Held twice a year and famous among otaku (fanboys and fangirls) the world over, Comiket, short for Comic Market, held its 86th event Aug. 15-17 at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba. With more than 550,000 people reportedly attending the event over the three days, Comiket has grown significantly since its early days when a few hobbyist creators and collectors got together to swap hand drawn fan fiction. It’s now an event that includes all types of goods, drawing visitors from as far away as Europe and the U.S.

The true attraction of Comiket was in the East Hall, where row upon row of dining-hall-style tables had been set up with a huge and varied selection of dōjinshi (fan-created manga). Each day, almost 12,000 groups set up their stalls across the Big Sight convention hall. Some of these dōjinshi groups, already hugely popular, sold out within minutes of opening, others were newcomers hoping to make a dent in the scene with their fan fiction of popular characters.

When we arrived at around 1 p.m. on the Friday, the effect the day was having on the creators was already visible. A number of tables had long since packed up and gone home, successful in their quest to win new fans, while others sat there disappointed, heads hung low, their boxes still full. Although commonly known as a place for adult-orientated hentai (perverse) material, Comiket caters to different topics on different days, and Friday displayed a wide range of work aimed at both male and female audiences, some of which fell into the BL (Boys Love) and hentai categories, but plenty of others featured drama, adventure, romance and animals.

A major draw of Comiket in recent years (possibly more so for some visitors than the doujinshi section) is the cosplay (costuming) area. Of course cosplay can now be seen at just about every fan convention held around the globe, but the array of colorful designs and characters on display in the Big Sight parking area proved that Comiket is still a significant gathering space for cosplay fans. Classic characters such as Rei and Asuka from “Evangelion” stood alongside more recent entries to popular series’, including figures from last season’s “Kill La Kill” and “Love Live,” and characters from the online card game “Kancolle (Kantai Collection),” which is showing no sign of slowing down its fandom with an anime due to launch next January.

It’s easy to see which characters are proving the most popular at Comiket. There’s always crowds of photographers and the familiar countdown when a particular model might finish a posing session. However, there does also seem to a predictable tendency among some photographers toward models willing to show the most flesh, rather than those in costumes made with more skill.

Back inside and walking toward the West Hall where large companies were exhibiting alongside more dōjin creators, it’s easy to get lost in a maze of queues of people hoping to buy limited-edition goods. Some lines stretched beyond the length of the cosplay area. There appears to be a dominance of moe (little-sister-type characters) and typical over-proportioned female characters in this section, but of course, there were other notable displays, new adverts premiering the second series of card-game-based anime series “Selector Spread Wixoss,” and Sega had merchandise inspired by its various generations of home consoles and modern game characters.

All in all, Comiket, even just for one day, is a tiring experience and can leave you with mixed emotions. There is certainly a buzz to knowing you’re at the center of the creative subculture universe, but at times the impassable crowds can make the experience more like an endurance test.

The next Comiket takes place Dec. 28-30. For more information, visit www.comiket.co.jp/info-a/TAFO/C86TAFO/cmkfor.html

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