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Comike — the cradle of cosplay

500,000 manga fans expected at Tokyo Big Sight for 33-year-old event this weekend

by Edan Corkill

If you’re intrigued by cosplay (short for “costume play”), then this is where it all began: Comic Market, or Comike or Comiket, as it’s variously known.

The 74th installment of this twice-yearly event for dojinshi, or self-published manga fanzines, will be held at Tokyo Big Sight in Ariake this weekend.

It’s difficult to overstate the size of Comic Market. Since it began in 1975, the event has grown from attracting about 7,000 people to a whopping 500,000.

It boasts up to 35,000 dojinshi “circles,” or groups of people who produce and publish their own manga, often riffing liberally on their favorite published titles.

There are so many of these circles, in fact, that for each event, a 1,400-page catalog is published just to list them all.

In addition to perusing all the fanzines, visitors to Comic Market will be able to enjoy hundreds of corporate booths set up by the likes of figurine- and costume-makers, and of course gawk at the many thousands of dojinshi publishers and fans who turn out in costume.

It was the early Comic Market events that spawned the cosplay phenomenon in Japan — when, the story goes, dojinshi circle members started dressing up as characters in order to attract attention to their products.

Almost as surprising as the size of Comic Market is the fact that it is dominated by members of the fair sex. According to the organizers, about 70 percent of dojinshi circle members are women, as are about 80 percent of those participants who show up in costume.

Comic Market is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (visitors must enter before 3:30 p.m.). But a word of advice: come in the afternoon. Die-hard fans set on having first pick of the produce tend to queue up from the first train, meaning that any visitor before about midday will be faced with lines stretching as far as the eye can see — and in Ariake, that can be a long way.

Admission is free. For more information, visit the Comic Market Web site at www.comiket.co.jp