Since I've been a weeb for a long time, I've accumulated a bunch of knowledge that's made my experience more enjoyable, and here I wanted to share some tips I feel would be helpful for fellow weebs. Depending on your definition of "hardcore weeb" the contents of this post may be either common knowledge or a total breakthrough. Regardless, I'd like to share these tips anyway in case they may be useful to someone out there. This post comes to you in five parts: reverse image search utilities, finding Japanese fan art, finding Japanese vocal synth songs, buying Japan-only weeb merch, and commissioning Japanese artists. Let's get started:
Part 1: Reverse Image Search Utilities
Have you ever seen a cool fan art and wanted to get a higher resolution of it and/or find out who drew it? Have you ever seen an anime screencap or a manga page out of context and wanted to know what it was from? Reverse image search utilities can help you here! What you do is upload or paste a link to an image and the utility you choose is able to "search images" inside its image database and find out what the image is related to.
Probably the best and most well-known weeb-related reverse image search utility is SauceNao. It has a huge image database that's been accumulating for over a decade and is able to search a large variety of images with high accuracy. I mainly use it to find better resolution fan art and also to find the original artist that drew some art. It is able to search Pixiv, Nico Nico Seiga, and DeviantArt images, all of which have tons of weeb fan art. In addition, SauceNao can also search manga pages and tell you what manga a page is from and which chapter it was in. And of course it can also search hentai. But it's not only limited to anime-style Japanese art. As mentioned before it can search DeviantArt, and it can also search ArtStation as well as the popular furry art sites. Here is a list of all the things it can search images in and how well it can search them.
Another utility that I've found very helpful is trace.moe, which can search anime and find out which anime a screencap was from. If the anime screencap you put in is correctly recognized it will show you which anime it was from, which episode it was in, and the timestamp it was at, plus a very short animated preview so you can see the context the cap was in. It's seriously amazing.
There are other reverse image search utilities out there but the one that will help you out the most if the above two options fail is Google's reverse image search. You just go to the image search page, click the camera button in the search bar and you can then paste in an image link or upload an image. Alternatively you can just drag and drop an image into the search bar and it will automatically upload and and search the image. Google's reverse image search won't always tell you exactly where an image is from, but it will show you all the pages the image was also found in, and you can use those pages to try to find out the source. You can also use Google images to find higher resolutions of an image you put in.
If you search for images on the web a lot it can get annoying copy-pasting image links or downloading images and then uploading them for searching. To help with this there are browser extensions you can use where you can just right-click on an image and in the context menu you can click which utlility you want to use to find where an image is from and it automatically does everything for you. SauceNao has an official browser extension to do that, which not only has SauceNao as an option, but a lot of other reverse image search utilities. Currently I don't use that and use this extension instead. The only reverse image search provider I need that it doesn't have is trace.moe, but it can be customized to put in any provider. Below is what my settings page and the syntax for putting in trace.moe looks like.
Part 2: Finding Japanese Fan Art
A weird "hobby" of mine is collecting a lot of fan art of my favourite characters. I am very picky about what art I save so I try to find as much art as I can. To ensure I see absolutely every piece of fan art that is out there I have honed this simple strategy of finding as much art as possible. Since all the characters I'm looking for are of Japanese origin, the first key step is finding out how their name is written in Japanese. This can be done by looking at Wikipedia, MyAnimeList, and most often, fan wikis. Once I have a character's name in Japanese, then I can go on to the three major places where fan art of them can be found: Pixiv, Twitter, and Nico Nico Seiga.
Pixiv is by far the most popular Japanese art site where you can find fan art of your favourite characters. I should mention that Pixiv isn't strictly Japanese, they do want to be more international and do try to attract non-Japanese artists, it's just that the site is from Japan and the vast majority of artists there are Japanese. Anyway, you can just put your character's Japanese name into the search bar at the top and you'll be able to find fan art of them assuming the character you are searching for is not obscure. Now the problem with popular characters is that often there is a lot of fan art of varying quality that you'll be able to find of them on Pixiv, from literally children's doodles to ridiculously amazing drawings, and you can't filter them by popularity on Pixiv... for free. You have to pay for Pixiv Premium to get that feature, and it costs 550 Yen per month (about 5 freedom credits per moon). So you might have to do some digging to find every piece of nice art of a character that you like without paying.
And I should also mention that you need a Pixiv account to be able to view images at full resolution as well as to view NSFW images on Pixiv. Though one thing that is nice about Pixiv is that the popular image tags get translated into English and the ones that don't are automatically converted into romanji so you can know what you are looking at most of the time. Thanks to those translations you can just search for popular characters with their English translated names (or their name in romanji), e.g. you can search "Hatsune Miku" instead of "初音ミク" in the search bar if you want to find Miku fan art.
Since Twitter is the most popular social media app in Japan, it is possible to find tons of fan art on Twitter. You can often just put in your character's Japanese name into the search, and if the character is popular you may see tons of great art right away. But if that doesn't happen, or if you want to find every piece of fan art that you can find, things start to get more fancy. There are other methods to filter things out, but here we'll just use Twitter's confusingly-documented search syntax to narrow things down. You simply just put in your character's Japanese name, and then add min_faves:5 filter:images to the end, which will only show tweets that only have images and have more than 5 likes. After that, just sort by latest tweets and you should hopefully have a feed of mostly fan art of a character. You can increase the minimum likes for further filtering. Here is a link to a search of Hatsune Miku with the above two search operators as an example. This method doesn't get everything as many artists often just post their art without the character's full name in the text, but it's as good as you can get purely by searching Twitter. One more thing you should know is that if you reach the end of the infinite scroll and you definitely know there are more tweets after that end point, you can just add until:YYYY-MM-DD to the search query with the Y, M, & D replaced with year, month, and day that the tweets got cut off for more results.
The final place you can dig through to find fan art of a character you like is Nico Nico Seiga, which is the art section of the site Nico Nico Douga. To me it feels like Seiga is the second-most popular dedicated art site in Japan, and a few artists I've found only post their art there. I don't usually go here unless I really really want to find every piece of fan art of a character. As usual, just put in the character's Japanese name into the search and you'll see fan art of that character. Seiga does require you to sign up for Nico Nico to be able to see images at full resolution just like Pixiv, but you do not need to pay to sort by popularity.
Part 3: Finding Japanese Vocal Synth Songs
If you've seen my SSD and SSO pages you may have wondered how I have found so many obscure vocal synth songs without knowing Japanese. I've got a strategy for that too. It's only been recently that I started figuring out how to do this, so this may not be as optimal as possible. So just as in the previous point, you need to find the Japanese name of a character you want to listen to music from. Then you go to the two most popular places that songs can be found: YouTube or Nico Nico Douga, and then search that character's name there. You can sort by the upload date to find the latest songs. There are a few patterns I've picked up upon that can help you figure out what it is you are listening to without knowing Japanese. If in the title you see the text "カバー" (kabaa), you're listening to a song that is a cover of another song, which originally could have been a regular song or a song that was sung by another vocal synth character. If you see the text
A lot of vocal synth characters are capable of plain text-to-speech and are used for things like let's play videos and short skits with the characters. The most notable vocal synth programs that do this are CeVIO and VOICEROID. So if you search for names of characters that use those programs you may end up getting a lot of results that aren't songs. If you want to filter those out, you can add the term
One more way to discover songs which currently I haven't really tried much is searching through Twitter and possibly using the search syntax min_faves:5 filter:videos when filtering is needed, as well as the search terms I mentioned in the above paragraph. Though I think a lot of songs still fall through the cracks using this method without you sifting through irrelevant content. Anyways, all the advice in this section will get you way farther than just searching a vocal synth character's name in English or hoping that someone links a cool song for you.
Part 4: Buying "Japan-only" Weeb Merch
If you've ever run into a situation where you are on a Japanese shopping website and found something cool you want to buy but don't know how to order it because of the scary moon runes, or if you do know how to order it you are unable to get it shipped outside Japan, there's a solution for this: proxy shopping services. I'm not going to recommend any service in particular, but I will explain how basically most of them work. What you do first is give them the link to the things you want to buy and the amount of Yen that it costs. Then they order it for you and ship it to their warehouse. After it is in their warehouse, if they don't just reship it immediately, you can order other items or wait for whatever else you've ordered. Once all the items you want are in their warehouse, you can then tell them to ship all those items to your address. After they ship it to you, you'll finally get all the stuff you ordered. I bought an Otomachi Una hat and wall scroll from the official store using a proxy shopping service. I also bought an Otomachi Una keychain from an artist on Pixiv Booth as well as a New Game poster using one of those services.
Now as Japanese companies are starting to recognize the rising power of the overseas weeb community and making themselves a little more international-friendly, there's becoming less of a need to rely on such services, but you may still run into some situations where you may need these. Of course, proxy shopping services are not only for weeb merch, you can order anything that's "Japan-only" using these, whatever that may be.
Part 5: Commissioning Japanese Artists
You could always find a Japanese artist and try to contact them directly for a commission and hopefully get something figured out with auto-translators and/or broken English. But recently there are a couple of services that have sprung up to help make this commissioning process a lot smoother, albeit with a few minor caveats. These two services are Pixiv requests and Skeb. I have commissioned an artist before, but I haven't used these services (or commissioned a Japanese artist) yet. However, other people have used those before, and I understand the basics of how it works.
What you do is find an artist that you like, check to see if their requests (commissions) are open, write a request and put in the amount of money you will pay for that request. If the artist accepts your request, you wait until it is done, and then you get your requested artwork. Both Pixiv requests and Skeb have built in auto-translators, so you can write your request in English and the artist will be able to read it however they prefer. On both Pixiv and Skeb the artist writes the recommended amount of money they want for their requests. You should probably definitely pay that amount at a minimum if you actually want to get your requests accepted and your requested art done well, unless you only need a quick sketch or something.
Both Pixiv and Skeb do allow 18+ requests, but they don't handle this stuff the same. Skeb allows anybody in the world to make 18+ requests, but Pixiv only allows Japanese people to do that, though apparently there are workarounds for that. Skeb only accepts credit cards, while Pixiv accepts both credit cards and PayPal, but 18+ requests can not be done using PayPal because PayPal doesn't allow transactions involving adult content. If the artist you want to commission enables the option, you can make your requests on Pixiv and Skeb privately without other people seeing it when they are done, whether they are 18+ or just something special for yourself. One confusingly-named term I've seen on Skeb is the "max body size" amount on the artists' pages, which actually means the max amount of text characters you can put into your request message and has nothing to do with the actual art they make.
Now there is one sort of downside to Skeb and Pixiv requests compared to contacting an artist directly: you can't (officially) see any work in progress pictures or make adjustments/revisions to your art. You can't modify your request text and the art that you get at the end is all that you can see. Pixiv does have a direct message feature, but they tell you to please not message artists for stuff related to requests you made. I don't really understand or fully agree with the reasoning I've seen, but you should know that this is not unintentional and is part of these services' policies. This downside hasn't stopped Skeb from becoming pretty popular among artists and people requesting things from artists though.
Okay, this is the end of the post. Thanks for reading. I hope some of this information has been helpful or relevant to you. What are your thoughts? Do you have any weeb tips that you want to share?