Thursday, May 13, 2010

Comic Convention Report コミケの報告

Last month I attended a Comic Convention in Mito (Ibaraki's capitol city). It was a "special version" of the bi-annual Comiket, Japan's biggest comic convention.
Anyway, I'm using the word "comic" here, but to be more exact I should be saying, "dojinshi." Dojinshi are self-published manga or comics. I've heard that many professional manga artists got their start making these, and, since I'm already making comics for myself here on the web, I thought it would be cool to go and meet other Japanese people who were doing the same thing. ...and who knows, maybe I could even get some information and actually try to sell my work at one of these conventions the next time around...

But it was all a big mistake...

My girlfriend and I arrived in Mito around noon (apparently the convention started at 11) The first surprise was a huge line progressing down main street. We joined in but after progressing a few blocks we were told that we had cut and needed to get in the back of the line… Was it really this popular?
We started to make our way to the back but then decided this was ridiculous and approached the building from the next block over. This technique was more successful, but once outside the building there was no avoiding the crowd of people waiting to get in. We had to wait for about an hour, just standing there. fun.

At about 1:30 we finally got to the entrance of the building but then we realized we didn’t have the catalogue which was necessary for admission. Fortunately, they were selling these at the door but this was the last straw for my girl. She told me she would meet me back out here in an hour and a half, but there was no way she was going in. I knew if we went in together I would just have to listen to her complain the whole time, so I agreed.

…and it was a good thing I did.

Inside were 6 floors of tightly packed sweaty Otaku (a Japanese word that could loosely be translated as "geek") looking at and buying amateur porn. It was just like I had feared… only worse. It was gross.
Fortunately, there was at least one ‘non-porn’ floor. A place where you could find stuff like train schedules and military otaku. It was here that I found the only manga that I bought. A short story about a girl who leaves her younger brother at a shrine and the adventure he has in her absence. It was a simple story and well drawn, just like most of the stuff I aspire to do on this site. But it was the only one...

Feeling discouraged and despair (and slightly dirty) I quickly left.
There were still about 45min before I had to meet Tomo so I just wandered around outside in a daze. Unfortunately, being a tall gaijin I can't help but stick out wherever I go, and it wasn’t long before I found myself cornered by a television crew and being asked for an interview...
I was reluctant of course. I mean, just being here was embarrassing enough. But to be honest, I was also half excited. I wanted to vent some of my frustration. ...and what better place to do that than on television?

It went something like this:
After a few questions about where I was from they got down to business...
So, what brings you here?
Well, as you can imagine I like comics and anime.
So what did you think?
(All this was in Japanese and I was extremely nervous. I had so much I wanted to say here but all I could manage was...) Err,… It was different than my expectations.
In what way?
It was poorly organized. There were too many people in too small a space. Also there seemed to be a lot of child porn. It sort of made me feel uncomfortable.
What were you expecting?
I don’t know. I guess more Science Fiction and Fantasy (meaning Swords and Sorcery) type stuff.
Ok, thank you. 分かりました。時間をありがとうございました。」
What? that’s it? Ok, thank you. Sorry I didn’t have a good impression.

It felt good to get all that off my chest.
but it didn’t end there... They actually aired the interview on the local news. And of course, they didn't air the whole thing. They just showed the part where I said I liked anime and comics. It was cut in with a bunch of clips of Japanese nerds and anime girls with huge breasts. "Look, gaijin like this stuff too," seemed to be the message. And so the next day I found myself explaining to my adult students that I wasn't a pervert.


I just want to draw manga for a living. Why is it so hard?