Aug 16 2010

Capsule Convention Review: Natsucomi 78 (Comic Market Summer 2010)

I admit it, until last weekend I had never been to Comiket before. I know, Comic Market is probably the singlemost important event in fandom, with world-changing cultural, intellectual and economic impact. Half a million fans come to a single place to celebrate their love of their favorite characters and stories, and pour weeks and months of labor into every doujinshi, costume or other product bought and sold at this colossal 3 day event.  The only thing I can say in my defense is that the date for these events were almost always a deal-killer for me.  Summer Comiket is during August, one of the worst months to visit Tokyo due to a perfect storm of heat, humidity and school vacations that make travel during this period really really hard.  Winter Comiket exchanges bad climate for a time when the entire country pretty much shuts down, which makes being a visitor during that time period more challenging.   Well, I had no intention of missing it this time.  I had last minute out of town guests which killed my plans of going multiple days.  I also read that if it is your first Comiket, don’t try to engage in the vicious battle that happens as hundreds of thousands of fans try to get their hands on the premium doujinshi that typically sell out in the first frenzied minutes of the opening of the event.  This was sage advice, and there is still plenty to see even if you avoid the crushing battle in the wee hours of the morning.

There is so much to see and do, just keep in mind you will miss something.  You will miss a lot of things, actually, but that shouldn’t stop you from going.  It is an incredible event.  To a Comiket novice like myself, I was able to identify 5 major activities, but I make no pretenses in saying that I’m probably missing a lot.   In any case these categories are, doujinshi/doujin goods shopping, cosplay, industry booth limited edition shopping, itasha and socializing.

The heart of the convention is of course, doujinshi.  This distinctly Japanese aspect of fandom is an amazing phenomena.  Rights holders turn a blind eye to the limited sale of goods made with character likenesses, because the whole idea is that these products show how much a person (or group of fans known as a circle) love the character.  Doujinshi is often portrayed as mature content, but not all doujinshi puts characters in sexual situations.  Many doujinshi are created to put characters in humorous situations that fit their personality, or the universe, or to parody other shows.  Sometimes they are side stories set in the universe, sometimes cool illustrations, sometimes they are parallel worlds combining characters from different stories, and other times they are totally original works.  They are not limited to comics either.  Walking the aisles you see everything from information booklets, to software and doujin games, to character goods and circles just advertising their special projects.  The scale of the show is enormous.  The entire East and West halls of Tokyo Big Sight are dedicated to tables for circles, and every day the groups change for 3 days.  The number of booths is staggering.  The best part of the show is watching someone pick up a booklet or a comic, browse through it, and suddenly they smile and they pull out money to buy the item.  At that moment the love of character is shown between the buyer and the seller.  The art might not be great, the stories might be a bit clumsy, but that isn’t important.  The connection made between people of the same interest is a powerful bond.

Cosplay is a huge part of Comiket.  There is a huge area dedicated to it.  There are a myriad of rules involved with cosplay, including that you ALWAYS ask permission before taking a picture.  Please don’t be the rude fan that goes around taking pictures without asking.  Sure, there are some veteran local fans that do it, but they are not looked upon very kindly either.  The quality of the costumes is quite amazing.  Not only are the costumes themselves meticulously made,  care is made so that hair, makeup and even gestures and poses are correct to the character.  Again, this is about love of the character.  I also notice that some of the hardcore cosplay people actually attend a nearby event at the TFT.  I wish I had the time to go into the cosplay area and get permission to take photos, but I had very little time and a lot to see.

Industry booths are also a part of the show.  I had always wondered what happened to all of the visual novel/eroge companies that had left or been pushed out of Tokyo Game Show.  Well, perhaps they were always here, but  they were certainly in full force.  It was a who’s who of visual novel game companies, from August and Age to Type-Moon.  Anime companies, Pixiv, Hobby Japan, Sega and a host of other companies were there as well.  Budget a good chunk of time to walk around.  It isn’t the same kind of love of character that you see downstairs, but being able to buy a bag full of limited edition items from your favorite company sure was worth it for me.

Much is said about the Itasha displays at Comiket.  I wasn’t able to go this time, but I know that there are plenty of sites that should be posting pictures, if they haven’t been posted already.

Lastly, this is a place for socializing.  Friends and fans were all over the place, comparing goods, exchanging information, and above all just plain talking and having fun.  The energy level was amazing and wonderful at the same time.

Tips for attending.  I seriously suggest taking the Yurikamome Monorail to Big Sight at the Kokusai Tenjijo Seimon station.  It was a mess, but overall, it spares you the long walk to the Ariake station on the Rinkan Line.

Bring water.  As my experience with the much smaller Wonder Festival showed, the vending machine companies struggle to keep the machines full.  I did purchase a bottle of “Comic Cure” a sports drink made for the show and sold out of vending machines, featuring an illustration by Aquaplus for Y200.

Budget a lot of time for walking.  Remember in Lucky Star when Tsukasa gets carried away and it takes her 30 minutes to get back to the other hall?  Yeah, its totally true.

Overall there was too much that I saw in just a few hours for me to adequately capture in a review.  And the crowds were so massive it was difficult even taking pictures.  I always wondered why you don’t see a ton of photos from inside the event, and I think I have a good idea why.  It was an amazing event, and well worth seeing even once.

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