Overview of Doujinshi, Part 3: The Story of Two Giants

Oh, hello there! Welcome to the end of my little compilation on doujinshi culture. In this talk, I will tell you the story of the two giants of present-day doujinshi culture: Type-Moon and the Touhou Project. They started from different places, different genres, and developed in their own way, but both are heavily influenced by the doujinshi culture. How did they become so popular and how the doujins help them with their expansion? Without any further ado, let the curtains open on our final stage!

Type/Moon—From the dream of a high-school duo to the largest genre of Comiket 97

Before we begin, let me introduce our first company. Type-Moon, a.k.a. Notes, is the Japanese game company behind several famous visual novel titles and game series such as Tsukihime, Melty Blood and Fate. Before commercializing in 2003, it was a doujin circle headed by Takeuchi Takashi and Nasu Kinoko, creators of their first renowned work, Tsukihime.

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The story begins with the duo back in high school, when Nasu was nurturing the idea of what would later become Fate/stay night, while Takeuchi attended Comiket to sell his doujinshi novel, but was unsuccessful. The gear of Fate only begun to move when Takeuchi started work in an active circle for Comitia—a professional convention that only allowed original works. Thus, Nasu was able to work on their game ideas using Nasu’s written plots. From here, a new doujin circle by them and two other friends was created, and finally, in winter Comiket 2000, their completed version of Tsukuhime was released.

Thanks to the interesting plotline and the rapid growth of the doujinshi market, it was a huge hit, and this allowed them to release more products with refined quality after hiring two more staff members to join the team. They also released a fighting game named Melty Blood in partnership with French-Bread—another doujin group.

Finally, in 2003, to make Nasu’s dream novel, the Fate series, a reality, the circle decided to commercialize. They became Notes Co., Ltd., keeping most of the same members. Fast forward to fourteen years later, Type-Moon doujin had surpassed the other two giants Touhou Project and Kantai Collection to become the most sold products of Comiket 93, and kept that place until Comiket 97—all from two small teens with the ambitious idea of stepping into the publishing world.

Doujinshi trends at Comiket in recent years. As you can see, Fate Series took the lead from Comiket 93 to Comiket 97.
(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket)

In their case, Type-Moon used doujinshis as the first step to materializing their dream, building up initial inertia and reputation for a later boom. The culture allowed them to test their skill, improve it, experiment with new ideas, meet like-minded fellows, and work on something even greater. Asides from that, having the chance to be exposed to a large audience at Comiket was able to rapidly boost their popularity and increase their potential to greatly improve their works, thanks to the wealth of feedback such an opportunity provided. This was what allowed them to take the huge leap forward to gain further recognition and experience in their following years.

The Touhou Project—The elder pillar of doujinshi culture

ZUN – The Father of Touhou Project.
(Source: https://en.touhouwiki.net/wiki/File:ZUNPlayDoujin.jpg)

The starting place of Touhou, on the other hand, is very different from Type-Moon. It originated from a legendary game developer and doujin maker: “Shinto Priest” ZUN, who has done all the groundwork for things such as music, graphic, and programming for his games since the 90s. However, what is exceptional about the series is the enormous community and its doujinshi content, spanning music, literature, fanart, games, and anime. It is thanks to ZUN’s open view on derivative works following original works—as long as they can follow the doujin commercialized rules and avoid spoilers. ZUN himself stated that he does not want Touhou to be fully commercialized either. As a result, the Touhou doujin community blew up and is today a significant figure among consumer-generated media.

Doujin music, for example, it allowed to use a game’s original arrangement to create a derivation of it. It allows for an enormous number of remixes and rearrangements of Touhou music, with different levels of quality being created and sold at Comiket by doujin musicians. Some musicians even gain huge popularity from this. As a result, it attracts even more artists to come and grow the community further. In the end, “You could easily spend $1000 there and still miss something cool. Especially if you’re down with all things Touhou-related.”

Cover of “Lofty Gloom of a Mad Soul”—a doujin album by the Demetori circle in Comiket 94.
(Source: en.touhouwiki.net)

Aside from that, doujin music and doujin games further deepen and expand a game’s story. Doujin artists imagine, speculate, theorize, and try to explain the canon plotline, and turn those ideas into completed work and bring them to the table. Over time, the number of circles grew rapidly from 7 in 2003 to 2272 in Comiket 85, 2013, and took the leads for a long time before being surpassed by Kantai Collection at Comiket 86.

In fact, the community has evolved so much that it has its own doujin events focusing on the title alone: the “Hakurei Shrine Reitaisai”. It is not an exaggeration to say that by using doujin culture effectively, the Touhou community has become one of the most popular in Japan, and have left their mark in the development of their fan-produced media.

Some final thoughts

As you can see, these two giants have had very different starts and very different paths. Both, however, were greatly influenced by doujin culture: One used it to take their first step into the world, and the other used it to further expand their popularity and deepen their brand values. In my opinion, a doujin when being released contains the fantasy, the efforts, the personalities, and above all, the dream of the doujin authors—regardless of whether they are well-known or a beginner—to materialize their imagination and share it with everyone else.

Overall, this has been a really fun research project for me to look into a culture that I am, errrr… interested in. To be honest, when I picked this topic to research last year, I intended to do it as a half-meme, half-serious article. Instead, I have ended up here at the conclusion of a trilogy full of unexpected ridiculous facts and new experiences. Thank you for sticking with me till the end, and see you all (hopefully shortly) in future articles.

References

  1. Tsukikan: https://www.tsukikan.com/
  2. Type-Moon wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type-Moon
  3. “Type-Moon has become the Number 1 Doujin Circle in terms of Numbers for the upcoming Comiket 93” – Reddit(r/grandorder):https://www.reddit.com/r/grandorder/comments/7atfzz/typemoon_has_become_the_number_1_doujin_circle_in/
  4. Type-Moon wiki: https://typemoon.fandom.com/wiki/TYPE-MOON_Wiki
  5. Comiket Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket
  6. Touhou Project Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touhou_Project
  7. FAVS OF COMIKET: FRUITED VAGABOND (REVIEW): http://www.originalsoundversion.com/favs-of-comiket-fruited-vagabond-review/
  8. Touhou Project: Exploring What Makes This Japanese Doujin Shooting Game Such a Phenomenon – History: https://otakumode.com/news/52a7fdb43ea274063e000224/Touhou-Project-Exploring-What-Makes-This-Japanese-Doujin-Shooting-Game-Such-a-Phenomenon-History#:~:text=%2ATouhou%20Project%2A%20is%20a%20doujin%20game%20created%20by,the%20hearts%20of%20so%20many%3F%207%20years%20ago
  9. Touhou Wiki: https://en.touhouwiki.net/wiki/Touhou_Wiki

One comment

  1. I got into Type-Moon and Touhou both back in the mid-2000s. It was amazing to me just how much fanwork was created from them, considering they both started as independent projects themselves. Especially all the Touhou-based music; there is an insane amount of it. This doujinshi culture is something that really doesn’t exist where I live, probably thanks in part to very restrictive and strongly enforced copyright laws, though that does seem to be changing now with Patreon and other subscription services catering to artists. I hope the indie scene here continues to thrive like it has in Japan — I know a lot of fans here follow it closely.

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