On the 28th of December, the doors of the Tokyo Big Sight opened again to welcome thousands of people eager to spend three days in the World’s biggest marketplace for fanworks centered on anime, manga and video games.
The Comic Market, often abbreviated to ‘Comiket’, takes place twice a year, in summer and in winter, in Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay, and is the best place to both buy and sell all sorts of anime/ manga related goods. Its main focus is the exhibition and distribution of Doujinshi, self-published magazines that are created by individuals, usually amateurs, though there are also some professional artists who like to publish material related to other manga series.
Doujinshi are usually based on existing manga and anime series or video games, telling extra stories around the characters, often involving romance and creating relationships between the protagonists that do not exist in the original story.
These fanworks are not part of the commercial publishing distribution system and the artists usually don’t sell their works to gain profit, but to express themselves through their art and to create side stories around the characters they like. Although there are many individuals who draw these kind of fanworks, there are usually more groups of Doujinshi artists working together and refer to themselves as a ‘circle’.
When the first Comiket was held on the 21st of December 1975, there were only 32 circles participating, whereas now there are over 35,000, selling works related to almost every series you can imagine. Reading extra stories involving ones favorite characters opens a whole new range of possibilities for many anime/ manga fans, especially when the series has already ended or doesn’t focus on the preferred protagonists.
Although all of these fanworks are written in Japanese, the Comiket has become very popular among foreigners over the last few years. Doujinshi are still hard to find on the internet and very expensive when bought overseas, while some of them, especially limited editions and those from the more famous artists, cannot be found at all.
For that reason and also to meet the Doujinshi artists in person and experience the feeling of being part of this event, more and more foreigners are visiting the Comiket during their trip to Japan.
Beside the artists selling Doujinshi, there are many corporate booths as well, such as animation production studios, comic book publishers and retailers distributing anime/ manga related goods. Meet and greets along with autograph signings also attract visitors, and the multiple cosplay areas, where fans dress up as their favorite anime/ manga or game characters, also ensure that there’s always a variety of activity to interest all types of manga and anime fans.
All are welcome to visit the Comiket and it’s free of charge. However, it is highly recommended to purchase the catalog, which contains all the information regarding the participating circles and the positions of their stands, especially if you are interested in works from a certain artist. (Please bear in mind that the catalog is only available in Japanese.) Doujinshi circles that are particularly popular often have queues of fans wanting to meet them, so it is wise to arrive before the convention opens at 9 am to beat the crowds.
Due to the fact that visitors and circle members have to use different entrances, tourists are encouraged to check which entrance to use on the English website, as most of the signs at the Comiket are, like the catalog, are written in Japanese.
The Comiket is a great experience for everyone interested in Japanese popular culture, especially for those who read Doujinshi or simply want to learn more about conventions in Japan.