Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Comiket 81: The High Cost of Fandom

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Mobs of young people lined up on train station platforms, carting their color-coordinated luggage behind them: It's a common sight when the New Year's holiday rolls around in Tokyo. While everyone is dead set on getting out of the metropolis, their destinations couldn't be more different.

One group is heading back to their hometowns, bags packed with sweets and souvenirs for relatives. These are the more orthodox and responsible ones—In Japan, New Year's is the holiday for family togetherness, with the same social obligations as Christmas in the west. Spending time with the folks and eating mom's osechi cooking while ingesting mind-numbing TV specials is the greatest form of filial piety that a child can show.

So where does this leave the other group, bound not for the countryside but Tokyo Big Site, luggage stuffed with cosplay outfits as opposed to presents? Each day at Comiket means one less with the family, suggesting that whatever gained from the dojinshi and camaraderie balances the offset.

Assuming that the event runs from December 28th to the 31st, in theory you could hit all three days and still be back to the inaka in time for the opening act of Kohaku Uta Gassen, or at the very least be there with the folks when Matsumoto and the boys from Gaki no Tsukai get clubbed like baby seals.

Summer Comiket is not so forgiving. The event will always overlap with the O-Bon holiday, where, once again, you're expected to return home, this time to pay tribute at your clan's ancestral grave site. Skirting your obligations here would be like skipping your grandmother's funeral to attend the San Daigo Comic Con. Comiket always draws heat for the graphic content of the goods on sale, but a more fundamental conservative activist would be up in arms about how the timing of the events themselves rebuke traditional family values.

Interestingly, despite these factors (and the unbearable heat), Summer Comiket regularly attracts more visitors than Winter Comiket as you can see here.

While missing out on the occasional family function is probably a non-issue for progressive parents, the fact remains that over half of Tokyoites are originally from outside the megaregion.

To put this into perspective: America has Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's (as well as the Forth of July if you're willing to stretch the definition) earmarked for family gatherings. Conversely, Japan has local festivals throughout the year, but summer O-Bon and New Year's are the only holidays long enough for scattered relatives to realistically get together. It's one thing to forget a birthday or fall off the map for a while—To break tradition for the sake of your hobby is significantly more difficult to explain away.

Attending Comiket doesn't automatically make you a wayward son, but it adds another intangible cost to being an otaku and tests your dedication to the pursuit of leisure. We at TSB have no misgivings regarding our own position as outside observers and refrain from judging the hundreds of thousands who make the bi-annual pilgrimage. Rather, we hope to suggest the idea that there is more at stake here than merely braving the elements to get your hands on your favorite group's new dojinshi before they sell out.

But enough pontification: Check out the cosplay that kept us separated from our families this New Year's:


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Just because Anno Hideaki died for your sins doesn't make it OK to masturbate to fourteen-year old damaged goods.

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Crossplaying with a face mask is totally fair game in my book, but the fuzzy silk gloves cross the line.

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Kabuki Quantum Fighter Gaiden?

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ORIX Buffaloes mascot Buffalo Bell is here to prove that even professional sports are not beyond the lure of moeification.

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This ingenuous Kuybey worked around the new "no sexy costume" rule. (Link NSFW.)

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Daru was so in character that he rolled his shirt up over his gut before letting me snap him.

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Chicken George was overjoyed to be recognized, much less be asked for a photo-op.

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Moe Loli Bancho.


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We avoided Madoka cosplay this round to avoid redundancy, but we're willing to make an exception for Walpurgis Night.

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Tiger Mask takes a break from his secret Santa activities to address an adoring public.

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Dennis Rodman as Fire Emblem.

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Stay golden, Crystal Boy.

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Another victim falls to the horde of otaku paparazzi zombies.

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Godzilla brought his pit crew of makeup guys with him.


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Winter Comiket gave us a bumper crop of impressive Berserker costumes, and this takes the prize with a real set of metal armor!

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Between Zangief, Wild Tiger, and Rider, fake facial hair was all the rage this season.

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The Assassin guild strikes a fearsome pose, moments before being crushed into paste.

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It's a shame that the the most boring characters in the show are it's main female protagonists, especially because it means that many more people cosplaying them.

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These two never fail to crack me up. Caster's eyeballs are actually carved out of baby femurs, not ping-pong balls as one would expect.

Full album here!

And that's it! Reports of falling attendance numbers were greatly exaggerated as there was no shortage of perverts and gawkers this time around. Our limited coverage can be attributed to familial and work-related responsibilities. We'll do our best to straighten out our priorities before Summer Comiket rolls around.


  1. Haha I didn't go to my grandma's funeral. I asked my dad if he wanted me to go and he said he didn't mind, so I didn't. Reading this made me feel a bit guilty. But only because I didn't skip it for something cool like a cosplay event.

  2. I think I'll make a effort to go to summer Comiket this year. I fear the lines though!

  3. Anonymous> Ouch! At least there's always your other grandmother's funeral.

    Syntastic> The lines aren't an issue unless there's something by a popular circle that you MUST HAVE the first day it goes on sale. (Dojin shops and net auctions are there for the sane fans.)
    The real killer is the press of bodies you have to wade through. If you're not careful you can get a heat rash from other people's sweat.
    Comiket is worth going to, if just to cross if off your bucket list. We'll likely be there one way or another.