I personally LOVE anime.
Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Death Note, Tokyo ghoul, Attack on Titan-the top names. A couple of years ago, one might even judge this as a niche form of entertainment, the word ‘weeb’ often associated with the admirers of the art. However anime has never been as popular in the west as it is now. And with it came another industry, existing in the shadows, now seeing a great surge in its creatives and even entrepreneurs - the “doujinshi” industry.
Doujinshi is made of two Japanese words - “doujin” which means group of people with shared interests and “shi” which is short for magazines. And hence doujinshi refers to a self-published magazine catering a certain group of people. Let me present an example of a doujinshi:
Imagine Pokemon somehow end up in the Dragon Ball Z universe and Goku and Charizard even have an epic battle. Technically, the creators of both the anime would never really collaborate out their intellectual properties like this. I mean come on, it sounds ridiculous. How could something like this even exist? Well what if I said that there are hundreds of such fan made comic books (doujinshis) and people even PAY for them?!
Doujinshis can be based on settings/plot/characters of any anime or can even be an original idea. But honestly, what most doujin artists are doing is nothing but ripping off the source creator’s works. Heck, let’s forget about the anime industry for a moment. If I tried to draw a fanfiction based on Spiderman and Batman and sold it in market even for a penny, I could end up with a serious lawsuit with both Marvel and DC. However that’s not the case in Japan. Doujinshis are considered as a “parody” and not a “counterfeit”. While there are copyright laws existing on all the professional works, none of the creators ever object over the use of their intellectual properties. Why is that?
- Professionals respect the ametuar artists for their talent and creativity. There are even recruitments of doujinshi artists while they are sell them in some Comic convention (aka Comiket).
- Various mainstream publishing houses use doujinshi as platform for free advertisements in exchange for the rights to use their IPs.
- In Japan, referencing or borrowing characters from other established franchises is considered as acceptable. Even Mickey Mouse made a couple of cameos in pre-1950 mangas.
This is a comiket in Japan where millions of visitors come and buy doujins
And it’s not like the doujinshi artists go home with sacks of cash. Over 60% artists go back without making much profit whereas the remaining 40% can barely sustain themselves if they thought they could make a living out of this. The real take away from all this is the recognition their works will get them. Many famous anime studios and artists in the industry find their roots back into the doujinshi industry. For example, Studio Gainax which redefined the mecha genre in the late 90s and Studio Clamp which created the popular Cardcaptor Sakura made their debuts through doujinshi circles.
This is the doujin circle of the renowned Clamp Studio
While it’s quite a common sight for amateurs to ascend the elevator of limelight, giving space and freedom of growth for wider and exotic talent is a very rare practice industries adopt. We should not hinder innovation for our own selfish desires but perhaps water those seeds which may later provide us shades and fruits of tomorrow.