Doujinshi (dojinshi) (同人誌) is a Japanese word that technically means "a book for people of the same interests." What is inside the book can vary. One of the most common forms of doujinshi is fan manga (fan comics), but doujinshi can contain a variety of materials: fanfics, sketches and drawings, guest art, original stories, original comics, reviews, opinions - anything, really. Many doujinshi have combinations of the above; sometimes, but not always, online auctions will list the distribution of text and comics (for example, 30% text, 70% comics). Serious doujinshi collectors should quickly learn the kanji for "novel" (小説), which is how the Japanese refer to fanfics. (Many doujinshi contain only novels.)

Most doujinshi are produced in Japan, though there are also doujinshi from Korea, China, and Taiwan. Doujinshi are most often created based on anime, video games, and manga (in that order), although there are other sources, too, such as ones based on musicians (J-pop singers and J-rock groups), movies (like The Lord of the Rings), books (notably Harry Potter), and TV shows (such as Supernatural).

In the Western world, "doujinshi" has come to refer to fan manga, although (as explained above) this is not an entirely accurate definition. "Doujinshi" has also been used to refer to online fan manga in the west.

The copyright issue of doujinshi is a bit iffy in Japan. Fan-based doujinshi are technically illegal. However, because doujinshi are supposed to be priced only to cover the expenses of printing, because they are printed in limited quantities, because doujinshi help to grow the fandom and promote the original series, and because many professional mangaka (manga artists) got their start doing doujinshi (like CLAMP), most companies tolerate them. There have been, however, rare cases where companies have gone after doujinshi, notably Nintendo and hentai Pokemon doujinshi.

Some mangaka and mangaka assistants release doujinshi even after going professional. For example, Tanemura Arina's art assistants have released dojin (including romantic hentai doujinshi) based on Tanemura's manga series under the circle name Strawberry Lunch. Akamatsu Ken, creator of Love Hina, still releases many doujinshi (including hentai dojin) for various anime/manga series. Takeuchi Naoko, the creator of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, released a doujinshi artbook called "Infinity"; the artbook featured Sailor Moon artwork by her friends, including professional mangaka and the anime seiyuu. Kakinouchi Narumi, the co-creator of Vampire Princess Miyu, regularly releases doujinshi with sketches, comics, artwork, etc. for Vampire Princess Miyu and Vampire Princess Yui.

There are doujinshi conventions held regularly in Japan where doujinshika (doujinshi creators) sell their doujinshi. These include major conventions such as Comiket (held in summer and winter) and Super Comic City, in which one can find doujinshi from any fandom, to smaller comic conventions, as well as special events geared towards specific fandoms or pairings. Most doujinshika will indicate on their websites or in their latest doujinshi which conventions they plan on attending and on what days they will appear, sometimes with titles of doujinshi they plan on selling there. Some conventions (and all of the larger ones) have pamphlets with lists of all the circles attending and their locations. (For larger conventions, you need to buy these pamphlets in advance in order to plot out your course and locate your favorite circles.)

Doujinshika are not supposed to profit from their works. The costs of their books are normally only to cover the price of printing. The reason why doujinshi is often so expensive for people living outside of Japan is that middlemen sell doujinshi for marked-up prices. Furthermore, the cost of international shipping, as well as commission fees for using deputy services, contribute to the increased cost for non-Japanese. However, even in Japan, doujinshi by popular circles can sell for a lot, particularly on Yahoo!Japan and other online auctions. (Again, however, these profits go to a middleman, not the doujinshika.) This is due in part to the fact that doujinshi are printed in limited quantities, and many doujinshi are sold in limited venues - often only at doujinshi conventions or through direct-mail via the circles' websites. Some circles may also sell their books through online doujinshi stores (with marked-up prices for the store). Regardless, there are only so many copies of a doujinshi, and once a circle runs out, that's often it. Occasionally, individual books may be reprinted (this is somewhat rare) and sometimes they may be "remixed" into reprint collections (this is more frequent than the former, especially for popular or prolific circles).

Doujinshika are usually known by their circle names, rather than by their personal names (which are usually pseudonyms anyway). Circles (サークル) are the groups that publish the doujinshi. Although many circles have only a few contributors (artists, writers, etc.) and many only have one (referred to as "personal circles"), the number depends on the group and the project. Doujinshika sometimes change their circle names or pseudonyms depending on different factors such as time, fandom, and participants.

Ratings, genres, and content of doujinshi vary greatly, from comedy to romance to drama to sexually explicit material. Again, most doujinshi have fan manga, but many also have, or only have, fanfics (novels), reviews, and opinions. Some doujinshi focus on pairings or couples ("BL" = boys love / male x male, "NL" = normal love / male x female, "GL" = girls love / female x female [rarely used]), others do not. (In the west, "BL" is often referred to as "yaoi" and "GL" as "yuri.") Basically, like any other medium, quality and subject matter will differ depending on who is producing it.

The standard doujinshi size is Japanese B5 (7.2 x 10.1 inches). Other common sizes are A5 (5.8 x 8.3 inches) and A4 (8.3 x 11.7 inches). A5 is also the most common size for anthologies. Most doujinshi are printed and bound professionally by printing companies (called offset (オフ) doujinshi). However, many doujinshika also release copy-bon (コピー本) (copy books), which are self-printed books, generally quite short, that are made from lower-quality materials; for example, many copy-bon are just photocopied and stapled together. Note that the content of the book is not necessarily lower quality. Actually, many copy-bon are highly sought after, as they are usually produced in even smaller quantities than offset doujinshi and are therefore harder to obtain.

In addition to doujinshi, there are also doujin products like stationary (which are very popular as well), cards, pencil boards, calendars, and other goods.


Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is © Takeuchi Naoko.
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