My Secret History with Anime Fansites (a.k.a. How I Got into Code)

I was in middle school when I got my first taste of coding. It was sometime around Y2K and my family had finally gotten a semi-reliable internet connection. I went online and was majorly impressed by the websites that people had built. Now, I’m not talking about business or professional sites, mind you. At 11 years old, my interest in the internet revolved entirely around Asking Jeeves about whatever Japanese anime series I was into at the time.

That was how I stumbled upon the world of anime fansites.

I was shocked to discover that many of the site creators were kids and teens still in school, just like me! I thought, if they could do it, so could I! I began learning HTML and CSS by simply copying other sites’ source code and changing bits and pieces, and then later went on to writing my own code from scratch. Thus, I would spend the next several years building anime fansites as a hobby.

It was the halcyon days of GeoCities, custom cursors, pixel fonts, and 88 x 31px link buttons. Almost every site had a disclaimer at the bottom, stating that you needed a minimum resolution and a specific browser (usually 800 x 600px with Internet Explorer 4+) to view it properly. I, too, had such a disclaimer on my website. My many websites, in fact.

I was so excited about creating websites that I went on a site-building spree, creating as many websites as I could, simply because I could. If there was an anime I liked, I built a site for it. (I built a lot of crappy sites.) But out of all the sites I made, the one I was most proud of was my Cardcaptor Sakura (a.k.a. Cardcaptors) fansite.

A screenshot of an anime blog site that I built from 2002.
Here’s one such site I built, archived on the Wayback Machine, from 2002. Sadly, I couldn’t find an archive of my Cardcaptor Sakura site.

Back then, it was common for many fansites to change their entire layout every few months, so I committed myself to re-designing and re-coding my site every 3–4 months. I would rush home after school everyday to work on it, not only constantly tweaking all of my HTML and CSS but writing content including bios of all the major and minor characters, plus episode summaries of the entire 3 seasons of the show (70 episodes in total!) and the movies. Yes, I was possibly insane. And obsessed. But I loved every part of it!

Somehow though, I began to lose interest in website-making when I entered high school, and by graduation, I had left coding entirely behind me.

I went on to pursue art in university, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD University, and then finding employment as a teacher. I taught mainly art and English to middle and high school students and while I liked it, after about a decade of this, I began to seriously consider other careers.

In the back of my mind, I always felt there was potential with coding. After all, I loved it as a kid; maybe I would still feel the same now.

I started to code again this year, partly because I was hoping I could use JavaScript to create vocabulary games to use with my ESL students, and partly because I wanted to test myself: do I still enjoy coding after all these years?

The answer was a resounding yes!

I found myself spending hours fiddling with code in Notepad (which is what I used to use back in the day), thinking of app and website ideas, and reading up on how web development has changed over the years. It was like all that passion I originally had for website-building had never actually left me; it was just waiting for the right moment to re-emerge.

After some research, I decided to enroll at Juno College of Technology (formerly HackerYou), where I finally learned after all these years that <a> stands for “anchor” and wasn’t just an arbitrary letter chosen to represent links in HTML. (Seriously, I had no clue!)

I am currently a student in cohort 24 at Juno College’s Web Development Immersive bootcamp, and am on the path to becoming a Front-End Developer. My inner 11 year old self, who still loves Cardcaptor Sakura to this day, is cheering me on!

[Originally published on Medium on Oct. 18, 2019.]