Tokyo Toshokan ~ On the fragility of anime ‘Net infrastructure

July 19, 2012

“Service Continuity Plans are proactively established descriptions of the actions an organization will take if a service disruption occurs. … Service continuity plan development is in essence a risk management and control activity that seeks to limit or control the consequences of realized risk.” – CERT Resilience Management Model

For the past week or so an important piece of the Internet infrastructure that makes it possible for me to review anime has been disabled. Tokyo Toshokan, for those who don’t know, is a torrent tracker that is especially good for locating anime torrents. While the loss of this resource didn’t prevent me from watching anime, it did make it more difficult. That in itself is not a big deal, but the thing about this situation that worries me is that a week later there is basically no information about the nature of the problem, or whether it can be resolved.

I did locate this comment online, via a Korean website:

At this time, tokyotosho,info is down. We are trying our darndest to bring it back up. From what it appears, it looks to be some sort of server issue and we are waiting for the datacenter staff to take a look at it.

Should this information even be trusted? I could post what I claim to be a translation, saying that the owners got bored and have stopped maintaining the site. One way to verify the truth — or at least have greater certainty about the source of information would be to get it more directly from those involved. Despite the presence of many Tokyo Toshokan related twitter accounts, none of them have chosen to comment on the current outage.

My intention here is not to spread rumors or conspiracy theories. What I am trying to do is point out the extreme fragility of the online anime viewing culture. Much of the online anime culture is fan-produced. This often means there are no plans in place to address resilience issues (what do we do to identify a disruption in service? How do we diagnose the cause of a disruption in service? What do we do to resume service as quickly as possible? What is our plan for communicating our status to those that use our service?). These issues can be non-trivial, and I have seen even professional organizations that have not taken them seriously, or that have attempted to tackle them, but really didn’t know how. It is not impossible for even fan-produced services to have some kind of continuity plan in place. Doing so would decrease the fragility of our online anime culture.

6 Responses to “Tokyo Toshokan ~ On the fragility of anime ‘Net infrastructure”

  1. I do realize that tokyotosho is still the central hub for all anime torrent-related stuff, and though it’s still my preferred aggregator, I wonder if nyaatorrents fulfills that good backup role in the event that tokyotosho is down with sites that release episodes (horriblesubs, gg, etc) being a good place to check if all the other nodes fail.

    Beyond that, I do wish there were clearer communications since managing expectations and keeping people in the know is generally good. Better than having everyone scramble around like headless chickens (heh).

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Yeah, I think the biggest surprise to me in all of this is the lack of clear communication. Something coming from an official source would be good. Getting something from a reputable news source would also be good (say an announcement that was published by ANN.

      I hope other sites also think about this situation, though. And that was the real goal of my post. I keep hoping we can learn from each other’s missteps. Hopefully you, and other folks that maintain well-known websites, will give a little thought to how you plan to respond to something going wrong. You are on twitter enough that I would expect to see an announcement there if the Anime Instrumentality domain name was hijacked for example.

  2. Dennis Says:

    First of all Tokyo Toshokan is not a torrent tracker. It is merely a torrent indexer – it aggregates lists of torrents that are tracked elsewhere. A large proportion of the files indexed at tokyotosho, but not all, are tracked by
    Looking at new submissions there is a reasonable substitute.

    A great deal of the anime fan and fansub activity happens on IRC – #tokyotosho on has been active throughout the outage, and Edward_K, the owner of the site often speaks there and listens to suggestions. A suggestion made while I was lurking there lead to the creation of, which has been providing status information since its creation. Regulars on the IRC channel joke that he only time there’s any activity there is during outages, so Edward pulls the plug when he gets lonely. Learning to use IRC is useful if you like the fansubs – as the other technologies change and shift, it’s been fairly constant.

    The “online anime viewing culture” isn’t fragile at all – you’re just not looking for it in the right place.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Point taken about the distinction between “tracker” and “indexer”, but actually my point wasn’t about not being able to access anime torrents as much as pointing out that there is something that non-professional online services can do about situations like this. They can make and execute plans for resilience. Specifically they can have a plan for how they are going to communicate with the users of their service.

      It sounds like TokyoTosho’s plan is to hang out on IRC. The weakness of that plan is, of course, that doing a google search for “tokyotosho down” will get you a result saying they are “back online” (from a previous outage). There is no mention about the current situation. Twitter would be a very useful way to communicate their status, since it is asynchronous — they don’t have to respond to every individual request for information, and it is also indexed.

      I thank you, however, for your comment. The information you provided here is about as much as is available anywhere at the moment.

  3. estella87 Says:

    When I google tokyotosho I get the usual results (the tracker’s website, pages like yours asking what’s going on, etc.) but also a notice from the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, saying that 1 search result has been removed due to a complaint. No idea if this notice has anything to do with the actual tokyo toshokan website/torrent tracker or not, but who knows these days?

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Yeah, I noticed several of those as well. I then pursued it further, and saw that there was no “take down notice” behind the first one. That’s where I stopped, because (as you say) who knows what that means. It did raise questions in my mind about what happened, though. In the end it seems to have nothing to do with the most recent incident.

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