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Category: Thoughts
Tags: Cover Store

Idle Thoughts on Doujinshi

Yesterday I found the opportunity to thumb through the seinen comic section of a store I often go to in Akihabara. I spent a good half-an-hour just looking through these comics. They were all tightly packed together on a few shelves on one side of the store. Even though these shelves take only a small portion of the floor, there is no way I could have looked through all of them, and that was saddening to me. I wanted to see every single comic and yet I will never get the chance, even if I would set out to spend days there. Do you understand how tightly these shelves were packed?

Doujinshi is fan-produced parody material of a (more or less) official canon. Most of the time, this canon material is an anime, game or comic. Most of the doujinshi I look through are seinen. You need to be 20 or older to buy seinen material. Luckily I am 21, which is older than 20. I am very thankful to be 21.

On the shelves, these comics are required to be sealed in plastic. Even if it were not required the store would wrap them anyway. That's simply the Japanese way of thinking. Because of this plastic wrap it is impossible to know what one comic is about, or really what makes one better than the other. The only clue is the cover and, to a lesser extent, the price. That sense of mystery is not only exciting, but also brings some interesting questions to my attention: how does this medium (i.e. not being able to thumb through a book before buying) influence the comic's author, and how does this consequence manifest in the final product?

Before thinking of these things, it's important to remember that most of these doujinshi are not meant for a store at all. In fact, most doujinshi are produced for the Summer and Winter Comic Markets (Comiket) in Tokyo. The store is hardly a thought in the author's mind, because s/he is not benefiting directly when one of his / her comics is bought second-hand, such is the case with these stores. This is ignoring the demand that is created when such an item is bought like this, but let's keep things simple.

In either case (at Comiket or later) these books cannot be read before being bought. As I have posited, the cover and price become the two most important indicators to a potential customer. First I explore the cover.

On any doujinshi, the cover is often the only glimpse you get into an artist's style. This is complicated by the fact that the covers of some comics are done by other artists. I generally do not appraise the art style by the cover, but I do put immense weight into the content of the cover. If Shimakaze is on the cover, you will find that 10 times out of 10 Shimakaze is somewhere in the comic. If she is the cover's focus, then she is likely the comic's focus as well.

However, one is hardly likely to find an image of (in the case of straight seinen) the male lead, or even the plot of the comic. I am always minutely distressed when I pick out a promising comic because of this.

I do not like NTR (pron. "netorare", basically a fetish for self-hating people who enjoy seeing their partner fucked by some other person) or BDSM or drug-influenced sex. Often, it's hard to tell when a comic will surprise you with things you don't like. The best you can do is to use the cover as a guide.

On the other hand, the price will never tell you how good a doujinshi is. It will only tell you how good the store thinks it is. You see, the people wrapping the doujinshi do get to read it for content, so they know where to place it in the store. Additionally, they decide how good it is and price it accordingly. If you trust these diviners, then trust their divining and buy the books that are marked up.

I, however, will stay with the 100円 picks.

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