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What Are Doujin and Doujinshi?

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As an anime or manga enthusiast, I am sure you’ve heard of the terms doujin and doujinshi over the internet. Many believe that these terms apply only to 18+ content. Well, I am here to tell you that this certainly isn’t the case. Not only that, but these words (doujin and doujinshi) are often wrongly used interchangeably. One of the most basic misconceptions regarding doujin is that it is the short form of doujinshi, but that is not true, either!

In this article, we will explain these terms in detail to clear all of the misconceptions that you might have regarding doujins and doujinshis.

What is a Doujin?

The term doujin refers to a group of people who share similar interests and hobbies. It might also refer to people trying to achieve a common goal. In modern Japanese, it refers to a hobbyist who produces some sort of creative content in relation to his/her interests.

It isn’t just about creating DIY comics and NSFW content. It includes a wide variety of people who share interests such as music, video games, anime, manga, light novels, magazines, and so on.

The term doujin may also be used as an abbreviation for “doujin works,” which are products created by these niche hobbyists. Due to this, the word is often translated as “Fandom or Fanfiction” as well. Doujin content can be highly diverse, and many mediums are used to create it.

Sometimes, doujin artists take inspiration from other artists and mimic their work. They publish their work independently and in small volumes to maintain a low profile and avoid any potential disputes or legal action. This culture of “indie” content creation has spread all over the globe, and creators from all over are able to publish their work and even gain a little fame without any legal problems.

What Is a Doujinshi?

Printed doujin works, which may include light novels, fan comics, and magazines, are collectively called doujinshi. As mentioned in the intro, doujinshi is a sub-group of doujin. Doujin, for the most part, refers to amateurs creating art of some kind. it also may refer to the art they create.

Doujinshi refers only to independent print material. 
In simpler words, doujinshi is a self-published piece of writing or publication that caters to a certain group of people. Doujinshi is often the work of small creators and the stories are often created in a way that isn’t suitable for general publications.

It’s important to note that not all doujin/doujinshi creators are amateurs. Some professional artists also take part in this culture in order to publish their work outside of the regular publishing industry. Perhaps it’s more intimate for them, or they just want to avoid forced changes to their work common at big publishers.

Types of Doujinshi

Doujinshi are usually divided into two major categories: Originals and Spin-offs:

Originals: These are completely new stories created by independent doujinshi publishers. These can differ from indie and amateur to obscene—much of it pushes the boundaries and may not be fit for regular publishing. These doujinshi have become an integral part of the anime and manga community. They are widely shared and read all around the world. They are especially famous in areas that hold regular conventions or expos where such Doujinshi are sold in massive numbers.

Spin-offs: These include fan-fictions you see floating around the internet that expand on existing stories. These are fascinating to read as they touch upon parts of the story that were not included in the original works. In many cases, fan-fictions explore hypothetical scenarios—paths that the original story did not take. This offers fans a new perspective on their favorite content.

For example, a doujinshi may explore different outcomes of a romance anime or manga by having a character choose a different love interest than they did in the canon story. Not only does this provide new content for fans, but it also sparks conversation and keeps the fandom alive. Fan fiction allows a story to live on after the original series ends or it can even pick up halfway through to establish an alternate ending.

Are Doujin and Doujinshi Mainly NSFW?

Another major misconception is that doujinshi print work is mostly 18+ content. It’s true that a lot of doujinshi contains sexually suggestive material. It’s a common characteristic of doujins to have at least some sort of ecchi (sexual) content. Some of it is pornographic and some just contain nudity. NSFW doujinshi includes standard heterosexual porn, BL, Yaoi, Yuri, and shoujo-ai, with BL and Yaoi (gay) being the most popular.

Other doujins are not sexual at all. There are sizeable chunks of nonsexual doujinshi, most of which are connected to fandoms in the animeverse. One of the biggest is the Touhou series, which is based on a video game. This fandom is well known for making open and friendly doujinshi for Touhou. Surprisingly, only a very small amount of Touhou doujins are 18+.

So, while it is true that a large number of doujins do include NSFW content, this does by no means imply that all do. Nonsexual doujins are a major part of the sub-culture.

Doujin Events and Comiket

Comiket, a sort of Comicon for doujinshi, happens twice a year. There is Winter Comiket and Summer Comiket. It’s an exciting three-day event where otakus from all over the globe pour into Tokyo to experience the greatest anime convention on the planet.

The first two days of the event are dedicated to doujinshi that are popular with a female audience as well as Touhou merchandise. Day 3 is dedicated to comics that are popular among men. Comiket is also a massively famous cosplay event. Almost half of the event space is occupied by corporate companies which include Aniplex, Nitroplus, and everyone in between.

Besides Comiket, major doujin events are held in Japan every weekend, and some are organized around particular themes or specific fandoms. Comiket is the biggest of these conventions but it’s certainly not the only one. These smaller conventions are sort of “choose your own adventure for fetishes” and many of them are dedicated to NSFW doujins that cater to specific tastes.

There are also many franchises similar to the Touhou project that are run by fans and not by corporate entities. Touhou, on the other hand, has its very own retail store in Akihabara and is a major influencer in the corporate and doujin areas at Comiket.

Similarly, many conventions happen all around the globe where doujins are displayed and sold at booths. There are even conventions in the USA. With growing audiences, doujins are starting to make their way around the world more quickly and easily. 

The History of Doujins

Doujinshi first started sometime around the early Meiji period. The first doujinshi that was published was called Garaka Bunko and it was shared among the general public. The trend began in 1885, after which it really started to pick up pace in the Showa period between world war I and world war II. During this time, doujinshi were published and shared amongst friends and were considered to be an outlet for artists and hobbyists. But it was hard for many to get their hands on them as they were not mass-produced. Technology just didn’t allow for simple mass publication.

The rise of the photocopy machine in 1970 saw a rapid change in doujin culture. From then on, doujinshi became much more popular and there was a shift from doujinshi being mostly original stories to spin-offs and parodies. However, popular shows that allowed such parodies only allowed authors to feature side characters—not the main ones.

Just a few years later, the first Comiket kicked off in 1975. It wasn’t as big as it is today, but it was still quite popular even 50 years ago. In recent times, doujin culture has permeated anime in the form of gaiden, or side story episodes that are usually independent of the main plot—and possibly divert from it. Doujin culture continues to grow at a rapid pace, which is great news for storytellers and fans!

Now, this is the part where the law gets confusing. Doujinshi are usually considered an evolved form of fanfiction that is created by someone as a parody or a spin-off. Binding and selling doujinshi based on someone else’s original work is tolerated. But, technically, doujinshi breaks the law in Japan. It is seldom that a writer or creator actually gets permission from the original author to make a doujin. But, original authors also seldom seek legal action against creators. If that seems strange, there are a few explanations.

Many original authors likely believe that when a doujinshi inspired by their work gets popular, it will benefit them. It will probably inspire the reader to go and check out the original, which in turn helps promote the original work. Another theory is that with the sheer power of the internet and just how large the doujinshi market is, it would be too costly, and still nearly impossible, to shut it all down. Some have expressed a desire for greater control over the doujin marketplace, but because the very nature of doujins is to be independent, this would likely be a losing battle.

The Business Side of Doujinshi

It is no secret that anime and manga are big business. There are billions to be made from series, films, merch, and more. Comiket, on the other hand, was started by a handful of artists—but now it attracts over 500000 people annually. Now you might wonder how the doujinshi market grew so rapidly in such a short amount of time.

The simple answer is that the anime industry saw doujinshi as a money-maker for their business. As the popularity of the doujinshi grew, so did the success of the anime franchises that they represented. Today, anime fan fiction doujins are still popular, but many doujinshi are original works that are not attached to any manga or LN.

One of the most remarkable developments is the revolving door between doujin creators, large studios, and publishing houses. Although the connection between them was established organically, the anime industry now actively scouts the doujin community for talented individuals. Major players now visit massive doujinshi halls to look for talent to help them build canon stories they once parodied. 

Doujin: Much more than Fan Fiction

What started as a small-time subculture of guerrilla authors has become an established culture with ties rooted deep within the anime community. Nowadays, it has become difficult to distinguish between “official and “fan-made,” and that’s actually intentional. Doujinshi has become an indirect way of generating revenue for both indie creators and original publishers.

So, doujin and doujinshi are a lot more complicated than you thought! They don’t just describe NSFW and hentai content online. They represent a community of artists and a worldwide phenomenon. Whether you’re into anime, amazing original stories, or something kinky, you’ll find a world of entertainment awaiting in doujin culture. 

Jack is an avid anime enthusiast with a passion for all things Japanese culture. He spends his days watching the latest series, reading manga, and discussing the merits of his favorite characters with his friends. When he's not writing (or debating) about manga and anime, Jack can be found playing video games or practicing Ju-Jitsu. Despite his nerdy interests, Jack is confident and outgoing. He's always eager to share his enthusiasm with others.