This summer I am in Japan to document more mainstream forms of fandom specific to this country. I want to see how the dialogue between Western fiction and audiences and their Japanese counterparts. Some musings on the fan works are in order, and the cultural differences between East and West.
I am trying to cover some aspects of it in this blog, like I did the last three entries, to keep track of what I see, but many thoughts that I write down here are still rough and fannish. Some events I’m documenting in popular press or other blogs. For my accounts on cosplay, it is best to read this guest blog in Dutch or the upcoming Aniway, for instance. So far, what I have enjoyed about Japan is how normal certain forms of fandom are and how the industry taps into these (e.g., see also the Takarazuka entry). World Cosplay Summit, for instance, is an international competition ran by TV Aichi and utterly commercial, even though it is only made possible through the help of local fan conventions.
What also amazes me is the Japanse spirit of consumption. Japan is a land filled with appropriations of popular material and with very exclusive merchandise that targets specific fans. Just yesterday, I visited a Disney store in Osaka, a Pokémon store and a Hello Kitty store that don’t just cater to kids but, even more so, to adults. I saw specific food lines of Evangelion, One Piece or other anime being sold at convenient stores and you could even save up for some special items. It is interesting to see that fan works also have a very different status here. For example, it is quite common to find fan comics (doujinshi) here in actual stores and second-hand stores such as Mandarake offer quite an extensive selection. They are sold for feasible prizes but even so, these stores make some good money out of them. Fandom in Japan constantly lingers between the industry and the fans themselves who are willing to cash into this. Though the borders are different from Western countries, however, they are clearly still there. Many upcoming doujinshi artists make it to be professionals but many of them do not or do not even want this.
Doujinshi grants artists a certain liberty and their status in Japan is not just that of a fan work, but of something in its own right. I wish that somehow, we could get to this status in Western countries too, but perhaps that is impossible. It is the spirit of exclusivity, of handmade and customized goods, that Japan has and that we lack. In Western countries, doujinshi and fan art have a different status of ‘I can do this too!’ or ‘I might as well read this online for free’. The Japanese, however, get what materiality is about and know good amateur art of their favorite pairings when they see it. They go to a comic venue specifically for fan narratives that cater to their wishes, treasure these books, and collect them