Currently browsing tag


[LINK] Free online course of interest to fans: An Introduction to Japanese Subcultures – Keio University

From the website: In this course, together with three other specialists, Professor Niijima, Professor Takahashi and Professor Ohwada, we will explore girls comics, boys comics, the Hatsune Miku vocaloid, cosplay, and J-pop idols, focusing on the themes such as Love, Battle, Technology and Fan culture, in which you’ll learn about the different cultural creations that underpin Japanese subcultures. With materials for cultural analysis, you’ll develop a basic knowledge of key Japanese subcultures, learning the recognisable traits of each.

[QUOTE] From A brief history of fan fiction in Germany | Vera Cuntz-Leng | Transformative Works and Cultures

The significance of manga and anime in German fan fiction remains recognizable today. 29 percent of all pieces of fan fiction uploaded to and 49.5 percent of the 148,220 fan writings on Animexx are categorized as manga/anime (the latter unsurprising considering that the Web site caters to anime and manga fans), whereas the international archive lists only 25.3 percent of its 41,183,979 texts in these categories and Archive of Our Own ( not even 12 percent (Table 1).

A brief history of fan fiction in Germany | Vera Cuntz-Leng | Transformative Works and Cultures

[LINK] Transformative Works and Cultures: Vol 17 (2014)


New issue posted today, and several essays/interviews/reviews that may be of interest to people here:

Redefining gender swap fan fiction: A Sherlock case study – Ann McClellan

Bull in a china shop: Alternate Reality games and transgressive fan play in social media franchises – Burcu Bakiolgu (phdfan, this might interest you?)

Twinship, incest, and twincest in the Harry Potter universe – Vera Cuntz-Leng

Queer encounters between Iron Man and Chinese boy’s love fandom – John Wei

Fan fiction metadata creation and utilization within fan fiction archives: Three primary models – Shannon Fay Johnson (destinationtoast, this might be of interest?)

Fan fiction and midrash: Making meaning – Rachel Barenblat

Wordplay, mindplay: Fan fiction and postclassical narratology – Veerle Van Steenhuyse

Fandom and the fourth wall – Jenna Kathryn Ballinger

Exploring fandom, social media, and producer/fan interactions: An interview with Sleepy Hollow’s Orlando Jones – Lucy Bennett and Bertha Chin

And much more! Check it out – this is FREE. OPEN ACCESS. Read! Enjoy! :)

[META] The censorship problems faced by anime and manga fans

For fans of manga, anime, and other Japanese media, pointing and laughing at inaccurate mass media portrayals of Japanese pop culture has been something of a sport for decades. A few weeks ago, however, things took a slightly more serious turn.

The ball got rolling when early in June, the Japanese House of Representatives approved a long-overdue law banning the possession of child pornography. Up to now, creating and distributing child pornography was as forbidden in Japan as anywhere else, but “simple possession” had not yet been criminalized. The new law applies only to “real” child pornography and leaves alone completely fictional depictions of underage characters in sexual situations in manga, anime and other media. This exception came about after vocal protests from manga publishers, creators, fans and free speech rights activists. The story was widely reported in non-Japanese media. However, most of these reports focused on handwringing about Japan’s “failure” to clamp down on sexually explicit manga. Most shared was a CNN article filled with outrage about how the new law supposedly permits Japanese bookstores to fill their shelves with shocking cartoon porn about children. (more…)

[REQUEST] Slashfic readers from pre-2008 needed!

Hello all! I’m requesting information on the (in)visibility of slash as a way of generating angst in fanfic pre-2008. Specifically, I want to know what causes or prevents the queering of canoncially straight characters from being used as the primary source of conflict in slashfic. I’m primarily investigating the Kingdom Hearts and Naruto fandoms right now, but information on any fandom based on a global media commodity (preferable originating in Japan, just for the sake of keeping my claims tenable) would be most welcome. If you were actively reading slash fiction in the early 2000s (or know someone who was) and would like to share you perceptions with me, I’d be most grateful! -rabidbehemoth Tumblr crosspost:

[QUOTE] From Nicolle Lamerichs, The cultural dynamic of doujinshi and cosplay: Local anime fandom in Japan, USA and Europe, p169

Doujinshi are thus considered to be primary fan objects in Japan that are worthy of attention, circulation, collection and preservation. Japanese buyers are selective and seek fan texts that suit their desire and that fulfill elements of the source-texts that appealed to them. These often female fans look for specific characters, ‘pairings’ (romantic couples) and genres, and take pride in having an extensive doujinshi collection that reflects their interpretations and imagination. Japanese fans collect these fan memorabilia as tokens of their affect and as ways to relive their connection to the source text. However, their activities are not fundamentally different from Western fans, such as fan fiction authors, who also collected and circulated fanzines before the prevalence of online text. Even today fans carefully bookmark texts, share them, and store printed copies in binders. While doujinshi circulate in a specific economic context, the purchase and collection of these fan texts has similar value as in other countries.

Nicolle Lamerichs, The cultural dynamic of doujinshi and cosplay: Local anime fandom in Japan, USA and Europe, p169

[QUOTE] From Alisa Freedman, Train Man and the Gender Politics of Japanese ‘Otaku’ Culture: The Rise of New Media, Nerd Heroes and Consumer Communities

Female otaku have received more media attention (N: in Japan) since around the time of the Train Man phenomenon, but, rather than being embroiled in discussions about the family, they have most often been showcased as a creative force ofconsumers and producers of Japan’s flourishing manga and anime industries and as brave pioneer members of fandoms generally dominated by men. Although positive, these reports present female otaku as anomalies rather than role models and reveal aspects of gender segregation in otaku culture. Alisa Freedman, Train Man and the Gender Politics of Japanese ‘Otaku’ Culture: The Rise of New Media, Nerd Heroes and Consumer Communities

[QUOTE] From Salil K. Mehra, Copyright and Comics in Japan: Does Law Explain Why All the Cartoons My Kid Watches Are Japanese Imports? p54-55

Perhaps most notably, by offering works that arguably “push the envelope” more than the works of the formal manga industry, dōjinshi may produce examples of innovation that create new opportunities for the entire industry. Indeed, mainstream manga publishing companies have in the past brought the styles and ideas of “hot” subcultures into their own product lines. New genres fostered by the dōjinshi markets– genres that are often quite risqué – have been at times been adopted by mainstream commercial manga publishers. (Examples of such genres include lolicom (sic) and yaoi.)

Salil K. Mehra, Copyright and Comics in Japan: Does Law Explain Why All the Cartoons My Kid Watches Are Japanese Imports? p54-55

[QUOTE] From Mizuko Ito, Fandom Unbound, loc. 246-63

Even as otaku culture is recuperated by elites and the mainstream, and as the terms “anime” and “manga” have become part of a common international lexicon, otaku culture and practice have retained their subcultural credibility. In Japan, much of manga and anime is associated with mainstream consumption; otaku must therefore differentiate themselves from ippanjin (regular people) through a proliferating set of niche genres, alternative readings, and derivative works. In the United States, the subcultural cred of anime and manga is buttressed by their status as foreign “cult media.” This stance of U.S. fans is not grounded, however, in a simplistic exoticism. Susan Napier suggests that “rather than the traditional Orientalist construction of the West empowering itself by oppressing or patronizing the Eastern Other, these fans gain agency through discovering and then identifying with a society that they clearly recognize as having both universal and culturally specific aspects” (Napier 2007, 189). She describes how U.S. fans most often explain their interests in terms of the works’ “thematic complexity and three-dimensional characterization” rather than as an interest in Japan per se (Napier 2007, 177).

Put differently, the international appeal of otaku culture is grounded precisely in its ability to resist totalizing global narratives such as nationalism. The long-running and intricate narrative forms of popular Japanese media represent a platform or, in Hiroki Azuma’s terms, a database of referents that are highly amenable to recombination and customization by fans and gamers (see Chapter 2). We can see this in the stunning diversity of doujinshi derived from the same manga series (see Chapters 5 and 9) and in the activities of young Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! card game players who design their own decks out of the nearly infinite set of possibilities on offer through a growing pantheon of monsters (Buckingham and Sefton-Green 2004; Ito 2007; Sefton-Green 2004; Willett 2004). While certain female fans might look to Gundam for source material to tell stories of erotic trysts between the male characters, other fans geek out over building and customizing models of the giant robots.

Mizuko Ito, Fandom Unbound, loc. 246-63

[QUOTE] From Ba Zi, 9c. Fair Use and the Translation Stranglehold

I’d like to draw your attention back to an image I had used in another context, namely about boys/girls and the assumptions about/representations of in manga, and talk with y’all a little about Zolo. Now, you have to bear in mind that my first encounter with One Piece was a non-licensed translation dub of the TV anime. After that, I began to regularly follow the series while living in Japan, so I mostly read it in the weekly Shōnen Jump‘s I would dig out of garbage cans and recycle piles on Tuesdays (for the trash cans) and Wednesdays (for the recycling piles). At no point was it ever unclear to me that ゾロ was a take on the Johnston McCulley character Don Diego de la Vega, aka Zorro. I was a huge fan of the 50s Zorro television show that ran on syndicated TV when I was growing up. There was no mistaking: ゾロ was Zorro.

Fast forward a few years, and I am picking out the books for my “What is Manga?” class, for which I decide to use Oda’s One Piece as representative of the shōnen demographic. A few days before class, I sat down to read the licensed translation, so as to refresh my memory, and I come across the follow anachronism: Zolo. After a few minutes of obligatory “wat”s, I finally came around and tried to think why it was they would have done this. When One Piece was scanlated, the name was at least translated as Zoro, so the similarity would be apparent. Was this an attempt to bring back Rolo’s, which, while delicious, I don’t see flying off shelves nowadays awash in candies more flashy marketing than chocolate and caramel? It was actually just before–or perhaps even in the midst of–the class in which we discussed One Piece that I realized there was a very simple reason why you would translate ゾロ as Zolo: licensing. Zorro, like Mickey and Donald and Superman and Kitty-chan, is a diligently guarded media commodity, so, while one might conceivably be able to get away with aping Zorro in Japan, it would be much harder to get away with this in the US and the larger English language market, where Zorro media are still being produced to this day.

Ba Zi, 9c. Fair Use and the Translation Stranglehold

[LINK] Inside Scanlation – Inside the world of scanlation

Very extensive fan-made resource on scanlation and its history, chock full of great info. Includes a timeline of scanlation, in-depth articles on important online hubs and scanlation groups, background info on the ins and out of scanlation and various related issues, and more. TWC did an extensive review of the site and the info on it in 2010.

Fanlore’s scanlation article is a good and quick intro to the topic, by the way. For some longer reads on scanlation, here’s a list of academic articles that are definitely worth checking out as well. (Link goes to the work-in-progress bibliography of fan studies work that TWC and Fanhackers are working on. More on that one later. If you need access to any of the articles that are behind a paywall, try requesting a copy on Fanhackers.)

[REQUEST] Anyone know of any discussions on/proposals for copyright licenses that cover fanworks?

I’m looking for examples of discussions on/proposals for special copyright licenses that would cover the creation of fanworks. There have been quite a few of these, though I don’t remember most of them. For instance, there’s the CC-based fanwork license proposed by mangaka Ken Akamatsu and manga publisher Kodansha [1]. There’s also existing licenses, like whatever Kadokawa Publishing is doing exactly, or Jim Butcher’s fic license, which is apparently kind of dubious [2][3]. There’s been a lot of discussion on making better licenses for derivative works in general in academic and copyright reform circles, but although many of those could apply to fanworks, very few of them seem to be considering the particular characteristics of things like fic. They also seem to be mostly about regulating the relationship between derivative works, not about regulating the positions of derivative works vs. other derivative works – things like whether or not the writer of a fic gives blanket permission to write sequels, make podfics etc. I’m looking for discussions/proposals from anywhere – fandom, industry, academia, and so on. Thank you very much! [1] hilarious gtranslated page at [2] [3] Discussions of Butcher’s policy at Brought on by discussion at

[META] Rise Up, Pixelated Young Women of the New Age!

I’m in Seoul for the Third Mechademia Conference, which is taking place through Sunday at the Korean Film Archive and at Dongguk University. The theme of the conference is a mouthful: “World Renewal: Counterfactual Histories, Parallel Universes, and Possible Worlds,” but it’s already provided me with lots to think about. The conference is young, but already several speakers have hastened to report on the death of the otaku as a cultural type, which, if it is true, must mark the passing of an era in terms of the study of subcultures in Japan. Reports of the death of the otaku–now being slandered, in the wake of 3/11, as an aetiolated rich boy consumer, and good riddance–may or may not be greatly exaggerated, but any discussion of “otaku” in which they are taken to be wholly synonymous with “fans” necessarily ignores the existence of female fans worldwide and of fujoshi in Japan in particular, who are certainly doing their thing despite their relative neglect by Japan’s public-academic complex, and by academcis outside Japan too. A conference about world renewal necessarily invites thoughts about how best to encourage and to sustain social change, and I have to admit that my thoughts about the kinds of isms that haven’t been discussed so far–so far the only ism anyone wants to touch is capitalism–led me to be distinctly uncomfortable at the fact that at least some of the presentations have rehashed the tired old cliche of a bunch of dudes sitting around talking about the messianic potential of (Japanese?) girls, regardless of the conditions of actual girls and women in Japan, Korea, or anywhere else. Juxtaposing Christophe Thouny’s discussion of Kino from Kino no Tabi as a “traveling shojo” with the anti-domestic violence ad I saw on TV last night produces some uncomfortable disjunctures–provided one makes the juxtaposition, of course. Thomas Lamarre of McGill University was one of the leading organizers for the conference, but can’t be here due to unforeseen circumstances. It seems particularly fitting that he be absent while I invoke his reading of Laputa: Castle in the Sky in The Anime Machine: “Only a girl can save us now.” If there’s one thing that defined the unlamented otaku, it was their idolization, if not outright fetishization, of girl characters in general and the character type that the unrepentant Freudian Saitô Tamaki calls “the battling beauty” in particular. (Similar statements might be made about female media fans and their idolization of white male characters.) The catch, of course, is that a girl can only save us within a story-world that does not (and must not) impinge on the “real” (I use the term advisedly) world outside the story, the world where gender discrimination is a problem for women in virtually every country. It’s no coincidence that Laputa is the ur-text of the otaku aesthetic mode known as sekaikei (“world-type”), whose foremost practitioner is the fan-turned-directer Shinkai Makoto–his favorite movie is avowedly Laputa, and Marc Steinberg made a compelling presentation about the poverty of the sekaikei vision of the world in which it became clear that the influential 2004 anime Densha Otoko, ostensibly based on real events in which an otaku used the power of the internet message board Ni-channeru to woo a girl he met on a train after helping her avoid harassment, was the beginning of the end of otaku. How could it not be, when Densha’s paramour Hermes gets her name from the expensive brand of the tea set she sends him as an initial thank-you gift? Densha, with the help of Ni-chan, learns to be properly social (and consumerist) and gets the girl in the end, in a decidedly non-otaku fashion. The real death-blow, however, was struck by the rise of the nichijôkei (“everyday”) aesthetic in anime and other mixed media properties, beginning–significantly–with the openly otaku Lucky Star in 2007 and reaching its triumph with the hit show K-On!, which follows a group of schoolgirls who start their own band in music club. Steinberg argued persuasively that the nichijôkei shows are predominantly shows about girls that are intended to impinge on and interact with the “real” world outside the text, partly through using the sort of layered, intertextual fannish references–and depiction of its female characters as consumers and fans of media–in a way that was formerly considered to be strictly otaku. (I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that disruptive, threatening figures such as otaku, and media fans worldwide, are continuously being depicted as “just” consumers. The truth is that fans are unruly consumers who don’t just sit down and shut up and buy things, and that as consumers who are more than consumers, fans pose a real threat to the existing regimes of capital, copyright, and intellectual property.) In another sign of their intertextual imbrication with the social and actual daily life, nichijôkei shows are notable for inspiring fan pilgrimages to sites featured in the shows themselves, as well as for the alleged “triviality” of their subject matter. Well, as Joanna Russ noted, things like family and life and love are only trivial because male-dominated society tells us they are, and isn’t that one of the handy-dandy ways to suppress women’s writing, and women’s stories? Nichijôkei shows, in other words, make immanent in the real world the potentiality of their female protagonists’ stories, as opposed to texts like Laputa, in which the transformative potential of their female heroine’s innate mystical connections with whatever is ultimately restricted to the closed system of the story itself. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that K-On! is about girls making music and rocking out together; the other notable recent musical female character, Hatsune Miku, is nothing but immanence verging into the real world, with real and transformative consequences and potential. Miku’s a game-changer, just like Vocaloid software has been, and when she finds her own voice, the world will shake. When the keynote speakers of these kinds of conferences dare to imagine a different kind of alternate world than the future beyond capital that so obsesses most concerned academics, that will be a sign of real social change. In the meantime, otaku are dead; long live fans.

[META] Thoughts on AnimeExpo

After eleven years of being an anime fan, I finally made it to Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention in the United States, held in Los Angeles, California, this past weekend. I’m a veteran of Otakon, the second-largest anime convention in this country; I’ve actually blogged about that con for this Symposium before. I went to Anime Expo (which this year was co-located with the X Games, for some amusing convention center logistics) to co-present our article “Even a monkey can understand fan activism” in the convention’s academic track with my friend Alex Leavitt. Perhaps inevitably, wandering around AX led me to compare the two, although the last anime con I’ve attended was actually Otakon 2010 two years ago. AX has long had the reputation of being the “industry” con to Otakon’s “fan” atmosphere, and I found that to be largely true – compared to Otakon, there didn’t seem to be quite as much cosplay (though there was a lot of it, and a lot of it very good), and the panels were mostly put on by anime- and manga-related companies and people involved with them, perhaps neatly symbolized by the fact that our badges put us down in the “industry” category and staff kept offering to let us jump the massive queues for panels. One of the people I was hanging out with asked me at one point whether I’d seen anything truly mind-blowing at the con, and I was hard put to it to think of an answer. In the United States as well as in Japan, it seems, this has been something of a fallow year in the production cycle for anime and manga. But the overarching lesson I drew from AX, actually, was the realization that anime/manga fandom doesn’t need the industry. This might sound counter-intuitive, since over the last four to five years the bottom has basically dropped out of both the anime and manga industries in the United States, leaving only a handful of scrappy companies in near-monopoly positions after the exit of some of the scene’s former titans. But this winnowing has left a lot of empty space for innovative partnerships across platforms (such as those Tokyopop has put together to continue publishing Hetalia, or that is putting together to publish hentai manga in print), and it will be interesting, to say the least, to see in what directions these partnerships develop in the future. In particular, I’m glad to see companies beginning to finally harness the full power of digital content delivery tools. (Although I have to admit I thought it was more than a bit rich for Stu Levy of Tokypop to cite “piracy” as one of the causes of his company’s recent near-death experience, since I know for a fact that Tokyopop routinely relied on scanlation groups to pick out new titles to license.) More than that, however, my pilgrimage to AX taught me that anime and manga fandom is not only alive but doing well, well enough that members of a Christian group (I don’t know which one) took it upon themselves to protest outside and pray for the souls of the sinners for the convention’s first three days. In all seriousness, though, when I went to Otakon two years ago I was a little taken aback at how thoroughly it had been transformed into a subcultural convention rather than a convention for just anime and manga. AX has not been transformed to any similar extent, although I did see one or two people cosplaying as raver-style Pikachus, and the number of Homestuck, My Little Ponies, and Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra cosplayers was quite remarkable. This seems to me to reflect not only a broadening of the fanbase of anime and manga, but also the new strength and richness of the American animation scene. I found myself telling someone at a party several weeks ago that I didn’t think that it would have been possible for Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko to create the show that they did in A:TLA, which wears its Asian-American storytelling colors with all pride and also is remarkable for the number and variety of its strong female characters (a trend epitomized in the fact that the eponymous protagonist of Korra, the current Avatar, is also a girl), if it weren’t for the success of anime, and realizing that I believed it wholeheartedly. Similarly, I can think of several newer authors of SFF who are obviously anime-influenced (N.K. Jemisin most prominent among them), and I know for a fact that a lot of manga fans have become enthusiastic Homestuck readers. I don’t know that all those bronies would be such enthusiastic Pony fans if shows like Sailor Moon, Utena and Powerpuff Girls hadn’t proven that girls could be awesome a long time ago, either. In a way these developments make me feel better about the disappearance of Japanese-language manga from the AX and Otakon dealers’ rooms of now compared with those of the early ‘Naughts. It’s a lot easier to get manga in multiple languages now than it was then (I can take a bus to Kinokuniya, for example), anyway, and in any event, I’ll gladly trade shifting merchandise availability for the broader influence that anime is beginning to have, and for its broader availability. Now if only Japan could put out some truly stellar shows again. Well, in the meantime, at least there’s Evangelion 3.0.

[LINK] Transformative Works and Fan Activism

Frequently when academic journal articles are written about timely research topics, the authors are unable to update their audience regarding more recent developments. In the current issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, guest edited by Henry Jenkins and Sangita Shresthova, Alex Leavitt and I wrote about the Metropolitan Tokyo Youth Ordinance (also known as Bill 156), (“Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community”). The bill could potentially curtail artistic expression in the name of keeping fictional characters under the age of consent (hence the bill’s popular nickname, the “Nonexistent Crimes Bill”) out of “harmful situations.”

In our article we looked at fan activism against the bill, which passed at the end of 2010 and went into effect in summer 2011, after our article had gone to press. Developments since then have been somewhat mixed.

Although creators feared that the highly ambiguous language of the bill would allow government censors virtual impunity, a recent high-profile ruling found that a scene depicting incest between two young characters did not violate the bill’s provisions, because it was subject to previous standards rather than to those introduced by Bill 156. Although this was hailed as a victory, there have also been reports of publishers self-censoring manga content even before the bill’s provisions went into effect, and that manga series have been cancelled outright in response to it. Still, some publishers, like Kadokawa Shoten, have spoken out against Ishihara’s remarks.

From here on, it’s unclear what path fannish activism will and should take. Although 80% of Tokyo residents were reported in early 2011 to oppose the bill soon after its passage, an anticipated boycott of the Tokyo International Anime Fair by manga publishers and the ensuing publicity largely fizzled after the 2011 Tokyo Anime Fest was cancelled due to the March 2011 earthquake. At roughly the same time, a suit alleging that Bill 156 was unconstitutional was denied by the Japanese courts, a decision that has been appealed.

Individual creators, however, have continued to engage in various forms of protest. Akamatsu Ken, the creator of such well-known manga as Negima! and Love Hina and more recently founded of manga download website J-Comi, is now offering the infamously banned-under-Bill-156 comedy manga Oku-sama wa shôgakusei (My wife is an elementary school student) on the premium section of the comic site.

Official concerns about the potentially socially destabilizing power of manga were also evident in the minutes of a meeting of Miyazaki prefecture’s Youth Healthy Development Council last fall, in which members characterized boys’ love and womens’ comics as “dangerous,” saying that “if there are more depictions where women lead [in sexual encounters], it will encourage the tendency toward homosexuality.” These manga would not normally fall under the provisions of Bill 156 in Tokyo, but the idea that fiction can provide a space to explore alternatives–and that imagining alternatives to the status quo are a powerful part of what motivates activism–certainly lies at the heart of the potential of fannish activism, as Jenkins and Shreshthova acknowledge in their introduction. Fandom is fundamentally participatory, and politics increasingly (though it always had) hinges on participation. As Melissa M. Brough and Sangita Shresthova argue in this issue, there is much more work to be done in analyzing these networks and connections; as several articles acknowledge, that participation does not necessarily guarantee success.

Overall, the contents of the Transformative Works and Fan Activism issue tell a story that is broadly similar to the story of Bill 156 and the efforts against it: mixed but hopeful, and suggestive. Regarding fandom’s activist potential, I always think about what Gandalf says about the Ents: when they wake up, they will find that they are strong. What separates devoted fans from those who just casually enjoy something is action, and activism means taking that next step, from consumer engagement with media to civic engagement around it.

–with Alex Leavitt

[META] How much money do doujinshi creators actually make? Some statistics from Comiket

We’ve mentioned before how fanworks are often sold in large quantities in Japan and many other countries, mostly in Asia but also elsewhere. Japan’s doujinshi conventions are probably the most famous examples of “money” markets for fanworks.

How much money do doujinshi creators actually make, though? Does anyone turn a real profit from these fan activities? Let’s check out some statistics. (In other words, this is a data dump post.)

It’s hard to come by any vaguely reliable numbers about doujinshi sales, especially numbers that focus on the situation of individual creators instead of more general market size estimates. Doujinshi creators in Japan do have to pay taxes on any profits they make from doujinshi sales, because these profits count as income from “self-published works”. Otherwise, though, doujinshi exchange is pretty much a shadow economy that goes mostly unrecorded. It’s also a fairly complicated shadow economy, involving sales not just through the thousands of doujinshi conventions that take place every year, but also through mail order, online auctions, and especially doujin shops, physical stores in all major Japanese cities that sell new and second-hand doujinshi.

However, we can get at least a general idea about what a doujinshi artist may earn by checking out the statistics that Comiket has published about its participants. The twice-yearly Comiket is the largest convention for the sale of self-published works in the entire world, and it’s mostly devoted to doujinshi (details in this excellent PDF presentation). Comiket is one of the oldest and most influential of all doujinshi conventions in Japan, and a significant minority of Japanese doujinshi circles seem to sell their works exclusively at Comiket. So, while the data below are only for a single convention, they probably can give a general idea of how many fans can make what kind of money with doujinshi.[1]

The numbers below are from a 2009 survey that was held among circles who were applying to participate in Comiket. A circle is a unit of one or more fans that publish a doujinshi. In the past, making a doujinshi was too difficult and expensive to manage by oneself, but home printing technology and specialized doujinshi printing companies now enable many fans to publish doujinshi by themselves as single-person circles; at Comiket, these single-person circles now a comfortable majority. Circles with two or three members are still fairly common, but more than that is rare (says an older 2003 survey). Keep in mind that all the losses or profits reported for the surveys described below are per circle, not per individual doujinshi-creating fan, so both losses and profits will be shared by multiple people in many cases.

The survey was held among applicants for Comiket 77 and asked them about their earnings through doujinshi sales in one year, presumably 2008 (Note: the first version of this blog incorrectly said it was for one edition of Comiket only). Roughly 33000 circles responded to this survey.[2] The results were reported in December 2011, in the catalog for Comiket 81. Wherever it’s provided in the report, I’ll give separate data for circles with a female representative and with a male representative, a distinction that I expect will be of interest to a lot of people.[3] The number of circles with a female representative (about 21500) was roughly double that of the number of circles with a male representative (about 11500). There is some debate about what percentage of visitors to Comiket are male or female: there’s no registration for visitors, and surveys about the topic contradict each other, with some settling on a majority of male visitors while others report a female majority. In the case of circles, who do register and where reliable data is available, there are clearly more female than male creators participating.

Circles were asked how much money they lost or earned with their sale of doujinshi during one year. Note that the dollar amounts are based on a June 2012 exchange rate, and are only there for clarification.

Lost 50000 yen or more (lost $638-more): male 14%, female 16%
Lost between 0 and 50000 yen (lost $0-$638): male 53%, female 50%
Earned between 0 and 50000 yen (earned $0-$638): male 15%, female 17%
Earned between 50000 and 200000 yen (earned $638-$2553): male 8%, female 10%
Earned more than 200000 yen (earned $2553-more): male 10%, female 6%

The circles who lose money are clearly in the majority, with 67% (male) and 66% (female) in the red. Earnings of less than 50000 yen are probably negligible in a lot of cases: this would barely cover transportation and hotel costs for a circle that has to come from outside of Tokyo. 15% of circles with a male representative and 17% of circles with a female representative reported such limited earnings.

These results emphasize how much doujin fandom is about being fannish, not about making a profit. The vast majority of creators will never get close to earning back even their printing costs, and they know it. When asked about what they liked the most about Comiket, “I can show my work to other people” was the top answer (41,5%), followed by “there’s a festival atmosphere” (21,3%) and “I can meet friends and acquaintances that I normally can’t meet” (13,1). Only 4,2% of circles chose “I can sell a lot of doujinshi there” as Comiket’s primary attraction.

However, there clearly are highly popular circles who do make a lot of money from their fannish activities. At the far end of the scale, between 50000 and 200000 yen could be anything from “covered the price of my Tokyo hotel room” to “covered the rent of my house for a few months”. Over 200000 yen is a handsome amount of money. In total, 18% of circles with a male representative and 15% of circles with a female representative made what I’d call a significant profit of more than 50000 yen. That may not sound like a large group of people, especially compared with the overwhelming percentage who make no profit at all, but a small percentage of 33000 responding circles still represents a large number of creators. Several thousand circles apparently made more than 200000 yen during a single edition of Comiket in 2009.

Evidently, the reason why so many circles end up in the red is because they don’t sell enough doujinshi to make up for the costs involved in creating them. The percentage of circles who reported selling a certain number of doujinshi during one year was as follows:

0-49 sold: 32%
50-99 sold: 20%
100-149 sold: 13%
150-299 sold: 14%
300-499 sold: 9%
500-999 sold: 7%
1000-1499 sold: 3%
1500-2999 sold: 2%
More than 3000 sold: 1%

Responses weren’t presented separately for circles with male and female representatives. However, a previous survey from 2003 indicated that there was very little difference in numbers of doujinshi sold between those two groups of circles.[4]

A third of all circles sold less than fifty doujinshi, and half sold less than a hundred. Given that a single doujinshi tends to cost somewhere between 300 and 600 yen when bought at a convention[5], less than fifty sold won’t get you very far. These data are for the total number of doujinshi sold by every circle, so they don’t show exactly which individual doujinshi sold how much.[6] However, more survey data emphasizes again exactly how influential really succesful circles are. It seems that roughly half of all doujinshi that changed hands during Comiket 76 were made by only 13% of circles, those that sold more than 500 works.

Even if most circles sell few doujinshi and earn nothing or next to nothing, it clearly wouldn’t be correct to characterize all creators in doujin fandom as just recuperating printing costs and absolutely not interested in making money. There have been some widely publicized incidents involving extremely succesful doujinshi creators, for instance one in 2007 about a Prince of Tennis doujinshi creator who neglected to report over 65 million yen in income from doujinshi sales to taxes. There are also circles who get accused by others of being in it for the money instead of out of fannish love for the source work. I’ve also heard several suggestions that these days, there are professional mangaka who prefer to participate in doujinshi conventions because they make more with doujinshi than with their commercially published work. There have always been many professional mangaka who also make doujinshi, so this is nothing new in and of itself, but people making more with doujinshi than with their professional manga sounds like a fairly recent development to me. It’s not surprising, though, given the long decline of the commercial manga market. If a mangaka sells doujinshi, at least they can keep all the profits instead of having to share with publishers, distributors, and so on.

This was a lot of data with little analysis, and again, these are only the numbers for one single convention. There are other ways in which circles sell doujinshi and potentially make money, so this picture is very incomplete. But in any case, it should be obvious that the “non-commercial” nature of the doujinshi market isn’t as clear-cut as all that. (Neither is the “non-commercial” nature of fanworks exchange in English-speaking fan communities, of course.)

Writing this, I wonder what I even mean by “non-commercial”. I think fans everywhere tend to characterize their markets as non-commercial not so much because money is absent, but because the intent to make money is absent. In and of itself, this is a meaningful and valid definition of “non-commercial”. However, it’s not a definition that everybody understands or agrees with.

[1] Off topic, but I’ve always found this interesting: you can also tell Comiket’s dominance from the publication dates of all doujinshi in Japan. Of a hundred Harry Potterdoujinshi I selected for a research project a few years ago, 31 were published in August or December, and virtually none in July or November. This baffled me until I realized that August and December are when Comiket is held, and July and November is when everybody’s scrambling to get their newest work finished before Comiket. Very many circles try to have their new works “premiere” at Comiket, where the pool of potentially interested fellow fans is so large.
[2] 35000 circles participate in every edition of Comiket and around 50000 apply to for one of those 35000 slots, so 33000 respondents is probably a fairly representative number. People could skip questions on the survey, so the number of respondents varied per question. I’ll skip the precise number of respondents for each question to keep the post a bit simpler.
[3] There’s not necessarily any sort of hierarchy inside circles that have more than one member; it’s just that one person needs to act as representative when the circle applies for conventions and such. According to the 2003 survey, about 70% of circles with a female representative consisted of only one person, while 47% of circles with a male representative were actually just one fan. No data seem to be available about the genders of the non-representative circle members.
[4] But just to back that up, here are the numbers from the 2003 survey, which was published in this book.
0-49 sold: male 38,3%, female 34,2%
50-99 sold: male 21%, female 20,9%
100-149 sold: male 12%, female 12,9%
150-299 sold: male 11,2%, female 14,2%
300-499 sold: male 6,4%, female 7,6%
500-999 sold: male 5,5%, female 5,9%
1000-1499 sold: male 2,2%, female 2,1%
more than 1500 sold: male 3,6%, female 2,2%
[5] Prices can be cheaper when a doujinshi is sold second-hand in a doujin shop, or sometimes more expensive in the doujin shop if the work is a classic by a famous artist. They can get a lot more expensive in online auctions, especially for buyers outside of Japan.
[6] Circles usually bring several different titles to Comiket, a mix of old and new work. The 2003 survey showed that three to five new titles per year is a common output for a doujinshi circle, although quite a few circles publish more than that, especially circles with female representatives. Sales figures from one convention are an indicator of popularity, of course, but they don’t give a good indication of the actual number of individual fans who read a particular doujinshi. Second-hand doujinshi are often resold through doujin shops, and like any other print medium, doujinshi are shared among friends, sometimes scanned and distributed over the internet without the knowledge of the circle, and so on.

[LINK] Yaoi Research Blog Launched

Guest Post by Mark McHarry and Dru Pagliassotti: Dru Pagliassotti and I have launched a blog, Yaoi Research: Formal work about yaoi and boys’ love is finally beginning to appear but we saw a need for a central place to publish more informal content than that in a journal or book. If you study, create, and/or enjoy yaoi, BL, and/or male/male romance and would like to contribute well-informed descriptive or analytical writing to our blog, please contact us: We’re hoping for posts about ongoing work, observations and opinions, reviews, commentary, analyses, and research notes and queries. Discussions of fanfic, artwork, original stories and novels, including slash and gay comics and fiction, are welcome, as are posts about context, creation, or consumption across historical periods, regions, and cultures. Graduate students, professors, independent scholars, publishers, and published mangaka, dōjinshika, and novelists are especially encouraged to contribute. If you do, please take a look at our submission guidelines. You don’t need to present original research or in-depth analysis, just interesting ideas that may stimulate thought. Although we request that posts be in English, if it is not your first language we will help you copyedit your contribution should you wish. Best Wishes for the New Year / あけましておめでとう.

[ADMIN] A Historian Says Hello

There’s a certain propriety to the fact that I’m sitting in an apartment in Kyoto, Japan, as I write this post. Three and a half years ago, on a Fulbright Fellowship to Doshisha University in Kyoto, faced with a lot of free time and nothing in particular with which to fill it other than reading manga, biking around the city, and searching for interesting things on the internet, I fell (back) into fandom, and thence into the Organization for Transformative Works. I didn’t know it then, but that was a transformative moment for me. But let me back up for a second. Greetings, salutations, and hello! 日本語が話す方に、初めまして!My name is Andrea Horbinski, and I am an academic in training, a historian, and a fan. I’m also a member of the OTW’s International Outreach committee, and I’m very excited to begin blogging for Transformative Works and Cultures‘ Symposium blog! So, let me give you a bit of an extended self-introduction. At the moment I’m a Ph.D. student in modern Japanese history at the University of California, Berkeley, with hopes of writing a history of manga for my dissertation. Manga, you say? You mean Japanese comics? Yes and yes. Watching anime in high school–are there any Revolutionary Girl Utena or Outlaw Star fans around?–got me into Japanese language classes at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, where I eventually got my degree in both Classics and Asian Studies. My Fulbright Fellowship after college saw me researching hypernationalist manga in Doshisha’s media studies department, and I’m in the history department at Berkeley now, so as you can tell, I’m someone who believes passionately in the virtues of interdisciplinary approaches! My fannish curriculum vitae, as it were, is also a patchwork. I’ve been watching and reading science fiction and fantasy since about the age of four, but despite putting a few toes into Star Wars fandom when the first of the prequel movies came out, anime was the first thing I self-defined as a fan of, in high school, followed by manga in college. I still think of myself as an anime and manga fan first, but over the past few years I’ve greatly enjoyed expanding my fannish interests beyond anime and manga back into book and media fandoms, and my fannish output beyond AMVs into fanfiction and vids. It would take too long to give you a full list of my abiding fannish obsessions, but I have to mention Star Trek as well as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings as well as Harry Potter and the Young Wizards, the manga of CLAMP and Urasawa Naoki and Arakawa Hiromu, just to give you a sense of my interests. Some of my current fannish obsessions are CLAMP’s new manga Gate 7, the Narnia books and movies, the Avatar: The Last Airbender television series, Doctor Who and X-Men: First Class, and I’ve been watching the Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime in utter fascination. For me, the passion of fandom is a necessary part of my academic work, and the insights I’ve gained through fandom into a wealth of topics and issues, including history and writing (about) history, are invaluable. I’ll be writing from Kyoto, where I’m studying classical Japanese, for the rest of the summer before heading back to California for another full year of reading, writing, watching and working. I don’t know what exactly I’ll write about yet, but I’m hoping to give back a little of the enriched perspective I’ve gained here on the blog, and I’m very much looking forward to the conversations that will undoubtedly arise from writing and reading here, both online and in person. So, until then!

[META] How a fan sub battle is fought

Guest post by Mikhail Koulikov

I published a paper in the September 2010 volume of TWC that modeled the interaction between fan groups that create and distribute unauthorized, non-commercial translations of Japanese animation (‘anime’), and the for-profit companies that do the same under license from the original creators as a ‘net war’ (an emerging mode of conflict…, in which the protagonists use – indeed, depend on using – network forms of organization).

In my article, I highlighted several particular forms that these interactions have taken. In some cases, the for-profit companies have essentially ignored the fan group activities, for both strategic and tactical reasons. In others, they have taken specific actions, ranging from flat-out offensives such as issuing cease-and-desist letters, to adopting the fan groups’ skills and methods and hiring the fan translators to produce authorized translations, to appealing to audiences directly to educate them that access to anime is ‘not a right’ and that the interaction has to occur on commercial terms.

If you know where to look, over this past week, a major battle of this ‘net war’ has occurred.

Although the Japanese animation that most Americans are familiar with is major theatrical productions, such as the first Pokemon movie (1999, U.S. gross of $86M; $136M worldwide), or the Oscar-winning Spirited Away (2002), the vast majority of the anime that is actually released in the U.S. are television series. From the late 1980’s to the late 00’s, these were generally licensed, translated and then distributed on VHS and DVD by a small stable of specialized companies. Over the last couple of years, as the home video market essentially crashed, many of these have shut down. Several others, though, have been able to transform themselves into content management and distribution shops, with actual physical production of DVD’s being only one of their functions. The largest and most successful has been Funimation (a subsidiary of the Navarre Corporation, which according to its website, “provides computer software, home entertainment media, consumer electronics and accessories distribution, third party logistics, supply chain management and other related services for North American retailers and their suppliers.”).

Funimation’s current business model is based on acquiring the U.S. broadcast and distribution rights to a given Japanese animation series while the series is still in production. As soon as the series airs on Japanese television, Funimation is ready with an authorized translation (using the skills and services of former fan subbers now gone ‘official’); within hours of a Japanese television broadcast, English-subtitled episodes are made available on the proprietary website, as well as on several third-party sites (, and, among others). Much later – usually, several months – Funimation releases the series on DVD, complete with a marketing campaign, English dub, various extras, and attractive packaging, to appeal to both the hard-core collectors and the casual watcher.

The hitch in all of this is that while Funimation and the other companies that are still operating in the field are pursuing their business models, fan groups are still pursuing theirs – the key difference, of course, being that while Funimation needs to pay licensing costs to acquire the rights to a series, pay their staff to translate and produce it, and then deal with distributors to actually get it to viewers, the fan sub groups may incur some expenses, but they are simply not thinking about revenues.

And so, we have a battle in the fan sub war.

Unlike in the U.S., the Japanese television broadcasting year is divided into four seasons, with new shows starting roughly in January, April, July and October. And every season sees the launch of a dozen or more new anime series. One that launched earlier this month, and was anticipated most eagerly, is Fractale – a fanciful story about a future where most humans choose to interact with each other using CG avatars, and a boy who decides not to, and navigates the avatars’ world in his own body. Fractale gained immediate “fan cred” by consciously referencing Hayao Miyazaki’s classic images, designs and settings; that the original story is written by the philosopher and literary critic Hiroki Azuma doesn’t hurt either.

The first episode of Fractale aired in Japan on January 13, and that same day, starting at 10:45 a.m. (CST), Funimation made a translation available on its website.

So far so good.

On January 19, the production committee that is the official copyright holder for the series informed Funimation that because unauthorized videos of the episode were available elsewhere on the Internet – on streaming sites, file-sharing networks, and file servers – it was requesting that Funimation suspend its authorized simulcast of any further episodes.

When the announcement was made public on the Anime News Network forums, it drew almost 400 comments. Speaking privately to both fans and industry professionals, though, it was clear that some perceived the situation as a rather typical instance of Japanese content-holders misunderstanding the American market. Others saw the entire situation as a well-designed attempt by the content-holders to act in an expected way. One fan comment described the situation thus: “Japanese company can look upset, Funimation can make public announcements about clamping down on unauthorized distribution. Then after a few days or a week they can then resume the simulcast and we go back to the status quo.”

In fact, it appears that this is exactly what has happened.

According to a statement that Funimation issued on Monday, January 24:

“In recent days we have been diligently tracking the online illegal distribution of the anime series Fractale and on behalf of the rights holders we have been taking the appropriate legal action. As a result, we now have the approval of the Fractale Production Committee to stream episode 2 of the series starting today.”

Will this resumption of streaming necessarily stop the fan sub groups? Probably not. But it serves as a good example of the delicate dance that takes place on a daily basis in a particular corner of the transformative works and cultures universe.

[META] Pop! Goes the Fanart

This guest post by fanartist Betty Anne expands on comments she made to a recent OTW news post regarding Salon’s coverage of fanart. One of the prevailing problems fanartists run into is acceptance of their art by the mainstream art world. Matt Zoller Seitz, writing for, attempted to bridge this gap with his article, “The most extraordinary movie fan art.” Unfortunately, the article fell a bit short. Along with focusing exclusively on art created by men and related to movies, the article and slideshow tried too hard to fit fanart neatly into the Modern view of pop art. Fanart is certainly pop art, but “pop art” (as an umbrella term) isn’t limited just to that found in the works of 1950s-1970s America, which is what a lot of the works and artists selected by Seitz resemble. The difficulty in categorizing fanart is that there isn’t even a good definition for most art being created today — labels like “post-post-modern,” “contemporary art,” or “new modern” are just that: labels intended to help people niche themselves. (Artistic genres are generally defined after the art era has passed — otherwise you end up with very old art still being called “avant-garde” or the like.) A particularly problematic segment of Seitz’s article is:

But there’s a thriving subcategory that could be called “amateur professional art”: work that’s created by people with serious aesthetic and technical chops — graphic artists, Web designers, filmmakers or former art students whose day job has nothing to do with movies. The purpose of the second kind of art is much the same as the first: to communicate enthusiasm for, and understanding of, favorite films and filmmakers, and perhaps indulge the fantasy of being the person who’s paid to create the real thing: the posters and teaser sheets and DVD box art and tie-in book covers that you see in the marketplace.

In particular, the use of the term “the real thing” suggests only paid graphic designers in employ of the movie studios are real artists — everyone else is an imitator, or in Seitz’s words, “amateur professional.” Artists, Seitz suggests, are not professional professionals until they are under the heel of a studio or PR head who dictates what their art looks like and conveys. This is the antithesis of fanart. Fanartists create art that conveys their vision and their thoughts about their chosen source medium in their manner. (Yes, there are also plenty of fanartists who are just copying manga covers or screencaps for kicks and to get e-applause from their friends. The article briefly touched on that, in a somewhat disparaging comment: “crude but endearing work that’s personal, private and not intended to impress, much less sell, but merely to amuse.” It is a separate type of fanart, not something less worthy, as the Salon article insinuates.) On a broad spectrum, fanart falls into four major categories. These categories can overlap (but don’t have to) and have further nuances within them, just as any other broad category of art does. By exploring within these categories, it is possible to see that fanart really covers any and all of the range of other types of art. Art That Fleshes Out the Unseen Fanart allows many artists the opportunity to flesh out existing narratives. No story, completed or otherwise, can ever give every detail a fan may want or think of. This is where fanartists frequently step in and fill the gaps. Meliza (taichikun14) fleshed out the original story of Dragon Ball Z with an image that fits directly into both the style and the narrative of the series. This is one of those special family moments that are frequently left out of shonen (boy-oriented) series to keep the focus on the good vs. evil action dynamic. By working with simple scenes such as this one, fanartists bring attention back to the understated interactions of characters and their stories. Other works in this category include:

Art That Explores “What If” In some cases, a fan just isn’t satisfied with what the canon of a given story provides. Problematic storytelling issues, such as sexism, can arise, or the original storyteller might have a weak grasp on a concept the fanartist knows well. In other cases, the story might be left hanging, the story could take unexpected turns, or — in the case of The Dark Knight‘s Heath Ledger — tragedy can strike and interrupt a story. Perhaps a fanartist just has a different vision of the characters or plot. Some artists wonder about how the narrative would be if one or more of the characters were gay. In these instances, art becomes a venue for exploring “what if” something were different. The Joker and Harley Quinn have been a staple couple of the Batman fandom nearly since Harley’s creation as a character. It’s no wonder, then, that many fans were disappointed to discover that Harley didn’t have a role in The Dark Knight. This impact was only deepened when Heath Ledger passed away suddenly, leaving the movie franchise not only without a successful Joker, but without any hope of ever seeing that Joker with a Harley Quinn of his own in the future. This is another place where fans such as Brianna Garcia (bri-chan) step in. Garcia’s art speculates on story/continues the universe of The Dark Knight, both by direct art and by pairing the art with fanfiction that fulfills the same purpose. Other examples of art that tackle the “what ifs” of their fandoms include:

Art That is Eye Candy Aesthetic appeal has long been a driving factor in the production of art, and even among art that carries an inner meaning for the artist, many works are admired solely for their exterior beauty. These works function to entertain viewers and bring a sense of life, vitality and decoration to the world. Among eye candy art, the classic pinup is probably the most famous of the modern era. Fanartists also work in this genre of art, as demonstrated by Ty Romsa’s (Overlander) art that pleases the “male gaze” with a classic female pinup of Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman has long been a staple of this type of art, and Romsa’s work incorporates the contemporary medium of digital painting to convey it to a wired audience. Other samples of aesthetically-oriented art include:

Art That Keeps Context But Changes Styles A challenge many fanartists undertake is conveying popular characters and narratives in their own style. This pairs the struggle all artists go through — finding one’s self in art — with the need to communicate the fandom effectively. Li Kovacs (Pikmin Link) is well-known in the Legend of Zelda fandom for bringing the game franchise to life through cosplay and photography. This type of art breathes new and exciting dimensions into a fandom, both for the artist and the viewer. Other art forms that pursue this end include:

Once fanart is recognized as a legitimate form of art, it is not difficult at all to discover the true range fanart covers. Individuals from hugely diverse backgrounds all over the world become fanartists, and many of them produce large bodies of fanart over the course of their careers. Even a basic search for the word “fanart” on Google produces thousands of hits for fanart collectives and archives as well as individual images. Being an artist has never been primarily about making money or creating commercial products; it has always been first and foremost about the artist’s vision and the passion for art. Fanartists incorporate their passion for their fandom(s) into that drive toward art to produce unique creations of their own.