Unoriginal Sin : what can Japanese learning methods tell us about the success of Doujinshi?

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    Since 1975, the increasing success of Comiket (Comic Market) stands testament to the popularity of doujinshi in Japan: it now attracts roughly one million visitors yearly (Mantan, 2016) with nine million doujinshi sold per market (Comiket, 2009). Meiji University's Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library is entirely dedicated to the collection and preservation of hundreds of thousands of fancomics (Meiji University, 2014)- their status elevated to that of high cultural and historical worth, worthy of their own archive. Whilst doujinshi are now, a valued commodity, seen as inextricable from the manga industry- they are still categorically illegal. Doujinshi (fan-comics) are hailed as the foundation of the Manga industry (Lessig, 2004; Tofugu, 2016) supporting creative talent, craft tradition and financial revenue. There are many practical legal defenses for doujinshi which are widely agreed upon, a symbiosis which has been acknowledged by lawyers and academics (Lessig, 2010; Mehra, 2002), creators and fans (Akamatsu, 2015; Yonezawa, 1994) alike. Even Shinzo Abe (the Japanese PM) commented that doujinshi “operate in a different market” (SGCafe, 2016) to original manga, and therefore do not warrant litigation. These arguments sit well with Japanese lawyers, but if doujinshi have proven so beneficial to the Japanese comic industry- why are fan-comics shrouded in taboo in the West? Even before one attempts to sell a fan-comic, the sheer creation of them is culturally shameful- not a parody, but a soulless copy. In Japan there is a learning model of creating utsushi (replicas) which functions through applied copying (Guth, 2010), used in traditional crafts such as basket-weaving, lacquering and now, even manga (in the West we may liken it to rote-learning or embodied learning). In light of utsushi, I aim to examine the boundary between copying craft and copying ideas. I hope to explain the inextricability of learning Manga as a visual language with learning storytelling through reappropriation of archetypes, and the folkloric tradition of the East. I aim to depict this cultural and cognitive dissonance between Japan and the West; this disagreement of exactly what constitutes a copy.
    Original languageUndefined
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
    EventThe Graphic Justice Conference - St Mary's University Twickenham, London, United Kingdom
    Duration: 3 Jul 20174 Jul 2017


    ConferenceThe Graphic Justice Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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