Tokyo Journal 2003: Day 2, Part 1

January 31st, 2003

Going to Comiket

I was sitting at the local Japanese mall this weekend and a kid sat down at the next table with a packaged egg salad sandwich and I became overwhelmingly nostalgic for Tokyo. How bizarre that *that* is what will make me miss Tokyo the most.

6:30 AM

I woke up at about 5AM. It was pretty clear I wasn’t going to sleep more, and then I had a sneezing fit, so I was really up…and so was Pattie.

Now I’m going over the Comiket catalog again, then I’ll shower and get ready for my day. We ate breakfast at the hotel buffet. Bleah. Expensive and uninspired, I barely ate anything.They had a Japanese breakfast, which consisted of rice porridge or rice porridge. Miso, bacon, eggs, salad, fruit. Nothing to inspire paeans of adoration.

Comiket is very faraway – almost the furthest possible point from where we are staying. No problem. Emi met us at our hotel and navigated our way through three trains and two separate train lines, including the very pretty Yurikamome, which took us over the Rainbow Bridge to Tokyo Big Site, where Comiket was held. Unfortunately, jet lagged and discombobulated as I was, I was not in any shape to appreciate it. Tokyo Big Site itself is an enormous convention center – think rooms the size of large airplane hangars.

We got there before noon and started to shop. I guess this is a good place to back up and explain that Comiket is a twice-yearly convention for the sale of self-published or small press published manga, called doujinshi. Comiket is held in winter and summer every year. We attended the 63rd Comiket. Because of Comiket’s popularity, smaller shows are popping up everywhere. Comic City has a different show in different cities around Japan all year round. We were attending Comiket for two reasons: 1) To buy stuff, duh; and 2) to promote Yuricon, also duh.

Comiket goes on for three days. The first day was mostly anime parodies (in doujinshi terms, “parodies” are anything with popular anime/manga characters.) So, there was a *ton* of yaoi (stories with male/male relationships.) Thinking about it, it basically looked like popular anime series in general had a strong presence, though.The biggest section was for a story called Prince of Tennis which we’ll never see over here. It’s got about a dozen boy characters and one girl – so there were a bazillion yaoi doijinshi for it. There was a huge One Piece section (a very popular anime about pirates – it’s amazing, go watch it. The manga, which is *just* as amazing, is being translated for the American Shonen Jump. Get it for One Piece alone – it’s more than worth the price.

(Thinking about the arrangement of Comiket gives me a headache, but I *think* it boils down to Day 1 – anime/manga parodies; Day 2 – RPG/Historical parodies; Day 3 – Other. Under “other” is hentai, yuri, um, other…

Unfortunately for me, most of the One Piece stuff I saw was yaoi. I mean, that’s fine. I like the boys plenty, but I just don’t see Zoro and Sanji together, sorry. The best of the bunch was Shanks x Ben – there were several circles putting together lovely doujinshi of the two of them…but I just don’t care. Actually, one of the things I like best about OP is the *complete* lack of sexual tension between the characters. And all the chicks are sexy, competent and strong. A very cool thing in my book, but I digress. I did manage to see on Nami x Bibi implied doujinshi, but they don’t get together and I was still disoriented, so I didn’t buy it. I’ll just have to write one.

Pattie, however, was in heaven. She has conceived an unnatural passion for Yu-Gi-Oh yaoi doujinshi. She was scoffing up Y-G-O yaoi with both arms. Every time we bought something, Emi would hand the vendors the Yuricon flyers we had brought and do a little commercial for the con. At one table where Pattie had just bought a bunch of Yu-Gi-Oh doujinshi, the people selling it listened to the commercial and kind of stared, confused. After it was over they asked, “But…why Yu-Gi-Oh?” Pattie was hysterical at that.

I bought some gorgeous Rose of Versailles stuff and two Uranus/Neptune coloring books Pattie found. I wish I had bought more. I also bought a doujinshi called “Ogata-4” that was stories just of Ogata Megumi roles – this one had Yukito/Yue from Cardcaptor Sakura, Haruka from Sailormoon (a really funny story,) Kurama from Yu Yu Hakusho and a little Shinji from Evangelion piece.For the fangirly-ness of it all, I loved it.

We were so busy trudging around behind Emi, I didn’t really get to shop for myself, but I knew that Monday I’d be buying a lot more.

My first impressions of Comiket were: 1) It was far more enormous than I could have possibly have anticipated. Pattie figured out that there were roughly 4600 vendors a day – each circle had a little 3′ table to themselves. 2) There was much less cosplay walking around than I expected. At American cons, you see a ton of cosplay just walking around the con space. Here, a lot of people selling were dressed up, but few just walking around. Or maybe it was because there were so many people, the cosplayers sort of seemed less in comparison to the total. You can’t take pictures in the main areas, either, like you can in an American con – you have to go to the cosplay area during the designated time to do that. 3) The shoes looked painful. I stared downwards a lot, because I was severely jetlagged and because I was carrying the ten pounds of doujinshi Pattie bought. Every time I looked, I saw shoes that hurt me to even look at!

The costumes, as expected, were good, but even so I barely recognized anything. I kept coming across the conundrum of “Is it wacky fashion sense or cosplay?” Half the time I wasn’t able to figure out the answer.

Used to American conventions as I am, I’m fascinated by the differences. Because we do *not* have manga culture as Japan does, I explained to Emi, our Artist’s Alleys are full of people who draw single pictures, not whole manga. I genuinely think that will change, as manga becomes more mainstream here.

For instance, Emi wanted to know why we don�t use screentones in American art. (Don’t email me and ask what this is…just look it up. You’re on the Internet already. Use Google.) I said that I thought that, with American comics’ emphasis on the realistic, and on action over narration, there wasn’t usually a place for screentones. Again, I imagine things will change as more manga infiltrates the American comic market.

As we left Comiket, Emi pointed out that no one was reading their doujinshi on the train – even though we all knew that was where we all came from. (Tokyo Big Site was at a terminus, so there was nowhere else to have come from for that train.) I asked why that was and she said that she thought they were all ashamed. We agreed that was sad. Emi asked for my bag and she pulled out some doujinshi and began to read it openly. *This* is the kind of thing that makes Emi a special person in our minds. I tried to read too, but it made me sick. From that point on, the day (now evening) became torture.

Next time: Falling Asleep at the Dinner Table

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