Comic Market, or more known throughout the world as Comiket is an event that is held twice a year in Japan where aspiring artist as well as well established ones converge to the Tokyo Big Sight convention centre in Ariake to sell their works. We were lucky to visit the 83rd edition of this event.
Held every August (Summer Comike or 夏コミ Natsukomi) and December (Winter Comike or 冬コミ Fuyukomi), this is the world largest self published comic, well, market, with crowds easily reaching up to half a million people during the 3 day it’s held. We attended the Winter Comike, held on the 29th, 30th, and 31st of December 2012. To really understand the scale of this event, the largest anime based event in Malaysia, Comic Fiesta, is only 1/10th the size of Comiket in term of space used. One might even be intimidated the first time they attend this event, as this writer can attest to.
Officially the event would only start at 10am each day, but since majority of the stuffs sold here can only be found HERE, the crowd starts queuing since the first train arrives, usually around 5.30 to 6am in the morning. While police as well as Comiket itself forbids goers from queuing overnight, there were still some people that did that. And this is not an easy thing, especially in December. For starters, it can reach as low as 3 degrees Celsius, and since Ariake is situated on a reclaimed land by the sea, you are consistently bombarded with icy cold wind making it a very uncomfortable wait. We our self waited for around 4 hours on the wet and cold ground just to get in the hall. To maintain order Comiket committee members (with bright pink caps) would brave this cold as well, taking care of the lines and making sure people are queuing up in an orderly fashion. Mind you, to manage a crowd this size is not an easy job, and it really interesting to see them managing it. Also an interesting thing to note is that once you are in queue, you can leave your bags and go to the toilet or find a place to eat. No one is going to steal your stuffs, or take your place in the queue. You won’t see that in Malaysia.
The comic market is separated into three distinct places, East Hall, West Hall, and West Hall Upper. The East and West halls are where the doujins are sold, while the West Hall Upper area is where the commercial booths are situated. Each day, the doujin groups, or more commonly known as “circles” are changed, hence it’s mightily important for you to know which day the circle you want to go to will appear. For this, you need to get the Comiket Catalog. This 2000 yen book is akin to a yellow pages, with maps, table layout as well as the names of the circles that will appear during each of the three days. You can visit comiket without buying one, but you will have no idea where to go if you don’t. It’s a must buy, so that you can plan your purchases easily beforehand.
The basic premise of going to comiket is queue, queue and more queue. Once you make your way inside, you would think that you can just go to the booth of your favourite doujin circle, and just buy what you want. But sadly it’s not that simple. If the circle that you are going to is famous, then you multiply that idea of yours with around 1000 more people, and you end up with ANOTHER queue, usually outside the hall going to the booth. We queued around 45 minutes just to get to buy some doujins from Ume Aoki (mangaka for Hidamari Sketch, as well as character designer for the Madoka TV series), and then another 1 hour queue just to visit Tony Taka’s booth. You can easily waste your days queuing at Comiket just to buy something. Hence that’s why usually attendees also comes in their OWN circle, which will split their members to buy from different circles, hence saving time for everyone. If you look around Comiket, you can see these veterans shouting orders to their members on which circle to line up next, and how much they need to buy.
This is basically the same thing for the commercial booth, and even much so. Since the commercial booths are selling really limited edition stuffs, for example artbooks, the lines can be much longer. One unique thing about the lines are the staffs would usually hold a placard. This placard does not only tell you where the line starts, but shows the items sold at the booth, and the price of each items so by the time the line arrives at the booth you are ready with the money to do the transaction. Also the placards will slowly be updated, around every 30 minutes or so, telling people if a certain items are sold out. This is so you won’t have to queue up to the booth just to find out the things you wanted have already finished. The queue can easily take 1 to 2 hours, and if you are unlucky, you might have to queue in rain, as we did during the second day.
Cosplayers were also aplenty at Comiket, but interestingly they are barred to enter the event hall in their cosplay costumes. This is so that they won’t disrupt the traffic with people asking them for pictures. Instead, Comiket has given them two locations for the cosplayers, as well as photographers to gather and take pictures. But be warned, if you wont have time to visit the cosplay section if you are going to the event proper, hence it would be a great idea to allocate one of the three days for you to visit the cosplay section if you want to
It was really an awesome experience visiting this place, and honestly the Malaysians complaining about the Comic Fiesta long line? That is nothing compared to Comiket. We wish we can visit this event again, this time much more knowledgeable, and much more ready, time wise, as well as money wise. It’s not cheap buying all those doujins