I never knew this was a thing until a few years ago, and even now, I still barely know anything about doujinshi. In observance of Comic Market, or simply Comiket, 88 this weekend, I’ll briefly talk about this medium of arts that has evolved to become a culture in Japan. You could say this would serve as an introduction to both you and I since I’m also still learning about it.
Doujin (同人, DOH-jin) in itself is a group of people with similar interests or hobbies. Doujinshi (同人誌, DOH-jin-shi) is commonly defined as self-published magazines, comics, or books by a group of individuals who use it as self-expression for an already existing manga series. In other words, they are amateur works based on someone else’s creation—”manga FanFiction.”
Creators of doujinshi are called doujinka (同人家, DOH-jin-kah), of whom are part of what you call a “circle”—a group releasing their self-published works; they work together to produce their manga. Although a circle by definition is a group of people, it can also just consists of only one person. This, then, is what you call a koujin circle (個人, KOH-jin) (or personal circle).
Common misconception of doujinshi is that it is only H-manga or erotic manga. Though majority of them are of hentai nature, not all fall under this category. Other common types include parody/gag or alternative universe (AU).
This type of entertainment has become so huge that there is a society dedicated to it. The biggest doujinshi fair is held twice a year garnering more than a million attendees for both the summer and winter events. This fair is famously known as Comiket (Comic Market), and we are at the 88th event this summer already. In relation to that, one other misconception of people is that since there are events specifically for distributing doujinshi, publishing fan-made works without the original creator’s permission must be legal in Japan. However, that is not the case. There are still copyright laws in Japan that don’t protect circles from getting sued. As noted above, this has become so big that the Japanese government just turn a blind eye over the market fair. Typically, it’s not something the original creators of a series worry about anymore since these fan-made works are mainly distributed in events such as Comiket rather than in the general public all-year round.
So even though it is technically illegal to distribute doujinshi, it is a bit surprising to find that even corporate companies who sell actual merchandise promoted by the original creator and its production company share the same space. Not only promoted merchandise, but actual merchandise by a professional mangaka may be present. In Comiket, for example, there is a floor dedicated for corporate booths.
One may argue the negative points of distributing doujinshi (i.e. not honoring the original series, etc.), but in another light, it has led to amateur artists being recognized by the public to the point of eventually going pro. I don’t know much notable artists that have crossed over from being a doujinka to a professional mangaka apart from CLAMP (Blood-C, Cardcaptor Sakura, Kobato). Through (1, 2), I’ve discovered the series’ mangaka of some of the titles I know have, at some point, made doujinshi.
It is actually quite amusing for me to talk about this topic because prior to knowing about this, I thought the manga or sample pages I have read were some sort of side stories to the original stories; and a lot of these amateur artists made fanarts of their own on Pixiv or Twitter that’s being distributed without permission elsewhere in the internet, so I didn’t know they were fanarts. I hadn’t know the way to source art then so I didn’t know they belonged to someone else. The artworks were so amazing that some of them looked like official art. Hence, it led me to believe it didn’t come from the original creator.
There are still many other points to talk about this media, but for now, I think this post talks a great deal of things what we think we know about the doujinshi culture.
Maybe my next post about this is an actual visit to Comiket. My favorite doujinka so far are Rangetsu, Homunculus, Napata, and Hisasi. What are yours?
Note: If there may be inaccuracies in the post above, please let me know.