Comitia 109 haul review 3

Continuing the series of reviews of books I got at Comitia 109, today I have another 2 doujinshi to introduce to you. Like the previous ones, all of these are completely original properties, not “fan fiction” type books.

1 Nikochuu Witch Kemuri by Totsuka Kodama (circle: Aramugi)

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This is an odd one. Circle thumbnail:

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The 40-page book contains two chapters of an ongoing story featuring Yanikura Kemuri, university sophomore and chain smoker. After some awkward social moments at school (such as being invited to a party that she actually wants to visit, but turning it down when she notices other peers watching the conversation), Kemuri steps outside for a smoke, and starts hearing voices calling her name.

Shortly after, she finds herself under attack by a monster named Mildzebub, an obvious riff on the cigarette brand Mild Seven. Instinctively, and with some help from the voices in her head, she gets out her cigarettes, and, after a short struggle, lights up. And in a burst of tobacco magic, the monster is vanquished.

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In the second chapter, Kemuri goes out for lunch with a friend who has fallen in with some kind of sect, and tries to persuade Kemuri to join. When Kemuri tells her about her encounter with Mildzebub, her friend rambles on about how tobacco was originally a way for Native Indians to connect with the spirit world, and repeatedly points out there are some Nicotine addicts in her sect as well, who would be able to help her.

When Kemuri blows her off, they are attacked by Kuraclown, a bird-shaped monster riffing on Lark cigarettes. To her surprise, Kemuri’s friend turns out to be a fellow nicotine addict witch, who deftly strikes down the monster with her own tobacco magic.

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My first impulse to get this book was the art, which distinctly reminded me of the short-lived Shounen Jump serial Hachi.  I don’t know whether that has been translated into English, but if you get a chance, do check it out.
Now obviously, the art in Nikochuu Witch Kemuri (Nicotine + chuu(doku 中毒) = Nicotine addict, btw) is not as consistent as Hachi’s, and the story is a bit hit-and-miss, but it does get points for originality. Tobacco Magic? WTF?

Production quality of the 500 Yen book is pretty standard, with a glossy cover and medium heavy, matte white pages. There is a 2-page sketch section in the back explaining the monsters and their (tobacco brand) inspiration, which is sort of cool.

The artist: Totsuka Kodama on the web, Pixiv, Twitter.
The first two chapters of Nikochuu Witch Kemuri are online here.

2  Usagi Samurai (Usagi Samurai boards a boat) by 天邪鬼 (Amanojaku)

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R-device circle thumbnail:

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Completely unrelated to the great Usagi Yojimbo, Usagi Samurai takes a decidedly cute take to the world of leporidae swordsmen. The titular character finds himself in the country (Hyuga instead of Iyo), and tries to hire a ferryman to reach his destination. Unfortunately, the town is engulfed in a thick fog, making the voyage impossible.

Having overheard the conversation, a fox in a monk’s robe approaches the samurai, and offers to dispel the fog. The samurai wastes no time in agreeing to the deal, and the fox takes him into the mountains.

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After a long and treacherous path into the mountain, Usagi Samurai finds himself at a guesthouse being treated to great food and a bath in a hot spring. He enjoys himself, forgetting about the issue at hand… Until the fog lifts, and he makes his way back to the harbor town. There, he notices a change in the town’s appearance, and asks a few sailors what year it is, only to find that roughly 400 years have passed.

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This is a nice, compact take on the classic Japanese folklore theme of kamikakushi, an “abduction” by the gods, as famously depicted in Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away.
The art is gorgeous, not to mention cute as hell, which is almost a requirement for books about bunny samurai. Most of the animals are actually quite carefully selected, a fox traditionally being a servant of the gods in Japanese folklore, and raccoons (such as the one serving the food in the page above) being shape-changing tricksters, but also very popular good-luck charms used by restaurants to pray for good business.

The book is gorgeously produced, with the cover having an almost Washi-like quality to it with a faint metallic shimmer. The artist apparently cranked out this 12-page story in just the 2 weeks between Comiket and Comitia, which is extremely impressive.
This seems to be a pretty long-running series, as I also got another issue from 2011, which says it’s already the 5th one.

The artist: 天邪鬼 on the web

Comitia 109 haul review 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a ton of books at Comitia 109, and am still slowly working my way through them. Here’s a look at another couple of books from the batch.

1 Melissa by Mephisto (circle: Angraecum)

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Sadly couldn’t find the circle cut, they must have been listed under a different name. The artist states in the afterword that this is his first stab at an original book.

The title character is a girl magically bonded to an “arsenal” housing millions (or billions, depending on who you ask) of the world’s mightiest weapons. She acts as the key to the arsenal, and is thus able to conjure up any of the weapons at wish.

A being of immense worth, and, at the same time, danger, she is confined to a cell on a prison island, which the protagonist (a newly-hired guard who frames the story with a letter to his mother) catches her trying to escape from.

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From there on, things quickly escalate into an all-out battle, as a sorcerer-soldier from a hostile country (?) attempts to abduct Melissa, and she singlehandedly whoops his ass as the guards stand uselessly by.

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The art has a dynamic, fairly conventional style, and definitely a little rough around the edges. But not so much as to distract from the story too much. Ultimately, the book reads very much like a prologue. It’s a very, very brief glimpse into Melissa’s universe, and roughs out her character just enough that I might look for a sequel, maybe.  Time shall tell whether we ever see more of her.

But man, that cover. gorgeous.

The artist: Mephisto on the web, pixiv, and Twitter

2 雑貨屋 by Biyora (circle: クレープたべたい) (Zakkaya by Crepe Tabetai)

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Circle thumbnail:

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雑貨屋 translates into “general store”, and modernly also refers to a store selling assorted trinkets for home decoration etc. The heroine of the book is a gatherer, who scours the ruins of an ancient city in the “forest of stones” for rare artifacts to sell in her store.

The story starts out with a guy pestering her to get him an “iron flower,” seemingly an everyday item that she has run out of stock of. After some convincing, the heroine agrees to make a run and get supplies.

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It turns out that the “iron flowers” are actually gears (like the ones on the cover), and the artifacts the heroine is selling are various machine parts such as pipes, screws, and cables. Upon returning to town with her bounty, she briefly encounters a friend who bugs her about bringing back machines, which are evil according to her. Except for windmills and weaving machines, which are necessary for life. This leads to a bit of really witty dialogue, as the heroine calls out her friend for being a hypocrite.

She delivers the gear to the guy, who uses it to fix up a mechanism to draw up a big parabolic antenna. Nobody knows what it is, so they just decide it’s a big iron flower, which the ancients built for purposes of… Hanami (picnics under blooming trees).

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And finally, in the last 4 panels, the story takes a 180 degree turn worth of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Totally took me by surprise, in an awesome way. I was on the fence on whether to spoil it, since most of you won’t get to read it, but decided against it, in case someone sees this who might. If you want to know more about the book, feel free to contact me.

The whole book is drawn in a deceptively simple, comicky style, but there’s a surprising amount of detail crammed into the art, with purposeful, clear lines that convey a lot of confidence. It’s only 8 story pages, and the story is super compact, well structured, and with great, witty dialogue.

The artist: Biyora on Pixiv, Blog

That wraps up the second round of my doujinshi reviews, hope you enjoyed! Lots more to come, let’s see if I can keep up the pace.

 

Comitia 109 haul review

It’s been pretty much exactly a month since Comitia 109, but I haven’t really had the time to comb through my spoils from the show. I got a pretty good amount of stuff this time around, as you can see in my Instagram from just after the event:

There’s a handful of these that stood out for me (as I said I haven’t really had the time to comb through them yet, so there might be other hidden gems), so I’ll take some time today to tell you about them.

1. kraken by Torimura (circle: Daiouika)

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This was my major new discovery at this year’s Comitia. I discovered it in the catalog, decided to check it out, and wasn’t disappointed.
The circle thumbnail:

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kraken was actually advertised in the “magazine” section of the catalog too:

Igawa’s entire body is covered in bandages, and she is shunned by everyone at school. A mundane encounter leads Higuchi to develop an interest in her, and he discovers her secret. A drive for revenge born out of miscommunication leads to a bitter and tragic end. 
The pain of adolescence, and a giant squid… This strange combination turns out to be really good.

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Higuchi, a pretty regular guy with a constant group of friends, notices weird, social outcast Igawa after they try to check out the same book about giant squid from the school library. She is being severely heckled by her peers, including the obligatory “die” and “scum” scribbled on her desk, and having her box lunch “accidentally” knocked out of her hands by a fellow student.
They develop a quiet, friendly bond, and she introduces him to her after-school project: Building a mechanical giant squid to destroy the school, their peers, and everything in its way.

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The 72-page story is drawn in a deformed, scribbly style with simplified faces and expressive, big eyes. there’s a lot of well-placed spot blacks, and purposefully loosely-cut screentones. The story moves at a fairly leisurely pace, and concludes in a destructive inferno that, while not entirely original, feels just right for the book.

Obviously my main impulse for buying this book was the cover. It’s amazingly designed with a great 5-color palette, a matte finish in the compact A5 size. I liked it so much that I asked the artist to sell me the display copy when I heard it was sold out. She sold out of it early in the day, apparently she had completely underestimated the demand (not suprising, since it was only her second show, and likely the first time she was featured this heavily in the catalog).
The story pages are a fairly heavy, matte paper as well, and overall it’s a very attractive package. I believe it was 500 Yen.

Artist: Torimura on Twitter Pixiv

2. iromonia by usamimiki (circle: R-Panda)

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This was a chance find, I just walked by their booth and there it was. Turns out I had already purchased another one of her books, 恐竜肉食少女時代(lit. “The age of girls who eat dinosaur meat”)at Comiket. I guess her style just instantly clicks with me.
R-Panda’s circle thumbnail:

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iromonia is about a blind little girl who gets picked up by a robot small-time criminal, who offers to take her back to her home town in exchange for her eyeballs (which he intends to sell on the black market).

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When she opens her eyes to allow the robot to take out her eyeballs, he is stunned by their beauty, and changes his mind, attempting to leave her be. In the girl’s youthful naivete, however, she tags along with him, and with the help of a friend, they set course for her hometown. It’s the tried-and-true formula of no-good adult and innocent child sidekick on a roadtrip, and true to form it’s not long before things go awry.

I bought this mostly for the art, which is beautiful with lots of detail and parallel hatching, as well as great character designs, especially for the robots. It’s about 80 pages for I think? 500 yen. The cover is beautiful with stark contrast of the white-faced girl against black background, and a logo embossed in silver foil. At one point in the story, the book actually goes full color for two pages to illustrate the girl’s emotions, and it just blew me away. It even came with a separate little booklet featuring design sketches and comments. I’m amazed at how well this book is put together.

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But the art is not the only beautiful thing about iromonia. The story of a 2-bit street thug getting more and more enthralled by the sincerely innocent little girl, and trying to make things right for her, only to realize he has no place in her life, is heartwarming and ultimately heartbreaking. It had me very, very close to tears by the end.

If you can find anything by this artist, I highly recommend checking it out.

Artist: Usamimiki on web and Pixiv

And that’s it – my two favorite picks from this year’s summer Comitia! Hope you liked them.

Comitia time!

Last week, I wrote about Comiket, Japan’s largest doujinshi market.

Believe it or not, this week, a mere two weeks after Comiket, we’re having another similar event. It’s called Comitia, and unlike Comiket, this one is all about original books and items, no commercially available properties allowed!

This year is the 30th anniversary of the event, and this week’s is Comitia #109. It’s held in the same venue as Comiket, on a smaller scale, and of course there’s going to be a lot of the same people and even books, but it’s all original and that’s awesome! I actually like this more than I do Comiket.

I’m going to have very little time at Comitia this year, so I decided to actually get the catalog (“Tia Magazine”) in advance and try to prepare. Here’s what it looks like:

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It’s a flipbook, this side being a magazine-style layout with a few essays and introductions of a few notable books, and the other side being the actual catalog. By the way, the catalog actually acts as the ticket to the show, and unlike Comiket they do check for that.

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The first thing on the catalog side is the floor map, I’ve translated the categories so you can get an idea of what’s on display: (click to enlarge)

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(JUNE, by the way, is the “official” term for Boys’ Love, or male x male romance books)

After that, an introduction to the event (by way of a manga from artist Kumichou), an overwhelming index list of all participating circles and their booth no., an intro of which editors are available in the review area, ads for books and seminars being held at Comitia, intro to exhibiting companies (they get little booths at the outskirts of the hall), and then of course 150 pages of….

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Yep, that’s all circles get to try and grab your attention! I’m going to put a few hours into this and see if I can figure this out! I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ll leave you with this gem I found in the catalog at lunch. Definitely going to have to check this book out.

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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)