Ask John: How is Doujinshi Received in America (part 2)?
What [do] American anime fans, especially fanzine fans, expect from doujinshi? How popular is doujinshi and how is it consumed in the U.S.? How do American anime/manga fans legally acquire adult-oriented doujinshi? How often is Japanese doujinshi translated to English and distributed in the U.S.?
Having addressed the half of this question that revolves around the American consumer audience, I’ll concentrate on the business side of doujinshi distribution in America now. As far as I know, the first Japanese doujin comics widely distributed in America appeared in the H-Bomb comic published by Antarctic Press in May 1993. This collection of Japanese fan created Dirty Pair erotica contained an English translation of the first story from Yoshimasa Watanabe’s 1988 doujin Prescripton vol. 1, and three short stories from the Lez Dame Cha Cha Cha! doujinshi: a short story by Yokoyama Chicha, and two uncredited stories. (One of them appears to be a work by Nawanoren.) In the late 1990s and early 2000s French publisher Samourai distributed “DB X” and “Sailor Moon X,” two books of dubious legitimacy filled with poorly reprinted, untranslated Japanese Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon erotic doujinshi with no credits or publication information. In January 2001 Fanboy Entertainment announced plans to publish an English translation of artist Yoshitoshi Abe’s doujin comic White Rain. Unfortunately, Fanboy announced in April 2002 that the planned publication had been canceled due to low consumer interest and publication difficulties. That hasn’t stopped Abe from getting his independently published comics to American readers, however. In August 2008 Abe released his “Pochi-yama in the Drugstore” doujin story on iTunes. Most recently, just last month the popular Japanese erotic manga circle LINDA Project partnered with American/Japanese retail company J-List to begin authorized online distribution of uncensored Bleach erotic doujinshi.
It’s not only Japanese fan created comics that have reached American commercial distribution. Video producer/distributor MMG has had great success in America with the “Anime Fiction” and “Sailor & the 7 Balls” fan created adult anime DVDs. And just last month Rockin’ Android announced its acquisition of American commercial distribution rights to five Japanese doujin PC shooting games. These examples demonstrate that Japanese doujinshi products aren’t alien to America, but they’re certainly not as common as mainstream commercially published Japanese manga and anime exported to America. This also suggests that doujin products may be a commercial area not yet extensively explored in America’s anime distribution industry. (Actually, I did try to arrange an American distribution arrangement between AnimeNation and an independent Japanese artist five years ago. But due to circumstances beyond my control, the project never reached fruition.)
The relatively minimal scope of doujin publication in America leaves collectors largely without convenient and inexpensive access to imported Japanese doujinshi. But that’s not to say that there are no options available. American based specialty retailers including J-List and Aloha Anime offer select doujinshi. Select Japanese based retailers including Mandarake, Comiket Service, Plecomi, and Doujinshi specialize in selling doujinshi products to overseas collectors. And eBay remains one of America’s most popular methods of purchasing doujinshi from sellers in Japan. The primary drawback to the these avenues is the fact that numerous retailers willing to sell doujinshi to international customers tend to charge drastically inflated prices. The legal jeapordy suffered by American manga fan Christopher Handley should make other American collectors cautious about importing erotic comics from Japan, but erotic comics are not illegal and the vast majority of packages shipped from Japan to America reach their destination without delay or controversy. On the digital distribution front, DLsite offers thousands of Japanese and internationally created doujinshi illustrations, comics, and short movies to worldwide collectors.