MA dissertation submitted – UEA mafiosa code of silence now ended. I’m back!
Last semester on the MA, I took a publishing course, and I thought the essay component would be a good opportunity to look into manga and the Japanese publishing industry. I have never been a manga fan. My only real experience of manga was confiscating them from students during classes in high school (where manga are banned). If the manga was Shonen Jump (Japan’s biggest selling manga comic) I’d take it back to my office and catch up with the exploits of the students of Rokudenashi (Good For Nothing) Blues. Every week it was the same. A high school gang would hang around some dodgy area, spy a rival school’s gang, and then they’d fight. The fights were pretty graphic, with kung fu kicks and bloody noses. I thought the artwork was spectacular but, to me, the stories themselves seemed too formulaic to hold my interest.
Researching my essay, I discovered that manga constitute 21 per cent of all publications in Japan, which explains why book publishing companies like to have a weekly or monthly manga magazine in their stable, to generate a regular income.
I also discovered dojinshi. Dojinshi are fanzines drawn and published by ‘circles’, although sometimes that’s a circle of one lone artist. There are dojinshi comic markets – the comikets such as Comic Ichi and Super Comic City – in Japan where the dojinshi circles can show and sell their wares. What interested me about them was the fact that 90% of these circles are drawing new adventures for popular manga characters such as Naruto (the trainee ninja) and One Piece. Although by doing this they are breaking copyright and intellectual property laws, the legitimate publishers of popular manga allow it – in effect there is an anmoku no ryokai or unspoken agreement. Dojinshi are a form of market research for the legitimate publishers because they demonstrate what fans want to read. Also, dojinshi readers tend to buy more of the legitimate manga. In effect, the legitimate and dojinshi markets feed each other.
You can also buy dojinshi at shops in Akihabara. During my research trip back to Japan in April, I visited one, Comic Toranoana, and took some surreptitious photos. I wanted to prove to my classmates that most dojinshi are not soft porn. I was however wrong. Whilst there were two shelves of war dojinshi, the vast majority featured giant, gravity-defying melon breasts and upskirt panty shots. Ah, Japan. Now remember why I left.