Convention Coverage - Winter Comiket 2014

Over the Christmas and New Year's holidays I was incredibly lucky to be able to travel to Japan this year and even luckier that in the time I was there, I managed to catch the last day of Tokyo’s Winter Comiket. Comiket is the largest anime convention in the world, with over 500,000 attendees during its three days. It is also entirely free to attend!

There are two Comiket events each year that take place at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba, one in the summer and one in the winter. The convention operates a little differently from standard anime cons – rather than the panels and social scene that typically draw attendees, Comiket is set up as multiple warehouse-sized dealer’s rooms and an outside cosplayer area. The vendors consist mostly of doujinshi artists and Vocaloid type musicians, with a few rows of ball-jointed doll booths and other handmade items. Each artist gets a booth for a single day, so there is an entirely new set of vendors each day. I was only able to make it to the third and final day of the convention, which also happens to typically be the hentai and ecchi day. There were definitely artists who were selling non-ecchi merch (and I was able to score some super cute Miku art!) but the further you went down the hall the more risqué the art became.

The cosplay area was a large roped off section outside the entrance of the convention center. It was around 45 degrees outside but that definitely didn’t stop anyone from wearing the short skirts required of Sonico and the many Love Live! characters. Love Live! was definitely the most popular cosplay there, with a few groups cosplaying from shows like Evangelion, Tokyo Ghoul, and Yu-Gi-Oh.

Amazing Yu-Gi-Oh cosplayers!

Cosplayers were pretty much confined to the roped off area and no photos were allowed in the vendor area. Because of this, rather than wandering around the convention, most of the cosplayers set up outside with a suitcase and a sign promoting their Twitter handle and stood there while people formed lines to take photos of each of the cosplayers. It made it a little difficult to navigate with the placement of everyone but it actually made it easier to get photos!

The other main difference I noticed at Comiket was the large proportion of costumes that looked bought rather than made, which tends to be the opposite at US cons. Though, having explored Ikebukuro and Akihabara, there were quite a few stores that sold everything from wigs to costumes, and even circle lenses and makeup for each character. Having seen this it seems that bought cosplay is a lot more accessible in Japan.

The thing that really caught my attention was the way in which cosplayers at Comiket were extremely in character. Each cosplayer could immediately break into five or six unique poses giving photographers as many pictures. It was a pretty large contrast to the standard ‘hall shot pose’ I usually encounter at conventions and has definitely made me rethink my own presence while cosplaying!

It seems that the main difference between American and Japanese cosplayers is which part of the word ‘cosplay’ they focus on. Cosplay in the US is very costume and craftsmanship centric, with large figures such as Yaya Han and Jessica Nigri always uploading progress photos and crafting breakdowns being a common part of cosplay descriptions. I don’t follow the Japanese cosplay scene as closely, but in the Korean cosplayers I follow there is also a heavy emphasis on the modeling and character aspect rather than the costume part. This was consistent with what I saw at Comiket, with the promotion of Twitters and the obvious thought that went into how cosplayers were presenting themselves at the event.

Personally, I really enjoyed Comiket, though I don’t know if I would have been able to handle all three days! It was incredibly overwhelming, and as someone who really enjoys the social part of conventions, while I found it a really fun and interesting experience I would definitely prefer conventions in which I can hang around with friends and be more relaxed. Comiket is far too crowded for that to really be feasible though, and it seems to be very true to its name – Comiket stands for Comic Market, which is exactly what it was; a lot of people shopping for doujins in large warehouse-type rooms. Still, despite the huge crowds I’m glad I went and I would probably go again if I had the chance! 

This was just the crowd in the hallways - the vendors rooms were even more packed!

This was just the crowd in the hallways - the vendors rooms were even more packed!