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Dōjinshi (同人誌, often transliterated doujinshi) is the Japanese term for self-published works, usually magazines, manga or novels. Dōjinshi are often the work of amateurs, though some professional artists participate as a way to publish material outside the regular industry. Dōjinshi are part of a wider category of dōjin including art collections, anime and games. Groups of dōjinshi artists refer to themselves as a sākuru (サークル, circle). A number of such groups actually consist of a single artist: they are sometimes called kojin sākuru (個人サークル, personal circles).
Since the 1980s, the main method of distribution has been through regular dōjinshi conventions, the largest of which is called Comiket (short for "Comic Market") held in the summer and winter in Tokyo's Big Sight. At the convention, over 20 acres (81,000 m2) of dōjinshi are bought, sold, and traded by attendees. Dōjinshi creators who base their materials on other creators' works normally publish in small numbers to maintain a low profile so as to protect themselves against litigation. This makes a talented creator's or circle's dōjinshi a coveted commodity as only the fast or the lucky will be able to get them before they sell out.
The term dōjinshi is derived from dōjin (同人, literally "same person", used to refer to a person or people with whom one shares a common goal or interest) and shi (誌, a suffix generally meaning "periodical publication").
The pioneer among dōjinshi was Meiroku Zasshi (明六雑誌), published in the early Meiji period (since 1874). Not a literary magazine in fact, Meiroku Zasshi nevertheless played a big role in spreading the idea of dōjinshi. The first magazine to publish dōjinshi novels was Garakuta Bunko (我楽多文庫), founded in 1885 by writers Ozaki Kōyō and Yamada Bimyo. Dōjinshi publication reached its peak in the early Shōwa period, and dōjinshi became a mouthpiece for the creative youth of that time. Created and distributed in small circles of authors or close friends, dōjinshi contributed significantly to the emergence and development of the shishōsetsu genre. During the postwar years, dōjinshi gradually decreased in importance as outlets for different literary schools and new authors. Their role was taken over by literary journals such as Gunzo, Bungakukai and others. One notable exception was Bungei Shuto (文芸首都, lit. Literary Capital), which was published from 1933 until 1969. Few dōjinshi magazines survived with the help of official literary journals. Haiku and tanka magazines are still published today.
It has been suggested that technological advances in the field of photocopying during the 1970s contributed to an increase in publishing dōjinshi. During this time, manga editors were encouraging manga authors to appeal to a mass market, which may have also contributed to an increase in the popularity of writing dōjinshi.
During the 1980s, the content of dōjinshi shifted from being predominantly original content to being mostly parodic of existing series. Often called aniparo, this was often an excuse to feature certain characters in romantic relationships. Male authors focused on series like Urusei Yatsura, and female authors focused on series like Captain Tsubasa. This coincided with the rise in popularity of Comiket, the first event dedicated specifically to the distribution of dōjinshi, which had been founded in 1975.
As of February 1991, there were some dōjinshi creators who sold their work through supportive comic book stores. This practice came to light when three managers of such shops were arrested for having a lolicon dōjinshi for sale.
Over the last decade, the practice of creating dōjinshi has expanded significantly, attracting thousands of creators and fans alike. Advances in personal publishing technology have also fueled this expansion by making it easier for dōjinshi creators to write, draw, promote, publish, and distribute their works. For example, some dōjinshi are now published on digital media. Furthermore, many dōjinshi creators are moving to online download and print-on-demand services, while others are beginning to distribute their works through American channels such as anime shop websites and specialized online direct distribution sites. In 2008, a white paper on the otaku industry was published, this estimated that gross revenue from sales of dōjinshi in 2007 were 27.73 billion yen, or 14.9% of total otaku expenditure on their hobby.
To avoid legal problems, the dōjin mark (同人マーク) was created. A license format inspired by Creative Commons licenses, the first author to authorize the license was Ken Akamatsu in the manga UQ Holder!, released in August 28, 2013 in the magazine Weekly Shōnen Magazine.
John Oppliger of AnimeNation stated that creating dōjinshi is largely popular with Japanese fans, but not with Western fans. Oppliger claimed that because Japanese natives grow up with anime and manga "as a constant companion", Japanese fans "are more intuitively inclined" to create or expand on existing manga and anime in the form of dōjinshi. Since Western fans experience a "more purely" visual experience as most Western fans cannot understand the Japanese language, the original language of most anime, and are "encouraged by social pressure to grow out of cartoons and comics during the onset of adolescence", most of them usually participate in utilizing and rearranging existing work into anime music videos.
In most Western cultures, dōjinshi is often perceived to be derivative of existing work, analogous to fan fiction and almost completely pornographic. This is partly true: dōjinshi are often, though not always, parodies or alternative storylines involving the worlds of popular manga, game or anime series, and can often feature overtly sexual material. However, there are also many non sexually explicit dōjinshi being created as well. The Touhou Project series for example, is known to be notable for the large amount of dōjinshi being produced for it that are not pornographic in nature. Some groups releasing adults-only themed materials during the annual Touhou only event Reitaisai in 2008 were only estimated at roughly 10%.
Like their mainstream counterparts, dōjinshi are published in a variety of genres and types. However, due to the target audience, certain themes are more prevalent, and there are a few major division points by which the publications can be classified. It can be broadly divided into original works and aniparo—works which parody existing anime and manga franchises.
As in fanfics, a very popular theme to explore is non-canonical pairings of characters in a given show (for dōjinshi based on mainstream publications). Many such publications contain yaoi or yuri (hentai involving two or more males resp. females) motives, either as a part of non-canon pairings, or as a more direct statement of what can be hinted by the main show.
Another category of dōjinshi is furry or kemono, often depicting homosexual male pairings of anthropomorphic animal characters and, less often, lesbian pairings. Furry dōjinshi shares some characteristics with the yaoi and yuri genres, with many furry dōjinshi depicting characters in erotic settings or circumstances, or incorporating elements typical of anime and manga, such as exaggerated drawings of eyes or facial expressions.
A major part of dōjinshi, whether based on mainstream publications or original, contains sexually explicit material, due to both the large demand for such publications and absence of restrictions official publishing houses have to follow. Indeed, often the main point of a given dōjinshi is to present an explicit version of a popular show's characters. Such works may be known to English speakers as "H-dōjinshi", in line with the former Japanese use of letter H to denote erotic material. The Japanese usage, however, has since moved towards the word ero, and so ero manga (エロ漫画) is the term almost exclusively used to mark dōjinshi with adult themes. Sometimes they will also be termed "for adults" (成人向け seijin muke) or 18-kin (18禁) (an abbreviation of "forbidden to minors less than 18 years of age" (18歳未満禁止 18-sai-miman kinshi)). To differentiate, ippan (一般, , "general", from the general public it is suitable for) is the term used for publications absent of such content.
Most dōjinshi are commercially bound and published by dōjinshi-ka (dōjinshi authors) who self-publish through various printing services. Copybooks, however, are self-made using xerox machines or other copying methods. Few are copied by drawing by hand.
Comiket is the world's largest comic convention. It is held twice a year (summer and winter) in Tokyo, Japan. The first CM was held in December 1975, with only about 32 participating circles and an estimated 600 attendees. About 80% of these were female, but male participation in Comiket increased later. In 1982, there were fewer than 10,000 attendees, this increased to over 100,000 attendees as of 1989, and over half a million people in recent years. . This rapid increase in attendance enabled dōjinshi authors to sell thousands of copies of their works, earning a fair amount of money with their hobby. In 2009, Meiji University opened a dōjin manga library, named “Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library” to honour its alumni in its Surugadai campus. It contains Yonezawa's own dōjinshi collection, comprising 4137 boxes, and the collection of Tsuguo Iwata, another famous person in the sphere of dōjinshi.
Many dōjinshi are derivative works and dōjinshi artists rarely secure the permission of the original creator, a practice that has existed since the early 1980s, despite being a direct violation of Japanese copyright law. Copyright holders take an unofficial policy of non-enforcement towards the dōjinshi market, due to it having beneficial impact on the commercial manga market, as well, by creating an avenue for aspiring manga artists to practice, and talented dōjinshi creators are contacted by publishers. Mehra, a law professor at Temple University, hypothesizes that dōjinshi market actually causes the manga market to be more productive and that strict enforcement of copyright law would cause the industry to suffer.
There are two notable instances of legal action over dōjinshi. In 1999, the author of an erotic Pokémon manga was prosecuted by Nintendo. This created a media furor as well as an academic analysis in Japan of the copyright issues around dōjinshi. At this time, the legal analysis seemed to conclude that dōjinshi should be overlooked because they are produced by amateurs for one-day events and not sold in the commercial market. In 2006, an artist selling an imagined "final chapter" for the series Doraemon, which was never completed, was given a warning by the estate of author Fujiko F. Fujio. His creation apparently looked confusingly similar to a real Doraemon manga. He ceased distribution of his dōjinshi and sent compensation to the publisher voluntarily. The publisher noted at this time that dōjinshi were not usually a cause of concern for him. The Yomiuri Shinbun noted, "Fanzines don't usually cause many problems as long as they are sold only at one-day exhibitions," but quoted an expert saying that due to their increasing popularity a copyright system should be set up.
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