HD presents the first installment in a what may or may not become a series of hard-hitting investigative journalism pieces, in which we take you behind the lines of the Japanese otaku front to discover bits of cultural flak that haven’t yet penetrated the collective kevlar jacket of the international fan community. Today’s topic: To Print or to Photocopy, That is the Question! aka The Gutenberg Doujinshi. Featuring a real live interview with a real live doujin artist!*

When a doujin author finds himself short on time with the deadline of an event fast approaching, he is faced with a difficult choice. He can either

  1. Press ahead toward an offset-printed book, risking a high premium on his printing costs for the compressed timeframe and possibly missing the cutoff for the event altogether
  2. Opt to abandon the prospect of a release, effectively dropping out of the event, or
  3. Compromise and produce a “kopii-shi” or “kopii-bon”, a photocopied and stapled volume of the work he’s managed to complete by the time the event begins.

For the sake of today’s piece we will assume that the author in question is undisciplined to the point that 1. is not a realistic option, and that he has a rabid fanbase who would tear him limb from limb if he missed the event, thus ruling out 2. Until recently, the path would have been clear: gather what loose scribbles you’ve managed to hash out, rush them to your local Seven Eleven, and furtively print as many as you can before people start giving you strange looks when the printer jams and you spill your stack of preggo scat loli dickgirl tentacle rape bestiality drawings into the snacks aisle in a frantic effort to fix it (alternative Comic Party option: grow a harem and have them do it for you).

Recently, though, a compelling alternative to this scenario has emerged with the advent of the cheap laser printer. In addition to the advantage of privacy, the laser printer offers greater fidelity to the original page layout, control over paper stock, no printing defects from scratched photocopy plates, and greater resolution, precision, and dynamic range in printing quality.

Figure 1 (NOT WORK SAFE) below illustrates this difference, featuring two recent printer-shi (left: Juubaori Mashumaro / Escargot Club’s Futanari Ni A, center: Trump / Team Shuffle’s Ginkan Tanin) and a recent copy-shi (right: some crappy circle’s book):

a comparison of laser printed doujinshi vs. photocopied doujinshi

fig. 1

The quality difference is apparent, with much greater contrast and a finer level of detail available to the laser-printed books versus the photocopied one. The poor alignment of the photocopied book’s cover could have been avoided with the use of a printer, as well.

Standing by is our aspiring doujin artist in residence, Shingo. As of yet he has only produced photocopied books, but for his next project he’s considering the switch to printer-shi. We asked him why, in this exclusive interview:

HD: Why are you considering the switch to printer-shi for your next book, Shingo?

Shingo: I’m glad you asked, HD.

For my last book, released at Futaket vs. ABC (I’ve been meaning to write up a review of that event for some stupid website, but keep getting distracted), I found myself having to photocopy at peak shopping time on a Saturday evening at the local equivalent of Home Depot. I shielded my activities from the passersby to the best of my ability, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re printing stuff like this. It’s embarrassing, you know?

HD: You sick bastard. So what are you planning to do for your next release?

Shingo: I recently applied to participate in ABC 5, and if I make it in I’m planning to pick up a cheap laser printer and do all the work in-house this time around. It’ll save time, increase the quality of the resulting product, avoid the hypothetical dickgirl avalanche in the snacks aisle scenario, and hey – there might even be legitimate uses for it as well.

HD: Thanks for stopping by to talk with us today, Shingo.

Shingo: Any time, HD, any time.

And there you have it, straight from the horse’s (?) mouth: in the world of last minute doujinshi publishing, laser printers über alles.

–Jargon file edit:

The kanji 誌 shi simply means “document”. It is included in compounds such as 雑誌 zasshi for magazine (literally “miscellaneous document”) and 同人誌 doujinshi for fanzine (literally “kindred association document”). As a suffix it has been appropriated for hybrid words such as copy-shi and printer-shi, as used above. Copy-shi are also referred to as コピー本 kopii-bon, which translates simply as “copy book”.