Japan’s got talent. I know because I just got back from sifting through several metric tons of original comics, games, animation, and crafts at COMITIA 96.
A regular event since 1984, COMITIA is a doujinshi (think: fan-made media) convention held in Japan four times a year. This go-round, some 3,500 circles or groups brought their wares to sell and show off inside.
The venue was the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, also the home of Comic Market, AKA Comiket. Anyone interested in the doujinshi scene in Japan is probably familiar with the distinctive Big Sight building where Roman Legion like lines of otaku regularly march to events.
You really know you are not in Kansas anymore as soon as you see the Big Sight gift shop, which hawks such curious specialties as Yandere Strawberry Jam Cookies and Moe-shu sake...
COMITIA differs from Comic Market and many other doujinshi events in that the goods inside are all original, meaning the usual endless sea of fan parodies found at other gathering are all but absent inside. This English (kind of...) sign posted outside the door helpfully explains some of the basics.
Just as the sign explains, to gain admission to COMITIA, you have to buy the phone book sized catalog containing thumbnail images of all the doujinshi circles inside. Here’s a selection of catalogs from the last few years, still up for sale,
Good gravy, there were a lot of people inside! I don’t know the exact attendance figures, but – although the event is clearly smaller than Comiket – COMITIA filled up two convention halls and really made for a classic otaku mob scene.
Meanwhile, within the aisles of smiles, we found Yutaka Kondo, professional manga artist, part-time doujinshi maker, and illustrator of the book Ninja Attack. Since I was at COMITIA to film a new episode of the OTAKU-VERSE ZERO websow, we got a few words with Kondo-san on camera. He was selling his new doujinshi: a collection of illustrations inspired by classic Japanese samurai and period films.
Kondo-san also helped us arrange a last minute interview with Shinkichi, a manga artist who also acts as a doujinshi "producer", meaning someone who helps organize large group project books. She was one of many women both attending, and participating in, COMITIA 96. Her online portfolio can be found here.
As I alluded to earlier, the level of talent on display at COMITIA is very, very high. It’s hard to believe that many of the people who make the original characters and creations found there are not working at the professional level. No wonder then that major publishers use COMITIA as an opportunity to scout for new talent. Here’s a picture of an actual portfolio review between artists and editors going down at the booth for Kodansha’s Shonen Sirius magazine.
In addition to manga, COMITIA features fan-made goods in all media; ranging from doujin-soft video games, original doujin-anime, drama CDs, novels, arts and crafts (I'd be lying if I told you there wasn't any 2D porn, but it's actually not as wide-spread as you might think). To give you an idea of the sheer diversity of goods to be found, here's some wild mecha made out of colored wire on display. While they were not up for sale, a data CD-R containing hunderds of pictures of these and other obsessive wire mech creations was.
For some, this is where the party ends: buying so many doujinshi that they have to be shipped back home instead of carried out. Luckily, the Yamato shipping company is on-hand inside the convention hall to perform such services for a fee.
You could probably fill up a big old cardbox box to send to yourself filled with nothing but the free fliers which which populated nearly every bit of open space.
By 4pm, the party was over. COMITIA 96 had wrapped and thousands upon thousands of folks began making their way back to the train station, and then home to begin drawing, crafting, and planning all over again. If you're looking for new frontiers in otaku culture, instead of just the same old stuff, you really owe it to yourself to check out COMITIA sometime. Please watch for my video report when it hits via OTAKU-VERSE ZERO soon.
Patrick Macias is the chief editor of Crunchyroll News. His blog can be found on-line at patrickmacias.blogs.com.