... for when you know you could do better.
Doujinshi are the manga equivalent of fan fiction. They are self-published manga (although sometimes novels) from amateurs writing new stories based on their favourite official manga / anime series.
But what about copyright? (I cried upon hearing about this). Isn't it completely illegal to profit from characters you didn't create?
Oh it is, I was assured. But people turn a blind eye.
A blind eye? I looked around the convention centre I was standing in (so can you, it's the above picture). It was a huge barn of a room, normally consisting of three separate halls but whose partitions had been removed to create this gigantic space. People milled everywhere, browsing and queuing by the booths of their favourite doujinshi artists. 8000 circles were here today (A "circle" is a somewhat misleading name for a doujinshi publisher, normally just one or two people). That's quite some "blind eye". Oh, and did I mention that this was a small event? The one in May has 22,000 circles and was split over two days. The one in August will be split over three.
Doujinshi events such as this one are also not the only places to buy the fanfic manga. Normal manga stores also stock it, the self-published works sitting alongside the latest official manga books. However, doujinshi is generally considered to have a positive influence on official sales, adding to the interest in a series and prolonging its life. Providing the doujinshi writers aren't obviously making huge profits (most roughly break even), the copyright holders ignore the legal ramifications of such publications.
It makes logical sense... but it's still kinda weird. Remember the arguments over the Harry Potter Lexicon? We did, over lunch, our bags packed full with our purchases. Admittedly, the lexicon probably would have made considerably more cash than the manga, but you still can't imagine this sliding under the radar in the USA or Europe.
I should probably add a word regarding the usual theme of doujinshi. It is, of course, a way for fans to explore story lines not covered in the series. Sometimes, it is obvious why such ideas were not ... look, the fast majority are pornographic, okay? But really, it's all about the art. THE ART. Yes. Anyway ... this being so and given these are, after all, graphic novels (you know, pictures) it's a little surprising to find young children taken to these events. But there they were, big brown eyes fixed on the posters. But then, the education system in Japan always was known for its early intense training.