Comiket Special 6 – Otaku Summit 2015

This weekend brought with it the 6th Comiket Special, also titled “Otaku Summit.” Comiket Special is an event held every 5 years, in addition to the bi-annual regular Comic Market, and, contrary to the regular events, has an overarching theme. This time around, recognizing the growing international participation in the Comiket events, the organizers worked with the organizers of several overseas anime- and cosplay-themed conventions to put up a joint display for the Japanese fans. In reality, this was executed via booths much like the “corporate” part of a regular Comiket, and reminded me very much of the booths that schools and smaller companies put up at Tokyo Game Show. Which is in the same venue, so it’s not all that surprising.

The venue, unlike the regular Comic Market events, was at Makuhari Messe. This is actually rather significant, because it makes the Otaku Summit the first time a Comiket event has been held since the infamous “Makuhari banishment incident” in 1991, when the venue’s operators revoked the permission to use it’s facilities on extremely short notice. Comic Market has ever since been held at Tokyo Big Sight, which is scheduled to be part of the 2020 Olympic plan, and might not be available for years in order to adapt the facilities. So the Comiket Organizing Committee is short-pressed to come up with an alternative venue, and Makuhari is the only one in the area that’s comparable in size.

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View of the “Otaku Expo” portion of the event

 

Otaku Summit was free to get into – for the “Comiket Special” sales and exhibition area you were supposed to purchase a catalog (which is your “ticket” for most shows of this type) for 1,000 Yen. I can only assume the border between these two areas was the white wall visible in the picture above, because nobody asked me for my catalog even once on at least 3 trips back and forth. In all, the event used 5 halls of the 11 available, a little larger than Comitia but nowhere near as huge as Comiket. It was also much less densely laid out than the usual shows.

I got there at around 1:30pm, which is rather late considering that most Japanese comic events close at 4 (because they need to be out of the venue before 6), so I did not expect too much congestion.. Even so, I was a bit taken aback by how thin the crowd was. Either it wasn’t very well publicized (there were no signs outside the venue, so you’d never find it if you weren’t looking for it), or the theme just didn’t appeal to people a lot. Which is a shame, especially considering that a good portion of the event was completely free.

The first section of the show floor, the “Otaku Expo” (too many names for one event!), started with an exhibition celebrating the 40-year history of Comic Market. This was really, really cool to see. The exibition had reproduction of nearly all of the catalog covers, official bags, leaflets, and other goodies, and an extensive (even for statistics-obsessed Japan, this was impressive!) history description spanning 14 A0 (?) sized panels of text. Someone better extend the Comiket Wikipedia page to keep up!

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The Comiket History exhibition was super cool to see.

This was some intriguing and fun stuff, so I uploaded a lot of these to a Flickr album check them out if you want to see more of the history panels in particular.

Possibly the most complete collection of Comiket catalogs in existence?

Possibly the most complete collection of Comiket catalogs in existence?

Also in the Otaku Expo were a surprising amount of regional tourism boards, trying to make their towns appealing to otaku tourism with original anime-style “image characters,” or tie-ups with anime series set in the area. This has been a noticeable trend: LovePlus fans traveling to Atami with their virtual girlfriends, Lucky Star fans doing their new years’ prayers at Washinomiya shrine, etc.
Notable tourism exhibitors at Otaku Summit were the famous Fushimi Inari shrine, Kanda Matsuri, and Soccer team Kawasaki Frontale in a joint booth with Doujinshi printing agency Neko no Shippo.

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Kawasaki Frontale & Neko no Shippo booth

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A girl in Miko costume distributing flyers for Kanda Matsuri

I ended up getting a souvenir bag of various forms of Natto from Mito – Not something I expected to bring home from Comiket!

Past these tourism board booths, I finally found the international Otaku event booths. Overseas events and schools often have these showcases at Tokyo Gameshow, but I don’t believe I have ever seen them at a Doujinshi event – Barring Kaigai Manga Festa, obviously. 10-odd events from Rome to Thailand were exhibiting, so if you’ve ever been to an anime con overseas, there might be some familiar faces here!

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Anime North and Sakura-Con were among the names I recognized.

 

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As a native Austrian, I was delighted to see AniNite represented! Unfortunately, they didn’t have a booth and I couldn’t locate any of their staff 🙁

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The Kaigai Manga Festa booth featured video of their panel discussions, as well as works from their past guests. The organizers mentioned they would be announcing the date for this year’s Festa very soon!

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Each of the exhibiting con organizers was given some time to talk about their event – I saw some of the Toho Project related presentation.

The next area was the corporate booths – very much what I have come to expect from the top floor at Comiket, however the crowds were much more thin (I’m tempted to say it was half empty). As usual, these were present more for goods shopping than anything else, but it was nice to look at them without being shoved past for once.

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One of the many apparel and goods shops. Not having half of the lineup sold out by 2pm is very uncommon, once again attesting to the poor attendance.

Goodsmile Company's Nendroid display, commemorating their 500th figure in the series, was rather impressive!

Goodsmile Company’s Nendroid display, commemorating their 500th figure in the series, was rather impressive!

Finally, across an aisle reserved for cosplay, there was the more conventional Comiket part of the event the rows of fold-up tables occupied by doujinshi of all sorts, cosplay DVDs, crafts, photobooks… A lot of the more popular anime/manga properties had been moved to the second day, so the Otaku Summit had more of the crafts and reality based (railway paraphernalia, history, etc), as well as SciFi/Tokusatsu. As you can see in the pictures, the layout was more spacious than usual, making it feel much less crowded.

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The Doujin and craft area of the event.

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Medieval swordplay!

Medieval swordplay!

Model Trains!

Model Trains!

Truth be told, I found this part of the show a bit lackluster, there weren’t a lot of Doujinshi available, and the show lacked the usual bustle Comiket normally has. I expect that a lot of that might have shifted to Sunday, which also hosted the Kuroket, a convention solely devoted to Kuroko no Basket.
However, the Otaku Expo part of Saturday’s show was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had at a Comiket event. I hope they keep this kind of thing up, and I’m looking forward to the next Comiket Special!

International Manga Festival 2014 & Publishing a doujinshi in Japan

As I mentioned last week, I helped out my friend Philip Tan in getting a book printed in time for International Manga Festival. I figured it might be interesting for doujinshi fans or aspiring creators to hear how it happened, so here’s a little writeup.

With thousands of publications being printed and sold, Comic Market and similar events are big business for printing agencies, and several of them have specialized in this type of book. There’s plenty of on-demand printers that will get the book to you within 4 business days, at extremely reasonable rates. We chose to go with Taiyou Shuppan, which offers packaged deals at set rates, each with a few different paper or finish options (matte or glossy, coated paper or newsprint, a few weight options, etc). Even if you don’t know anything about printing or paper material, going with the recommendations will produce a nice book unproblematically.

We opted for the “Sun Bazaar PP set”, with a 220kg matte coated 4-colour cover, and 90kg black&white interiors. The inside cover pages are usually blank in doujinshi. Possible page count runs from 12 to 300 pages (including covers), we went with 34 (9 story pages+21 sketch pages).
Printers generally accept almost every file format you’d normally use – in our case, they list Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Corel Painter, Comic Studio (Manga Studio), Comic Works, and PDF.
For illustrator data, I was required to create outlines for all text, flatten layers, embed images and save as eps… But I didn’t check the instructions well enough so I didn’t embed the pictures, left the layers in, and handed it in as ai files. Guess what, they accepted the data anyway. They also remarked that we should’ve numbered the pages as they would not be able to guarantee page order (remedied by writing the numbers on a printout), and helped us add a little bleed to the cover, since Philip had signed it to the far left, in the bleed area.

Philip works analog, so I had him scan the images at 600dpi at the intended print size, which we’d decided on B5 (182 × 257mm). Doujinshi are usually in B5 or A5, which is 148 × 210mm. Philip wanted the option to go edge-to-edge with his art, so we added 3mm each as bleed (188 × 263 mm in total).

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I decided to letter the book in illustrator, since it helps being able to edit and resize without making the lines fuzzy or screwing things up. Scott McCloud ‘s tutorial on lettering in illustrator gave me a great entry point into the process, and most of the balloons are done in the way Scott suggests (except the ones for the villain, which felt like they needed a different brush stroke). Unfortunately I couldn’t find good custom fonts in time, so that is definitely something to keep in mind for the next one.

Note that dialogue is usually lettered vertically in Japanese, and right to left. It helps to leave a bit of additional vertical space when laying out the page. Additionally, the art or dialogue should not go too close to the “throat” of the book, so I tried to keep at least 1cm free from the inside edges. We had the book square bound (no staples), so this was extra important. (I got very, very close to failing to do this)

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Doujinshi are also expected to have a section for the small print at the very end of the book, including contact info (twitter handles or websites are fine for this), copyright declaration, and (usually) the name of the printers. We included a line that says “do not reproduce without permission,” as well as a thank you message to the reader, Philip’s wife, and, well, me for helping get it done.

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The printers specialized in doujinshi are extremely accommodating to artists’ needs. The deadline for data was on Tuesday morning, or even afternoon if delivered in person. Books are then scheduled to be delivered directly to the event, an immense perk of using a doujinshi-specialized printer! Payment is usually done via bank transfer, but recently a lot of places have started accepting credit cards (the one we used accepts them if you show up in person, which was very practical).

When we arrived at the venue around 10am (about an hour before the event kicked off), the books had been safely delivered directly to our booth, and were waiting beneath our table. Amazingly efficient!

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If we’d opted for another printer, we would’ve had the options of carrying them ourselves (a lot of people do this with a simple wheel carrier, kind of like a suitcase without the shell), or having them sent to the temporary Yamato station at the venue – be warned, there is always a long line for this one.

For Comitia and Comiket, creators are required to hand in a sample of each book, and have it checked for content (mostly important for pornographic books). International Manga Festival does not have this requirement, so we were set to sell it right away.

Contrary to Comiket or Comitia, International Manga Festival is similar to a American or European convention. There’s plenty of publisher and retailer booths, a stage featuring panel discussions, and an “artist’s alley” area for individual artists. This area consists of plain tables for the artists to put their wares on, just like Comitia (which IMF is held in conjunction with).

Here’s a great video on International Manga Festival. I’m in there for about a second, see if you can spot me!

Our table was shared with a few other artists invited by Akihide Yanagi’s Amecomi Night, so there were some other products on the table, and signings scheduled (which enabled Philip to take some time off and wander the hall).

People started lining up to get Philip’s book right away, and there was a pretty impressive line as soon as they noticed he was also doing sketches for anyone buying the book. Setting rules for this might be a good idea before setting up.

Comitia/International Manga Festival wraps up at 4pm (yes, it’s only 5 hours), and teardown occurs incredibly fast and efficiently. You take your stuff off the table, move out, and an hour later, the hall is completely cleared out. We had a decent amount of books left, so I packed them back into one of the boxes and carried it out to the temporary Yamato station. They have shipping slips ready, but my advice would be to grab one in the morning and have it already filled out, which would enable you to skip the line for the slips after the event is over and EVERYONE needs one.

We still have some of these books left, so I am going to try to get them up for sale on Comic Zin and other doujinshi stores. I’ll make sure to put together another post about that once it’s done!
As always, make sure to let me know if you have questions, and make sure to hit the like or reblog button if you liked this post 🙂

Comic Market 86

Last weekend, I spent a few hours at the famous Comic Market. It’s a huge, confusing event, but it can be a lot of fun, so I decided to write up a little post about what I know, so you can skip some of the figuring-it-out stage if you intend to visit, or just imagine you were there.
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Comic Market, abbreviated Comiket or コミケin Japanese, is Japan’s biggest comic convention. Calling it a convention, however, might create some confusion for people who are familiar with American or European comic cons… There is no big, elaborate publisher booths, panels, or signings with creators.
In fact, the japanese term for this type of event is 即売会, which loosely translates into “on-the-spot sale meet.”
The entire event is essentially what is known at conventions outside Japan as artist’s alley. Exhibitors attend it mainly to sell their doujinshi, amongst some other goods and apparel.
doujinshi sold at Comiket can be anything from a few copies stapled together, to full blown artbooks, but the vast majority are leaflets of about 30 pages or so, with a full color cover and black & white inside pages, in A5 or B5 size.
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This is my haul from Sunday. The small (A5) books in the upper left, which amazingly have about 80 pages, cost 400 yen, or about $4. The bigger (B5) ones with about 30 pages were still only 500, and the one in the top right, which has full-color insides, was 1,000 Yen. These B5 books are from Serial Experiments Lain and Haibane Renmei creator ABe Yoshitoshi, some samples from the insides are up on his Pixiv account if you want to check them out.
There’s a lot of on-demand printing services that are very easy to use and dirt cheap. Depending on the paper quality and amount of copies you produce, it’s entirely possible to make a beautiful 30+ page book for not much more than 100 Yen per book.
Some relatively unknown creators I talked to mentioned they had done a print run of about 200 copies, while superstar creator Akamatsu Ken of Love Hina and Negima! fame mentioned selling about 8,000 copies before 1pm.
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Comiket is held at Tokyo Big Sight, a huge convention hall with an exhibition space of 80,660 square meters (868,217 square foot) For comparison, the dealer floor at San Diego Comic-Con is 460,000 square feet = 42,700sqm. It’s held twice a year, typically in August and December
This year’s summer Comiket claims to have had 550,000 visitors. I’m not entirely sure how they count that, since there are no tickets (just gigantic open gates), and rumor has it they keep the numbers artificially low to avoid problems with fire protection law and the like. Either way, it was a madhouse.
An official report said there were over 10,000 people camped out overnight for the first day this year.
But of course it wouldn’t be a convention without exhibitors – this year, the official Comiket publicity twitter account reported around 35,000 circles were attending. That’s mindblowing, considering that the chance for winning the attendance lottery is supposed to be around 50-70%.
What’s a circle, you ask? Circle, in this context, refers to a group of people who share a passion for a subject (such as an anime series or a videogame), enough to band together and produce doujinshi together.
As you might have heard, the term doujinshi, spelled 同人誌 in Japanese, literally translates into “same people magazine.” For years, I just assumed that this referred to a book featuring characters from an established property (thus the “same people”). But then I found out that there’s lots and lots of original properties being told in the same format, and they’re also called doujinshi. So I put the question to Twitter, and one of my Japanese acquaintances explained that the “same people” doesn’t refer to the characters, but the people comprising the circle, who share the same interests. Mind blown!
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Each booth, or “space” as it’s called at Comiket, comes with a narrow table, and two chairs. Most exhibitors do little to spice up their booth, some add a table cloth, maybe a little standee banner, but nothing too fancy. Obviously, the books are the main attraction here.
There is very little aggressive selling. Very few people will ask you to take a look at their books, and asking someone to buy is actively discouraged.
Which brings up the question, how the hell do you find anything in this huge place, when there’s so little clues?
Obviously it’s easier if you know a creator that you want to go visit. They’ll have announcement up on their blogs, Twitter, or Pixiv (the Japanese equivalent of Deviantart). A lot will even change their Twitter handle to include the booth number, like so: 安倍吉俊/3日目東A41a,b “Abe Yoshitoshi, 3rd day, East A41a,b.” So Abe Yoshitoshi can be found on the 3rd day of the event, in the East hall, A41 a and b. Note that while the event is 3 days, each circle is only represented on one of them.
What if you’re not looking for a specific creator, but a genre, for example, say, a Naruto fanbook? The halls are divided by genre, 42 rough categories, and similar books will usually be grouped together. The category for Naruto and other Shounen Jump books will be FC(少年).
So you know the category now, and if you’re only there for one category you might as well just go to that area of the event and browse. But say you want to narrow it down a little more. There is a catalog available before the event, sold at book- and anime stores etc. for about 2000 Yen. As you can probably imagine from having seen manga magazines, the catalog is pretty close in dimensions to a phone book. And the insides look like this:
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Yeesh. This is a page in the Kancolle section, featuring doujinshi of the popular character Shimakaze. It has the row number (ソ, note that there will be alphabet, hiragana and katakana row numbers), and then a single image for every circle to present their visual style, with the booth number and circle name. That’s all the hints you get. If you find one that piques your interest, it can’t hurt googling the name and see if they have a twitter or Pixiv account which might feature some more samples of their work.
It’s a pretty daunting task.
Here’s a look at one of the halls’ floor plans:
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Notice how the “A” section is hugging the walls, with a broad-ish corridor between it and the rest of the tables? This is where the bigger, well-known circles get to exhibit. They tend to draw larger crowds, so they are positioned in ares where they can form lines (which usually extend out of the huge gates) without blocking the other exhibitors’ booths. The ends of the rows are similar, as they also offer more space and a clearer view of the booth.
As you can imagine, a lot of the Shimakaze books on the catalog page above are adult books, which is something that doujinshi are very commonly associated with. And rightly so, this is definitely a big part of Comiket’s wares.
But there is so much more to be found. Obviously there are other, non-adult themed fanfiction doujinshi, but there is also a ton of other content. A small list of things I discovered in my very cursory browsing of this year’s Comiket, after I was done checking out the creators I had planned in advance, directly from my twitter updates:
Travel essays, train photos, anti-TPP propaganda leaflets, screenplays… this is #comiket too. UFO magazines. Tons of them for the believers. Restaurant review booklets. Recipe collections. Flute playing instructions. Stickers. Charms. Papercraft. Handmade dolls. Handmade bags, purses and earrings. T-shirts. Rubber stamps. 
 
The above is from a span of about 20 minutes of my tweets. There is a vast amount of content to be found for all tastes, if you manage to find it in the limited amount of time available: Comiket opens at 10 and closes at 4pm. As I mentioned above, over 10,000 people spend the night in the parking lot overnight and flood the venue all at once, so even entering before noon is literally impossible.
I usually try to be there about 12:30 – 1pm. The crowds are still absolutely crazy, but there’s no wait to actually enter the venue, and it’s possible to navigate without getting squashed. Popular books start selling out around 2-3pm, at which point the exhibitors pack up and go home, so some research into what you plan to look at is a must.
Also, there’s two areas of the event that I haven’t touched upon: The commercial booths and cosplay areas. The commercial booths, 企業ブース in Japanese, are put up by publishers, anime companies and apparel/goods vendors.
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Unlike the publisher and TV booths at an american convention, there are no talkshows, meet-and-greets, or any activity other than sales here. All there is are limited edition goods (anything from printed tumblers to the notorious 抱き枕 – long pillows with a print of an anime character on them) to be bought, and people gladly line up for an hour to get to them. Honestly, even going up there isn’t worth it. There’s too many people, and very little to see.
The cosplay area(s), on the other hand, are a different story. There’s tons of really elaborate, great cosplay here, but the thing is that it’s separate from the dealer floor (aside from a select few people wandering around in costume, and a few aisles of cosplay photo books and DVDs being sold). The Comiket rules dictate that cosplayers need to change into their costumes on site (there are dressing rooms available), and cosplayers then pose for photographers in a roped-off area outside specifically reserved for that purpose. It’s huge, and there’s like 20 photographers with huge DSLRs crowding around each scantily clad girl, but I can tell you little else because I haven’t really bothered to go in myself. My understanding is that you actually have to get a permit on site to take pictures (a result of Japan’s rampant trend of taking unwanted pictures, and extreme protectiveness of ones portrait rights, and generally personal information). So I’ll leave that up to someone more in-the-know to describe.
That’s it! Pretty much all I know about Comiket! Let me know via Disqus or the Ask me feature in case there’s anything you want me to elaborate on. I’ll be happy to help!
(ported from my tumblr)