It’s time for another Comitia! I just realized I haven’t updated my page since the last one in May… Yikes.
I will be selling once again. No new books this time around, but I will have copies of all my previous works, as well as some of Philip Tan’s.
Nankyoku Sufferer by Kezuka Ryoichiro (circle: Sumika)
Sumika comitia thumbnail:
Hayase is member of an exploratory mission into the Antarctic. Accompanied by a humanoid support android, she has ventured out away from their outpost, when their vehicle gets stuck in a crevasse.
With no way of returning to their base before dark, the two contemplate their options: Hayase cynically remarks on how easy it would be if the android only had the capability of flying back to the base, while the other half of the duo snidely points out she is built sturdily to deliver Hayase’s last words after she froze to death.
Fed up with the light-hearted, chatty android, she storms off, only to be stopped in her tracks when she is saved from plunging to her death in another crevasse.
Eventually, the two make their way to an abandoned outpost, where the android is able to fix up an old radio and call for help. “I’m not just chatty and useless after all, aren’t I?” she jests, only to be told to shut up and get back to work by Hayase, who rejects her offer of firing up her database of entertaining stories and informational lectures.
As night creeps in and the temperature starts to fall, Hayase gets visibly less comfortable in the barely-functional outpost, shivering even under layers of blankets. The android wanders off to look into the heating system, and comes back with thick wires attached to her gut, before shutting down her main systems and collapsing beside Hayase.
When she comes to only minutes later, she finds Hayase had different priorities for surviving the night…
Nankyoku Sufferer is a very brief, self-contained story without any explicit action or drama, but offers a great read through the main characters’ dry-humored dialogue. While Hayase obviously isn’t as uncomfortable as she pretends with having the ever-positive android around, her opposite betrays her light-hearted facade in moments of sheer capability when needed the most.
The theme of having a near-perfectly human android companion is of course one that has been explored time and again in manga, but Kezuka does a fantastic job of making his character relatable — she was obviously created with the goal of keeping her human companion sane in extreme environments, just as much as helping the technical aspects of the mission.
The A5-sized book contains 20 pages of story with a beautiful matte cover of white. blue and black. Kezuka’s art shows a hugely consistent level of skill, from the framing and construction of the characters down to the panel layouts, on several occasions using an entire page for a silent establishing shot of the environment alone. The art style is right up my alley of course, with clear lines and attractive, highly expressive faces. The cover is what made me buy the book, however it feels like it belongs to a larger story set in the same world.
The story is consciously set in our world’s Antarctic, rather than a more fantastical environment. The author even goes so far as to include a full double page of specs for a polar exploration vehicle used in the story — an actual car used in the 60s. Great to see that kind of commitment to detail — of course it’s hard to verify the specifics when it comes to robotics.
This past weekend, I participated in my first ever Comitia, a convention focused solely on original works — no established anime/manga characters allowed. I’ve attended this event as a guest for over a year now, but this is the first time I actually got a table, bringing along my first-ever doujinshi/minicomic.
As you can imagine, visiting and attending are a very different experience, each one rewarding in their own way.
Registering for Comitia was incredibly easy. I had previously registered a circle at the circle.ms homepage, which serves as the registration platform for Comiket, Comitia, and several other events. The registration procedure was simple, requiring not much beyond name, address, genre and such. I had to submit a thumbnail for the catalog, for which the registration website provides templates. It was crazy cool to see my art in the catalog!
Finally, the big day arrived on Sunday!
Here’s my experience from the show:
Circle admission begins. there are two other doujinshi events being held today, one of which seems to be drawing a major, and mostly female, crowd. I smell BL…
The line for Comitia is moderate. It only takes me a few minutes to get registered (a simple process of handing in the circle ticket that came in the mail, and receiving a different one for re-entry into the hall), and enter the hall.
I reach my table. It’s the usual bare folding thing, with a pipe chair placed on top, and positively covered in promotional flyers.
The promo goods also contains a large, sturdy paper bag from Tora no Ana, which turns out to be a godsend since the one I brought my equipment in (the big yellow promotional one from Dark Horse they handed out at SDCC) couldn’t handle the load and tore on the way in.
The “wandering registration” (巡回受付) begins. A friendly, bespectacled lady stops by my table, and collects my book sample and registration card. This completes the registration process. I am now officially a Comitia participant!
I finish setting up. I brought a nice big tablecloth made from Yukata/Hanten material (purchased from Yuzawaya), a little shelf and some display stands from the 100 Yen store. My poster stand is constructed from plastic pipes from the hardware store, costing below 1,000 Yen (as compared to the “proper” poster stand everyone is using that costs an outrageous 5k!)
I realize that I should have made my “menu” bigger, and brought more decorative stuff, as the table actually offers much more space than I had anticipated. I’m still well within the norm of Comitia booth presentation, but I can do much better.
I also decide to make the poster bigger (It’s A2, but I could’ve easily gotten away with A1 size), and find some cloth to wrap the little wire shelf in next time.
The table next to me is a girl selling cute fantasy-themed illustrations, and has a guy helping her out. Two chairs make the 90cm wide space quite crowded. The person who reserved the space on my other side stays empty, giving me room for my bag.
Circle admission ends, and we brace ourselves for the spectacle to begin. I make a quick run to say hi to friends like Torimura, Miki Usami, and recent acquaintance Ichigou.
Doors open to the public. Applause. I see people streaming in from the main door, but they do not make their way into our aisle until quite a bit later. I assume a lot of them are heading towards the most popular circles first, which are located in the big aisles and have the most pull (=are the most likely to sell out).
Usami stops by my booth and I wonder if she’s ok leaving her own table so early in the game (She does have someone helping).
11:20 People start finding their way into the minor aisles. Most are headed somewhere, others are browsing cursorily, but nobody stops. My neighbor starts getting visits from established fans, and sketchbook requests (lots of artists in Japan accept requests, and spend a lot of their time during conventions drawing them). A lot of the fans have a clipboard where they note down which booths to visit, and where their sketchbooks are.
I start greeting and encouraging people to take a look when I see their gaze linger on my table for longer than a second. Most walk on, some start to browse. I have a note on my book rack saying “reading is encouraged” (立ち読み歓迎), and a few people take me up on it and read the whole thing. I also encourage them to take my free 1-page comic about visiting SDCC. (I realize that I forgot to put my Twitter account or URL on it – oops)
My first sale! One of the readers liked it enough to buy. I remember telling someone I would be happy if even one person felt my work was good enough to spend 500 Yen on, and that holds true. I am pretty ecstatic.
Shortly after, a woman zips straight to my table and asks for a copy. I wonder how she found me.
I start to realize that having something to convey the genre of my book more clearly might be of help – since my illustration skill isn’t up to the level of most of the artists here, I have a much harder time getting people to take a look in the first place. (I do think the cover of TCOM #1 does a fairly good job of invoking a Sci-fi feel though, the circuitry background was a wise choice in hindsight.)
Noticing a steady increase in traffic past noon. People are done getting the stuff they were actively looking for, and spending time just wandering the hall.
A customer, after flipping through the book and checking out my menu, purchases the only Japanese/English set of the day.
At some point I notice that Takeshi Miyazawa and Ken Niimura are only about 5 booths away and stare at their backs for a bit.
People are starting to pay with coins. Up til this point it was all 1000 Yen bills, so I am relieved I’d prepared so much change. (I saw a guy who used a roll of packing tape as a container for his change, I liked that idea)
The organizers announce that the catalogs (which double as tickets) have sold out, so anyone can enter the hall.
I cannot tell if it has any effect on attendance.
A dude in a Mad Max shirt picks up my SDCC comic, and I thank him with a V8 sign.
Mangaka and friend Tateo Retsu stops by and takes over the booth while I take a quick break. I get a fresh bottle of water and visit some friends I hadn’t gotten to in the morning. Attendees are getting visibly more tired, and harder to talk up.
I stop by the editor’s outpost (a section of the hall exclusively devoted to pitch reviews by editors from roughly 100 publications. They look for pitch-ready sequentials rather than a portfolio of works). Beside this, there is a really interesting exhibit of scenario, roughs, and inks process from several published manga, including Saint Young Men (which is really funny).
Back at the table, I chat with Tateo for a bit. She’s a cool lady, very knowledgeable about comics and the only person to notice my BPRD T-shirt.
A girl stops by to pick up my SDCC comic. She’s really into Marvel movies and dying to go to comic-con. Hasn’t looked into the comics.
I am at about 10 sales so far.
Snacks friends brought to the table for me!
More and more sellers are packing up and going home. The shipping agents getting really busy at the end is a factor in this. I have decided not to pack up until the closing announcement.
Very few people looking at books anymore. The event is effectively over.
I sold 14 books, which, considering that it was my first time, and reported sales numbers from the event, I consider a success! I made the registration fee back, plus enough for a couple of beers 🙂
The organizers announce the end of the event. Applause. I pack up my stuff (my box is noticeably emptier, but with the handful of books I bought or received from friends, it’s about the same), fold up the chair and put it below the table. Folding up the table is optional but encouraged – at Comitia, sellers, just like attendees and organizers, are considered “participants” responsible for making sure the event goes smoothly. There are no guards shooing people out of the hall. Whoever remains is expected to help clean up, and the hall empties amazingly efficiently.
Yasuaki Funayama picks me up for an evening of Yakitori, really random drinks, and lots of taking about comics. Should be enough to get me into his next Comitia report comic! (Check out the one for Comitia112 here – it’s really funny.)
TO BE CONTINUED
(at the next Comitia and Kaigai Manga Festa in November!)
The past month or so, I haven’t made a lot of time to go out, or even for this blog. Instead, I have spent my time living the dream: drawing comics all day in my underwear. Glorious! And today I was rewarded for the work: A box of professionally printed books containing my story arrived at my door!
This post is going to be a recollection of my efforts. I am by no means an experienced artist – this is my first book! – but perhaps people looking into putting their own comics together for the first time might relate, or find some of it helpful.
TCOM, in various forms and stages, has been in the making for the better part of 15 years. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ve been drawing for 15 years (that would mean I’d drawn a page a year), instead I wrote and rewrote the first chapter, started drawing and scrapped it again, over and over and over again. It’s kinda self-destructive if you think about it. But for some reason, the idea just wouldn’t leave me be, and I knew I wanted to realize it some form, some day.
Initially I started working on TCOM (the pitch for TCOM, more precisely – just like everyone around me I was obsessed with breaking in to the comic industry by getting picked up by an established publisher. At the time I was really into Oni Press) with Hiromi Ueyoshi, a fellow comics fan who was an absolute wizard with a pencil – her old character designs and pages for a minicomic we did just before SDCC 2001 (where she chickened out from saying hi because I looked scary with my eyebrow piercing) still blow me away.
Ugh, so good…
Hiromi was 15? at the time, so it was obviously unrealistic she’d be able to stick with it for long, and I was on my own again. I felt insecure in my abilities as an artist, plus, all comic books I read were made by a writer + an artist. I never really thought about getting it done by myself. I wrote and re-wrote the first chapter at least a dozen times. Never got much farther before I backtracked and restarted.
I’m in a very different place now. I’m 34 years old, with a full-time job, and hardly looking for a “break” into the comics industry. But I do still love comics, and I do still want to make comics.
In recent years, I’ve started attending Comitia, an event where creators known and unknown sell their own original works. Most of them work alone. There’s artists looking to be discovered, but there’s also people just making comics in their free time because they enjoy it, and the level of quality in art varies wildly. I started writing doujinshi reviews on this blog, and made friends with some of the artists. I learned that it’s not hard to get your stuff printed at a reasonable cost. And I realized, there is absolutely no valid reason why I should not be making comics.
I looked at the books I buy and enjoy at Comitia. I noticed I prefer the smaller A5 size, matte covers (often with a pearl finish), and rough paper. I already knew the process of selecting printing properties from producing Philip Tan’s Garan Guard, so I knew I could get these for my book. Paper sizes in most of the world are standardized, A5 is half of A4 etc, and comics are usually scaled down to the next smaller one. So I grabbed some A4 sized Deleter Kent paper (Philip’s recommendation), and started drawing.
My process is completely non-linear – I had a basic outline of what I wanted to happen in the book, broken down by pages, but I made layout sketches, rough pencils, and the final digitally inked art for each stage at various stages in the process. I had an idea what the characters would say (remember, this book has been in my head for the better part of 15 years),but I didn’t plot out the actual dialogue until after the art was almost completely done, and basically made it up as I lettered. The Marvel way!
I drew all of TCOM in blue pencil, which is something a lot of artists use for their roughs – in my case inconsequential as I didn’t pencil or ink over them. I ended up liking the slick, crayony feel of the colored lead, but it really made no difference. I then scanned them (400dpi for color, 600 for greyscale, as per the printer’s guidelines) and inked over them in Photoshop, using mostly the “Ultimate Inking – Thick & Thin” and “Belgian Comics” brushes from Kyle T. Webster’s “Megapack” brush set. I work on a Wacom Intuos pen tablet, with the grey-tipped kinda rubbery nib on my pen. Ultimately, my choice of inking brush hardly mattered, as I ended up using a very small amount of line weight variation – something I will need to work on.
I think I noticed this too late because I was working in Photoshop, and zooming in a lot.
For the same reason, I also had a hard time keeping the parts of the bodies and faces in proportion. Which is a strong reason to keep doing those pencil roughs, as much as they differ from the finished pictures. I mean sheesh!
A few things I noticed that helped me improve throughout the process:
1 Lock your layers, dummy!
Multiple times, I’d make some adjustments to the layer containing my scanned pencils, and then go back to inking… Only to find I’d been inking on the pencil layer, with no way of separating the lines from the background. It’s just one click to lock a layer in Photoshop (and you can even just lock individual aspects, like position or transparency!), and it’ll prevent mishaps like this with a really annoying dialog box popping up whenever you try to paint on the locked layer.
2 Keyboard shortcuts abound!
I knew most of the basics – hold space to drag, individual letters corresponding to tools, etc. – but I found some new stuff: the tab key hides all the tool bars, leaving the work area free and uncluttered. Shift + tool letters let you access the secondary functions of the tools, like the polygonal or magnetic lassos. In Illustrator, hiding the guards by hitting Ctrl+: sped things up quite a bit.
3 Have a mirror handy!
I learned to have a mirror on my desk. Our rather, I learned why a lot of illustrators and cartoonists do.
For some reason, I never got into the habit of doing this previously. I’ve drawn my share of stuff, nothing professional of course, but never a lot of sequentials. Having a mirror at hand helps a lot with “talking heads” style sequences, which is to say most of this book… Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until halfway through, so the improvement is not as visible as it could be.
I did the cover very late in the process. I knew this was the face of my book, and I wanted it to look presentable. My art skill was very, very rusty (and had never been particularly good in the first place!), so I decided it was probably wisest to keep it until I felt confident I could do an ok job with it.
I went for the obvious choice, a picture of TCOM’s protagonists (Tom and Andy).
My initial idea was for them to be on different planes of existence (the real world and the computer world, Matrix if you will), Tom reaching in and his hand dissolving into pixels. I tried to draw this, but every effort I made looked like crap. I chose to stick to the deadline, accept the failure, and try to do a better job next time.
For the background, I came up with the idea of a stylized circuit board rather quickly. I played with a myriad of color combinations – some that stuck were black/pink, yellow/blue, and green/magenta – and decided to keep the green. I also noticed that the pearl finish I enjoy doesn’t really seem right for the subject matter, and thought about alternatives. I noticed the printer I was working with does foil embossing, a technique that was popular (=overdone) in american comics in the 90s. I initially planned to do the entire “circuit” part of the cover in foil, but it was too big for the printer’s standard foil stamp option. So I experimented a little and noticed that the part around the logo type was actually a pretty neat cluster that lent itself well to the foil treatment. The final cover, along with the beautiful back cover Philip did for me, looks like this:
There’s tons of things I would’ve liked to improve. The coloring on the characters, for one, I didn’t have the chance to go beyond flats. I’m not at all satisfied with the girl’s figure. But it was either run with it, or not have the book done in time for SDCC. Sometimes you have to let things go, or risk never to finish the book at all.
The way the embossing works is, you send the printer an additional file containing the shape for the emboss stamp, in 100% black on one layer. In my case, this was super easy. I’d done the circuit board background in illustrator, so I just put the relevant paths on a new layer, and made sure the outline was as clear as possible. I left the registration- and trim marks the same, so it would be positioned the way I wanted it.
Here’s the illustrator image, the metal stamp the printer was so kind as to send with the books, and the finished product!
Pretty cool effect, eh?
I did the layout and lettering in Illustrator (I have a limited design background, so I knew for simple shapes Illustrator always looks best). The printer I used has templates available for both Photoshop and Illustrator, so I didn’t need to fiddle with cut marks and the like. For the actual lettering and panel borders, I found this tutorial from Scott McCloud very helpful (in particular, McCloud’s technique to add an outline to everything on a layer was a lifesaver!)
The result, with a line weight of 2pt for the balloons, and 1pt for panel borders:
Ugggghhh, lines not extending to panel borders… The more time goes by, the worse I feel about this :/
The printer, as previously, was super helpful in getting everything figured out. I’d met one of their sales managers at Comitia, so I had a direct contact person. That helped heaps, however as I’ve said before, their website has tons of helpful tips on how to prepare the data for print, if you’re able to read Japanese.
I registered and uploaded the files digitally (believe it or not, it’s still quite common for people to send physical originals), and paid per credit card. The printer I chose (Taiyou Shuppan) offers several “set deals” that have a handful of paper- and finish options included at a set price, so that was painless as well. Overall, the entire process was ridiculously foolproof. Including the foil emboss, the semi-transparent cover separators, and shipping, these came down to about $3 each. Not bad.
And that’s it! My first minicomic in the can! I only printed it in Japanese, but I’ll do a translation for SDCC on separate copy paper (yikes! only 3 days left!), so I’ll throw a translated PDF up when I’m done! Thanks for sticking with me through this huge post, I hope it offered something entertaining/helpful/new. As always, Likes/comments are very much encouraged!
Click the pictures below to read a 7-page preview of the first issue of TCOM. Let me know what you thought!
Hey there! Glad you could join me for another installment of my mostly-weekly doujinshi review series.
This time around, I thought I’d go for a genre I haven’t touched on before. No, not boys’ love, I’ll leave that to the experts… The books I am going to introduce you to today are of an entirely different variety: Non-fiction. Both of these are reports on the experiences of the authors at two big comic conventions, namely Japan’s Comitia (if you’re not too familiar, check out my own write-up here) and America’s Comic-Con International San Diego.
1 Comitia Zakki-shuu (lit “Collection of Comitia Notes”) by Funayama Yasuaki (circle: Phenomenom)
Comitia Notes are the record of the author’s misadventures at Japan’s premier original (read: non-fan fiction) doujinshi market. Depicting himself as Yayoi, the heroine of his first self-published work, Funayama starts out the book with a 2-page sequence that starts with the artistic frustration of drawing someone else’s property, then turns to starting to work on his self-published book upon the invitation to Comitia 100 by a friend, next shows the optimistic beginning of the show, quickly followed by utter defeat, none of his books having sold, and finally closes on the up-note of the artist finding new motivation to have a better book ready for the next show. It’s a story that is surely recognizable to many budding comics artist, who walk into the show confident but unprepared, only to be chewed up and spat out (see the cover), and then come back for another serving.
Funayama’s convention life takes an upturn at November 2012’s Comitia 102, with his new book Boukyakugai no Sora selling out, and Funayama getting invited to the Comitia afterparty. The report comic about this experience is actually the first one Funayama drew, and ended up becoming a regular tradition, finally being collected in this book.
Over the course of the following three years, Funayama gains friends, fans, watches in awe (and unbridled jealousy) as his peers soar in both skill and popularity. More and more characters, each an artist in real life, but robots/youkai/tomato-monsters in the book, join the cast as Funayama gains foothold in the world of independent comics. But while the storytelling is generally hilariously comedy-heavy, Comitia Notes does contain some valuable lessons, such as how to survive a portfolio review at the “on-site editorial desk” (an experience which Funayama depicts as a ruthless martial arts training sequence that leaves him reduced to a head with legs), or what happens when you make an appointment with an editor for after the convention, but don’t have anything to show (answer: you end up drawing the entire time).
Funayama’s Comitia reports are illustrated in a loose, comical style that lends itself to a speedy, fun report. Particularly the depictions of other artists are endearing and entertaining (a lot of them contributed sketches in the back section of the book, along with an introduction of them and their works). Obviously they garnered a good deal of attention, as Funayama was tapped to illustrate Comitia’s ubiquitous rule manual “Welcome to Comitia” for the 118th installment. Comitia Notes is 98 black-and-white pages with a glossy, wraparound cover that is so eyecatching I just had to get it when I saw it at Comic Zin.
2 The Journey to San Diego Comic-Con: About participating in the world’s biggest Otaku event by neko (circle: KJTR)
Most Japanese, and otaku even more so, are notoriously conscious of their ability to communicate in English, so visiting an American comic convention prevents quite a few hurdles. Journey to SDCC is as much an attempt at lowering these, as it is a travelogue of the author’s own experiences at the popular convention.
Author neko first encountered the term “SDCC” via a video game producer’s call for people to join him for dinner at the event, which immediately made her start to plot for next years’ comicon. Never having been to the US, she had to figure out travel logistics before even facing the ever-momentous task of securing a badge for the event.
Journey to SDCC walks the reader through the process of securing badges, picking them up at the event, navigating the panel schedule, finding food, meeting people, and overall having a good time at the busiest of cons. Like Funayama’s Comitia reports, the artist’s experiences are relayed via short comic segments, but offer a more detailed description of each event in the form of text blocks and pictures on the following pages.
Leaving the convention center, the book offers tips on things to see, such as the nearby USS Midway museum, and a guide on how to get around on the trolley.
But the convention programming takes up the largest chunk of the page count, with a great rundown on what to expect from comic- and art related panels, and even featuring some familiar faces in delightful cameos.
Journey to SDCC is a 36-page book with a glossy photo/art collage cover, and chock full with information for not only first-time, but also returning con-goers. I will make sure to re-read it carefully before my trip this summer!
Another doujinshi review, in the same week? You bet!
Here’s another gem that I got at Comitia.
Okaeri by Hatobue Kurocha and Seta
Okaeri is a collaboration between two artists, whose work comes together to form one book in a way I might have never experienced before. There’s no “writer” or “artist,” as Kurocha and Seta decided to create this book as a “relay” project, alternating both art and writing.
Each double page spread features a full-page illustration with a short block of text, describing a new world the protagonist has stumbled into. The narration always closes with someone being told “okaeri,” and wraps up the scene while introducing a new object or companion that sets the stage for the next.
The Nightly Forest
A gigantic moth paints stars across the dark canopy, while a Chinese Lantern illuminates the forest, like a lamp. It is beautiful here, and I see that you have many eyes, but don’t you think it is a little dark for reading books?
Welcome home, little star. Let’s return, many-eyed ones.
The star, which is pictured as being returned to its place on the text side of the page, was introduced on the previous page, while the main illustration on this one introduces the many-eyed ones, who create the bridge to the next. The conscious choice of different characters for “okaeri” (おかえり、お帰り) implies that, while being the same word, one of the “companions” is being told to stay in their world, while the other, new one, is being reminded they are out of their natural place, and should head home. It’s a great reminder how versatile the Japanese language is because of its context-sensitivity, and executed beautifully in this case. The title of the book (オカエリ), and the very last page (お還り) offer two more variations of the same word.
The two artists’ styles are quite similar, so much so that I did not notice the “relay” structure at first. They both deliver a highly detailed, textured rendering of the ten highly imaginative realms the protagonist travels, and the illustrations are just a joy to look at. (By now you’ve probably noticed that this style of cross- and parallel-hatched sine pen linework is right up my alley)
The wraparound cover is another highlight of the book, featuring a selective palette of black and green on shimmering pearl white paper.
Okaeri only has 24 illustrated pages, but due to the one-page-one-world setup it chooses, it offers a lot more content in them than you’d expect. Each page tells its own tale and there is no overarching story beyond the protagonist wandering through them, so readers looking for an epic tale will be disappointed. However, the “relay” structure is really clever and fun, and the last page offers a sense of closure and validation for the protagonist’s journey.
Welcome back to the wildly irregularly scheduled Weekend doujinshi review!
After a look at a slightly disturbing book last week, I am back to more all-ages appropriate fare this week, as usual firmly rooted in the sci-fi/fantasy category.
Kimi no Hanazono (Your flower garden) by Kotaro Yuki (duke)
I covered a book by the same author in my Halloween post last year, which was a tale of giant monsters.. The style is so different I didn’t connect them at first (which is funny considering I bought this one directly from him).
A young girl walks the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic future, accompanied by a crude spider-like robot she calls “Maruzo” (maru means round, and zo is a suffix common to traditional male names, so the robot is basically called round guy). What they are looking for is not explicitly mentioned, but it is obvious that Maruzo has a different idea about it than his companion, when he tries to bring home a filthy old toy he found along the road, and she makes him put it back.
Back at home, they turn to watching old films, and the girl expresses her confusion at the actors’s emotional facial expressions. The world has become such an empty place that she has no concept of human emotion.
Inside their little home, Maruzo has taken to fashioning flowers out of scrap metal, and they have even managed to plant a small patch of real flowers in their front yard, a rare thing as real vegetation is scarce in their barren environment. We learn that this is the result of a war of unprecedented scale, which ended up decimating the human population along with the Flora.
In search of other survivors, the girl and Maruzo decide to check out a distant city they see on the horizon.
The girl is overjoyed when she hears a voice, but it turns out to be a display board rerunning news broadcasts from the war: A new robot weapon, “T.A.K.O.” is being introduced to deal with dissidents against government policy – no way that’s going to backfire, right?
When our protagonists take a wrong turn (against Maruzo’s instincts), they are ambushed by the very same robot weapon, which promptly aims for the girl – and Maruzo takes the shot for her.
But T.A.K.O. (Japanese for octopus) isn’t done yet, and life takes a serious downturn for the protagonists. But when all is said and done, they are able to turn the situation around, and end the book on an up note – and a wide field of flowers that has expanded well beyond the front yard.
I feel that the biggest appeal of Kimi no Hanazono – apart from the beautiful art – is the characterizations of the protagonists. Contrary to stereotype, it is the girl who is emotionless and practical, while Maruzo builds scrap flowers, cherishes stuffed toys, and faints when a bug lands on him. Even so, there is a strong connection between the two, and when things look hopeless for Maruzo, the girl finally learns what the tears she saw in the old movie really meant.
Kimi no Hanazono is 38 story pages, framed by a beautiful, matte wraparound cover (the whole illustration can be found on the artist’s pixiv page). There is a light grey, textured cover sheet next to the inside cover, which does not wrap around anywhere. Little details like this are a testament to the artist’s investment in the project. In the afterword, artist Kotaro Yuki explains that the characters first appeared in a single illustration he did 2 years ago, and he ended up getting more and more attached to them as he drew them more. He started seeing something of himself in the character of Maruzo, and decided to draw a comic featuring them. It’s great to see when characters develop a life of their own like that, and the love for them shows in the pages of Kimi no Hanazono.
Finally, I’m back to introducing you to doujinshi I enjoyed. Life has been busy, so it’s been two months again…
Amefurashi by Torimura (circle: Daiouika)
WARNING: This book is about sexual abuse of a child. If you’re squeamish about these things (and I don’t blame you if you are), please stop reading. I will not post scans of the scenes in question, but the subject matter is pretty jarring, so be warned.
There was a girl I liked. One day, her photograph was posted all over our town.
In the railway station, the police box, the shopping center, and lamp posts all over the place…
The flyer was everywhere.
After a while, the colors started to fade.
The paper got wet, torn, blown away by the wind. People would punch in holes with push pins.
Now, ten years later, nobody remembers her face.
These are the words of the opening narration of Amefurashi, accompanying scenes of a young boy helping a girl reclaim her school backpack from a creek some bullies had chucked it in. They laugh, and the girl, as little girls do, proclaims that she will marry the boy.
At the end of this prologue, the girl is pulled into a van and disappears, leaving the boy standing helplessly in the middle of the road.
Cut to the present, the boy, now in his late teens, is a kitchen help at a family restaurant. His colleagues mention a pretty customer he should check out, and there she is – his childhood friend Natsu, who vanished all those years ago. She recognizes the understandably shellshocked protagonist (Referred to only as “Shu-chan”), and they rekindle their friendship and budding romance.
One evening, as they revisit a playground they frequented as children, Natsu reveals to the protagonist what happened when she was taken – in her words, by the imaginary sea-hares (Amefurashi) that he has been seeing since childhood: Her torturers dissected and studied her body from head to toe, and built a clone to replace her – the girl standing in front of him right now. She is just a fake, a copy of the girl who disappeared so long ago.
The protagonist (understandably) struggles with his relationship with the girl, who implores him to help find the sea hares’ hideout, where the real Natsu is still imprisoned.
One day he overhears a group of girls talking about his friend having an affair with her teacher, and staggers into a back alley with a particularly high concentration of the imaginary sea-hares, where he finds Natsu about to enter a love hotel with an older man. Confronted by the protagonist, she explains that the only time she feels loved – even though she is a fake – is when she is with a man, that is the only time she feels human and alive, even knowing she has been replaced with a lifeless hull long ago.
The protagonist, after freaking out and smashing the gazillions of sea hares with a shovel, and scaring off the older man, takes her in his arms, and finally says it:
There’s no invaders replacing humans with clones. Where ever we search, there is no other, “real” Natsu.
You right in front of me, you are the real Natsu. I am so sorry, for not being able to protect you that day.
This book is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever read. Because of the deceptively cute art, you wander in with completely unprepared for a study of childhood trauma that is so well crafted it’s devastating to read. It starts out tentatively optimistic, when the two reconnect, then takes a downturn when we learn more about the construct she has built inside her psyche to protect herself, and then hits absolute rock bottom when the protagonist and his friends accidentally watch a bootleg DVD that shows her being raped as a child – all the while calling his name (I mean holy shit). And it wraps up in a fantastic last two pages, when both of them take a tiny, tiny first step towards accepting reality, and healing.
I was very conflicted about whether to write about this book or not. But in the end, I chose that I almost had to because of the emotional impact it had, and because I decided it was really well crafted to have that effect.
The 80-odd page book is beautifully crafted with another limited-palette cover (just like kraken, which I wrote about in my first review) and extremely expressive black-and-white interiors, but obviously the story overshadows everything.
In the afterword, artist Torimura (a young woman) describes a nightmare she had about a mass of sea-hares invading her house, which became the basis of this story. At the end of the dream, they transformed into a human girl who asked “Will you love me if I’m like this?”
I asked her about the inspiration for the incredibly chilling depiction of child abuse and the resulting trauma. She offered this anecdote:
“The sexual violence was inspired by a book I read in junior high school. It was a collection of first-hand accounts from rape survivors, and among them there was one that said, ‘my parents advised me to keep my experience a secret. They said my family would live in shame if their daughter was thought of as a rape victim.’ I was just a junior high school student, but this chilled me to the bone.”
The artist: Torimura on pixiv, Twitter.That’s it for today! Sorry, just one for today, I’m a bit exhausted… Hope you enjoyed the read.In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.
As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!
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.
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!
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?
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.
Kawasaki Frontale & Neko no Shippo booth
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!
Anime North and Sakura-Con were among the names I recognized.
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 🙁
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!
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.
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!
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.
The Doujin and craft area of the event.
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!
Happy New Year!
I just realized I haven’t done a doujinshi review post in about 2 months. Life has been busy, but as I wrote in my previous post, I did attend Comitia 110 in November, and as always I got a few really nice books which I would like to share with you.
The below books were purchased at Comitia 110.
1 Yuusha to Maou by Nano Atsumi (circle: Ochiba Gaitou)
Comitia 110 Circle thumbnail:
Yuusha to Maou is Nano’s take on the popular theme (some might say trope) of a “chosen” hero, born to rid the world of evil. The hero of the story, latest in a line of individuals tasked with vanquishing the demon king the gods failed to in ancient times, grows up in a village among humans, who pamper him because of his status, but treat him as a distinctly different being, not even giving him a proper name (instead simply refering to him as “Yuusha,” literally meaning”hero”).
The hero grows up feeling alone and an outsider, having a hard time accepting his sole purpose as the hero of legend. When he finally ventures out to fight the evil hordes under the demon king’s command, he is promptly captured and imprisoned in the dark lord’s castle.
Once in the castle, the hero finds that while he is being experimented on leisurely by the demon king’s super-adorable evil scientist underlings, the evil forces make no serious attempt at killing him. Rather, the dark lord seems to simply be sizing him up, even deliberately creating opportunities to just talk, while of course making sure to mention as often as possible how despicable and weak human beings are.
Slowly, the hero notices that the demon king’s heart isn’t completely in the fight, and, just like himself, lacks a sense of purpose in life. Finally, he notices that everyone keeps referring to the evil one simply as “demon king,” just like himself growing up being referred to as “hero.” Maybe hero and demon king aren’t so different after all?
Yuusha to Maou is a simple, self-contained (albeit open ended) tale, illustrated in a beautiful style reminiscent of Disgaea or Taira Akitsu’s work. The artist used a traditional 4-panel layout, but the story is told as one and not a series of 4-panel ones.
In a way, I feel like the layout limited the book somewhat, as sometimes the panels are too small to tell exactly what is going on. Similarly, sometimes it feels like there should be a “punchline” to a certain story bit, but it falls flat, possibly also because of the 4-panel layout, which is traditionally associated with more comical books.
Yuusha to Maou is a “copy book,” which is the simplest form of doujinshi, a bunch of copies or printouts stapled together. The book is 28 pages including 4-color covers, with b/w interiors.
I am curious about why the artist went for a copybook instead of having it printed, but at the end of the day it’s about the contents, and Yuusha to Maou is a charming little book that is accessible and fun to read.
On a pitch black sea, a gir is sailing towards an abandoned research facility, all the while conversing with a derelict robot. Humans are long extinct, and the two – the robot being the preserved mind of a scientist, while her nature isn’t explained in detail – are the only lifeforms to be seen.
We find out that the reason for their voyage is a search for food, since the girl has finally run out after being confined to her home for as long as she can remember. The robot points out the leaves protruding from her hair, but she explains that they are only capable of generating auxiliary energy reserves.
The two enter the facility via an access elevator on the roof – demolishing the robot’s body in the process – leaving the girl to drag the barrel-shaped head part with her into the dark halls (“It’s ok – I designed the head to be light!”).
After a long walk, and endless bitching and moaning from the robot head (“I never should’ve wasted all that money on the brain preservation procedure..”) they reach a control center, where a derelict service android summons a food package, before bursting into flames.
Metasequoia is the first book of a series, kind of a rare thing for doujinshi. As you can tell from the synopsis above, the story moves at a leisurely pace, without action pieces or a real resolution, but offers a lot of introspection about life in its (very very) post-apocalyptic world.
The book’s appeal lies in the witty dialogue between the pure-minded and optimistic girl, and the desolate and snarky robot. This contrast between the characters’ personalities creates an interesting dynamic that kept me intrigued through the book.
The artwork, a bit simplistic with lots of spot blacks and whites, and fairly rough brush strokes, sets the stage for it but doesn’t steal its attention. I am, however, quite partial to the storytelling when the service android collapses.
Metasequoia is A5, 32 story pages, and leaves the reader with more questions about its world than it answers. Good thing there’s a sequel!
The artist: Rocou on the web, Twitter. More samples from the Metasequoia series can be found at: http://mtsq.jimdo.com/
That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.
As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!
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).
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)
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.
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!
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 🙂