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  • Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 at 4:52 am

Otakumouse is turning nine this year.

I just spent a total of $2,160 in hosting fees.

Man, I’m getting old. I started this blog nine years ago because of my interest in figure photography. I’m turning 32 this year – which means I started this whole figure blogging thing in my early twenties 0_0. Met and collaborated with a lot of people (mostly in the Japanese anime industry) because of this blog. Worth mentioning are Danny Choo (Culture Japan), Alphamax, Good Smile Company, Max Factory, Production I.G., Starchild, Animax, and the list goes on.

Met and collaborated with a lot of people (mostly in the Japanese anime industry) because of this blog.

I remember back then when I got my very first DLSR. It was a Nikon D90 with the 18-55mm kit lens. I’ve been using an Olympus point and shoot camera before, so I have zero knowledge when it comes to DSLR. I had to read a lot of tutorials online to grasp the basics like setting the shutter speed and aperture. I had a hard time just wrapping my head around the shutter speed/aperture settings and how it correlates to the shot’s final exposure. I delayed setting up my blog until I’m confident with my photography skills.

Nikon D90 which I purchased 10 years ago.
I was so naive I purchased a zoom lens because I think it looks cool. And look just how thick that MacBook Pro is!

Take a look at some of my shots 8-9 years ago using a point and shoot camera. Since there’s no setting for my camera to disable the flash, I had to use a tissue as a diffuser so that I can take close-up pictures without overexposing their faces ^^; The backgrounds were wallpapers I selected and displayed using my computer monitor. I can only take photos of my subject from the waist up since my computer monitor is small and doesn’t cover the whole height of the figure.

My 12 year old Max Factory Fauna figure.
Kotobukiya’s 11 year old figure rendition of Kureha.

Switching to a DSLR was a godsend especially when I learned how to operate it the “right” way. Started experimenting with basic lighting to the point I event built a DIY photo studio made out of desk lamps, styrofoam, colored papers, and toothpicks. I used this setup for quite a while testing it with different figures. It helped me understand how lights in photography work in general. I finally reached the point where I think my picture taking skills are already acceptable for blogging and released version 1 of my blog in late 2010. Photos below were all taken that same year.

I used a 20w bulb on the main light and 10w for the fill light.
I covered the desk lamp with onion paper which serves as a light diffuser.
My 10 year old Yoko Littner figure released way back in 2008.

The photo below is how my blog looked like when I first made it public in 2010. Even before, I was already targeting a dark color scheme so that my photos will “pop” on the page (aside from not blinding my readers). Version 1 was my very first dive into WordPress development. I have no prior knowledge of any backend programming languages back then since I was mainly a Flash developer. This blog gave me the motivation to study and learn the technology which I was able to use in future client work.

Looking at this today is somewhat fascinating (from a design standpoint) as I can see how my design mindset has changed over the years.

My first year of figure blogging was kind of tough mainly because of my limited writing ability and my weak English.

Version 1 of Otakumouse.com released in 2010.

My first year of figure blogging was kind of tough mainly because of my limited writing ability and my weak English. Asked some tips from my friends and they told me “as long as they understand what you’re trying to say” that’s ok. I followed their advice and ignored all of the grammar nazis, and I was able to publish my very first figure review in the form of Shunya Yamashita’s Hattori Kiriko figure in 2010.

It’s not an in-depth review but it was a good start.

I was so motivated doing figure reviews the whole first year to the point where I publish 3 figure reviews a week!

I was so motivated doing figure reviews the whole first year to the point where I publish 3 figure reviews a week! Also, whenever I get a new figure, I will automatically prepare my photography setup and create a review of that figure. It’s an inspiring time for me especially since I also share my content with other figure bloggers from different parts of the world. OG figure site’s like Tentacle Armada, Wieselhead, Makigumo, and Bakayaro were some of the original links you can find in my blogroll.

I used the first version of my blog for two straight years until I decided to do a total re-brand and re-design of the entire site. I released version 2 in 2012 and even named it OtakuPro because of my plans of making it a free commercial theme for WordPress.

Otakumouse version 2 released in 2012.

Version 2’s release is the stage where my motivation level reached an all-time high to the point where I created a bunch of branding ideas for my blog ^^; I churned out crazy stuff like apparel, posters, review teasers (for the lack of better term), and videos like some kind of marketing campaign. I was also in the verge of creating a YouTube channel focused on doing live figure reviews ^^;

I churned out crazy stuff like apparel, posters, review teasers, and videos like some kind of marketing campaign.

A mockup of my “Otakumouse” branded shirt.
I create posters like this whenever I acquire new figures.
This logo is roughly 20 years old now :P This is the same logo I used when doing client work.
Test prints of the shirts.
We used “Vinyl” for the shirt printing.

I have released a lot of figure reviews around this time too. My primary goal was to be as detailed as possible when writing it (which is very hard). I also changed my review format quite a bit and made the entire figure review section occupy the full width of the page. I also added figure “previews” which I still use today. These are basically short posts showcasing some of the upcoming figures from top figure makers in Japan.

I think my favorite review I did around this time was Alter’s 1/8 figure rendition of Dizzy from the Guilty Gear fighting game.

Like the first version, I used V2 for two straight years and once again decided to do a re-design dubbed as OtakuPro V3. I initially don’t have any plans on doing another re-design, but I received an email from one of my readers that my logotype is the same font used by popular Japanese pop culture site, Tokyo Otaku Mode. The site was founded one month after I released V2 in 2012 and we both used the same free font called Slant.

Because of my hectic schedule, my site stopped at V3, and there were no plans for a V4.

This version is where I made it fully responsive. Previous versions were all fixed-width designs.

Version 3 of Otakumouse became public in 2014. It was also the time that I was receiving a lot of collab work invitation from Japanese pop culture brands like Animax, Crunchyroll, Tokyo Otaku Mode, and, Culture Japan (Danny Choo). I chose Culture Japan ;)

2014 onwards was a very productive year for me. Lots of client gigs which means additional income to buy new figures ^^; I was also able to create figure reviews still while maintaining my blog’s overall health. Because of my hectic schedule, my site stopped at V3, and there were no plans for a V4. V3 received a lot of incremental updates to its code just to make sure the tech behind it stays relevant and on par with the web’s always changing standards.

I became even busier in 2016 doing both personal (Phygure) and client projects (Culture Japan gig + Full-time employment), and it affected my blog a lot. I still post quick figure previews from time to time, but I’m having difficulty posting original content like before. My last figure review was like three years ago, and I haven’t published anything new yet.

Hopefully, this year, things will change a bit ^^ If you’re reading this, then I’m sure you noticed the site is somewhat different. It sports a new skin, animations, and seamless page transitions (for a much more smoother experience). I also added a bunch of optimization stuff under the hood which makes this version the “fastest” both desktop and mobile.

Otakumouse V4.
91% page speed score at GTmetrix.
91% page speed core at Google PageSpeed Insights.

I was not expecting for this post to become this long so apologies for wasting your time ^^; I also don’t plan on taking this blog offline as it did a lot of good things to me (both personal and career). Will try my best to post regular updates (even if no one is reading :P) and hopefully I’ll be able to go back doing figure reviews/photography again.

So I guess It’s safe to say, Happy Birthday Otakumouse!

PS: If you’re interested in using this theme, please don’t hesitate to ping me via email or by leaving a comment in this post. I still have all versions (ver 1-4) with me and I don’t mind sharing it for others to use.

Stormshade

A custom Reshade build with unlocked shaders for Final Fantasy XIV.

Phygure

A community-driven online magazine about toy and figure photography.