Brief History of Comiket
Comic Market, or Comiket, is the world's largest comic convention. Currently Comiket is held twice a year, first in mid-August then late December, at the Tokyo Big Sight. Comiket 72 took place from August 17th - 19th. According to Mantan Web, over 170,000 fans attended Comiket 72 on day 1, 40,000 more than during Comiket 71 last December. The next Comiket, C74, will take place from August 15th to 17th.
Comiket is a place where doujin artists and groups gather and sell their works. While many groups hardly make any profit, Comiket is the place where they would try and make a name for themselves. Many of today's popular artists and groups began their career at Comiket. From Saimon Fumi to Rumoki Takahashi, or the mega-popular CLAMP, they all attended Comiket in the early days of their career. Some doujin groups, like Type-Moon, became so popular and made enough money to go professional.
Comiket began in 1975, and gradually grew into the world's biggest comic convention. In the last few years, each day of the convention saw an overall attendance of over 100,000, and C66 saw a total attendance of 510,000.
The history of Comic Market is a history of the changes of the site.
In the 1970s, fans of movies and science fiction began to create doujinshi. They needed a place to buy and sell their creations. Comic Market (Comiket) came from such demand.
Comiket was planned because of the conflict among Meiku (A doujin circle who planned Comiket) and the Japan Manga Convention. Japan Manga Convention had rejected some participants, including Meiku, because they had criticized JMC. Comiket instituted an all-inclusive policy, saying, "We reject nobody." They intended it to be "A convention of the people, by the people, for the people."
The first Comiket (C1) was held in the meeting room of the Japan Fire Defense Building on December 21, 1975 by Meiku. Thirty-two doujin circles and 700 visitors participated. According to rumors, on the previous night, some fans camped out, loudly singing anime songs. About half of the circles were high school or junior high manga clubs, while some others were from popular creator Moto Hagio's fan club. Ninety percent of the participants were schoolgirls who were fans of shojo manga.
After C1, Comiket was held three times a year, during school holidays. Meiku quit as the promoter of Comiket, but they were given the eternal right to their space at the convention, continuing even to the present.
In 1976, C2-C4 were held at the Itabashi Industrial Coalition Building. The number of participating circles was still under 100 in those days. The location of C5 was moved to Ota Industrial Building, and the convention was held there until C13 in 1979. The number of circles continued to increase, and attendance became so high that there was a waiting line in front of the gate. In 1979, the number of circles was up to near 300, and about 4,000 visitors attended. The number of school-club manga circles had decreased, but on the other hand, more anime fan circles appeared, dedicated to series such as Star Blazers or Gundam. These fans were the ancestors of the current breed of otaku, and their passion encouraged the continued development of Comiket. Around this time, Meiku resigned from promoting Comiket, and Comiket became an independent organization.
From 1980-1981, Comiket was held at Kawasaki Shimin Plaza. There were around 7,000 attendees and 350-400 circles. The floor was packed. At C18, which was moved to Yokohama Sanbo Hole, attendees were up to 10,000. In these days, the fan circles of Urusei Yatsura were popular. Before this time, most of the participants were girls; however, this movement encouraged more male participants to attend.
At C19, a dispute occurred among promoters. Anti-mainstream members (they called themselves "Revolutionaries") reserved Kawasaki Shimin Plaza ahead of time. According to some, the cause of the dispute was their insistence on introducing restrictions on attendees. Others say that they planned to take over Comiket in order to profit off its value. Still others say that they had wanted to invite a voice actress as a guest, but this suggestion was declined. "Mainstreamers" moved the location of the convention to the World International Trade Show Hall in Harumi. Revolutionaries named their version of the convention "New Comiket," later changing it to "Comic Squire."
For the next six years, Comiket was held in Harumi. Participants continued to increase; at C30, attendees were up to 35,000, with 3,900 circles. Around 1985, Captain Tsubasa became a popular title for the female fans, and the genre of yaoi appeared. Yaoi became an engine to increase the numbers of female participants. Data shows that of the leaders of Captain Tsubasa fan circles, only six were male, and 1,083 were female leaders.
Tsuguo Iwata, after becoming one of Comiket's planners in 1983, proceeded to institute a digitalization of data in order to deal with the rapid growth of works that were exhibited. He continued to be influential in the planning of the festival even after he resigned. He passed away in 2004.
In 1988, C3 was held in Tokyo Logistic Center (TLC) because Harumi was occupied by another event. These each had to be held for a couple of days because the space was smaller. There were 40,000-60,000 participants with 4,400 fan circles. A circle categorizing system was introduced.
Even a two-days event at TLC was not enough for the large number of participants; therefore C34 in 1988 returned to Harumi. At this time the computer management system was completed, and it allowed more than 9,200 circles, more than twice than the amount from C33. Since planning members had difficulty finding a site, C35 was delayed until March 1989. The participants at C36 in summer 1989 grew to a million, with 10,000 circles.
That summer, a few weeks before Comiket, a sexual deviant who had killed four young girls was arrested. He was an otaku and a member of a participant circles at Comiket. This led some TV and newspaper journalists to condemn Comiket. In a talk show, a reporter pointed to the participants of Comiket and shouted, "There are a million Miyazakis (the arrested suspect) here."
The number of participants had continued to grow beyond the capacity of Harumi. C37 was moved to Makuhari Messe in Chiba, one of the biggest event halls in Japan. At C39 the next winter, participants were up to 2.5 million. Comiket looked as if it would stay at Makuhari Messe; however, Makuhari Messe declined to host Comiket right before the scheduled date, because of the mass of non-censored Dousinshi. This incident was believed to cause the biggest trouble in Comiket's history. Participants who know of the circumstances are still known to hate Makuhari Messe. The hotels around Makuhari and Chiba suffered a mass cancellations, and billions of yen in losses. In the same season in previous years, lights in all the hotel rooms were on, but this year, most of windows were dark. The food shops and convenience stores had ordered a lot of food and soft drinks based on data from the previous season, but they were forced to dispose of a large volume of bad stock. The amount of sales of many restaurants around Makuhari dropped to below 10% of what they made in the previous season.
Because of the reasons above, C40 moved back to Harumi and stayed there until C49. A self-restriction system for pornographic doujinshi was introduced in which all doujinshi have to be reviewed before the beginning of the show. At C42 in the summer in 1995, a few hundred fans waiting in line got heatstroke and were carried to the nurse station. C48, the twentieth anniversary of the festival, became a three-days event.
During this period, Sailor Moon was very popular. This trend was followed by a boom in female fans of Evangelion and Saint Seiya. A large number of doujinshi were created and many of them were yaoi. Some anime companies didn't approve of this trend, but some of them changed their attitude about fan creations relating to their titles. C49 in 1995 was the last event at Harumi because the World Trade Fair hall was closed.
From C50 in 1996 through the present, Comiket moved to Tokyo Big Site (in Ariake) as a three-days event. The number of participant circles was up to 30,000. C71 was held on the New Year's Eve. Around this time, Evangelion became the most popular title. Trends had shifted from science fiction to moe doujinshi and Comiket is regarded from outside as a market for hentai doujinshi.
After 2000, doujin game soft such as Tukihime became a popular type of Doujin. TYPE-MOON (Tukihime's creator) became a commercial game house after starting out as a fan circle. Sound Horizon, Rekka Katagiri, and other music doujin circles became professional.
Now Comiket is a gateway to professional work for many fan circles. At the end of the 2000's, participants were up to 5 million, and the number of categories kept growing. Today, all of the popular art forms in Japan are represented, and more categories continue to grow.
After C51, part of the floor was offered to professional companies. Some fans criticized this move, saying that it hurts Comiket's reputation of amateurism, but it has helped the copyright holders become more accepting of fan creations at Comiket. Now some fans even come to Comiket because of the company booths. The companies regard Comiket as an important event for promotion. However, some companies are rejected before being accepted to the show.
The Cost of Popularity
As Comiket's popularity increased, professional mangaka and game companies (mostly Bishoujo games) began attending the event. Later, a special section of the convention was made available to these "professionals." Although Comiket is mostly known for its doujin manga, anime and games, other people like Gothic Lolita fashion designers or bands also attend Comiket to sell their products.
"Otaku from around the world head to Sanya flophouse area"
The most prosperous season of Sanya is here once again, where people from around the country and the world attending Comiket come and stay in this town.
Sanya is a flophouse district on the border of Taito, Arakawa Ward, northeast of Tokyo. In recent years, the number of foreign tourists have increased in this area in comparison to the daily employment workers.
"Every year, a month before Comiket, orders (through email and phone) from otaku from around Japan and overseas would fill up the rooms. Usually foreign otaku come to Japan and goes on a pilgrimage to Akihabara."
Kiyama Tetsuo, the Pubilc Lodging House Union spokesman said, "I heard customers go to Comike and spend over a million yen for doujinshi and other items. Therefore they must want to save as much money as possible."
Now Sanya have become a camp for otaku. Kiyama says, "During the Nagoya World Cos-play summit, 200 cosplayers participated in a parade in the shopping street. I hope Sanya will soon see such event too."
Sanya once appeared in Tomorrow's Joe. Sanya as a formal name faded away in 1966. But this area is still called Sanya. From Japan's high-economic growth period (1950-70) to the corruption of the economic bubble (1990), Sanya was a town of the daily employed workers. Around 1960, riots took place and a dangerous image was built around the area. However, scared daily employed workers can no longer be seen on the streets. Instead, businessmen on business trip and foreigners who travel around of the world are walking on the streets. They stay in public lodging houses. Now the image of Sanya has changed. Kiyama says, "foreigners and young people under 30 are not aware of any negative image of Sanya."
A change of the customers leads to a change of the lodge house owners. A decrease in customers forces the owners to make an effort to attract businessmen and travelers. Around 2000, some innovative hotel owners constructed their websites in both English and Japanese. Businessmen and the foreign travelers responded. 90% of customers of Kiyama's younger brother, Horiyuki's "Hotel New Koyo" are foreigners. Lonely Planet's travel guide book gives a high rating on Koyo, and New York Times introduced Koyo as "a valuable hotel in Tokyo where all costs are high" The cheapest room is under 3,000 yen. Some of the cheapest hotels among the 170 flophouses at Sanya offer under 2,000 yen for rooms.
Koyo has a special room named "Samurai room." Its interior is painted gold, and a scroll and swords are displayed. Foreign customers like it.
During the 2002 World Cup, many supporters came to stay at Sanya. It made Sanya a famous spot for tourist. The owner of "Hotel New Azuma" says. "We keep in mind our hospitality, Sanya has a history of hospitality toward strangers. Foreign customers must like it."
Translated and written by T. Ohara