Friday, 12 April 2013

All about doujinshi culture and common misconceptions

Instead of finishing my latest meandering review, today's post is a rant! If you don't like that kind of thing please skip it. There'll be more of my usual over-enthusiastic babbling next time.

Doujinshi: a world which is often misunderstood

I felt completely demoralised earlier this week when I clicked a Crunchyroll news story about how some Japanese doujinshi artists are helping others remove unauthorised links to their work from Google search results. The article itself was fine - though I did wonder how well the writer understood what he was talking about when he filled the post with illustrations drawn by someone else without their permission. The problem was that I curiously checked the comments.

A lot of people seem to have strong opinions on doujinshi culture in Japan without having the slightest idea about the realities of the situation there. This isn't the first time I've been exposed to these attitudes and it won't be the last; there was a huge scandal last year when Amazon.com started reselling illegal scans of parody doujinshi (several of which were explicit) on its Kindle store. Amazon weren't responsible directly; they'd been tricked by an unknown party who had acted as an agent and provided the illegal materials. Artists in Japan were appalled when bilingual blogger Komatsu Mikikazu alerted them to the situation, but with many individual creators lacking fluency in English it took some time before the situation was resolved and the material removed.

The biggest fear of many of the artists who were affected by this was never that they might lose revenue from the pirated doujinshi being made available like this, or that the translations might not be good quality, or whatever other reason the bulk of skeptical foreign commentators were suggesting. It was that the creators of the titles that were being parodied would see the works listed and jump to the wrong conclusion about the doujin circles' intentions. It was imperative that the problem be dealt with as quickly as possible, but Amazon's cumbersome complaints process required a physical letter written in English from each artist whose work had been stolen. Many of the artists had long moved on since the time they originally drew those old books, and even being able to understand the foreign complaints instructions was a challenge for non-English speakers. The procedure required them to then write a formal letter to Amazon in the US and wait a week for it to arrive by international mail, then wait a further month while Amazon deliberated the case. This scenario left plenty of time for the problem to escalate even if the artist was fluent in English and dealt with the problem immediately, a situation which terrified the wider doujinshi community with its implications.

What I found additionally disconcerting about the situation then is that most western commentators were only upset that the rights of the scanlators who had made the unauthorised material available in digital form in the first place were being infringed by the unknown person who listed all of the books on Amazon. Very few English-language discussions mentioned the doujin circles' rights anywhere in the debate. I don't disagree that scanning, lettering and translating without permission takes time. However, planning, writing, drawing and printing a whole doujinshi takes a great deal more, not to mention talent. I'm not sure whether this is a xenophobic attitude since fandom on the whole is usually very vocal about protecting the rights of local creators of derivative works. Is it seen as acceptable in some communities to disrespect the work of others if they can't easily complain about it in English?

This idea was reinforced by the comments on the Crunchyroll article today.

I was always taught that two wrongs don't make a right yet it seems that for some people here in the west, they do. Many posters used the rationalisation that the doujinshi are unauthorised parodies, therefore there's no problem with making unauthorised copies of them and spreading them around the Internet without permission. I don't think it's possible to change the minds of those who have already taken a hostile stance, but perhaps if I can gather together everything I know about doujinshi in this post newer fans might stumble upon it one day and understand that the statements parroted by many fans overseas aren't always based upon solid facts.

What are doujinshi?

Doujinshi are fan-made 'books'. The vast majority of these take the form of printed B5 comics drawn by amateur artists, though novels (printed fan fiction) and art books aren't uncommon. Doujinshi are just one part of the doujin scene, which also includes other indie creations such as doujin games, doujin music and doujin goods (fan-made merchandise).

Japanese fans often use the English word 'coterie' in place of 'doujin' to describe the groups of fans which gather together to create a doujin product. As this word isn't commonly used where I'm from, I personally prefer to stick to 'fanzines' or 'fan comics' depending on the situation or just leave the word in Japanese.

The group which created an individual doujinshi is called a 'circle', and it may be made up of several participants or just one person (a 'kojin' circle). Circles with only one member are very common in fandoms with an older demographic, while larger circles often grow from university clubs or close-knit groups of friends.

For the purpose of this blog post I'm focusing mainly on parody doujinshi, the fan comics based on existing manga, anime and games which are best known in the west.

Doujinshi facts and fiction

I'll close this post with a few observations in the hope that they'll help tackle some common misconceptions about the doujinshi environment.

Fiction: All manga artists hate the doujinshi industry.

Fact: Many artists today made their start drawing doujinshi before shifting to original works and becoming professionals in their own right. There are even cases of manga artists drawing doujinshi for their own series, to expand on the universe they created, play around with non-canon scenarios or simply collect illustrations they produced in their own time. That's not to say that individual creators are always happy seeing their characters used in other peoples' work, which leads into...

Fiction: Doujinshi creators want more people reading their work.

Fact: It's important to understand the Japanese need for discretion, something which seems to be difficult for a lot of westerners to grasp. The reason that the parody doujinshi market is allowed to thrive the way it does is based on the artists respecting the wishes of the creators and not getting carried away by success, and part of this involves controlling the circulation of their work so that it doesn't cause the original creators of a series any trouble. I have never met a doujinshi artist who wants their parody work to be widely known outside of the community of fans they created it for. They do benefit from greater exposure to their original and authorised projects, but unauthorised parodies are supposed to be handled with discretion. This unspoken rule is at the heart of why Japanese copyright holders can peacefully coexist with doujinshi circles, and it's also why large scale digital distribution of unauthorised doujinshi scans is seen as such a serious problem.

Fiction: Doujinshi circles are out to make a profit.

Fact: Very few doujinshi circles ever profit financially from their work. The books are sold cheaply and in small numbers. When printing costs, shipping, materials, entry fees, travel tickets, posters/signs for their table and hotels are taken into account, each circle has to sell a large number of books at every event just to come close to breaking even; if they overestimate their popularity they'll be left with piles of doujinshi nobody wants and a lot of bills to pay. Fans overseas often see pictures of the lines of people queued up at events to buy from famous kabe ('wall') circles without getting to glimpse the rows of people sitting in the main halls who might only attract ten or twenty people to their table all day long. Creating doujinshi for a relatively unpopular series is one reason for this - nobody is going to make a detour to a different hall to check out Call Of Duty doujinshi in Japan unless they're already a fan of the series. Not being well-known or having a unique art style are other reasons sales might be slow. These smaller circles massively outnumber the popular, well-known ones.

If you purchase from a circle directly you'll also come across a phenomenon which demonstrates how little profit they plan to make: bonus items. I've sometimes paid for a ¥400 parody book at an event and been given a pile of presents to go with it, including circle-themed cloth bags, stickers, sweets, cups, posters, keychains, pens, flannels and plastic files. They're obviously not pricey (if they were, they'd be sold separately as doujin goods) yet manufacturing a small number of bonus items to give away for free makes participation even more expensive for a circle for no real benefit. Free photocopied comics called 'papers' - not to be confused with homemade copybon doujinshi which are usually sold normally - are another bonus frequently thrown in to reward people for visiting a table. It all adds up.

The reason that there's some confusion over the issue of financial rewards seems to be that only the very largest circles ever receive any recognition in the west, and it's these circles who are in the best position to be able to sell enough books at each event to turn a reliable profit from their hobby. They're also the most likely to be have careers in the creative industry already. The amateur artists who represent the vast majority of participants at doujinshi events are in it for reasons other than money - often nothing more than a need to express their love of a hobby, gain some recognition for their talents or meet other fans in person for some socialising. They scramble for time to complete their doujinshi in between working full time to earn a living and offset the costs.

An interesting article studying a cross-section of the more successful doujinshi creators was posted here.

Fiction: Doujinshi are sold all over Japan.

Fact: Doujinshi are distributed in one of two ways: directly by the creator or through a specialist doujinshi store. The former usually takes place through doujinshi 'sokubaikai' fairs, the most famous of which is the huge biannual Comic Market event (Comiket). More popular doujinshi circles take things a step further and also send consignments of their books to shops like Toranoana, Mandarake, K-Books and Animate where they'll be sold for a limited time. Recently this has been extended by online stores such as DLSite which allow users to purchase doujinshi and doujin software digitally. Any other source of doujinshi, from online auctions to recycling shops, is probably unauthorised. In theory, this limited distribution model gives doujinshi creators control over access to their work which would make it very easy to comply with requests from copyright holders to stop making parodies of their series available. Modern doujinshi usually carry a very firm disclaimer (often in English as well as Japanese) requesting that fans refrain from circulating the books on the secondhand market. A plea which is all too often intentionally ignored.

Fiction: Doujinshi are always reprinted and kept in circulation.

Fact: Almost all doujinshi go out of general circulation after a few months. Popular circles sometimes reprint their biggest hits, often as sairoku compilation books. Yet the vast majority of doujinshi never see a second print run and disappear into obscurity within a few years of their first appearance. The reasons for this are varied; an artist might take up a professional career and want to move away from doujinshi, or they might see their older art/writing as embarrassing once they've matured and decide to put it behind them. The limited nature of doujinshi keeps them from building up too much fame and damaging the reputation of the original series they parody - until, of course, someone overseas scans a book and makes it widely available against the wishes of the person who drew it.

Fiction: Doujinshi are pornographic comics which rip off existing series.

Fact: The doujinshi which appear on most websites in the west without permission fall into this broad category, however, it's likely that most fans expecting this kind of content would be disappointed visiting most Japanese doujinshi sales events or wandering into the wrong hall at Comiket. Not only are many books suitable for fans of all ages, many aren't comics at all - let alone parodies of existing series!

Fiction: The rights of the scanners/translators are more important than those of the artist.

Fact: This sounds so ridiculous that I wouldn't believe that anyone thought this way if I hadn't had experience of it myself. People are very courteous about thanking scanners, translators and uploaders and crediting them on any derivative works, while at the same time rarely even looking up the name of the person who spent months slaving away at their computer drawing every single strand of hair in the fan comic on their own. And when there are problems, like the Amazon Kindle situation or the one in the news story I linked, there are always more people complaining that the rights of the scanlators aren't being respected than there are worrying about the creator themselves. I'm not sure whether this is a straightforward case of people defending their access to free scans instead of thinking rationally, or a bias towards other English-speakers. All I know is that it stinks.

Fiction: Foreign doujinshi scanlations have no effect on anime/manga companies.

Fact: The classic situation is that an employee in the legal department of a large, faceless corporation finds out about an unusually successful parody doujinshi. Because it seems illogical for a third party to waste time scanning, cleaning, lettering and distributing a digital version without permission, they assume that the doujinshi circle are behind it and aggressively promoting their unauthorised comic on the Internet, damaging the reputation of the original publishers. An extreme example would be a pornographic story based on a family-friendly manga - as soon as the press or a parent spotted it available online with no restrictions there'd be an uproar. To avoid the risk of a scandal, the company would want that material removed as quickly as possible. And since the doujin circle wouldn't be able to, because it was being hosted overseas on hundreds of websites and file-sharing networks, they'd get into some serious legal trouble. Even if a kid in another country was behind the upload of the offending scanlation, the doujin circle would bear the responsibility.

It's bad on a smaller scale too. If a Japanese company believes that the availability of smutty parody comics are the reason that American anime companies aren't falling over themselves to pay a huge sum to license one of their original shows, they'll clamp down and put a stop to the perceived damage to their reputation. There's no need for there to be any proof that the doujinshi were the reason for the disinterest from investors; the original copyright holders are well within their rights to silence parodies of their work at any time. If several companies worked together they could apply enough pressure to make distributing parody doujinshi almost impossible. A little selfish greed from fans could ruin the hobby forever for everyone, all over the world.

Fiction: Foreign doujinshi scanlations have no effect on doujinshi artists.

Fact: Creators who discover that someone has scanned their work never react with the delight that many scanlation downloaders believe they will. The reactions I've seen range from anger to despair as they lose sleep worrying about what might happen to them if their work attracts the wrong kind of attention. Upsetting the creators of the material they claim to enjoy by spreading it around online without permission is no way for a fan to behave, and in some cases it has caused talented artists to stop sharing their work with others entirely.

Fiction: It's ok to share doujinshi online so long as you include a warning asking people not to share them.

Fact: The scanner already ignored the warnings that almost every single doujinka puts in the back of their books, politely requesting that readers refrain from copying, scanning or distributing their work. Why would strangers on the internet behave any differently? It happens every time - content from a book which was originally shared discreetly is eventually uploaded to another site or made into icons, a video or a Tumblr post. The scanner avoids taking responsibility by blaming the sharer, who doesn't care. In the end, the only person who suffers is the original doujinshi creator whose work was stolen and disrespected by their own fans.

Fiction: It's ok to share fan art and doujinshi so long as you link back to the original creator.

Fact: This is simply untrue unless they've given you direct permission to do so. Please always ask first - and remember that if you don't receive a response, you don't have permission.

Fiction: Scanning doujinshi is protected under US fair use laws.

Fact: Fair use requires that consideration is given to the effect that making the extract available would have on the original or the market, which in the case of doujinshi is considerable and entirely negative. In addition, fair use law doesn't allow for copying an entire book and distributing it online without permission. It's intended to make it easy for people to use work in illustrative samples, not to defend cases of blatant copyright infringement which damage the original creator. Simply put, copying artwork and comics made by other fans is a bad idea and outside the scope of any reasonable interpretation of fair use.

Fiction: Doujinshi have no restrictions on content.

Fact: Japanese obscenity laws require that creators censor depictions of certain body parts and acts, even in the world of amateur comics. This usually takes the form of mosaics or censorship bars over parts of the offending panels.

In addition, if a circle wishes to sell their doujinshi at a doujinshi event or on consignment it's a requirement that they clearly mark the covers of any adult books to warn potential readers. Checks are made by staff at conventions and circles who have misrepresented their books or sold adult material to people under the age of eighteen will be punished. Shops which carry doujinshi separate their stock into content suitable for all ages and adults-only material so that there's no risk of a minor purchasing an unsuitable product. Even if a circle only distributes a book through their own website on a small scale, they run the risk of breaking obscenity laws in Japan if their work is excessively explicit.

Fiction: All joseimuke (female-orientated) doujinshi are BL or yaoi.

Fact: It's true that boys' love stories are well-represented in shops and events aimed at females. So are comedies, traditional heterosexual romances, dramas and adventure stories. Since there seems to be some confusion from comments I've read online, I want to add that's possible (and indeed common) to have female-orientated stories - including BL - with no adult content whatsoever.

Fiction: All anthology comics are doujinshi.

Fact: Some popular series in Japan receive officially-sanctioned anthology comics, which are volumes of manga (usually short stories) created by a number of different artists (usually stars from the doujinshi world). While the manga and content often seems very similar to doujinshi, the books are published and distributed professionally with the rights holders' blessings. Of course, there are also unofficial fan-made anthologies for circulation at events as well. Checking a book for the presence of corporate logos will confirm which it is.

Fiction: All doujinshi are derivative.

Fact: A significant proportion of doujinshi are classed as 'original' works rather than 'parody' stories, meaning that they aren't based on an existing series. Many famous doujinshi circles which become well-known for their parody books eventually shift to producing original works so that they can exercise more control over their creations, setting themselves up for a professional career in the industry. The television anime Haibane Renmei famously started with a series of original doujinshi by already-respected artist ABe Yoshitoshi, and the enormous success achieved by TYPE-MOON from their roots in the doujin world has been well documented. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry) and the ubiquitous Touhou Project fandom also came straight out of the doujin game subculture.

The fact that these series have gone on to receive commercial recognition later shows that talented amateur creators can use the doujin model to prepare fantastic works which might not be easy to pitch to a standard publisher. The Hatsune Miku fandom is as big as it is because musicians using the Vocaloid software to write songs are supported by artists and writers breathing life into Miku's world with illustrations and music videos, giving indie original music a professional edge. There are doujin circles composed of essayists, photographers, reviewers, designers, illustrators, travel writers, train enthusiasts and cooks who create doujinshi about their hobbies without ever needing to dabble in parody.

Fiction: All parody doujinshi are unauthorised.

Fact: While most are, there are some which unquestionably come with approval from the creators - not least of which are the doujinshi drawn by the original artists themselves. Murakami Maki's explicit parodies of her own Gravitation manga are one example of how a mangaka can use doujinshi to make silly spin-offs of their own work without having to worry about getting it approved to run in a more conservative publication, or making sure it fits into the plot of the core series.

Fiction: Fans who make parody doujinshi don't create the art/dialogue themselves.

Fact: Doujinshi creators are expected to draw/write the material in their books themselves (or take the photographs themselves if it's a photographic journal). Tracing or photocopying the original artwork or logos from the series they're parodying and passing it off as their own is not acceptable. The only time you'll see anything approaching a proper logo is when it's been altered heavily for a crossover joke - there must never be any chance of causing confusion with licensed products. That's not to say that parody doujinshi don't contravene Japanese copyright laws when they use characters from another person's project without permission. It's just that all of the art and text is expected to be the work of the doujinshi circle, therefore they have a right to control their work when needed under international copyright regulations (as with the recent Google DMCA takedown story).

Fiction: Creating doujinshi of a series and pirating a series are comparable.

Fact: The main difference between pirating a manga/anime/game and making a doujinshi parody of it are that the first replaces a sale in most cases whereas the second actively encourages a sale. It's very difficult to understand most fan fiction, fan art or doujinshi manga from a series you have never read, watched or played. In effect, so long as the doujinshi aren't damaging the original in some way by copying content or passing themselves off as official side stories, it can be argued that doujinshi complement the original work to some extent, just like fan fiction, fan art and fan discussions. In contrast, a pirated copy can be exactly the same as the original material (and at times even better). While I don't dispute that some people go on and purchase a series after enjoying a pirated version of it, it's a fact that many never will.

Fiction: It's impossible to buy doujinshi outside Japan.

Fact: Doujinshi are readily traded on the used market, but if you want to respect the wishes of your favourite circles you should try to purchase from one of their direct distributors if you have the chance (or a reputable doujinshi reseller if it's an older book). Some unscrupulous sellers on auction sites buy up popular doujinshi and sell them for many times their original cost - I've seen eBay listings for individual doujinshi costing over £50 when you can buy the same book in Japan for ¥210! Don't accept scalping when waiting can usually lead to finding the same book at a much more reasonable price from a Japanese distributor's secondhand corner. The usual price for a brand new doujinshi can be anywhere between ¥100 and ¥1,000, with thicker books sometimes costing more (the price is lower if you buy directly from the circle at an event).

Because westerners have built up a reputation for illicitly scanning and disrespecting the work of Japanese creators, some distributors no longer allow foreigners to buy from them. Others have a more open approach with English-language support and overseas shipping. Mandarake is the best known, selling a mixture of used and brand new books - you can see which it is by checking the listing, where it might mention 'spot sale' for newer books or have the word 'NEW' in the title. Meikido is another option for female buyers. They put a note (in English) into every delivery reminding foreign customers not to exploit the service if they want support for overseas shipments to continue. Otaku Republic has English-speaking staff and might be better if you're based in the US. DLSite deals in digital doujin works and caters for customers overseas on both its English and Japanese websites. To use other stores, it may be necessary to sign up for a Japanese proxy service to buy on your behalf.

Edit: Toranoana has now opened up to foreign buyers too via a partnership with Tenso.

Fiction: Without scanlations, it's hard to see whether a doujinshi is good before buying.

Fact: The major online doujinshi stores host preview images of a few pages from inside the book to help buyers check whether the artwork and premise matches up to the cover. Many artists also provide samples on their websites or Pixiv accounts. It should be noted that Japanese fans have no more information upon which to base their purchasing decisions than foreigners, unless they're lucky enough to be able to attend an event at which a particular book is being sold in person. The additional cost of international shipping which fans overseas have to bear doesn't ever justify scanning and sharing the book online.

Fiction: Doujinshi creators dislike foreigners.

Fact: Some of the English-language warnings printed in doujinshi and on creator websites can sound hostile, and this leads people to take up an anti-creator stance and avoid contacting them for permission. The tone of these messages isn't usually because people hate foreigners, it's because they've had bad experiences and learnt to treat westerners with caution. I don't think this is unfounded in the slightest. I once uploaded a silly piece of fan art onto Pixiv to share with the community there. Within days, it had been mirrored by various western art websites with no references while my original picture received no feedback at all. I eventually deleted it and abandoned the idea of sharing my amateur creations with the community at all; that was easier than wasting hours of my time trying to control the ingrained sense of entitlement exhibited by a large number of fans online.

For Japanese creators who don't speak English at all, the attitudes exhibited by some English-speakers are terrifying. They might contact the artist directly in careless, impossible-to-translate English, bragging about downloading an unauthorised copy of their work. Or they might copy their illustrations to a different website and remove all credit, using them for backgrounds and icons for their Tumblr account. Or perhaps they'll publicise an obscure parody doujinshi and post it on YouTube in its entirety, bringing it to the attention of Japanese publishers who might sue the original artist, thinking that they posted it there themselves. These thoughtless actions can demoralise the powerless creators and cause them to take their websites down, close their Pixiv accounts, block all foreign visitors by IP address or stop drawing altogether.

It's not all bad news, though. If you take a polite approach, not only will many circles be delighted to hear from a foreign fan but they may even help you purchase their books directly or share anecdotes about their previous experiences. Creative people all over the world love to hear feedback from other fans, so long as they respect their work and take care not to be insensitive. I hope that English-speakers will be able to improve our bad reputation overseas one day, one email at a time.

Fiction: I can't enjoy doujinshi without being able to read Japanese.

Fact: There are many types of doujinshi suitable for non-Japanese speakers, from full colour illustration collections anyone can enjoy to books officially translated into English. Some more traditional manga are so beautifully drawn that they can have value even from the art alone. For decades there have been successful attempts to produce home-grown non-Japanese doujinshi and art books as well, despite the extra challenges of having no dedicated printers or outlets through which to distribute the finished work besides anime conventions.

Fiction: The only way I can share my love of doujinshi is by scanlating them without permission or sharing their artwork on third party sites.

Fact: I strongly disagree with this. It's always tempting to want to share something new you've discovered with other people, but the cost is the trust of the original creator whose hard work you've trampled in the process. There must be a better way. Remember the need for discretion when it comes to parody works, and check a creator's website or profile before reposting any artwork you find online to see whether they have any restrictions on sharing their art that way. If you want to do anything with their creations yet aren't sure, keep it to a simple link to their site or contact them directly to ask for permission before you share anything. If they don't respond, they did not give permission. Contacting creators in Japanese is best. If that's not possible, an email in simple English is always better than not asking at all. Machine translations are often difficult to understand so please remember to include your original English message with any Babelfish-translated text in case they need to clarify the details.

If you can speak Japanese and befriend a Japanese doujinka, it might be possible to collaborate with them and translate work for them on Pixiv or even in published books, especially for original doujinshi which can be sold more freely without copyright concerns.

On the matter of sharing, helping new fans find and buy books they'd like to collect is another very simple thing that can be done without troubling the circles, or arranging group purchases if several people in a community want to make a proxy order.

Want to know more?

There's very little information available in English about how the industry works. The resources that I've seen include the fan-made Doujinshi & Manga Lexicon database, an ambitious project to scrape doujinshi details from Japanese vendors to create a searchable database of what's available. A number of doujin circles in Japan are uncomfortable with this as it publicises their work further; still, it's an interesting site.

This guide to using Meikido may be useful to people who cannot speak Japanese. A guide to the various proxy services and Japanese shopping websites is beyond the scope of this article; many people have written them and they're only a web search away.

There are also some commercially-available English-language anime which heavily feature doujinshi culture as part of their plot such as Comic Party and Genshiken. Most of these are simple entertainment with a few interesting observations here and there, but Dojin Work has a documentary segment where the seiyuu from the anime episodes are tasked to create a doujinshi of their own from scratch. It's absolutely fascinating to watch them talking about printing costs, dividing up the labour and struggling to get their single book finished. It gives a good insight into the lives of the real-world fans who have perfected this process, often alone, to be able to keep releasing new books every time there's a new event to attend.

In summary

I'm not a doujinshi creator myself, merely an avid collector and fan who occasionally exchanges messages with talented people behind the work. It's heartbreaking to see how shocked artists in Japan get whenever their work is treated with disrespect overseas and so frustrating that it feels as though there's nothing that can be done to change some fellow overseas collectors' ingrained attitudes towards the doujinshi community.

Since I'm a fan and this blog post isn't an impartial essay intended for formal publication, I don't really feel that the anti-doujinshi viewpoint needs to be aired here (it's all over the English-speaking Internet already). If anyone reading this has any questions, corrections or comments that aren't rehashing the same arguments about profits and irony again, I'd be delighted to hear them in the comments section.

63 comments:

  1. This is actually REALLY interesting and much need info. Have you considered posting it on tumblr? ;)

    "For Japanese creators who don't speak English at all, the attitudes exhibited by some English-speakers are terrifying. They might contact the artist directly in careless, impossible-to-translate English, bragging about downloading an unauthorised copy of their work. Or they might copy their illustrations to a different website and remove all credit, using them for backgrounds and icons for their Tumblr account. Or perhaps they'll publicise an obscure parody doujinshi and post it on YouTube in its entirety, bringing it to the attention of Japanese publishers who might sue the original artist, thinking that they posted it there themselves." God, I hate this. If those fans are actually fans, can't they actually show some respect towards those who make the material they like?

    I'm not into doujinshi, but I enjoy fan works. I have made some myself, and I identify with not wanting to have it spread around randomly when that wasn‘t the intention. I had it happen: Uploaded things to specific, a bit more private sites and then had it posted on a bunch of different sites without permission or credit. So I can just imagine how scary it must be for Japanese doujin makers.

    Regarding tumblr, the average user seem not to at all think about uploading someone else’s work and to not be concerned with the context of the source material at all.
    Last time I was on the site I stumbled upon someone’s blog who cut up people’s drawings and used them for layout - made me freaking angry, so I wrote a polite message and told them not to do that to Japanese fans' art without permission. No response.

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    1. Thank you, I was a little nervous when I made the post as a lot of people might take it the wrong way. It's a relief that someone understands and has had similar experiences!

      Posting my rant on tumblr is an interesting idea. It might carry more weight if I was known over there; I'm a little worried that it would just end up getting flamed by people who don't want to know the inconvenient facts about the things they're doing. I'll give it some thought and maybe try it out later in the week :)

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    2. I was half-joking with the Tumblr suggestion but it would be a good way to spread around this info to tons of anime fans and others who really need to read it.
      Yes it would carry more weight if you were known there/had an established blog. Do you know someone who is active on Tumblr and could help by reblogging the post? There is always the risk of getting flamed when you put your thoughts and opinions on the net. Some people act horrible, some are more understanding, some agree, some don't care. That's just how it is - and I can understand if you don't have the energy to deal with it, I don't! (no blog!)

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  2. This was really interesting to read. c: It really helped me understand how the doujinshi industry works. Thanks for posting this. Did you ever post it in tumblr in the end?

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    1. Thank you! I tried posting it on Tumblr but I don't really understand social networking well (I blame my age), and I think most people try to avoid reading things which question this stuff :(

      It gets quite a few hits from Google for some reason, though, so even if it gets just a couple of people thinking I'm glad that I wrote it.

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  3. I just happened to stumble upon your article, and good golly, it was a great read! Thanks for the post :)

    It's wonderful to know that there are people who share this view, because I've been losing faith in a lot of people in the interwebs who think they can repost / reprint / edit / blah however they like. And this isn't restricted to only English-speaking communities either - even the Japanese fandoms do it too!

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    1. Thank you! It makes me really happy that other people think the same way. It's a shame as I'd like to participate in online fandom more and instead I mostly hide on my own blog because people can't treat the hard work of artists with reasonable respect :(

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  4. One could condense this article like so: If you're not Japanese don't bother, these aren't made for you, go away.

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    1. Well, that isn't really the case - I did explain things such as how to buy the books outside Japan, how to battle preconceptions and so on. If you think that only ethnically Japanese people are capable of being discreet and behaving in an appropriate way to avoid hurting the doujinshi industry, then I'm afraid I cannot help you. There are a number of non-Japanese doujinshi collectors who have learned not to bite the hand that feeds them instead of chalking it up to an imaginary racial persecution complex.

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    2. I was annoyed by that anon comment but you replied them well. You have a great article here and as someone who collects and make doujinshis (both in Japan and outside) and have seen many misconceptions on the culture everywhere, I truly appreciate the effort you made in writing this up so thank you very much. :)

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    3. Thank you, your reply really cheered me up after that anonymous comment from someone who didn't seem to have understood the article! I hope you continue to enjoy creating doujinshi :)

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    4. This was.... amazing! I loved it so much! I've been trying to learn stuff about fanworks from the japanese perspective, and this answered almost all my questions.

      I have a question that I hope is possible to answer; is it fine to message an artist about their doujin? I understand that, technically, if they find out 'they read it unauthorized' that would be bad, totally, but what if I bought it from a store they themselves sold it in (I mostly buy from C-Queen), can I message them about their doujin and say how much I liked it?
      I've been wondering this for so long ;_; I'm taking up Japanese and can slightly talk it now, and I'm enjoying getting into the pixiv/japanese community in twitter and so on, but I have no idea how the japanese feel about doujinshi other than the part where they dislike it being redistributed(and other things similar to that). For example, is it safe to post pictures of how I bought all these doujins from C-queen?(on twitter) Is it okay to tell the artists 'this was so good, i loved it!' and engage in a conversation with them about it? I once saw on a japanese fan's twitter, the fan had posted pictures of her doujins, but for some reason i'm still weary about it, it sounds so taboo for some reason and... it confuses me
      and another question: do you know how artists feel about their sites? I'm very sure they dislike knowing people went to their site and reposted things from it, but, is it a public thing or is it technically a private thing and they don't want people to really talk to them about what's in it? sometime's i see them posting logs of their art in there and it's gorgeous but gosh... i dunno i love these japanese artists they're amazing but i can't figure out where the boundary is!! @_@ i don't want to make them uncomfortable...
      sorry if this sounds erm... strange.
      Thank you again for this incredible post!

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    5. oh no... my bad. i made this a reply... i'm not used to this comment system >< sorry about that!!!

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    6. ah sorry, my username is cris. haha. so sorry, i'm so bad at this ;_;

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    7. Thank you for your messages ;) it's a pleasure to hear from another doujinshi fan!

      So long as you don't say things which will upset them - as you guessed - there's nothing wrong with contacting the artists at all! Most of the time, they're delighted to hear that people overseas are interested in their work and doujinshi culture. You can leave them messages on Pixiv or their blogs too, though you might not get a personal reply (some artists can be very shy and unsure how to deal with a foreigner at first).

      With pictures, so long as it's just the cover I've seen a lot of people posting their doujinshi 'hauls' after events without upsetting anyone, though there's always the chance that someone will ask you to take it down. Just make sure you do (with a polite apology and mental note not to do it again with that circle) if anything like that happens. I've never heard of it causing problems, though.

      It's probably best not to make it seem as though you're displaying them to scan or resell them, as the language barrier might cause the artist to get the wrong idea. But I've never once met an artist who wasn't thrilled to be told that I enjoyed one of their stories or sketches ^^

      With fansites, most artists prefer that people link to the top page of their site and don't share any of the art at all. The correct thing to do when sharing is to say "This artist is great - check their site!" with a link and let the other person navigate to the gallery to see it displayed the way it was intended. Pixiv makes this a lot easier nowadays, thankfully. If the artist has an email address or blog on their website, they are usually happy to take feedback about the pictures they post there.

      Lastly, I find the most friendly circles tend to be the smaller ones as they're less likely to have had so many bad experiences with people reselling/scanning their work, and being smaller/less popular they have more time to respond to feedback from readers and strike up a conversation. It varies heavily between different fandoms too - I'd imagine an Axis Powers Hetalia circle would be particularly interested to find that they have fans overseas, for example!

      Sorry for the disjointed reply. I'm so happy when I get a reply to this post that isn't negative; I was so worried when I first wrote it that it might be taken the wrong way :D

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    8. haha what a pleasant coincidence, i'm actually a hetalia fan, and yes i want to talk to the japanese hetalia fans. i started buying their doujins from C-Queen and have fallen inlove and so so badly want to tell them they're such great stories, so i'm really glad to have this answer, thank you!
      yes, i see emails all the time at the back of the doujin. i thought it was for more professional look (i mean, i don't really see people using emails here unless professionally... haha) but i guess for the japanese it's a means of communication so i'll message them through email :)
      so far on twitter, some people, after finding out i'm foreign, were really excited and i was surprised haha. there really does feel like there's this hostile boundary between the western and japanese, so i was so surprised to see some people wanting to talk to me (despite me still being bad at japanese... and they were even okay with that too). even one of my favourite artists wanted to chat with me casually and it's a pretty nice feeling, i've wanted to tell her how much i love her art so i have abit more confidence now, thanks to your response!
      also, on tumblr there is a small group of people attempting to guide people to talk to pixiv artists and even more (http://raspomme.tumblr.com/post/53406250084 here's one post, where they show what to say in a message to the ) and i think it's really nice to see bilingual people trying to help break the language barrier between the two languages. there is so much confusion between the two :( like, alot of people really love pixiv art and thats why they repost it, but they don't recognize the fact that you could 10star or favourite the artwork on pixiv and that shows way more appreciation than reposting!
      haha but okay. i'm done rambling. there's alot to say about this topic though. thanks once again :)

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    9. Wow, that was an awesome coincidence!

      The suspicion that we face as foreigners is always tough to swallow, but I completely understand why the Japanese fans feel that way given the entitled attitudes of a lot of western fans. It's something we just have to slowly try to improve. It sounds as though you're helping the cause and the kind of thing being done at that link is a great idea :)

      I hope you have fun approaching more of your favourite artists in future! World peace through Hetalia, hehe.

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  5. Hello "Raindrops and Daydreams" ! If it's not an inconvenience to you, I'd like to read your opinion on something strongly related to this blog entry.

    I'm working towards starting a business focused on localizing and selling doujinshi through the Internet. There are already business which work like that (www.digiket.com is an example), and I was thinking that if there are authors in Japan interested in having their work available for a wider audience (be it for the profit, the fame or other reason), maybe I could help them and be helped as well.

    Such business model has many advantages. There is a dramatic decrease in costs, because materials, such as paper and ink, are not required. Physical transportation is not required as well, the delivery of content is almost instantly and, at least the country I'm currently living in (Brazil), there is no taxation for selling computer data. And taxation has a strong influence over the cost of everything here, so that's a big deal.

    Of course, if someone buys a copy of the work and let it available for everyone for free, very few incentives for rewarding the author are left. So, to control the availability of the work on the Internet, rather than using DRM (which can be annoying and punish the good customers), the business will use incentives to keep people following the terms of use (and that would help to accomplish the goal of changing the western behavior, by the way).

    In order to a potential customer acquire a work from the business, first it needs to register and pay a membership fee. The membership fee's purpose is to be proof of the customer's willingness to comply with the terms of use. If the customer fails to do so, its membership is revoked and, if the customer wants to acquire new work, it must pay once again the membership fee.

    One of the most important pieces of text in the terms of use will be "indiscriminate distribution of this work is forbidden". Indiscriminate distribution includes, but is not limited to, uploading a copy to a file sharing service and publishing the link on publicly available pages, using software for distribution of copy (such as Gnutella and BitTorrent clients). And, to not annoy the customer, casual actions, such as giving a copy to a friend, will not be considered indiscriminate distribution. These actions are seen as something like "borrowing a book".

    Every bought copy of a work will have a digital watermark which uniquely identifies the customer that has bought it (a computer program can customize each file). If the customer engages in indiscriminate distribution, that will be visible to the business, since a quick Google search would rank the result on the first page. And a customer which does not comply with the terms of use will lose its right to buy new work. Manga can be serialized, and paying new membership fees often can be expensive (the business can make it be expensive), and that's the incentive: In order to cheaply read the full story, which will be spread over the span of months, the rational choice will be comply with the terms of use, rather than not following them.

    I'd like to at least start this business, even if it's just with one piece of work. If people are interested in more, I'll make it clear for them that they have to ask for it. The growth of a business has to be driven by the customers, otherwise it wouldn't make any sense.

    People don't bite the hand that feeds them. And the "hand" that feeds the great public are the websites dedicated to the gathering of scanlations. One, in Portuguese, has more than two hundred thousand likes. One in English has over one million. And I think that happens because that's the way people have access to manga. Of course it would help the authors if they could scoop at least a bit from this huge popularity, but that won't change unless legit business are developed.

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    1. Continuation of previous comment:

      I have bought two doujinshi and have properly scanned, cleaned and translated one. It's a parody of Digimon, done more than thirteen years ago. Humbleness aside, I think I've done a really good work, but getting in touch with the original authors (since the really outdated links in the manga are now broken) is not an easy task, so I considered the possibility of just selling it and sparing a 70% cut from the profits to the original authors in the meantime I don't find them. But I've also decided to, before doing such a thing, do a Google search in order to gather more information related to what I am about to do (Learning from others might be useful, don't you think so?). And then I have fell on your blog entry, and reading it was like being washed by a bucket of cold water. But I still think there are Japanese authors interested in doing business with foreigners. So, what do you think?

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    2. Wow, your idea sounds really interesting!

      I'm really happy you did some research before going ahead with sharing that book. While of course I can't tell you what you must and mustn't do (and it can be really difficult to track people down, which is frustrating!) I'd strongly advise against it until you can speak to the original creators and explain your idea to them. It might be that they don't want that book to be circulated any more, but they could have newer works which they'd be interested in seeing shared with fans overseas and you could end up building a good relationship with them.

      Of course, they may just have settled down offline and be impossible to track down. Even so, I think setting a good example right from the start will be important in earning the trust of more artists in future. Parody works might be complicated but there are lots of top quality original doujinshi (especially those by famous circles) which would benefit from proper circulation overseas, with authorised translations and funds shared back with the creators. I've always thought it would be nice if artists would post fan-translated versions of their shorter comic strips in their Pixiv galleries too, alongside the Japanese originals, to help bridge the gap between the two cultures. Perhaps you can help people experiment with that if you want to work on parody stories, since the artist would still feel in control?

      If you manage to set up some partnerships with artists and create the site, please do post back and let me know. I'd be very interested to see it!

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  6. Hi there!

    I found your post through a link of a link on Tumblr (the first link on the bottom, found here: http://inyous.tumblr.com/post/95237898293/important-post-please-read).

    I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you writing all of this. It was incredibly informative. I hope others have (and will) read this and be more mindful of artists' rights, be they of the original creators or of the doujinshi artists.

    Though it doesn't get an inordinate amount of traffic, I'll be providing a link to your article on my Tumblr. Hopefully this helps other people around the Internet, as it did for me.

    Keep up the good work!
    - Mari

    PS. LOVE the Laito drawing on your layout. So adorable! He was my first love when I got into DL. Kanato is still, hands-down, my favourite Sakamaki, though.~

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    1. Thank you for your message! I'm so happy that this post is useful to people - and even happier to see that several fans have responded to the Tumblr discussion by promising to stop reposting fan art. I've had some bad reactions from people who didn't want to listen to the truth, so seeing an outpouring of positivity is really good (the person who wrote the original Tumblr post is much better at expressing things than I am!).

      P.S. Thanks! Kanato is my second favourite and I love his voice as much as Laito's; he's simply wonderful!

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  7. Hello there!

    I just finished reading your article and I have to say, I learned a lot more than my own understanding g of it so I really thank you of that. However, I was wondering on how it would pan out if one decided to use their own characters in a doujinshi with also selected characters from a series?

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    1. Thank you!

      It's strangely not that common for people to create their own characters in parody works, at least in comparison with fan fiction where OCs are very popular. I've seen a few cases where people have developed their own original characters to help write a detailed story about a series (e.g. to give more back story to antagonists who don't have many connections in the actual series they're from, or changing a plain background character into a proper named story character for a doujinshi) but people seem to prefer to stick to the established cast where possible.

      There's nothing inherently wrong with doing it, though, so long as the artist sticks with the usual rules about discretion and doesn't try to confuse fans of the regular series with their original characters.

      Crossovers are quite rare as well for some reason, but they do occasionally appear. It probably makes it difficult for the event organisers to decide where to place circles in their floor plans. For big events like Comiket, some circles apply for separate booths in two different areas when they're releasing parody books from different series and recruit their friends to help them run both!

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    2. Huh, so it is a rare thing! Interesting...
      Well, I happen to know two artists planning on doing that from an roleplay they're doing currently to see if their characters and fandom characters from a series could be something to really look into. They were also trying to do a side project which is making their characters their own story to separate them from being fan characters to characters who could have their own series if they wanted to. So, how do you think that should be carried out?

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    3. It's a tough one; I suppose you could look at the Lupin III series for something very popular which effectively started out as a parody of an established series of novels written by a foreign author. Obviously Lupin III is now a massively successful series in its own right and it didn't specifically start out as a doujinshi, but they did originally have some trouble because of the references to the books.

      There's a movement in Japan where some creators (notably Akamatsu Ken) are labeling their professional work with a special 'doujin mark' logo to indicate that they don't mind if people make parodies based on it. The scheme has been controversial but it's something that might be interesting depending on how the laws develop in future.

      In other words, I guess it depends on what the original series is and how closely their version will draw inspiration from it! I hope their ideas are successful, anyway :)

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    4. Huh, I did not know that about Lupin III and that happens to be one of my friend's favorite series so I will definitely tell her to use it as a guide to what she can and cannot do when parodying.
      As for the DJ logo, I can see how that can be controversial but it's also very interesting as well so it's definitely something to look into so I'll be sure to let them know that as well.

      So as long as they disclaim and use their own kind of plot away from the series in their DJ, it should be alright to make it with their characters and all or am I missing something entirely?

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    5. I think it will ultimately depend on the original series as some creators are more protective over their work than others (someone like Akamatsu Ken would probably give the project their blessing so long as they were asked, given his open support of the fan community, while others have given most of the power to their publishers and don't really have the right to tell fans what they can do even if they agree that the project is interesting). So long as your friend is cautious and understands that the original creators have the final word in the setting they made and can raise an objection for any reason they want, it should be fine to create the doujinshi they are planning :)

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    6. Alright, sounds pretty good to me. :) I'll let them know about that and hopefully they don't get too much backfire from this project but that's up to debate. Thank you very much for giving me this info and I will be sure to tell them your wise words.

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  8. Hello, my name is Shinichameleon! After I finished read this article, I strongly agree with everything you say about. So I need some help because someone who reads your article and opinions your article such a lie. Here a few of comments:

    "Thoughtless actions of a reposter? Yes, let's shift all the blame on to reposters and not blame the people who made the works and distributed them initially. The people who made these works without permission are victims of baka gaijin."

    "That is such a lie. There are companies out there that explicitly outline distribution of derivative works under certain conditions. It should be a given if no conditions have been laid out, either through official announcements, staff statements, or personally with permission, that people should assume they are stepping into an indisputably illegal territory of Japanese copyright law. A Pokemon circle can elect to sell an R18 doujinshi, but then reposters are somehow at fault when the creators get arrested? Was it not the original circle that chose to blatantly misrepresent Pokemon's brand with sexually explicit scenes?"

    "because too many children are spreading false information about the legality and acceptability of such practices. It's not enough that artists most of the time don't bother getting permission to make and distribute derivative works from the original creators, they have the nerve to claim credit (sometimes money) for it. Now you're saying they do it under the noble banner of "if you redistribute work, you're actually putting us in harms way?" That's the most self-centered, egotistic thing I've heard in a long while and I hope most fan artists don't think that way."

    What do you think about all these comments?

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    1. Thank you for your message, Shinichameleon!

      It's tough; people who don't want to hear these things probably won't have their opinions changed. I can understand their position - they're happy with the current situation since they get access to lots of doujinshi they would struggle to obtain otherwise. It's inconvenient to think about the underlying issues, so they would prefer to ignore them and resent anyone who tries to interfere.

      Here are my personal opinions about the points raised by those three commenters.

      The first person is shifting the blame back to the victim of art theft in order to avoid having to feel any guilt. The victims in this situation are the original company who made the game/anime/manga which is being parodied, and the person who worked hard making a fan comic. The doujinshi reposter is not a victim at all.

      Both the original rights holder and the fan artist can be harmed by the actions of the reposters. Regardless of whether the fan artist had permission to create their parody work in the first place, the reposter is in the wrong, both morally and legally. Conversely, they aren't hurt in the slightest if they simply don't repost - it just means they won't get as many Likes or Notes and will have to come up with something new themselves if they want to be popular. Nothing is stopping them creating their own fan works instead; there are some talented people out there and I'd love to read more well-written comics and fan fics from places outside of Japan!

      The second and third comments are broadly the same as above, but with the added point that they're conflating lighthearted fan activity with deliberate large scale misrepresentation of a show without permission. Big circles tend to move away from copyrighted characters or mass distribution for this very reason (and those which don't or overstep the mark can rightfully be criticised, but it's a tiny, tiny minority of circles).

      Are people seriously suggesting that the best solution to the doujinshi problem is for all fan artists to cease creation of fan art and fan fiction at once or avoid exploring R-18 content outright? It's originally intended for a small circle of friends or a small, local fan community, not for mass consumption. I've heard people argue that fans who post (or in this case, print) their fan works are asking for other people to steal them and they should react by keeping their artwork to themselves in future. Some of them do, and when that happens it makes me sad.

      So going back to my point, it's meant to be kept discreet and that's why the unwritten rules of the doujinshi world exist. I don't want to think that if I share a saucy Pokemon joke with a few of my friends, I'm going to be reported to the original creators for misrepresenting their brand. That's the main point my argument was trying to make.

      I'm not that good at arguing, so I try to stay out of confrontational situations. I figured it was still worth making the original blog post, though, since those who are sympathetic to the situation might find it useful even if others react with anger.

      I hope that helped a little. It makes me happy that you agreed even if other people didn't ^_^

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  9. I am fairly new to the subject of doujinshi and this article cleared up a lot of things for me. I learned a lot today by reading this.

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    1. Thank you very much for taking the time to read it. I hope you continue to enjoy doujinshi in future :)

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  10. Hi, I know this is a very old article but I just want to say thank you for explaining the whole doujinshi misconception, I accidentally found this article in tumblr ^^;

    As someone who also collecting doujinshi, I always felt bad for the creator whenever I see people on tumblr (mostly) scanning and translated the doujinshi without the author's permission...or either people who bragging that they're having doujin haul from yahoo auction / suruga-ya (which can be classified as illegal since most author didn't want people to resell their doujin at second hand shop or online auction store...I even found someone on amazon.co.jp who resell a doujin at 4000 yen).

    What's your opinion when seeing people on tumblr who selling their second hand doujin ? I always felt it should be illegal but seeing people keep selling it makes me wonder whether they're know that they're doing is wrong and very disrespecting the author..

    And once again, thank you for sharing this information ! =)

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    1. Thank you very much for the comment! The traders on auction sites can really be outrageous; not only are they going against the requests written in the doujinshi not to resell like that but they're ripping buyers off, too. It's hard when you head about a really cool-looking book long after it's gone out of circulation, but paying prices like $40 for a single doujinshi encourages that kind of behavior by making it a profitable business :(

      It's especially sad when the original artist would probably still be able to provide an extra copy of the doujinshi if they were only asked directly, and even if they couldn't they'd feel so happy to hear that someone appreciated their work and wanted to see more of that kind of book from them.

      I'm more sympathetic to people passing on their unwanted titles privately as it's at least slightly more discreet, but if the author has gone to the trouble of putting a message which amounts to "don't trade this book" at the end (as many of them do) that should always be respected first and foremost. Strangely, I almost never see people reselling western fanzines or secondhand art commissions - many of them are just as well made as doujin items but when the artist speaks the same language people seem to understand that profiting from reselling fan art is a bit of a weird thing to do.

      It carries over to pure fan art too; many people don't worry about reposting art from Pixiv, but if they do the same with Deviantart most will back down when challenged - leading to weird arguments when something taken from Pixiv actually turns out to belong to an English-speaking artist all along. It's as though a language barrier serves as a convenient excuse to avoid being respectful, which is strange given how positive the culture on sites such as Tumblr usually is towards treating people from different backgrounds as equals.

      In the end it's a problem of education though, and I'm pleased that there are people on Tumblr and other fandom sites who put a lot of time into patiently teaching others how to treat artists like human beings. There are always some self-centered people who argue and refuse to listen, but every now and again you see someone whose opinion about artists changes for the better as a result of reading a well-worded complaint. It definitely feels worthwhile to keep challenging the disrespect.

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    2. Hi again, thank you so much for the reply and insight :). I actually felt guilty too about buying second hand doujin, few years ago (back when I'm still don't know about doujinshi culture) I used to buy some doujinshi from both ebay and yahoo auction orz. And yes, the seller will sell the doujin at much higher price, along with tag "RARE Doujinshi ! only one copy left"...from now I only buy doujin from toranoana / c-queen / mandrake, or even buying directly from the artist's website...most of the artist is pretty nice when I'm contacting them, they of course give a warning to not sell their doujin on auction site or shared it on any kind of media.

      Ah yes, the whole sharing fanart debacle it's still a hot topic on tumblr lol, especially on big fandom ^^; just yesterday there's one user in tumblr who get reported and had her account suspended after she found out had been shared lot of fanart from pixiv without the artist's permission, but she pretended that she already got the permission...-__-,

      Same as using any fanart from pixiv as icon / tumblr background / edits, I already seen one pixiv's artist who wrote on their profile on english, saying that she didn't want any of her artwork to be published outside pixiv, and yet people still reposting her artwork on lot of site, like tumblr / zerochan / weheartit -__-, I already seen pixiv's artist end up deleting their pixiv's account or they end up post their art on private twitter...

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  11. Part 2:

    Discretion really is the key thing. If one of my friends got their hands on something extremely rare, we'll immediately share it among ourselves, and if you've been looking for something for years together - well I'm not sure anyone can fault us for that. But here's another thing, on a different vector, with music. If I got my hands on something really rare and out of print, before I wouldn't hesitate to share it on YouTube. The thing is, I've met a lot of these people in person, or at least talked with them to some degree over the internet. After I got flagged once by a group I respect, I immediately took everything down. I can't bring myself to do it anymore, even if I sincerely want to.

    It's really hard when you want to share something you really like, when there is basically no way you can get your hands on it anymore. "How can I buy this!? I had no idea his existed until you wrote about it!" "Well, you could contact a proxy company and pay about 5-6x the cost and wait two weeks (4-6 months if you live in South America) for it to arrive, but it's out of print. Sorry." It's a hard thing to say.

    As for scanlations. You've got to cut some of these translators a break. When they translate anything, whatsoever, for almost any reason, it's technically illegal. How are they ever going to build the experience they need to improve, or to break into it as a profession? Sure, they should know that every step they take is illegal, so they shouldn't get haughty about what they do, but as a translator myself I find it hard to criticize, unless they're whining about their work being appropriated.

    I also completely disagree with you on: "I can't enjoy doujinshi without being able to read Japanese." Saying, "but you can appreciate the art without the dialogue" sounds just about as bad as "the lyrics to every song ever written really do not matter", plus, I assume you know Japanese to some extent, so I think it's irresponsible for you to ask that others confine themselves to the incredibly small percentage of legal works in English, while you yourself have broader access. Really though, everyone. Learn Japanese. If you really love doujinshi and really love Japanese works, you will -never- be satisfied until you do.

    Plus, if you know Japanese, it's getting easier and easier to get stuff from Japan at a less than outrageous cost. My salary is taking a nose-dive because of JPY inflation as well, so I don't want to hear any complaints.

    I know nothing about Tumblr, but have heard outrageous things about some of its users, so maybe we're talking about different things - but still - I post artwork on my translation posts with only danbooru artist tags or pixiv-ids with the tucked away disclaimer that if any one wants their stuff taken down I'll do it - though of course no one does and no one ever will - so I must be guilty too of artwork appropriation.

    I have on occasion directly talked to artists on pixiv though. One time I wanted to have someone's artwork printed on a poster for a kid's Halloween party and they were happy and said I could use it, so reach out to the artists when you can (in Japanese, 99/100 they will ignore you if you do so in English). Do not expect a response most of the time though.

    Really though, the best thing is approach this environment with respect, and rather than trying to declare yourself as in the right, or even trying to be 100% right, find a balance in there between enjoying what you love but not beating up the people that make what you love in the process.

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    1. I do have to say most pixiv artists I've approached are more than happy to share their work with the world so long as they're credited. One artist in particular (Murata), I was rather shocked agreed to let me repost their works on tumblr... mostly because of how high quality their work was AND because I've seen their stuff plastered all over gelbooru, SFW and NSFW alike. Was mostly asking them about their cute little Nene and Tsuruhime SFW pics, but they said I could post any of their works from any time as long as I credited them.

      Of course you should always ask first just to be safe. Admittedly some artists have never returned my messages (maybe it's because my written Japanese is crud and I have to rely on stock questions I get from other people who ask permission often but know Japanese), but I just have to hope they message me back someday.

      I'm also a bit iffy on the whole archival issue. Yes some older doujins have been long out of print and their creator probably doesn't give a crud about them anymore... but how do you really keep track of that?

      I've personally got to say I've no problem with fan translators of doujinshi, and I rather respect their hard work. But I think it's hypocritical some (not you, obviously) fans respect their work more than the original artist's doubly or triply hard work.

      Also in regards to tumblr, it's common to see people make icons from various sources, and use them to reflect mood either for themselves or in regards to roleplaying. A similar practice also occurred on livejournal, and likely migrated from there. Due to realizing the emotional turmoil it places on some artists, people have started to stop using such doujinshi/fanart sourced icons and have moved on to using only art from official sources for making edits. Some people still use fanmade stuff, but I notice it's mostly from Western artists who tend to be more lenient about who uses their work without permission.

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    2. Thank you for your very detailed and considered replies! I've had a similar experience from most people in Japan - there's palpable anxiety from a lot of people which usually dissolves when we get talking, but some people are just too afraid to deal with a foreigner even if you're harmless. I also find it varies a lot between genres. My favourite series tend to be relatively unpopular with foreign fans, so the circles are generally relaxed and some have gone out of their way to try to make me feel welcome. I fancy that circles in some of the big genres had had more bad experiences from people who don't realise they're disrespecting the artists and those circles naturally become more wary as a result.

      It's a shame because for every hostile person who doesn't want to deal with foreigners at all, there are so many others who would love to get through the language barrier and reach out to foreign fans if they had the right connections. Those amateur translators who work on doujinshi and Pixiv strips would be welcomed with open arms by some of my friends looking for native English speakers to help translate or proof-read original content (though original content isn't as popular, so it's less attractive to people who want to improve their online reputations).

      The old fashioned text-only translations which existed in the days before bandwidth allowed for mass scanning allowed people to enjoy a script alongside the original material, and I think that's a much kinder way to do things (it's still illegal unless permission has been obtained, of course, but since it's not enjoyable without the original material it satisfies my conscience more readily). It doesn't work out though because scripts aren't as easy to read and appealing as a scan. I'd love to post translations for fan-made content but I've always been discouraged by the knowledge that it would be minutes before my scripts were made into the scanlations which bother me so much, so I'm always trying to figure out a better way ;_;

      Like you say, Kafka, the economic situation is making doujinshi (and indeed, regular licensed content) much more affordable these days even with international shipping tacked on. I hope we'll see more people building bridges and trying to appreciate doujinshi in a discreet way so that more circles will learn to trust foreign fans.

      When I first posted this rant on my obscure little blog I was expecting to be inundated with negativity if it was even read by the fandom at large, so I've been very pleasantly surprised to read so many comments from people who have their own positive views about the doujin scene or are trying to understand the perspective of the artists. I've had a few angry messages too - but it's encouraging to see that while the disrespectful people may seem plentiful, there are also many conscientious people out there who truly love doujinshi and fan art.

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  12. Part 1 (didn't make it in the first time):

    It can be a delicate situation between doujinshi artists and fans that are foreigners - and a lot of Japanese creators (definitely not all!!) just don't want to deal with foreigners for various reasons. (It's the default Japanese mindset really - they don't have to hate us, they are just made uncomfortable by us).

    I have had at least one person in Japan sprint away from me when I tried to say hi. Foreigners are scary.

    For instance, I was recently blocked by an artist I follow for notifying her that I accidentally got her doujinshi early through one of the doujinshi shops before the sokubaikai, and promising not to comment on it until after its publication date. I told her in Japanese, got one reply in Japanese and then was blocked, which is going to make it a little harder for me to keep up on her work, but alright. Twitter lets you see retweets of tweets from people you have blocked you now, so yeah.

    I live in Japan, and I've been to Comiket and have had artists not want to give me what they're selling (only a few), and had some talk impolitely about me in Japanese right in front of me (fewer still). At the same time, I went to one table where the artist tried to stop me from picking up her work, froze when I did, and nearly jumped over the table to hug me when I said I wanted a copy. Doujin music circles are generally a lot more open to foreigners than doujinshi artists as well - (I think it's because they're often also interested in foreign music.) - and are more often excited to know they have foreign fans. It's not like they'd ever be happy to hear something like, "I've (illegally) downloaded all your works!!!" Whenever anyone says anything like that it gives me a headache, especially because they've probably paid a lot to get foreign music themselves.

    Most of the people that carry the above "fictions" with firm conviction probably need to be slapped upside the head, but I don't -always- think that the opinion of the artist has to come first. ("You are not allowed to view this outside of Japan!" is a phrase I think we should all wholeheartedly ignore.) Seeing their works up on amazon is probably the worst slap in the face any doujin circle can ever receive, and everyone needs to understand and work together to prevent that from happening, but doujin works are incredibly ephemeral. I have spent hundreds of dollars hunting down things the artists themselves don't care about anymore. I think I saw an 8 page back and white doujinshi in a locked case in a resale store in Akihabara for about $800. (I would never go that far for something like that, so I wonder if anyone ever did.)

    If so many people didn't scan doujinshi a lot of these things would be lost forever. So not only do I approve of, but I am happy to see people creating large archives of old doujinshi, and flipping over a few of these has led me to more circles at sokubaikais to buy everything they've got. Is this morally right? No. Is this in the best interests of the artist? Minimally or not at all. Is this in the best interests of fans? To some extent - like you said, a hyper reaction can often, well, demoralize the artist - make them hate foreigners, and if in the rare case it attracts unwanted attention from influential groups within Japan, that's the worst.

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  13. NIce article! Well-written and your points and ideas were clearly expressed. Thank you for informing us about this subject. ^^

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    1. Thank you! I'm so glad some people are finding it interesting :)

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  14. PART 1!

    It's an old blog post but I just wanted to thank you for the incredibly informative content on doujinshi culture. I'm a great fan of it, but I've only ever read scanlations put up by the English-speaking fandom and when I tried to understand the culture myself, I had literally nothing to go on.

    I've never thought seriously about purchasing original works (despite scanlators' ubiquitous links to "help support the artist!") until one raw provider for a certain scanlation team decided to stop scanning the doujinshi she bought because the instant their scans went up on their tumblr, it was reshared to third party sites (which I was guilty of reading from without knowing better) which they had explicitly stated was not to be shared. The raw provider even said she knew she upset a lot of doujinka in the process of wanting to share with us. It rang a lot of alarms for me and I realised this was a graver situation than I had thought -- and I had never fully understood the rather complex relation between a doujinka/circle and its fans because I thought it was that of a normal mangaka and its fan. We like the book, we buy it.

    I did have it in my head that doujinshi plays on gray areas, but I also knew the doujinshi culture contributed to the prosperity of original content -- that publishers are widely known to openly close an eye to it. But I never knew we had to let this culture lead a rather sheltered and withdrawn life precisely to protect doujinshi and allow it to continue to thrive. I was shocked reading your post, to be honest.

    At the same time it made me more interested in starting a doujinshi-collecting hobby. I wasn't too keen because, as you've mentioned, doujinshi lead a short shelf life. They're only available for a few months at best, most of them. As I'm not living in Japan I'd have to pay for a proxy service, and it could well end up 3-4 times more expensive for a book of derivative nature. Obviously it did not make a whole lot sense... until I came to understand the culture a little more through your post.

    I am capable of speaking/writing basic Japanese myself so it was really intriguing to know most artists, in their innermost hearts, would love to reach out to foreign fans. It was the same with an utaite I had the fortune of listening a live broadcast to and he was pleasantly surprised to know he had a fan all the way in Singapore. It's saddening to know there is some sort of barricade right now between the English-speaking fandom and the Japanese doujinka because so many times, doujinshi have been reshared without permission, there's the language barrier too... Many frustrating stuff building up over time would likely not heal our current relation just from a few people's efforts to build a working bridge. I wish I knew of it sooner.

    There's probably nothing I can do myself, except to purchase doujinshi (and of course keep to myself, or ask for permission from its doujinka if I *really* wanted to share and rip apart my own precious copy) and leave actual feedback about the story on their pixiv page (I think this is something that's truly amiss -- derivative work or not, the plot in a doujinshi is likely to be original and the heart of every creator is to connect with the audience and our feedback, rather than our reshares, would be the ultimate crux here) or offer translation services to the doujinkas who are interested, to be posted on their pixiv page rather than to be reshared on third party sites.

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    2. PART 2!

      If there's something the English-speaking fandom could do, I think that would be to check out pixiv on their own. I still don't know all that much about Japan's doujinshi culture, but once it gets translated to English and circulates itself around fandom I feel tumblr actually exacerbates the situation despite scanlators' best intentions. Myself for example, would not had taken the initiative to research on doujinshi on my own had the raw provider not written her extensive post on the reigning situation. I want so badly to help after having read all these (and I still think helping scanlators to translate isn't a bad option, but we do have to do something about educating ignorant target audiences and the scanlation team *must* obtain permission from the doujinka before anything else) but the best bet, after all, would be to start from the Japanese doujinkas' side rather than to release more scans to an audience whose problem we have yet to resolve.

      I'm so sorry for this rant but your information inspired a lot of things to run through my head. It may sound absurd but it cleared things up so well, I've already reached a decision as to where and what to dabble in while knowing I wouldn't be making things worse than they already are. :) Was definitely a great read that I don't doubt I'd be consulting in the near future again.

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    3. Thank you for the very long and thoughtful comments! You make a lot of excellent points and I'm glad that my old rant is still proving useful :)

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  15. Hello! (Please read the question at the end of part 3 first since I'm kind of on a time crunch with it. I don't mind if you respond to the other stuff later or even not at all. It's mostly just an embarrassing ramble.)

    I've known about this situation from a few months back when my friend who used to run a scanlation group got in trouble with some very vocal people on tumblr who were on the original artists' rights. I understand both parties' feelings about the matter, though I felt that the "pro-artist" people were unfairly rude to my friend, calling her and her group names and using a few too many swear words etc., in the process. It made me want to side with my friend/scanlators' side more than the artists, or rather specifically with these people, but like I said, I understood both sides so kept myself neutral. Maybe that was cowardly of me but I didn't know what else to do in that situation, and actually still don't.

    I'm Japanese myself, though American-born, but been exposed a lot to Japanese society and ways of thinking/behaving through my family, relatives, and friends, so been told I'm very Japanese by American people but my family, etc., tell me that because I've been raised in America, I will never completely "get" them. So it's sort of hard to always be floating in a limbo where either side views you as a foreigner. In exchange, though, I get to observe both cultures and see their strong and weak points. This is such a hard case for me because I feel Japan in general is a little too closed off to the rest of the world with a many opinions and attitudes towards foreigners leaning on the racist, dismissive, and/or fetishist side. This is improving, it seems like, with movements towards more globalization and universities providing discounted or even free admission/tuition for foreign students in order to encourage more cultural exchange.

    So in this sense, I hope at some point more doujin artists will be willing to interact with their foreign fans and distribute their work to some appropriate degree. But that of course depends on foreign fans being respectful and understanding, and living in America, it sometimes appalls me how selfish and entitled people can get. Not speaking of fans specifically but just in general.

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    1. Everything I say is a sweeping overgeneralization, please keep in mind. I hope this doesn't discount my words though.

      Japan already has this opinion of America being disrespectful and selfish, to the point that they make fun of it sometimes, but many of them are of a very flexible and willing nature that this impression can change if they have positive experiences, but if their first time interacting with foreign fans go negatively, it only cements it. :(

      Being able to see both sides is depressing sometimes, and getting your opinions/thoughts discounted at times because you're 'other' is disheartening. And sometimes, I don't even know if my impressions of either culture are anywhere near semi-accurate. So take my words as you will.

      I hesitate to say that I'm still for scanlations to some extent. It's just too sad a fact that too many fans will not know of their existence or even be able to enjoy anime/manga in general if not for scanlations of both doujin and original content as well as fansubs of anime. It doesn't make fans entitled to the content of course but just, I don't know, I'm sorry, I don't really have that strong of an argument to make, and of course I realize I'm biased because I have a friend on the scanlation side.

      One solution that many people who lean more strongly on the artists' side suggest is for fans to learn Japanese and/or buy doujinshi but I wonder if many of them realize that sort of thing is more of an undertaking than they realize. I mean, it is a viable solution, and for those who can, do, and I wholly support it, but the way this solution is sometimes flippantly thrown around with this sort of arrogant "how dare you don't do this" kind of attitude saddens me as it also throws a negative shade for the artists' side of the issue. Studies show that Japanese is one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn, sometimes a little more so than even Chinese according to some of my polyglot friends (though this could also be a skewed sample), so it's both a time and money sink for people, and maybe even an unaffordable one for those less well off. And following from this, when most doujinshi to buy are inaccessible due to fees and costs and shipping, not to even get into language barriers on Japan-only sites, it just sort of leads to this grey area of scanlations being the only viable source of access for many people. Some people I know get entitled as a result, but many feel guilty but don't really have other options.

      So I realize how lucky and privileged I am that I can understand Japanese and that I'm well enough off to afford doujinshi but I have many friends who aren't.

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    2. To me, I feel what needs to happen is for both sides to give in a little and be more understanding and cooperative with each other, but, I don't know, maybe this is a load of bull because I've only been exposed to so much, but I feel that the noisy few of the foreign fandom side has lent a negative vibe to the fandom, thus further alienating artists, which makes the noisy few even noisier and maybe also more disrespectful as a "screw you" gesture. Whether that last part happens or not, the consequences also lead to further depriving many fans who would be respectful of artists' wishes and content but because of the widening gap, may never receive the info about this stuff or even get the chance to help the situation because artists have closed their doors to all foreign fans, and it's just this vicious cycle that goes on. It needs to break, and yes the few who do break it does help, but to really improve the situation, unfortunately it needs the majority on both sides to change. And making masses of people change is always difficult, if not near impossible. Or maybe I'm being pessimistic.

      I'm so sorry, I don't even know what point I'm trying to make with all this rambling. I hope you'll forgive me for not reading your post in its entirety or reading most of the comments here, I mostly skimmed everything. I wanted comment originally because I read enough of your post that I wanted ask a simple question but for some reason, all the other stuff sort of vomited out.

      ~ QUESTION ~ (sorry for the rambling)

      The simple question I wanted to ask is whether you recommend Mandarake over Suruga-ya? When I can, I use Animate or Toranoana, but this is my first time buying doujinshi that I can't find anywhere except on secondhand sites. Since my friend (a sweetheart, an angel) said I can send anything I buy in Japan to her place to save on shipping and pick up everything whenever I visit, either option is viable to me. Well, I don't mind paying for international shipping but I don't want pay extra fees for using a forwarding service, which I would have to do in Suruga-ya's case.

      You mentioned Mandarake but not Suruga-ya so it made me wonder if the former is somehow better for the artists than the latter. Suruga-ya's items are very cheap so I doubt they're trying to turn a profit like Yahoo Auction sellers, which are appalling expensive and saddening to see that this sort of thing happens even from natives.

      Um, I don't really know what to close with so I'll just sort of awkwardly stop here. Thank you for writing the post and for reading through my mess though.

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    3. Ah I'm sorry, I forgot to mention why I'm on a time crunch with my question. I want to get some doujinshi before they sell out so I might go ahead and buy some things from both stores this time around, but for future purchases, it'd be nice to know. Thank you again

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    4. Wow, thank you for sharing your very detailed thoughts! Since you're anxious about the question I'll answer that first: to the best of my knowledge Suruga-ya doesn't distribute new doujinshi alongside its used stock as well whereas Mandarake does, so I recommend the latter if possible. I think it's also easier for foreigners to buy from Mandarake than Suruga-ya. But I personally use both of them sometimes, especially for rare tokuten CDs and lottery prizes which are difficult to obtain any other way. I'll make a second reply with the rest of my response.

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    5. It's a shame when people who are trying to protect artists end up getting so emotional that they turn to personal attacks without trying to educate the other side first. I will be the first to admit that I get very angry about this topic too (my friend, a Japanese woman who is personal friends with a lot of artists, gets even more furious) but I think it's important to remember that attacking people without trying to explain things first rarely ends well. It just makes people defensive and then they don't tend to listen to what you're actually trying to say.

      I don't think it's purely a Japanese thing, as the more introverted American artists I follow often get just as hurt and upset when they discover that their art is being circulated by other people without their permission. They're better equipped to handle it since they know how to file DMCA claims and confront the reposters, and they're much less likely to suffer any awkward consequences as a result, but it's just as demoralising when they first discover each incident and I know several who have just completely stopped posting art at all, which sucks. In some cases the American artists are mistaken for Japanese ones because their art is quite good or they have Japanese text on their profile, which seems to make it worse - I feel as though some people believe that content from another country is automatically free for them to use even if they wouldn't dream of copying a local fan artist's material. A 'them' and 'us' mentality, in a way.

      Like you say though, the way that the Japanese artists react is made more complicated by underlying cultural values which a lot of scanlators simply cannot understand at all (I'm reminded of this every time I read a forum thread about a decision made by a manga or anime team which seems perfectly logical if you take Japanese culture into account, yet the reactions of many fans show they're only looking at the issue from one side). You're in a good situation to have a more balanced view, which is both a blessing and a curse; I'm sorry to hear that it puts you in a difficult position at times.

      (I have great sympathy for what you describe in feeling like an outsider in both of the 'worlds' you're part of. I have some direct experience of how complicated these feelings can get from within my own family, even though I'm not personally one of the people in the 'outsider' role. For what it's worth, all of your arguments sound reasonable to me.)

      Personally, I would be very much 'for' scanlations if the groups would try harder to work with the Japanese creators. I know that 99% of artists would probably say 'no' outright, which makes it extremely frustrating, but if we could find the 1% of artists and help arrange 'authorised scanlations' it would be fantastic. There are some artists who already independently publish their work in English and yet still people scanlate their doujinshi without asking them for the permission they would probably have given. Asking after the scans are already widely circulated is not quite the same.

      It makes me feel so weird when my Japanese friends tell me that they wish they knew more native English speakers so that they could have help getting English translations of their 'original' doujinshi and manga out there worldwide. The more progressively-minded creators I've spoken to simply have no idea where to begin in catering for the audience outside Japan. I wish more scanlators would focus on building bridges first, rather than taking the easy path and taking without asking. I don't think any number of Likes or Follows are worth the damage it does to the artists' trust in other people.

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    6. Wow, I didn't expect a reply so soon! Thank you for taking the time to respond, especially so thoughtfully.

      Are you serious, though, that there are artists who want to branch out? I've been told mostly the negative in this respect. Artists are probably not any more willing to share derivative works but whether for original and/or derivative works, I have so many ideas about building a middle ground website. I can code and am willing to take even more classes to build a good website, though I could probably just use a platform at first and jump off from there.

      Where do I start with my ideas? I'm so sorry for pushing these on you so suddenly, but maybe you could give some feedback if it's not too much trouble? Or just hear me out, really don't worry about responding if you can't.

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    7. - Members only access of course. Maybe include artist-approved scanlations? Non-members can only see previews of pages. Scanlations are only up for a very short limited period of time after which buying (digital and/or physical?) will be the only option for access. There are ways to keep pages from being right-clicked and saved, etc.

      - Members found violating the rules (no redistributing, etc.) are banned. If unclear which member violated the rules, then something even worse? Haven't thought what yet though. I should take some security classes to learn how to track IP addresses and the like.

      - The option to buy the physical works will always be available until sold out. Free shipping for orders over a certain amount definitely needs to be a thing. Or discounted shipping. Or something to shave off the shipping cost. It's definitely one of the biggest financial deterrents in my opinion.
      --> I think stores like YesAsia and OtakuMode are so successful in part because they provide this option. For YesAsia, I know they include the shipping cost partially into the original item's cost anyway but if you get to the free shipping limit, at least you won't have to pay double. OtakuMode I've found to be pretty much comparable to the original Japanese prices, at least for the things I buy. I have no idea how they find the extra money necessary to support the free shipping service for orders over $100. Plus, they constantly seem to have campaigns and sales.

      - Definitely constant communication with artists and buyers

      - Maybe implement an ID (and address?) verification process to restrict access to R15 and R18 goods?

      - Maybe implement a pledge campaign if there's enough interest/support for a reprint/resale of certain works? Like, there could be the minimum amount, which if people pledge, they're guaranteed a copy, and for people who pledge more, some sort of extra perks?
      --> IMO, pledging money means a person is committing their interest rather than just "faving" so even if it takes a few years for enough interest to build, it means to some extent that the person will still want a copy. At least, I hope so.
      --> Of course, after first asking the artist if they would be willing to do this and negotiating with them what they would want as the minimum amount of interest.

      - If people really only want derivative works, maybe a reward-based program where if people buy x number of works from an artist or support an artist x number of amount of money, then they can be allowed access to the derivative works with the strict reminder of no redistribution, etc.? A corollary thought to this could be that the artist sets the bar or we could negotiate with the artist for setting the minimum amount.
      --> Of course, they have to read something like your post before being able to access. I think there are ways to prevent people from just scrolling and clicking 'I agree' at the bottom. Or we could allow that and when people complain about being banned, just redirect them to that page.

      - A sellback/secondhand option where people can sell us their old doujinshi and we can resell it, giving the artist a partial or total cut of the resale price. Maybe?

      - Should the hypothetical website be set up as one online shop or as an aggregate of individual shops by each artist? With people like us as the language go-betweens?

      - Recruit well known scanlation groups willing to work with our policies so that the number of groups previously distributing free material will drop and also bring their fans to us?

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    8. Now that I write these out, they don't seem like enough ideas to really get something going but I really would love for some sort of viable option to work out that both parties are willing to compromise on.

      Getting rid of the language barrier and reducing some of the usual associated costs (shipping, fees from using proxy/forwarding services, etc.) will definitely be a big draw I think.

      I feel that, psychologically, we have to make readers feel like they have a stake. At the moment, what's at stake for them is their current access to scanlations, which are one, free, and two, what many of them see as their only way to see them. Thus, I can see why that community can get so vehement. Not so much what's at stake for the artist; probably because the two groups are so far removed, it's hard for the readers to understand what's at stake for the artists - "they already stuck their necks out, it's their problem, I don't get Japanese copyright law, blah blah blah"

      Make readers feel like part of a privileged community with all the rewards and perks (and relationships with the artists) they worked so hard for, and suddenly, others enjoying free scanlations are sure to ruffle more than a few feathers.

      Maybe that's why they're quicker and more willing to defend fanartists native to their homeland. A lot of Japan stuff is already hard to access so one or two artists closing their doors is like, well shoot, but it is stuff from a foreign country, I'll just move on. But stuff from native artists *should* be accessible to them, after all, they live in the same country/region! How dare people trample on our fellow Americans/French/Canadians/English-speaking comrades! Plus, the thing about stakes. Psychological studies (and I feel common sense too) show that people feel more personally attacked/offended when stuff happens to members they view as part of their community more so than 他人.

      I don't know, maybe this is all a weird theory.

      But I do feel to some extent that by committing financially and psychologically to building a "community" will discourage the current behavior little by little till hopefully, it's gone except for the really stubborn 1%, which will exist anywhere sadly.

      I've been wanting to reach out to artists to ask what they think about these ideas but messaging pixiv artists out of the blue with the gist of "can I a build a website to air your works to foreigners?" will probably not be taken well. Especially since I've been told my Japanese is good enough for people to initially think I'm Japanese but then I'll make some odd remark or use a phrase incorrectly and then Japanese people are confused as to how to categorize me; not a gaijin but not Japanese either, what the hell are you? I sometimes get worse treatment than they might give towards a foreigner because of this, as if they see me as an improperly raised person or maybe even slightly "developmentally" behind.

      But I want to use my semi-decent bilingualism and bicultural background for something, you know? And as this area is so relevant to my interests, not only anime/manga but also about connecting people across the world, it'd be something I'd love to build.

      Ah, ah, I'm getting emotional, I'm going to stop here, sorry for rambling on and on again.

      As before, thank you for taking the time to read through all this.

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    9. Wow, there are so many good points in your messages that it's difficult to respond!

      There are also a few other existing avenues to put the desire to translate and adapt manga for a foreign audience to practical use, and this builds on what you said about people feeling invested in particular titles. Publisher Digital Manga Guild has a very chequered history among translators but it's one way to start building up a portfolio (and gaining experience) for those who want to try it. It's a shame that they have a poor reputation as a competently-run organisation of that type would be very helpful for everyone.

      I think actions speak louder than words to some extent. For example, someone wanting to make an official translation of a fan work might want to show the creator what they're trying to do to convince them they're genuine. Showing them a portfolio of unauthorised scanlations doesn't send the right message, but if you can say you've worked with mangaka on official releases before and show examples then it's a lot more likely to inspire trust from them, and from there some people might agree to try reaching out overseas. Maybe approaching creators who are already open to foreigners would help too - those who dabble in English on social media or Pixiv, or those who have tried to self publish their own manga in another country despite the language barrier. I've seen a few doujinka from circles I recognise from my fandoms publishing their original works in English on Renta, for example. It would be very interesting to know about how they got started with that.

      On that note I read two interviews recently from Japanese mangaka who have been pushing their own original work internationally in a way that is, at heart, not dissimilar to what we're talking about. They might be interesting (and both of them seem to use Twitter/FB), so here are the links.

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  16. Wow, this is an extremely well-written and VERY informative post. Thank you for taking the time to make it. I now embarrassingly admit it had been my plan to scan and translate a doujinshi I just bought and share it on Tumblr so other fans like myself could enjoy a somewhat uncommmon pairing from an old show that doesn't have as active of a community as it used to. To my credit, the doujinshi is several years old and, from the looking around I did, is no longer being sold by the original circle (I had no intention of diverting sales away from the original artsits!!!) - but I knew absolutely nothing about the doujinshi culture in Japan and the relationship between parody doujin artists and owners of the original copywrited works. I'm very glad you posted this and that I happened upon it. It was unbelievably informative. I will most definitely attempt to contact the circle and get direct permission from them before I scan, translate, or otherwise share any of their works. It was NEVER my intention to disrespect the artists I admire and look up to or to cause damage to such a creative community of doujin artists. Thank you so much!! :)

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    1. I feel really happy that you read it all and decided to change your approach, it means a lot to me and I'm sure it means even more to the circles you love :)

      Thank you!

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  17. I'm a well seasoned fanfiction author and recently became interested in making my own doujinshi but really didn't understand the legality of that kind of thing (with regards to printing) and stumbled across this article. It was really interesting and definitely reflected on some of the rotten attitudes I found online and ignorance of art practices on the whole that I found a bit shocking.

    I personally have a love/hate relationship with scanslations; I love them because they are (sadly) more reliable than licensed distributors in some cases (many of my favourite series were dropped for instance, before they were finished) but on the other hand, the creators definitely deserve money for their time and effort and as an artist/writer I certainly understand that. I also don't particularly like a lot of big English speaking publishing companies because they produce a really inferior product to the Japanese books but my Japanese isn't good enough at this point to justify buying the original product all the time (it's very basic) so I'm a little stuck. On the other hand, discretion is something American fans could really use a stern talking to about. I mean, I remember being really careful way back in the day with adult goods and so on, there was an air of 'we don't mean any disrespect' with scans because buying these things was so hard and costly. Now it's easy and...well, no one bothers to do it they just get it off big commercial hosting sites and enjoy shouting about it all over, disregarding their pixiv accounts and any input from the author and ticking people off. I don't think it's an age thing but it's definitely a respect thing.

    I like privacy and I feel a certain kinship with how private many Japanese artists are compared to the sort of louder anime fandom at large in north america. It is really intimidating doing this kind of work, especially fanwork which is in such a dubious legal state right now. I wish there was an easy and clear cut solution but the Japanese publishing industry is stuck in the past and north americans are always ready to take things further than reasonably expected and it's very difficult for both to come to an agreement. Half the time, I also find myself becoming furious while looking at tumblr, that website is bad for the blood pressure.

    Anyway, I at least feel more confident about the possibility of releasing a book in the future (with a small print run). Thank-you for your well written article.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Do keep pursuing the idea of publishing your own doujinshi. I've bought a few from industrious western fans over the years and would love it if the hobby keeps expanding :)

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  18. Thank you very much for your insightful article. I'm an avid doujinshi collector. Previously, I was guilty of sharing scans in private groups for scanlations, mainly because I wanted to find some people to help translate the doujinshi so I could understand them. It is also because most of my fandoms are pretty uncommon so I wanted to use the scanlations as a way to get more people interested I didn't get to share much eventually due to time constraints which was probably for the better.. I wouldn't want to upset the already small fandom of circles that caters to my interests, and after reading this, I've decided to stop sharing any of of my doujinshi. In fact I'm using it as a motivation to get better at my Japanese faster.

    I have a couple of questions. What's your opinion on doujinshi reviews? If I can't share the contents of the doujinshi, I'd like to at least share some information about the doujinshi and hopefully get fellow fans to know about the doujinshi and buy them through circle-preferred means. Do you think artists would freak out if they see photos and info of their book on a foreign website? Frankly speaking, since I bought the product, I feel like I do have a right to talk about it online at least...?

    About resale and 2nd hands, is it really such a bad thing? A lot of brick and mortar stores in Japan sell 2nd-hand doujinshi such as Kbooks and Lashinbang. Mandarake and Suruga-ya have online stores. I use them when they are no longer for sale by the circle. Also, a lot of Japanese users auction their collection on Yahoo auctions when they have lost interest in the series/pairing. For me, I do tend to be quite the completionist so I buy a lot, and when I lose interest in a series, there's this huge pile of books that I practically no longer want anything to do with, and it's such a waste to burn them, bin them and what not. So I sell them to fellow fans via Tumblr, ebay and other selling platforms. Never at a profit. Mostly enough just to cover shipping costs. And most of the books are old and out of print, so I know I've made some genuine fans happy at least.

    Thanks for your time!

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  19. its a good read! as an artist, all the self-entitled youngster population in the west reposting art are getting on my nerves. They take it like we should be grateful that they are posting our art at all for free (?uhm what?). The whole Japanese-English community communication hurts. Korean artists are getting their doujins/fan art reposted without their knowledge too QnQ

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