Explorations in Japanese Culture

Doujinshi (同人誌)

The world of anime and manga has some of the most unique characters and stories around. They can range from the rather normal slice of life genre to the more abnormal and sometimes strange forms of pornagraphic anime known in the US as hentai. For many, the unique characters and the stories provided in manga and anime are just never enough to satisfy their love. To fill this void, the doujinshi has taken root as a way for anime and manga lovers to explore alternate stories, endings and relationships. While it may seem like simple fan fiction, there is a much bigger world that has evolved around the doujinshi.

What is a Doujinshi?

Doujin no sakuhin is Japanese term that refers to a wide variety of materials that are published as  homage works of an existing artistic property. The doujinshi are a specific part of these and refer to the amateur manga that are published independently and often exist as parodies of popular works. At its heart, the doujinshi is a manga form of fan-fiction. Doujinshi are most commonly sold at conventions and are popular among collectors due to limited availability and circulation. Comiket is the most famous as well as the largest manga convention in the world. It is held twice yearly in Tokyo and is dedicated solely to the sharing and spread of doujinshi. In 2003, data from Comiket showed that there were almost 2,500 new doujinshi published, with each having an average circulation of 13,500 copies a piece. With this many new doujinshi published a year it is no wonder that they cover such a wide variety of subjects.

History of Doujinshi

The idea of the doujinshi first grew out of the tradition of writers forming literary circles in order to fund the publication of their works in small scale magazines. The idea of the manga doujinshi first began in 1953, when the manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori formed a doujinshi group called East Japan Manga Research Club. By the early 1970’s the doujinshi were becoming more common among university students who produced and traded their own doujinshi. The popularity of doujinshi continued to grow and the first Comiket took place in 1975 with 32 participating circles and an estimated 600 attendees. The shift from more original content to the now predominantly parodical themes began to occur in the 1980s and has since continued to develop as hardcore fans seek out doujinshi to fulfill their desires to see character pairings or parallel stories not originally intended by manga creators. Today, with the abundance of technology available to doujinshi creators, the production and distribution of doujinshi manga has become even easier. Internet sites and groups make it easy to follow the production of different groups as their works are released and then often translated by fans to the language of the readers.

Subject of Doujinshi

Doujinshi are often a product of hardcore fans who want to see more of there favorite characters beyond what is shown an anime or manga. Some times stories function as continuations of the original plot, but other times they take on an entirely new story arch. However, the most popular subject of these manga is often the pairing or shipping of two characters in a romantic or pornographic situation. For this reason, I would advise that you tread softly when exploring the doujinshi of your favorite anime or manga, because you might be surprised with what you find. An example of one of these ships that I have seen doujinshi of comes from the show Fullmetal Alchemist. Doujinshi of a pornographic and solely nature about the romantic involvement between Col. Mustang and Lt. Hawkeye are fairly popular. Now, if you think this all sounds like a giant case of copyright infringement, then you are right!

Isn’t This Just Copyright Infringement…

Yep. Sure is. While Japan does in fact have strict copyright laws that make doujinshi illegal, the benefits of their popularity are recognized by the manga and anime industries. Most professional manga artist respect the creation of doujinshi as the creative right of the fans, but in return they will often look to the doujinshi as a source for creative inspiration. In fact, some professional manga artist started their careers as doujinshi artists! The most famous case of this is that of CLAMP, which was started by four women who drew Captain Tsubasa doujinshis in the 80’s. There are even cases were professional manga artists will release doujinshi of their characters. Manga artist Kazushi Hagiwara released a pornographic doujinshi with characters from his manga Bastard!! which he simply entitled Bastard – Expansion.

The unspoken agreement between manga/anime creators and doujinshi artist is referred to as “anmoku no ryokai” and also includes the production of fan-subs and fan-dubs of anime in the US. Publishers, licensors, and distributors look the other way as long as these fan productions do not make to much money or stop fans from consuming licensed products. This makes sense in the case of anime and manga industries, because the actual anime/manga is only a small part of the profit gained by companies. Rather, the most profitable sections come from the money spent by consumers on licensed goods which include the popular anime figures. The production of these doujinshi or fan-subs create interest in the franchise that result in increased profits for the creators. In fact, in 2007, Kadawoka agreed to allow the posting of Mad Movies based on Haruhi Suzimiya, as long as their logo was shown at the beginning of the video.


The anime/manga culture is one of the most fascinating aspects of Japanese popular culture with so much to explore within in the otaku culture. One of the goals of this blog is to attempt to illuminate in detail some of the most interesting aspects of this culture. I find doujinshi to be fascinating, because they represent to me just how much time and interest fans take in the characters created by the anime/manga artists. A simple google search will quickly point you in the right direction if you are interested in reading a doujinshi about some of your favorite characters, but be warned! Since these are not monitored or censored, there is no telling what you will find.

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This entry was posted on March 9, 2012 by in Otaku Culture and tagged , , .

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