Doujinshi and the Deal with Self-Publishing

Have you ever read a series or watched a show that you loved so much, you imagined different situations with the same characters in them? It does take quite the creative imagination to come up with different situations and stories to these characters, but it’s a common phenomenon when it comes to die-hard fans of certain publications. Some people are so passionate about it that they find themselves able to write a whole shelf of literature based on the same story and/or character foundation. Sometimes it’s so good, it creates its own following.

In Japan, if you or your friends find that you reimagine these situations well enough to share them with other people through writing or illustration, then you can make a doujinshi.

What is Doujinshi?

Any work (magazines, manga literature, etc.) that is created/published independently from any company or industry is considered “Doujinshi”, which is a term coined by the Japanese for such material. While it may be attributed to people who don’t write or illustrate for a living, just because it’s Doujinshi does not necessarily mean it was created by an amateur. There are also cases with professionals involved who simply want to have a break from the work imposed to them by their company or industry and do their own thing.

photo by contri

The Meaning Behind The Word Doujinshi

Sometimes called “Dojinshi”, the word Doujinshi comes from the Japanese term “dojin” or “doujin”. A dojin is what one would call a group of people who have similar likes, goals hobbies, and/or accomplishments. When translated directly, dojin means “ the same person”, poetically speaking as a noun for a group which is alike in some way, or a person who shares that similar interest. The “shi” was added at the end to connote periodical publication. So, once you combine those two terms, you have “same person, periodical publication” which is exactly what a doujinshi is – work published by an individual or small, like-minded group.

The History of Doujinshi

If you think that doujinshi is a relatively modern concept, think again. Doujinshi has been made as early as the Meiji Period and was spearheaded by Meiroku Zasshi. Then came Ozaki Koyo and Yamada Bimyo, who established “Garakuta Bunko” in 1885. Garakuta Bunko was the first ever magazine that took in different doujinshi and published them. During the first few decades of the Showa period, doujinshi boomed in popularity. It became a way for that age’s youth to express themselves, and spread their work among friends.

“I-Novels” or “shishosetsu” was a genre that emerged from the culture of doujinshi, especially during the war. Once the war was over, however, doujinshi diminished in vogue. This was because institutions that were specializing in literature were starting to emerge, forming more trustworthy and educated journals. Examples of these journals were “Bungakukai”, “Bungei Shuto”, and “Gunzo”. Once it became easy to reprint copies of work through photocopying (circa the 70’s), doujinshi tipped up in favor again. The manga was only beginning to gain public attention, as its editors wanted to spread its appeal to more audiences. This may be one of the explanations of the more rampant writing of doujin during this timeframe.

Doujinshi Approaching the Millennium

A shift in the perception of doujinshi happened in the 80’s: instead of groups or people publishing their purely original work, writers were starting to write spin-offs of stories or characters that were already fleshed out by other writers. These works gave doujinshi of this period a hint of parody, as doujinshi writers were excusing their work as reasons to romantically pair characters together.

During the 1990’s, some comic book stores who were okay with the material of the doujinshi creators supported them by carrying their work. Some themes of the doujinshi aren’t legal to sell, such as “lolicon”, which is media that displays romantic and/or sexual attraction to prepubescent girls. Several people were arrested for selling such publications, thus exposing one aspect of the market of doujinshi.

Doujinshi Today

Thanks to the huge advancement in technology over the past years, it’s been easier than ever for each doujinshi creator to spread their artwork. With the combination of ample hardware, software, and the internet, illustrators and writers can create content and publish it, reaching a massive range of people on the go.

Doujinshi has since exploded in terms of both producers and consumers. Gone are the days of print media, with digital media ruling the industry. Instead of selling them in brick and mortar stores, they are sold online. Just how much money is exchanged over these written and illustrated works? Here’s an example; sources say the doujinshi gross revenue during the year 2007 reached up to 27.73 billion yen.

Not All Doujinshi Are Considered “Fanfiction”

Though it is the assumption of many to automatically equate doujinshi with fanfiction, this assumption is wrong. Doujinshi includes many other original works that are self-published besides manga, such as novels and magazines. Because of the popularization of many works derived from original content, people are quick to think that doujinshi is a blanket word for Japanese fanfiction. 

Several Categories of Doujinshi

There are two basic divisions in the realm of doujinshi, both self-published: derivative creations from existing characters/storylines called “aniparo”, and original works. Under the aniparo category, you have fan fiction, where people pair up characters from a show that they’d like to be together, and weave stories from that pairing. They also sometimes place these characters in alternate universes, where they take on a completely different world compared to the one they were created in. If you don’t understand how that works, it’s sort of like like taking a Pokemon character and putting it in the world of Looney Tunes.

Examples of Popular Doujinshi Artists

You may have heard of the Japanese anime shows Inuyasha and Ranma ½ - they were made by Rumiko Takahashi, who, before becoming famous for her successful shows, created doujinshi. Same goes for the creator of “Kizuna”, Kodaka Kazuma. Kazuma took the name “K2 Company” and wrote doujinshi under the yaoi parody genre for Fullmetal Alchemist and Tiger and Bunny, among others. Some yaoi Naruto doujinshi creations were notably written by Nanae Chrono, who would later create the manga series Peacemaker Kurogane.

A Constant Problem with Doujinshi

Copyright issues were one of the biggest problems of creators. Because many of them (however not all) would base their stories around existing situations or characters, the author(s) of the original content could claim copyright infringement. Also, many derivative works do not comply with the Japanese copyright law – but that doesn’t stop them from being sold, and heavily in-demand. Most of the time, Japanese authors use doujinshi to benefit from with the influx of ideas and respect it as a part of Japanese culture.

It also helps the manga industry to have more people dedicated to adding more content. Doujinshi is often what beginners create before entering the professional manga world. It also helps them get spotted by interested publishers. Of course, the law still exists, but if the law were to be completely enacted upon (which it purposely isn’t), the entire manga industry would feel the brunt of the loss of doujinshi.

What Stores Sell Doujinshi?

To make sure that sales don’t get out of hand in the sense that they overshadow the original content, many printed doujinshi are usually sold in weekend fairs or 2-day events. This is done simply by monitoring the content of the doujinshi and for publications to scout for possible future manga professionals. While these conventions and exhibitions are held for doujinshi creators to sell their work., with the rise of online marketing and selling, there are many digital publications also available online. Doujinshi cater to many kinds of manga and anime, so your range of choice is wider and easier to sift through while searching online.

Buying Your Own Doujinshi

If you’re interested in acquiring some doujinshi, you can wait for a convention to happen so you can see the creators and their work in the flesh. At the same time, there are anime shops in japan that do have small collections of doujinshi for you to browse and buy. It’s best that you’re equipped with what you want already; whether it’s the name of the show, its producer, the genre, or all of them, simply type that in your search bar, and see what you can choose from.

Attend A Doujinshi Convention

What better way to get your hands on some quality doujinshi than to go to a doujinshi convention yourself? They take place all over the world, not only Japan. You just have to know the details of where and when they are held. In Japan, however, doujinshi conventions are often called “ibento” (Japanese translation of “event”) and “sokubaikai”. Here, doujinshi are exchanged and sold by their creators. Throughout the course of a year, thousands of doujinshi conventions are held, some of them being more popular than others, such as the Comiket.

The Comiket is the largest event in the world where doujinshi are sold. The word “Comiket” is just a shortened term for “Comic Market”, which is mainly what it is. Its history dates all the way back to 1975 when only around 600 people went. Now, crowd counts reach up to the 500,000 mark. Comiket happens twice annually, during mid-August (NatsuKomi) and late December (FuyuKomi). The fair goes on for about 2-3 days and happens in Tokyo Big Sight convention center. Lines are long and you may have to camp out for hours if you want to be one of the first to get in – but it’s worth it. Most prints sold during the Comiket are considered rare collector’s items because there are usually no other reprints available.

Find Yourself a Doujinshi Printing Company

Are you aspiring to be a professional manga artist or writer? Do you have doujinshi that you’ve painstakingly worked at and is ready for printing? The next step for you to contact a printing company to flesh out your work in actual booklets. You may look around different sites for information on sizing for manga comics and books, and then feed this info to printing stores around you who may be willing to work with you. If not, there are printing companies online who are willing to do the job and ship the items to you, such as ka-blam and SIPS comics.

Doujinshi is a wonderful medium for expressing oneself without inhibitions. Though many misconstrue the idea of doujinshi, it’s still a large part of Japanese literary culture, as well as its art culture. Grab a copy of some good quality doujinshi online – you might just end turning into a doujinshi hobbyist yourself.