Back to Comiket Guide Part I: Intelligence

Now that we’ve gathered information on which circles will be selling what and where, it’s time to put that intelligence together into workable action. Our goal is simple: to get the most out of the limited time available in a day of Comiket shopping. To that end, we must first establish purchasing priorities.

1. Establish Priorities

There are six factors to consider when ranking doujin purchases in terms of priority:

  1. Personal Desire
    This is the big one. If there is a book or disc you simply must have, it obviously bypasses most other priority concerns. Even if you’re dead set on an item though, read on – odds are it may be available elsewhere after the event, and Comiket might not be the most efficient place to make the purchase.
  2. Edition / Lot Size
    As a general rule, the more professional doujin circles will either stock enough of their product that some will be available at the end of the day (and likely at doujin shops in Akihabara shortly thereafter), or they will have made provisions for a quick second edition to be printed and circulated to the shops within a few weeks.

    Conversely, smaller amateur circles often print in incredibly limited editions (100-200 volumes) which are only available at the event. If it seems that Comiket will be your only chance to pick up a given artist’s work, that should bump it up the priority scale significantly.

  3. Odds of Reissue / Rarity
    The odds of a particular book being reissued are typically also linked to circle size (the larger the initial print run the higher the chance of a reissue), but unless there is solid information to indicate a reprinting it’s best to assume that one won’t be in the offing. Again, if you think an item will be rare based on the size of the circle producing it, pegging it higher on the priority list should be a no-brainer.
  4. Predicted Line Length
    Time is money at Comiket, and time spent standing in line is time that could be spent spending money, i.e. acquiring other doujinshi. Long lines tend to correlate with popularity, as does high stock volume and chance of reissue, so unless you’re bound and determined to pick up a popular circle’s limited edition item (such as the ones Tony often releases along with his regular edition books at Comiket) you can safely leave the long lines for final sweeps at the end of the day (or a post-event Akiba dive).

    Note that when I mention long lines here, I mean LONG LINES: it may take an hour or more to work through some of the most popular circles’ queues, not to mention those of industry booth heavyweights such as Type Moon. That’s an hour you could spend picking up a dozen or more books from smaller circles with shorter print runs.

  5. New Releases vs. Reissues / Back Numbers
    If you’re a first time Comiket attendee this is less of a factor as everything you see will be new, but for those returning to the event it’s of special importance to note a) whether a given circle will be selling a new book or just leftovers from earlier events (check the circle’s site a few days prior for this information) and b) when you’re on the floor of the Big Sight, whether or not a given circle still has their new release in stock.

    If you approach a table and see something to the effect of 新刊 完売 scrawled on a piece of card with nothing near it aside from perhaps a dogeared sample of the book and a few pieces of pocket lint, this is your clue to move on – in the initial phases of your search, at least. The circle is out of its new event publication, which is always the first item to go; you should still be in pursuit of other circles’ new books and don’t have time to look through back numbers yet (when to go after back numbers will be addressed below).

  6. Media
    The final thing to take into account when ranking purchase urgency is the medium the item is being released on. The rule of thumb is paper > plastic; in other words, books should always trump doujin software unless you have a special reason to go after the software first (the Touhou games tend not to be reissued for awhile after the event, for example).

    The reason for this is that if an item is released on disc it is exponentially more likely to see a reissue, period – either in downloadable form from one of various online doujin shops, or re-pressed for sale in brick and mortar outlets such as Toranoana. Some of the more popular doujin games are practically as ubiquitous as standard release console titles in this respect.

When indicating priority I recommend giving each item a rank, either as a number or a color (if you’re using the CD-ROM catalogue this is particularly easy). Don’t get these ranks too firmly fixed in your head at this point, though, as there may have to be some shuffling done here before all is said and done.

Circles ranked by color priority in the C68 CD-ROM catalogue

Circles ranked by color priority in the C68 CD-ROM catalogue

Once you’re finished prioritizing all of your prospective purchases, the next step in the strategic process is to plot your navigation through the event space in the most efficient way possible. To do that, you’ll need to

2. Make a Map

The CD-ROM catalogue offers several options for printing off maps of the site complete with your circle list information, from a raw list (without map) to a single page map with all of your circles marked on it in miniscule type. Depending on the number of items you’re interested in, your familiarity with them, and your ability to read Japanese, the printing method you choose can vary – I recommend a middle of the road option that includes circle cut images on one side and the map on the other, which is ideal for quick reference.

the CD-ROM catalogue offers various ways to print your circle list

the CD-ROM catalogue offers various ways to print your circle list

The main drawback with this setting is that if you have an abundance of circles marked off in the same area of the venue, when you go to print it will split them up among as many pages are necessary to show all of the circle cuts. A bit unwieldy, but overall a time saver.

If you’re limited to the paper catalogue, it comes with three fold-out copies of the site map (one for each day of the event) which you can mark up by hand. It’s a well-drawn map and has the advantage of being fully customizable and contained on a single page, which can potentially save a good bit of access time as you won’t have to flip through a large sheaf of paper to find your next destination. I promote the CD-ROM version largely for its ease of use and database searching features, but the maps for both are roughly equal.

I wouldn’t recommend attending Comiket without a map in hand unless you’re a seasoned veteran of the event; the layout with its various alphabets is initially rather confusing and navigation by circle list alone can be a daunting task. Assuming you have your map, it’s time to embark on the third leg of Comiket strategy:

3. Plan Your Route

The Big Sight's official English website

The Big Sight’s official English website contains
vital information concerning the building’s layout.
Be sure to watch the Information Movie!

The East side or the West side?

There are several factors to take into consideration when navigating the Big Sight, the first and most important of which is where to queue up before the event. In years past there was only one option: to form ranks in the circuitous line that snakes its way around the building before ultimately ending up facing it directly, the iconic inverted pyramid towers front and center.

Since Comiket 66, however, a second option has been made available: to line up behind the cavernous east halls in a huge parking lot / cargo loading area that feeds into the rear gallery on the east side. Attendees are faced with the choice of queues immediately upon exiting the train or monorail station, so it’s best to have your plan well in hand in this regard.

Each entry point has its own advantages, which can again be broken down into paper vs. plastic (on the final day of the event only; the breakdown on earlier days is different, but similarly divided based on content). The vast majority of paper doujinshi is sold in the six east halls, while the two west halls contain mostly doujin soft, with industry booths and the cosplay area accessible from the upper level. The west is more easily accessed via the main entrance, while the the new gallery entrance leads directly to the east halls; which entrance to use should thus be based on the highest priority items in your queue.

The six east halls of the Big Sight

The six east halls of the Big Sight.
Each numbered square houses two circles – click me!

Initial Assault

Once you’re into the venue your goal will be to make a beeline for your high priority items, but here’s where the final consideration in that regard comes in: while heading immediately for your most important item will practically guarantee you a copy, if it’s spatially (given the size of the Big Sight one could even say “geographically”) isolated from your other items, or at the end of a long queue, pursuing it at the expense of other targets may eat away at those supremely valuable early event minutes.

Thus, it is wise to take a hard look at your priorities one last time and decide, based on location and estimated popularity (note: as a rule of thumb, the most popular circles are located at the hall perimiters so that their lines can stretch outside the building without obstructing traffic inside), whether pursuing the top item on your list will incur losses of considerable volume later on. Based on this concern, after a glance at your map you may find it most efficient to head first for an area where your targets are most highly concentrated instead of automatically aiming for the highest priority item.

Crossing Over

As stated above, minimizing unnecessary travel through the venue and time spent in lines are both key concerns in the intial phase of Comiket hunting. Taking these into account in conjunction with your map of purchase targets will dictate different paths for different interests, but assuming a selection relatively spread out across all six halls it seems prudent to sweep each as methodically as possible with minimal backtracking. If after a first sweep there are still items of lesser importance or longer lines you want to go back for, second and third sweeps may be necessary; the time taken by each will vary widely.

The longer it takes to complete a full sweep the lower the chance to obtain additional items on subsequent sweeps, so regardless of the number of items on your list the event conspires to eliminate most high priority new releases after the first 1.5 to 2 hours of action (around noon). This is a good time to think about two things: eating lunch, and crossing over to the other side of the venue (assuming you have purchases lined up there as well).

Generally speaking, crossing from east to west or vice versa is an activity that should be minimized if at all possible as it takes a LONG TIME – at the height of the rush, crowds are frequently brought to a standstill in the corridor for minutes at a stretch. It’s especially bad around the lunch hour, when everyone else has filled their bags in one hall and is thinking of heading to the other; based on the priority of items on your non-starting side it will be advantageous if you can make the journey either early in the eleven o’clock hour or after lunch at around one. If you must cross at around noon, be prepared to navigate some severe gridlock.

Wrapping up

If you have any energy left after the all out assault that is the search for the highly-placed items on your shopping list, I’d recommend making a last round of the event space before you leave. Check out the industry booths, the cosplay area and anything else you may have missed. These are things that can be kept for last, unless you have reason to go there earlier (other non-doujincentric ways to enjoy Comiket will be discussed in later installments of this feature). Once you’re finished, that’s pretty much it – time to head for home and examine the day’s spoils.

This all looks good on paper, but when things play out on the ground it can get considerably more confusing. In part three of How to Comiket, we’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of getting to Comiket, lasting the day, and coming out of it in structurally intact and without any (additional) diseases.

Continue to Comiket Guide Part III: Execution