki.Net, and although many people confuse the sites as being the same, A-D.net is not the reborn form of A-D.com. Anime Daisuki is gone from its old home, but now two sites exist, covering the material of the original.

We should also look to some of the best "rising star" websites over the last year:

Galaxy Anime (http://www.galaxyanime.net) is a rapidly growing anime audio and video stream. GA offers regular interviews, inside industry information, news, and more. Everyone should check out their Real Media streams to hear (and see!) some great interviews with industry persons.

Earlier this year, DVD Vision Japan (http://www.dvdvisionjapan.com) began rewriting their website from the ground up to make it easier to browse. While changes are still on going, DVD Vision Japan's anime DVD reviews are detailed, highlighting technical aspects as well as overall quality of the DVDs.

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