The cosplayers, the doujinshi, the heat, all that and more!
This weekend in Tokyo was Comiket, the biggest anime, manga and gaming fan event in the world. In its 96th iteration, we sent our Japan Correspondent, Daryl Harding, to soak up all the festivities, check out the doujinshi for sale, and see all the lovely cosplay.
For anime fans across the world, Comiket (short for Comic Market) is the holy mecca of conventions. The market has been featured in series such as Lucky Star, Saekano -How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend-, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and this season's How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?. If you’re in Japan for either Summer Comiket (NatsuComi) or Winter Comiket (FuyuComi) it’s definitely an experience to try.
As my fourth Comiket, I felt like a veteran attendee. I knew which halls had what, where the cosplay was, and that unless I wanted an exact doujinshi (fan-made manga), getting to the market before 10 AM meant just lines upon lines, and that can spell a death sentence in the heat of a Japanese summer. Turns out, this time around, I was wrong.
Starting from Comiket 96, due to the Olympics next Summer in Tokyo, Comiket has made some major changes to how the festival works. The biggest change is that you have to pay to get in—a first in Comiket history. While for a day pass it’s only a nominal 500 yen (about US$4.70)—and you can buy the Catalog for 2,500 yen (about US$24) which includes the passes—what I didn’t anticipate was the lines at 11:30 AM for day tickets. Staying in those lines under the Japanese sun was not fun. If you’re going to any Comiket before Tokyo 2020, get the catalog at any local Animate.
Also, thanks to the Olympics, the entire East Hall at Tokyo Big Sight is closed for renovations. This means two things: that all the industry booths have moved to the nearby (read: 25 minutes by foot or a train stop) Aomi Exhibition Hall closer to Diver City, and because of that move, Comiket has expanded to 4-days rather than the usual 3-days. On one hand this was supposed to curb the ballooning attendance, yet on the other hand, 160,000 people went on the first day, the same amount as NatsuComi in 2018. Fridays are usually the quietest day, which makes it the best day to go if you’d rather experience the market and wander around, rather than buy a specific thing.
The whole market felt upside-down. The doujinshi was in the West Halls, where the industry booths usually were, meaning you got two floors of that great doujinshi goodness. The whole bottom floor was just littered with Fate/whatever doujin, which makes sense considering it reigns supreme according to the statistics. The top floor had more variety (read: not Fate series works) and was by far the best area to be in. For my personal collection I picked up a PERSONA5 the Animation illustration book and a Splatoon 2 doujinshi. No, I won’t show you them.
We even got to try out a manga G-Pen at a booth!
Usually, it’d be easy to do everything in one day, check out some doujinshi, see some cosplay, die from heatstroke, the usual NatsuComi itinerary. This year, because the industry booths were 20 minutes away, there was a time limit! So I had to be quick with the cosplay.
One of the best cosplays I saw was @sircry_s56 cosplaying Takashi Tachibana, the leader of “The Party to Protect the People from NHK” who was elected to the Japanese House of Councillors in the July election with @yama_shimauma as the NHK bill itself.
Next up, 38-year-old idol @marie_0627 doing an adorable Haruhi Suzumiya cosplay!
Over on the grassy cosplay area, I was lucky enough to find @uramaru_y cosplaying Chino from Is the Order a Rabbit? She’s one of the most popular cosplayers in Japan so getting to photograph her was a real treat.
Then I turned around. It was a scrum of photographers for one cosplayer.
Finally, it was time to trek over to the Aomi Exhibition Hall and the industry booths. I was able to get a lovely view of Comiket and Tokyo Big Sight from the Yurikamome people mover as I traveled two stops to the hall. The view of Tokyo Big Sight imposing the skyline from the people mover takes my breath away, no matter how many times I see it.
The industry halls didn’t feel as lively as Tokyo Big Sight, which makes sense. All the fan content was in one place and the industry content was in another, more than 2km away. It meant that Comiket took over all of Odaiba, but also meant that it’s split between two audiences. The other issue was that Comiket’s industry halls usually closed at 5 PM, this was not the case for Comiket 96 where they closed at 4 PM.
This only gave me an hour or so to look at everything, which was enough time. Unlike Wonder Festival two weeks ago, there weren’t any stages showcasing upcoming shows or much new merchandise on display. There was a lot of advertising for Type-Moon related content, such as Fate, but other than the news about the SHIROBAKO film, and some Aria the Scarlet Ammo pachinko machines, it was generally just merch from current and past series.
So the question is, how was NatsuComi this year, especially with the Tokyo 2020 changes? Just okay, to be honest. I think the separation of the fan and industry content makes it harder on both sides, where someone will prefer one area rather than the other, like myself. I prefer looking at the doujinshi, talking to artists, and photographing and chatting with cosplayers, whereas I can find the industry content at any other convention during the year, such as Anime Japan, which has way better booths.
Then, there’s the heat. It’s getting hotter every year in Japan, for obvious reasons. While the temperature isn’t the highest in the world, the humidity is and that’s what’ll get you. Next year, Summer Comiket will be held in May over Golden Week, which, honestly, is the best time of the year in Japan, so I cannot wait.
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs the YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza and posts photo of his travels on Instagram.