Fan creators and their fellow otaku weren’t deterred by the fact that they couldn’t be on-site to celebrate doujinshi culture!

Comiket: a haven for otaku, cosplayers, self-published manga authors, and other doujin, or fans who unite to create things and enjoy shared interests. Held twice a year since its inaugural event in 1975, this doujin convention is the biggest in the world, and is only getting bigger every year.

Unfortunately, that made it all the more difficult when the 98th Comiket (aka C98), originally scheduled for May 2-5, was cancelled earlier this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. It was disappointing not only for the artists who wanted to share their doujinshi (self-published manga) but also for the other otaku and doujinshi fans, who are always excited to get their hands on their favorite doujinshi, whatever it takes.

But never fear! The doujinshi spirit lives on, because Comiket was brought back to life in digital form as the first ever “Air Comiket!” Held during the same dates as the original Comiket, in collaboration with various businesses and organizations, this was an online event where doujin could still revel in their shared fandoms and enjoy their favorite doujinshi together, while staying apart. 

“[Announcement] The fourth day of Air Comiket has come to an end. Today we had 0 visitors to the event space, with a total of 0 visitors over the weekend. Thank you for coming!”

To get the online doujin community fired up, the Comiket Preparatory Committee (aka Comiket PC) organized a list of hashtags that participants could use when joining in on Air Comiket, so that everyone could feel as if they were enjoying the event together. Starting with the basic Air Comiket hashtag, #エアコミケ, each subcategory of Comiket got its own set of hashtags so that everyone knew where to find their favorite things, much like the booth code system at the real life Comiket. The special Air Comiket account, @comiket_air, also watched for and retweeted some of the best posts of the weekend, to make it easy for anyone to participate.

Anything related to Comiket or doujin culture was fair game, including pictures of past events, discussions about how the event is organized, and self-advertisement by those who planned to hold a both!

▼ The official Air Comiket account sharing a participant’s tweet about the original plan for booth arrangement in the hall

For example, doujinshi authors and clubs were invited to tweet about their activities of the past and present, advertise their publications, and share their latest sketches and panels with the hashtags #エアコミケ #サークル. Of course, as with previous years, Comiket’s web catalog was also available, where doujin circles could keep their fans up-to-date about their projects for the duration of the event, but this year in lieu of browsing booths, fans can also use the online catalog to buy the latest volumes of their favorite doujinshi, with the help of online book stores. Similarly, authors were also welcome to post links to where their works could be purchased.

Of course, one of the biggest draws of Comiket is the top-notch cosplayers, and while fans weren’t able to see their favorite cosplayers in person this time around, Twitter proved useful in that regard, too. Like the doujinshi artists, cosplayers were given designated hashtags to use (#エアコミケ #コスプレ), and were invited to share about their recent projects as well as their past photoshoots, and were even encouraged to wear cosplay at home!

▼ Even Japan’s most popular cosplayer, Enako, participated by sharing photos from previous Comikets.

Businesses and printing companies who had signed up to have a booth at C98, and those who had participated in the past, were also invited to participate digitally by sharing their experiences and stories.

And of course, those who had planned to go to Comiket to buy and to look had plenty of opportunities to participate, too. Besides buying their favorite doujinshi online, they could use the Twitter hashtags to connect with other fans, retweet posts, and share information and experiences. The Comiket PC also created a small-space Comiket stage and recorded goings on there, so fans could really feel as if they’re physically at Tokyo Big Site enjoying the festivities.

Fans didn’t even have to miss out on C98 merch, either! The paper shopping bags that were intended for sale were given as bonus gifts with a 3,000 yen (US$28) or more purchase at participating online book stores, and a gift of a C98 entry wrist band was included with every purchase from select printing companies.

▼ C98 entry wrist bands

If they liked, fans could also choose to buy a digital version of the C98 doujinshi catalog at participating online book stores. It’s almost as if they were having the full experience of Comiket without actually going!

In the end, although fans weren’t able to get together for this year’s Summer Comiket, the organizers and participants still managed to keep the spirit of the event alive by coming together digitally to celebrate doujin culture, and judging from the threads on Twitter, everyone had a good time.

Though the fate of Winter Comiket also seems in jeopardy, hopefully the efforts we make to stay home now will mean that everyone can be reunited at C99 in December. And in the meantime, we can all still connect with our fellow otaku through the wonders of the Internet!

Related: Air Comiket
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Air Comiket
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