[UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION] Women and Yaoi in Japanese Doujinshi Culture

Note: Before anyone starts bashing me for plagiarism and reporting me to KAORI, this is not an official translation. I am not related to KAORI, though I do respect their work. All rights remain with the original poster.

I thought this article was pretty interesting since it complements my previous post about the yaoi culture in Indonesia. Sadly, it’s written in Bahasa Indonesia, which I know a lot of the people on the Internet don’t understand. Also, Jay from Deremoe is deadly curious about the contents of KAORI’s piece. To stop him from dying of anticipation (or at least, biting off his toenails), I’ve decided to jump the gun and do a quick translation of the article. Enjoy.

The original post can be viewed here.

Women and Yaoi in Japanese Doujinshi Culture
By: Halimun Muhammad, KAORI
Translated by: Ahotaku39

The 87th Comic Market, or colloquially known as “Comiket”, was just held on 28-30 December last year. Comiket is a popular event where doujinshis or other forms of creative works (especially comics) made by independent artists are sold. Comiket is held twice a year and is the largest doujinshi market in Japan with visitors reaching over 500 thousand people (Comic Market Preparations Committee, 2008). In this article, I would like to highlight the participation of women in Japanese doujinshi culture, especially in Comiket. My purpose is to show that women play in important role in influencing the development of this creative culture.

Doujinshi Event Participants are Mostly Women

In a majority of doujinshi market events, including Comiket, a majority of the participants are actually women. Data provided by the Comiket committee shows that since Comiket was first held in 1975 to at least 2008, the event was dominated by women, especially for doujinshi artists who sell the works at the event (Comic Market Preparations Committee, 2008; Wilson dan Toku, 2003). Based on Thorn’s (2004: 171, 182) observations, male participation at Comiket was still relatively higher than other doujinshi market events, and during the 1990s, the gender proportion tend to be balanced. Outside of doujinshi trade, a majority of cosplayers were female (Comic Market Preparations Committee, 2008).

(Note: Sometimes, the image fails to render. If that happens, Just click the blank image to access the image in a different tab. Sorry for the inconvenience. I’m guessing it’s because the image isn’t a JPEG file that can be read by WordPress.)

(Pie chart explanation: The upper one shows the gender proportion of doujinshi artists at Comiket, while the bottom one shows the gender proportion of Comiket visitors. Both charts are plotted within a time frame of 30 years. So basically, it’s a comparison of male-female doujinshi artists and visitors at Comiket over a period of 30 years. Kinda weird they used a pie chart to explain this. A line chart would have made more sense. But hey, that’s just me.)

Yaoi Popularity as a Driving Factor for Lolicon Boom

One of the most popular genres of doujinshis among women is yaoi. Yaoi depicts intimate relations between male characters from popular anime (Thorn, 2004: 171-172). Yaoi-themed works began to appear since the 1970s (Kotani in Bolton et al., 2007: 223) and became widely popular in the 1980s. The popular yaoi works were based on anime such as Saint Seiya and Captain Tsubasa (Thorn, 2004: 171-172).

The popularity of yaoi-themed works among women apparently made the men feel left out. Since yaoi could freely explore eroticism in male relationships, male doujinshi artists such as Hideo Azuma et al. thought about producing doujinshis that explore eroticism in female characters with a cute style of art (Galbraith, 2013: 288). Azuma et al.’s creation was dubbed “Cybele” (shibeeru) and is considered the pioneer of the lolicon theme which appeared in the 1980s. As a result, in the 1980s, two streams were booming: the yaoi boom and the lolicon boom. Due to his work, Azuma has since been known as the “father of lolicon”.

In his autobiography comic, Disappearance Diary (2005), Hideo Azuma tells that he and his friends published a lolicon-themed doujinshi at Comiket to compete with the yaoi-themed doujinshis.
In his autobiography comic, Disappearance Diary (2005), Hideo Azuma tells that he and his friends published a lolicon-themed doujinshi at Comiket to compete with the yaoi-themed doujinshis.

Long story short, the appearance of yaoi-themed doujinshis helped drive the birth of lolicon-themed doujinshis. The two genres have a close history, despite the start difference in content and audience.

Inter-Gender Interaction Dynamics

As observed by Thorn (2004: 182-184) at Comiket and several other doujinshi market events in 2993, male and female participants tend to interact separately. As a minority group, the men who enjoyed lolicon-themed works were often viewed with contempt by the women who enjoyed yaoi. But, as the amount of male participation increased, the inter-gender interaction dynamics also changed. In Comiket 1998, amidst the all-male and all-female groups, Thorn found mixed groups. Moreover, there were times when females joined male groups and vice-versa, causing fluctuations in gender proportion in each group. Thorn even found couples among them.

Regardless, according to Thorn (2004: 183-184), for both male and female participants, doujinshis were a way to express themselves outside of Japan’s strict conservative norms. Doujinshis became a medium for interaction which has enabled the otaku community, male and female, to share and connect with others in their own way.

Conclusion

The doujinshi world that we know today is shaped by female participation. Thus, women have an important role as a “creative force” in the culture. There were times when Comiket participants, split into male and female groups, viewed one another with contempt. But in its development, through a shared love for doujinshis as a medium for expression and connecting, a shift in behaviour occurred which allowed female and male participants to be more accepting of one another.

That concludes the interesting things that can be observed from the involvement of women in the development of the Japanese doujinshi culture. It would be interesting if the development of the Indonesian doujinshi culture and community is studied and compared reflectively with that of Japan.

References

  • Comic Market Preparations Committee. “What is the Comic Market?” Presentation, February 2008.
  • Galbraith, Patrick W. “Osamu Moet Moso: Imagining Lines of Eroticism in Akihabara.” Mechademia, Volume 8, 2013. pp. 279-297.
  • Kotani, Mari. “Introduction” in “Otaku Sexuality.” Bolton, Christopher, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., dan Takayuki Tatsumi (ed.). Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. pp. 222-224.
  • Thorn, Matthew. “Girls and Women Getting Out of Hand: The Pleasure and Politics of Japan’s Amateur Comics Community.” Kelly, William W. (editor). Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan. Minneapolis: State University of New York Press, 2004. pp.169-187.
  • Wilson, Brent, dan Masami Toku. “Boys’ Love,” Yaoi, and Art Education: Issues of Power and Pedagogy.”
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