Welcome back! This time, let me guide you a little bit deep into the lore of our first and most renowned fan-only convention – Comiket. This has always been the indication for the whole doujin community, as well as one of the largest international 2D culture convention all over the world.
A/ The main hub of doujinshi:
For all of you who may not know, Comiket (or Comike) is the abbreviation for Comic Market – a multi-day doujinshi convention held twice a year (Summer/ Natsucomi and Winter/Fuyucomi) in the symbolic Tokyo Big Sight. This event is held and organized by the Comic Market Committee and is Japan’s greatest indoor public gathering by a single private non-governmental group. Therefore, it is also famous for the exceptional long waiting line before the opening hour.
Basically, the main purpose of this event is to serve as an exhibition and trading market for self-publication around Japanese media. As for Winter Comiket 97 last year, there were 32,000 participating circles and roughly 750,000 visitors in the course of 4 days event. Contradicting to the common ideas of the domination of men content creators, women seem to compromise the majority with over 55% while having the mature age demographic falling between 25 and 34 years old. As each Comiket is the main event for all doujinshi creators including the most renowned ones, many of the product sale (especially exclusive ones) in this events is considered from rare to super rare; and often be resold at the price of 10 or even 100 times the originals. Gradually, after 97 iterations, Comiket has grown from a small doujin instant sale into one of the most symbolic pop culture figures of the world.
B/ Origin of the event – the need for a fan doujin platform:
Like any other revolutionized ideas, the legacy of Comiket originated from a conflict between the old and new system, this time in the filed of doujin’s freedom of publicity. Before the age of Comiket, the most important and popular fan gathering event of doujinshi and manga had been the Japan Manga Convention a.k.a the Nihon Manga Taikai. In general, it “followed a similar format as present-day anime and comics conventions in the United States” with, you know, anime screenings, guest banners and a small section for self-publication/ doujin. However, at that event, doujinshi wasn’t even treated as the main attraction which sparked the conflict between the creator of them and the event organizer to a point that several circles were banned to join. As a result, a need for an all-fan doujin exhibition became more and more critical within the community.
The first spark of the revolution started when the Nihon Manga Taikai refused a female fan to join the event because she criticizes the current state of it at the back of the application form without any “good faith reply”. This incident, later known as the “Manga taikai participation refusal incident” gradually grow bigger to become the dissatisfaction and rage of the manga community toward the event organizer. During that time, Meikyū, the circle which later become the first organizer of Comiket and a friend of the rejected fan, stand up to take the flag, creating the “Association to Protest the Manga Taikai”, demanded the explanation, spread the news, and create great pressure onto the community to have a new platform for fans to discuss and sell doujins.
Finally, on the day of December 21st, 1975, the first Comic Market was held with the focus entirely on exhibitions and trading of doujins while neglected all other professional media industrial representatives.
C/ The stable foundation in the early years (C1 to C18):
The first-ever Comiket was held in Toranomon Japan Fire Center Conference Room with the size of 32 circles and about 700 people of mostly fangirls. This state kept continuing for several later iterations: slowly and stable developing, with several changes of locations due to the increase in the demanded capacity of both visitors and circles. More additional feature and modifications were also added into the events year after years: some was success and kept until now (poster and catalog in C4; circle yearbook in C5; cosplay in C8); some was rejected due to complaints or copyright issues (comic chorus competition in C2; anime cells in C8). By the beginning of 1979, as the demand for the circles’ registration got so overwhelming that the lottery system was brought in to allocate the limited position, the reputation and influence of Comiket became undeniable to the manga/doujin community.
Along with the new additions, many interesting terms and trends were observed which originated from these early years of Comiket, some of which still take root in our current 2D culture. For example, as the doujin community began to grow bigger and diversify along with the development of other means of media, the definition of “genres” in the convention context also grew larger and finally seem to overlap with the definition of “fandom” and “collection of sources” and range from manga, anime to games, original pictures and cosplay. Some of the interesting ones which stood out included “lolicon” (surprisingly brought along a rapidly increasing demographic of male visitors right after it was introduced), “yaoi” (thanks to the efforts of “Year 24” groups embraced by Women and the explosion of Captain Tsubasa, Saint Seiya, and Samurai Troopers BL), Space Cruiser Yamato, and Mobile Suit Gundam. At that time, because of the high cost of offset printing and the inconvenience of the venue, parodic doujinshi still hadn’t reached its dominance like nowadays and most of the circles were based on memberships. However, this era had successfully built a stable foundation for the rapidly and huge explosion of doujinshi distributions in the later decades up until now.
D/ The Shining Symbol of 2D creative publications (C19 until now):
Follow the founding years, Comiket has grown at an impressive speed from a small distant doujinshi trade into an international festival of the 2D culture fanbase all over the world. The location has also changed many times, from the inconsistent places before C19, to the Tokyo International Trade Fair a.k.a Harumi from the course of more than 21 iterations until C49’ and finally to the symbolic Tokyo Big Sight until now. The number of visitors and circles also increases by more than 1000 times in the course of fewer than 50 years; along with the expansion both in quality and quantity of doujins products. Nowadays, Comiket defines itself as “a ‘space’ with great freedom for the purposes of expanding the possibilities of self-expression.”. Therefore, it aims to build up and connect the doujinshi communities with other types and mediums based on “Hobbies” rather than “Cooperate entities”, regardless of how people express them. And along with the technological evolution, more and more people get the chance to know and participate in Comiket using all kinds of media, especially electronic platform such as Pixiv, Nico Nico Douga and even Youtube; making it the “the nucleus of otaku culture both quantitatively and qualitatively” and the undying figure of Doujinshi Community as well as the 2D cultures as a whole.
- Comiket Presentation: https://comiket.co.jp/info-a/WhatIsEng201401.pdf
- Comiket Report of C97/2019: https://www.comiket.co.jp/info-a/C97/C97AfterReport.html
- Comiket Archives: https://www.comiket.co.jp/archives/Chronology.html
- What is Comiket? The lead-up to Comiket 97: https://www.otaquest.com/what-is-comiket-97/
- Comiket Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket
- Lolicon Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolicon#United_States
- The first part: https://thevaultpublication.com/2019/11/07/overview-of-doujinshi-part-1-the-meaning-and-history-behind-doujinshi/
- PhD thesis: The cultural economy of fanwork in Japan: dōjinshi exchange as a hybrid economy of open source cultural goods / PhD thesis 3: Introduction to the system of dōjinshi exchange: http://www.nelenoppe.net/dojinshi/PhD_thesis_3:_Introduction_to_the_system_of_dōjinshi_exchange