Comiket: 2005

Plangent

imageTwice a year in Tokyo, Comiket happens. Comiket, (pronounced com-ee-kay) is a gathering place for manga fans and the producers of doujinshi. Manga are Japanese comics. There is an absolutely bewildering array of genres for manga. Whatever subset of the general population you are, rest assured someone is producing manga targeted at you. While commercial manga are huge in Japan, amateur manga (doujinshi) is probably much larger, at least in terms of volume produced. But, while commercial manga has a distribution infrastructure doujinshi does not. This is where Comiket comes in. Although commercial artists do show up and hawk their wares, the main attraction at Comiket is doujinshi. Well, that’s not entirely true. The hordes of die hard comic fans, cute cosplayers, and a willing forum for the discussion and appreciation of whatever comic you’re really into are also attractions.

imageA quick word on doujinshi. The many facets of doujinshi would be too much to go into here even if I, your humble guide, had the knowledge needed to offer such an explanation. If you’d like to get at the nitty gritty check out Dan Kanemitsu’s page. Everything you want to know about doujinshi and the world it springs from can be found there. That said, the topics explored in doujinshi are frequently, though certainly not always, taboo to the mainstream world of manga. Politics, inside jokes, occult levels of fandom for a particular style, and yes, porn, are frequently topics for doujinshi. I guess the simplest explanation might be that all the things people wish they could see in commercial manga form the raw material from which doujinshi springs.

imageSo, one arrives at Big Sight (the convention center where the event is held) by elevated train. This affords the attendee a magnificent view of hundreds-deep lines and sweaty hordes that s/he will soon be joining. Upon leaving the station the waves of the crowds immediately begin washing you irresistibly into the grounds. Once there, though, navigation gets a little confusing. The basic layout consists of five sections. Most visible is the cosplayer’s circle. This is the only place where photos of cosplayers are allowed. This is due to the excellent rules set out by the administrators of the convention to reduce congestion and ensure the safety of the participants. It is also etiquette to ask permission before snapping photos. This bit of courtesy is rewarded without exception with wonderful poses.

imageNext to the cosplayers’ circle at the top is the hall devoted to commercial manga. Here representatives from many of the major manga publishers have booths set up to preview upcoming works and sell off memorabilia. There are also previews of animations from a couple studios and various performances, the most popular of which seemed to be kareoke performances by professional cosplayers of popular anime songs. Unfortunately photography is prohibited in the hall. I was ignorant of this until a representative was kind enough to inform me. This raises another note, if you do not speak Japanese you will do well to be accompanied by someone who does. So, once you have had your fill of commercial manga and rebukes from the officialdom, one can make their way down to the real show, the doujinshi areas.

imageThere are three halls, all of which are at least as large as the commercial area where the fan artists set out their product at a seemingly endless bank of folding tables. There are, all told, over thirty thousand comic artists setting up shop at the convention. The three halls are divided according to target markets. One is for guys’ comics, one for girls and one general area. These halls are huge and packed to bursting. If you intend to pick up comics the Comiket directory is a very wise investment. You can get a telephone book sized paper version or a CDROM version from the official Comiket website: http://www.comiket.co.jp/. Comiket began in 1975 with about thirty artists and about seven hundred attendees. Nowadays, thirty thousand odd artists can be expected to show as well as three hundred thousand plus fans. With two shows per year this is the place for comic fans in Japan. A comprehensive account of the comics available is again quite impossible. The best advice I can give for filling out the details is to go.

Check out all the pictures from Comiket 2005 in our gallery

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