How much chitchat is OK with an artist who doesn’t know you?

Our Japanese-language reporter Udonko wears many hats. She’s a writer, kimono lover, outdoorswoman, and Kyoto candy connoisseur. Oh, and she’s also a doujinshi, or self-published manga, artist.

Like a lot of other doujinshi creators, Udonko periodically attends events where she displays, promotes, and sells her works. While Tokyo’s Comiket is the biggest such gathering, she also exhibits her wares at smaller regional conventions, and aside from making sales, she enjoys getting the chance to meet and chat with fellow enthusiasts and online acquaintances.

▼ Udonko’s self-portrait as she waits at her booth in happy anticipation for the start of an event.

Or at least she usually enjoys chatting with other doujin fans. An encounter she had at a regional event a while back, though, was an exception.

About an hour after the doors opened to general attendees, a woman who was walking down the aisle stopped in front of Udonko’s booth to take a look at her works. Happy for the interest in her art, Udonko greeted the woman, who we’ll call D-ko, with a friendly “Hello!”

At that event, most of the doujinshi that Udonko was exhibiting was focused on a single character, whom D-ko said she was also a big fan of. Happy to have found a kindred spirit, Udonko chatted cheerfully with her about what they each found so appealing about the character. Then, after a few such exchanges, Udonko began starting to wind the conversation down…but D-ko kept going.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how much chitchat attendees can do with exhibitors at doujinshi conventions, but somewhere around five minutes or so is the organic norm, in Udonko’s experience. In rare cases, maybe that stretches out to 10 minutes if the attendee has some specific questions about the artist’s work or is trying to make up their mind as to what specific item to buy. By this point, though, 20 minutes had passed since D-ko started talking, and now she wasn’t even talking about the character or doujinshi in general even. Somewhere along the line, D-ko had gone off on a tangent about how she didn’t like her job, and now she was continuing to list her complaints about her workplace.

It’s worth pointing out that in the doujinshi world, the line between friend and customer can sometimes get kind of blurred. In the modern age, self-publishing also involves self-promotion online, and through social media fans and artists might form an interpersonal relationship as well. However, Udonko had never had any contact with D-ko before this conversation, and the nature of the conversation was becoming more personal than Udonko could comfortably deal with. Since D-ko wasn’t showing signs of losing any momentum in the now one-sided conversation, Udonko decided to make up an excuse to diplomatically remove herself, and told D-ko, “Excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Oh, OK, I understand,” said D-ko, but just as Udonko was mentally breathing a sigh of relief, D-ko added…

“I’ll come back later!”

▼ “Noooooooo!” Udonko silently screamed inside her head.

Still, this at least bought Udonko a temporary reprieve. As she came back from her actually unnecessary trip to the bathroom, she looked around the room, and didn’t see D-ko anywhere. It was a decently sized venue, and maybe by the time she made the rounds to all the other booths, the day would be done and Udonko could get away without their conversation’s promised part two.

But then, after only about 20 minutes since her bathroom escape, Udonko heard a familiar voice call out “Hi again!”

D-ko was back, and she picked up right where she’d left off in the conversation/monologue. Udonko’s fears about her limitless stamina stock proved true, and Udonko was at a loss for how to bring the talk to a polite close.

If, for example, another attendee had wanted to make a purchase, Udonko could have excused herself by saying “Sorry, I have to take care of this customer.” D-ko’s extended presence, though, apparently had passersby thinking that she and Udonko were good friends engaged in an important heart-to-heart discussion, and so no other customers were coming up to the booth, Wracking her brain, Udonko tried subtle suggestions like “There are a lot of great artists exhibiting here today! Since you came all the way here, why don’t you go check them out?” and even went so far as to say “I think if you spend any more of your time at my booth, you’re going to miss out on the real fun of the event,” but each time D-ko simply said “Yeah…so anyway” and went right back to whatever she’d been talking about. After an hour and 10 minutes (binging their total talking time up to an hour and a half), Udonko had no choice but to employ her “Sorry, I have to go to the bathroom” tactic again, and that turned out to be the last she saw of D-ko.

Even though doujinshi and other otaku artforms are now more popular than ever before, in many ways they’re still niche hobbies. There’s a portion of the fanbase that doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to talk face-to-face with fellow enthusiasts, and the excitement of finding someone you share a precisely specific passion with can sometimes lead you to assume you share other personal values as well, even if you’ve just met and haven’t really confirmed those assumptions. Odds are D-ko’s situation is something along those lines, and so we don’t want to come down too hard on her for her extended chewing of what she likely thought was a rare sympathetic ear when talking with Udon-ko.

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that at doujinshi events, the exhibitors are, essentially, working. The events are an important opportunity for them to promote and sell their art, and so just like you wouldn’t talk with a store clerk for an hour and a half during their shift, that’s also likely too long to hang out chatting at an artist’s booth. Udonko’s advice: keep your conversations short and sweet, and if you do have something you want to discuss with an artist you know that’s going to take a long time, try to wait until they’re out and mingling on the show floor, not working their booth.

Images ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]