Summer Comiket 86 has come and gone. While for last Comiket, I wrote a personalized post about my first experience, this time I decided to take a more streamlined and general approach. Comiket, as most of you probably know, is the largest otaku convention in Japan, and subsequently, the world. With roughly 170,000 people attending each of the 3 days at the convention center Tokyo Big Sight, it makes Anime Expo and Otakon look small in comparison, with its lines, lines, and more lines. As such, it can be a daunting experience for a foreigner to try out, especially when one does not even speak the language. So if you are at all interested in eventually attending, here are some things to consider.
First of all, expect lines like you’ve never seen a line before. If you want the full experience, with suffering and all, you can take the first train and queue the line in rain or 35C humid sunshine, depending on if you go in the winter or summer. You have the option to queue either the West Hall or the East Hall, which leads to the corporate booths or the doujin sales area, respectively. When the doors open at 10am, the line actually moves fairly fast. Then again, when there are 50,000 or so people to push inside and a line which extends a good kilometer or more, maybe it doesn’t seem like it. When you get inside, you will find there is not enough air to breathe and it’s quite difficult to go in the direction you want because there is nothing but pushing and shoving in a room of attendees packed like sardines.
I don’t think most people are excited about this so far. Indeed, unless you’ve already laid eyes on your favorite doujin artist’s work who is also popular enough to sell out in a matter of minutes, there isn’t a real reason to go through that. For the record, I got inside an hour past opening and everything I wanted was already sold out, yet I don’t think I wanted them enough to queue several extra hours in the hot sun. I recommend arriving around 1pm. By this time, the packed sardine rooms have died down and now it is only very crowded! Actually, you may notice numerous people leaving already, as they got their goods after 6 hours of waiting. Either way, one other point to keep in mind is the convention center creates a lot of one-way paths to control traffic, so if you miss a turn, you end up having to take a very long path instead of simply turning around. Signs are in Japanese, so you may need to ask staff members to make sure you are actually heading where you want to instead of just following the crowd – which never actually goes away.
Now, unlike Western anime conventions, Japan primarily has doujin conventions, and Comiket is technically a doujin convention. While Westerns think of anime panels and guests and maybe musical performances, doujin conventions typically have none of that. Rather, it revolves around the sales of fan art. Unfortunately, this largely consists of R-18 fan art. As such, I must highly emphasize Christians to be aware and cautious of this. The sales area is divided by category, but not age-appropriateness. It is very possible to find an innocent and pretty artbook smacked between two rather obscene ones. Furthermore, tables often have large banners to help advertise – which can be nice to quickly judge whether one is interested or not, but can also be horrible when you realize it’s something you definitely don’t want. The banners can be very explicit at times. The doujin area is mostly not a place Christians can casually browse. You need to either have very high tolerance towards R-18 material, or at least know beforehand what you want and where it is so you can swiftly cross the sea of depravity and pick it up. Granted, there are also areas involving other art, such as music, which is more age appropriate, but it can still be easy to accidentally walk from that area to another, as the halls are simply lined with rows and rows of tables. One option available is to buy the Comiket catalog which lists every circle attending and what they are selling when and where, although this is in Japanese. The most popular sellers have their tables on the perimeter of the hall, where people get to line up again. Luckily, Japan has mastered the art of line queuing (Western conventions could sure learn a lot from the way Japan handles lines), as things are very organized, even including “end of the line” signs which buyers get to hold to let others know where their desired lines are.
What may be a more interesting area is the corporate booth section, where companies must pay their way to achieve a spot in the largest convention. Here, there will be sales of goods (often with more lines which may take several hours). There is also advertising of the latest anime and games, as well as official announcements and reveals such as the new Nanoha season or the new Prism Nana PV (apparently this is still a thing).
Finally, it wouldn’t be an anime convention without cosplay, would it? There are 2 major cosplay areas: one near the entrance to Big Sight and one near the corporate booth West Hall. To reiterate, Comiket is an incredibly crowded place. Therefore, to help reduce insanity, there are designated areas to show off your cosplay and to take pictures. Of course, if you want to take pictures…yes, there are more lines! Only the super popular ones or groups of cosplayers warrant a free-for-all circle of endless picture taking.
Aside from the cosplay (which ranges from impressively amazing to questionably lewd), Comiket might not be the best experience for a Christian anime fan. I’ll reiterate that the doujin area is very R-18 and not Christian friendly at all. The corporate booths, while interesting, aren’t something you can spend too much time on. While the doujin sellers change with each day, the corporate booths remain largely the same, so if you aren’t a fan of doujins, you may find attending all three days to be tiresome at best. The convention officially ends at 4pm (much earlier than U.S. conventions may be used to) but people hang around for a little while longer. Do note that there will also be a line to either of the two major train stations leaving Big Sight. If you aren’t feeling too exhausted, you can take the lengthy walk (about 30-40 minutes) or train ride to Daiba which is located on the other side of the island, has a major shopping center, and is home to the famous life-size gundam.
However, one last thing I want to note is the spiritual situation at Comiket. Zeroe4 noted the amount of loneliness at Anime Japan 2014. Certainly there is a similar feeling in the air. Yet at the same time, I see people who are reuniting with distant friends, people celebrating their favorite anime together, and new friendships being born thanks to this convention center packed with nearly 200,000 people. Comiket is a convention born by fans for fans; it is a place where otaku can freely be themselves without worrying about being judged and meet others who share their interests – and that includes us.
Japanese otaku will almost never start a conversation with you without some confirmation you are “safe,” (for me, it was wearing a Nana t-shirt that caught the attention of a couple fellow fans) but they are also more than happy to discuss their hobby with others. They have a positive reaction toward foreign fans, but the language barrier can often offset this. As I’ve attended doujin conventions over the past year, I’ve tried to engage more people – not as a Christian, but as a fan – and the results have been largely positive. I’ve said before that Christian otaku are the only people who can effectively minister to Japanese otaku, and I feel even stronger in this after seeing how legitimately happy some of these people are to meet foreigners who share their same passion. I encourage any Christians who attend Comiket or similar doujin conventions in Japan to strike up conversations with these people, potentially make friends, and hopefully in the long run, teach these people the love of Christ.