What is Comiket? Comic Market (コミックマーケット, typically referred to as Comiket コミケット or Comike コミケ) is the longest continuously running convention for the sale of fan-made parody comics (doujinshi 同人誌) in Japan. Established in 1975 with 32 doujin production groups (also known as “circles” サークル) and 700 attendees, this summer (2005) will see the 68th […]


A crowd exiting the Tokyo Big Sight on the second day of Comiket 63

What is Comiket?

Comic Market (コミックマーケット, typically referred to as Comiket コミケット or Comike コミケ) is the longest continuously running convention for the sale of fan-made parody comics (doujinshi 同人誌) in Japan. Established in 1975 with 32 doujin production groups (also known as “circles” サークル) and 700 attendees, this summer (2005) will see the 68th biannual iteration of the event. While primarily existing as a venue for the sale of doujinshi, Comiket is also known as the birthplace of cosplay (コスプレ) and in recent years has added a section for official industry representation (mostly from the anime and Japanese PC game sectors).

In the decades since its inception Comiket has risen to prominence as a center of activity for anime and manga fans, consistently drawing more than 450,000 attendees over its three days with 30,000 doujin circle participants and 15,000 cosplayers. While the vast majority of those in attendance are Japanese, with the increased exposure of the event abroad (as depicted in such anime as Comic Party, Nurse Witch Komigi-chan Magikarte, and Genshiken) the number of foreigners roaming the halls of the Tokyo Big Sight has steadily increased.

How is Comiket different from an American anime convention?

As its name implies, Comiket is little more than a vast marketplace for the sale of doujinshi. Its three days differ in theme by what is sold on each day (the C68 genre breakdown can be found here), but there are no panels, ceremonies, seminars, competitions, concerts or parties officially planned as part of the event. If you are not a serious doujin enthusiast, cosplay afficionado, anthropologist, member of the news media, or gawker (LOL CARTOONS) you will probably find yourself bored and/or uncomfortable at Comiket.

Due to the logistical impossibility of processing 450,000 passes on the day of the event there is no registration or entry fee required to attend Comiket. In lieu of this, the nonprofit Comic Market Committee raises funds through the publication of the event catalogue (a must-have item containing maps of the event and comprehensive circle listings, weighing in at around 2,100 yen/$20 USD) and the sale of advertising space therein. They also collect a fee (7,500 yen/$70 USD at time of writing) from circle participants for the reservation of their table space, and a more substantial fee from the industry reps and professional dealers.

Doujinshi? Isn’t that just porn comics?

Short answer: no. As a glance at the above-linked genre breakdown shows, the bulk of the outright porn for sale at Comiket makes its appearance on the third day and occupies only a fraction of the event space. The rest is filled by fan-published novels, humorous parody manga, tracts on military hardware, original computer games, traditional “fanzines”, college circle publications, music albums, discs of cosplay photography, and much, much more. The focus is on published media (including digital material on optical discs) as there are other events for the more three-dimensionally oriented, but within those bounds the sky (or very high ceilings of the event space) is the limit.

With that said, my personal focus when attending tends to be on the rather more adult end of the spectrum. Cosplay photography is fun, some great exclusive items can be found at the industry booths, but the third day is when all hell breaks loose.


先生!

So how do I do this Comiket thing?

There are as many ways to enjoy Comiket as there are people who attend, but for the purposes of this guide I’ll be taking the stance most familiar to me: that of a dedicated doujin fan. To get the most out of the event a certain amount of preparation is recommended, and based on my experiences at C63-67 I see it taking place in three main stages:

Part I: Intelligence

    The better informed you are about what will be at Comiket prior to the event the better your position will be to take advantage of what’s in the offing there. We discuss strategies for finding what you want before you even set foot in the Big Sight.

Part II: Strategy

    After you’ve gathered your raw information the next step is to triage, process and prioritize it. The Big Sight is vast and time is limited so economy of movement is vital; chart your way through the venue before the event and your chances of getting what you want on the appointed day will rise significantly.

Part III: Execution

    This is it: zero hour. What you choose to bring with you on the day of the event (and what you choose to leave behind) will impact your enjoyment and physical wellbeing immensely; we plan a winning combination of supplies and discuss possible contingencies on the ground in the midst of the madness that is Comiket.

Conclusion

    Planning a trip to Japan around Comiket? We look at the event in a broader context here. Also, other (non-doujin oriented) takes on the Comiket experience, and closing remarks.

Coming Soon: How to Comiket, Part I: Intelligence. Otanoshimi ni~!