First off, I’m calling this the 2015 edition of the doujinshi round-up—which has previously included the people I know edition and the random edition—because I’m writing and posting it in 2015. But I bought all the doujinshi here today last year because that’s when I was in Japan. Also, I didn’t read most of them until 2015 because the box of doujinshi I sent to myself way back in December only arrived last week. Still, it feels weird to call it the 2014 edition when it is 2015, so here we are.
So! What doujinshi was I fortunate enough to happen upon in my rounds of the doujin events/shops this fall? Some pretty great stuff, actually! High fives to you, independent manga makers! You are doing great things. The independent manga maker I was most pleased to run into again was the author of Mahoshojo Musashi, the first volume of which I enjoyed immensely last year. So naturally, I bought everything else she had written in the series, all while gushing about how much and how unexpectedly I enjoyed the first collection. She took it all like a pro, nodding appreciatively and thanking me while she took my money. And that is how it should be.
Volume two and the individual issues of “season two” I bought continue the magic of Musashi and his magical girl man friends, adding in three new brilliantly coloured characters and sketching out in greater detail the surprisingly R-rated amorphous evil witch who is their main opponent. The author 387 continues to demonstrate her ridiculously thorough grasp of the magical girl world by taking little stabs at it in delightful ways, and she seems to have found her stride art-wise. I saw a lot less of the wonky proportions I did in the first volume. I did wonder reading these later issues if Musashi and his magical girls were trans/queer-phobic in a way (like another magical girl-man manga I could mention), as if making men in dresses was the point of the joke, but I ended up concluding that men being magical little girls and the contrast between grown men doing their grown-up stuff like macking on the ladies and chain-smoking was what the author is aiming at. It’s a fine line to walk, but I think she (still assuming the author is a she! Please correct me if you know she is not!) walks it well.
The only doujin I picked up that I actually went out of my way to get was Popocomi. Someone I follow had posted the cover of one of these anthology doujin on Twitter, and that was enough for me to know that I had to see what was inside. It doesn’t hurt that the theme of the anthologies is women and something, with comics done by women artists. You know I like to support the ladies. The covers that I am so in love were done by Ikumi Nakada (up at the top there) and Maiko Dake (to the right), both of whom coincidentally wrote my favourites in each issue. Nakada’s comics both touch on capturing a fleeting moment, an emotion that should pass and yet lingers, while Dake’s comics both start out as standard sort of manga fare—a girl in love with a coworker, a boy working late—and turn into something fantastical and unexpected. Both Nakada and Dake are professional illustrators, and I would love to see them graduate to mainstream manga, so I could read more of their work.
If you get the chance both of these Popocomi issues—Yoru to Onna and Aji to Onna— are definitely worth picking up, but if you can only grab one, make it the first one. The printing is wonky on the second one so everything looks weirdly pixellated and unfinished. Although I can never look at the cover of the first issue without thinking of Ghost World.
I also managed to grab some porn-y stuff, of course. Like these two issues of Daddies Garden (available on this side of the ocean from the amazing Massive!). The front cover makes it very clear that there is some grown-up stuff in these pages, and I am certainly pro-grown-up stuff. But I was a bit weirded out when buying these because the guys who sold them to me were a) dressed in full suits at a doujin event filled almost entirely with women, and b) looked pretty much exactly like the guys on the covers. So I’m guessing there’s some autobiographical elements in these? Either way, the covers are more polished than the inside pages, which is so often the way with doujinshi, but these guys do understand dude-ly proportions, so if you’re a fan of hardcore BL stuff or gay manga, you will probably be okay with the wonkiness of certain parts. And the excessive use of tone for backgrounds. So much crackling lightning!
Also burly and porny is Matsu no Aida 2. The author was sold out of book one, but assured me that the books were only loosely connected and I should have no problem if I just read book two. And I didn’t! A burly guy loves a tinier guy in a hardcore way. And then a burly guy loves himself in a hardcore way when he is possessed by a ghost. Lots of muscles. Lots of tight buns. Pretty straightforward.
I grabbed a couple more BL-style porny doujin too, including the wonderfully titled Please Masturbation!! by Enuko Kuroki, a BL author who’s put out a few books with Gush Comics. Naturally, I didn’t know this when I bought it. I just knew that I couldn’t walk by something called Please! Masturbation!!.The story is short and sweet, featuring the characters from Kuroki’s Anata ni Tsukeru Okusuri wa. Miyagi is a porn manga artist who is stuck on a face in a particular scene, and so he begs his lover Fukami to masturbate for him so he can have a model for the scene. And that’s it! Art- and story-wise, this is pretty standard BL, which is not an insult. Cute and sexy, what more could a fujoshi want?
Another over-18 BL title is Gozen 3-ji no High Heel, in which a video store clerk discovers that his boss has a crush on him and that his boss likes to dress up in ladies’ clothes and walk in front of his apartment late at night in high heels. A bit off-kilter, a bit “gay for you”, but a fun read. Taking the porniness down a notch is Moryori Eki Kara, a lovely slow burn of a school boy romance by Waka Fudagawa, another pro published BL author. Her lanky limbs and linework remind me of Asumiko Nakamura, but she has a scribbliness to her lines and none of Nakamura’s rocket bodies. The story is sweet; two boys who know they’re gay realizing they’re into each other through their short time commuting to school together each morning.
In the non-BL world, I also picked up Ko no Heiwa, Otsu no Kara, a wonderfully scratchy and moody tale about a megaphone-backpack-equipped girl who wonders if anyone can even hear her anyway. I also came across Rorenpa, an artist very reminiscent of Junji Ito, but whose stories tend to veer toward the sillier side of things. A girl with a thick strip of hair down the middle of her face who doesn’t talk takes over for Santa after he turns into a horrible monster and stops a foot stealer. A group of ladies pick the heads of human men off of trees and then prepare tasty treats. Stuff like that. Fun and I did enjoy reading them, but I hope the author works to develop a more distinctive style, since everyone I’ve shown this too has instantly made the Junji Ito connection.
Obviously, as with any foray into the random self-published, I picked up some duds, but as with pretty much all non-interesting stuff I read, I don’t see any point in running down all the ways in which they were duds. The great thing about doujinshi is that they’re generally pretty cheap, so buying whatever you come across and checking out new artists is pretty low risk. And I choose to celebrate the awesome things I come across like the Popocomi anthologies. Seriously, get these ladies serialized already.