The massive crowd, many carrying massive bags sporting shiny attractive depictions of female cuteness promoting the very event to which all of us were going, moves in crushing waves, the policemen waving us through and directing the rivers of solid nerdery. I walked at my classic Midwestern stroll speed, and usually that is fast enough to match or even overtake my lollygagging students at school. Here, though, the spurs of anticipation—and perhaps the fear of missing out on favorite publications—stirred the assembly of enthusiasts to pick up speed. I was being passed on all sides by manga fans bedecked in pop-culture overload.
I was at Comiket 2018, Winter 2018.
There was a lot of excitement that New Year’s Eve at Comiket Winter 2018. Hundreds, thousands of fans had gathered together to browse and purchase comics, art books, and mountains of paraphernalia, or just to dress up in sometimes absurd, sometimes incredible, often phantasmagorical costumes and pose for endless pictures as the flow of fans flicked by, cameras flashing.
Comiket is short for Comic Market and has been a regular event, now biannual, which was started by amateur manga artists to sell “doujinshi”—fan-made comics. These comics are often unofficial spin-off work from popular mainstream titles, most notoriously in which familiar characters like Naruto or Luffy are put into new erotic couplings—perhaps even with each other. I had often heard rumours about the event, and while I emphatically do not fancy sexy slash fiction (I didn’t like the Godzilla one sold on Amazon), the idea of amateur artists coming together to sell and share their work appeals to me enormously. This year I had a great excuse to go—I would be in Japan for the event for one thing, and for another, this time I knew some of the manga artists selling their wares due to the connections forged from the interview I had with manga legend Daiji Kazumine.
For fans of Godzilla and kaiju more generally, Comiket definitely holds interest—and not just for folks looking for some monster smut (though there may be some of that available as well, for those who are so inclined). Along with new hero manga from Daiji Kazumine featuring his original character Denjin Arrow (who often fights giant robots or even dinosaurs), a number of Godzilla doujinshi have also been released in Comiket—perhaps most notably from Shinji Nishikawa (MASH), who was selling a Godzilla doujinshi this year as well.
Comiket stretches out over three days of art and indulgence—the Winter 2018 event spanning December 29th to the 31st. Given that this was my first time going, though, unfortunately I made a few false assumptions going in.
- I just had this idea that all the participants would be there all three days.
- I thought I could easily read the catalog online, since the guides I read said you could do so for free.
One, the participants are definitely not there for three days. I found this out from looking at the catalog online for free. But the process of looking at that catalog was far from easy. I kept running in circles on the website, downloaded an unintuitive app, and eventually made my way onto the actual catalog only to discover that users who have not paid can only click a few times before being electronically shunned for a set period of five minutes, after which you can have a few more precious clicks before being shunned once more.
Given that each day of Comiket features hundreds of titles and goods, a pathetic few clicks barely nabs readers a taste of the wares available. And to get the catalog, you have to pay 2000 yen or so—which, on the website, was confusingly presented as a subscription service.
I forwent purchasing the catalog, but I didn’t check the catalog early, and by the time I had browsed even with those paltry pokes of my mouse, the first day of the event was already over, and I had already missed several Godzilla doujinshi.
But luckily I could still get Denjin Arrow and MASH’s latest Godzilla doujinshi on the 31st!
Thus and so on the last day of 2018 I moseyed my way on down to Tokyo Big Sight and was indeed treated to a big sight of seething humanity.
Tip: follow the crowds. If you slip out of the currents of humanity, you can end up unexpectedly walking into a storm of individuals going the opposite way and thus be forced into an increasingly difficult game of dodge-the-otaku (and by this time you, too, are a certified otaku as well).
Jusssssst don’t expect to find piles and piles of kaiju and adventure manga everywhere you turn.
DO expect to find UNENDING rows of manga and art books featuring an infinite number of cute girls, as well as retina-ripping pornography (often with minimally helpful tape over the nipples on the posters, but not in the comics themselves)—including, yes, what sure look like child porn comics with unapologetically graphic art. At first I was wondering if there was really anything but cute girl comics and porn, frankly—and the titles tended to look so generic. I couldn’t tell much about the stories except that they featured cute girls, sex, and/or cute girls and sex—and at first I was scared out of my ever-loving mind to even open up a sample comic, for fear that I would be assaulted by lovingly detailed sequences of debauchery—look, whatever your tastes may be, I just wasn’t there to look at that kind of work.
But maybe the initial porn-fest functions as a gauntlet, weeding out the weak-willed so that they never reach the less erotic stuff. For eventually I did find quite the number of monster manga, humour comics, and more. I got my copy of Daiji Kazumine’s latest Denjin Arrow and snagged Shinji Nishikawa’s Godzilla doujinshi, but also quite a number of original kaiju stories, as well as some four-panel humor titles, some adventure comics, some art books, and a case of sensory overload. What was even more awesome was that I could meet some of the manga artists themselves. While Daiji Kazumine was not there, Shinji Nishikawa was, and so I had the opportunity to gush at him about how much I liked his work and pose for a photo. (I also told him I had contributed to the Toho Kingdom interview we did a while back, which I think really surprised him.) Daiji Kazumine’s assistant, Atsushi Sasaki, was also there, and I picked up his recent magical girl manga, Randoserun Zero-Based. Sasaki-sensei is a huge fan of tokusatsu, so it isn’t surprising that Randoserun Zero-Basedfeatures an enormous kaiju battling it out with the titular heroine! It’s pretty entertaining. Atsushi Sasaki also introduced me to another manga artist, Kouji Kiki, who did Metal K for Shonen Jumpback in the 1980s. He was selling some comics that furthered the adventures of Metal K, and I picked some up. I also got an Ultraman parody book called Loyalty Man, featuring a humorous Ultraman knock-off biding his time in a lousy salaryman position while he waits to fight real monsters (the story turns surprisingly serious by the end of the first volume), as well as a few other books of varying quality.
Attendees can expect to find a huge variety of goods at the event, ranging from the aforementioned manga titles, to art books, clear files, and tons of other goods. Some folks actually give away some samples for free!
Comiket was in some ways an amazing experience. I am not a big fan of erotic books, but in the end I found a lot more there than just the sexy stuff, and it was really fun getting to meet a number of manga artists there! Overwhelming, exciting, exhausting—that was Comiket. Maybe I’ll go again this year!