Thursday, August 17

Wired On Doujinshi, The Yaoi Kind

By Jennifer Granick
02:00 AM Aug, 16, 2006

Last weekend saw me squeezing through the crowded aisles of the Mandarake comic store in Tokyo's Higashi-Ikebukuro neighborhood on a quest for a Star Wars comic. Specifically, I was looking for fan-created manga revealing the untold love story between C-3P0 and R2-D2.

I didn't find the 'droid porn I was looking for (though I'm sure it exists), but I did find a romance between Harry Potter and Malfoy, and several shelves of steamy Aragorn x Boromir action.

This is the world of doujinshi, or self-published fan fiction -- a part of a healthy Japanese visual arts scene based on the appropriation and reuse of commercial characters. The booming sub-genre of yaoi (appropriately pronounced "yowie!"), features stories about the homoerotic relationships between two popular male characters in anime, manga and even Western films. The yaoi genre is both commercially and fan-produced.

That it not only exists but thrives is a testament to Japan's relaxed attitudes on copyright, which have facilitated a flowering of both creative and commercial activity. American media companies, take note.

Higashi-Ikebukoro is one of Tokyo's outermost neighborhoods, but it's become a destination for female manga fans because the major manga store branches there specially stock works written by and for women. These specialty shops are six-, seven- and eight-story buildings filled from top to bottom with commercial and doujinshi manga, and tie-in products like figurines, trading cards and stationery. This area has become known as "Otome Road," the female answer to Tokyo's geek-centric Akihabara district.