In August of 2014 I took the pilgrimage to the holy land in the East. Click here for part one “Tokyo”.
Recently I’ve been rewatching Lucky Star and like any good show on otaku it includes a trip to comiket. I first watched it when I was fairly new to the whole anime thing. It might’ve even been the first time I’ve heard of comiket. No pilgrimage would be complete without this event. This is not the reason I tricked my friends (normals) into going to Japan in August. Believe me. Honestly, it’s not!
Disclaimer: this is a record of my personal experience at comiket. While it might contain some useful tips for future attendees, there are probably better, more complete guides out there.
The 86th edition of comiket took place on the 15th, 16th and 17th of August. It’s held in Tokyo Big Sight on Odaiba, a large artificial island in the Tokyo Bay. I only managed to go on day 2 and 3. Day 1 didn’t have too many interesting things. Day 2 had mostly BL for sale, so I used that day to meet up with people, look at cosplay and tour more of odaiba. Day 3 is when the real battle took place, waiting in line for coveted books and sets.
Day 2: cosplay + odaiba
On day 2 I met up with a friend around 1300 and leisurely walked in. If you’re not up for lines and just want to taste the sweaty atmosphere I suggest arriving around noon. I picked up a few cd’s and headed for the cosplay area. The cosplay area is outside and it rained occasionally, but there were plenty of dry periods. The level of cosplay is a lot higher in Japan, as expected, but seeing it in person is seriously impressive. Anyway, time for pictures and videos. Click on the picture for a bigger version. All taken with an HTC One M7, which doesn’t have a great camera. I’m also a bad photographer, some pics have bad focus and angle.
Nadeko making Nadeko drunk. Very cute.
This sonico cosplay was surrounded by a ton of photographers. Is the cosplayer famous? I don’t really know. Fortunately, I’m taller than most Japanese so I could get some shots in.
Sakuya looking cool as always. One of my favourite Touhou characters.
Umi is missing. Where’s Umi!?
I mained Sakuya and Reimu in hisouten. Suika secondary just because one of her moves is called loliball.
Can you tell Tsukihi is one of my favourites?
Cardboard Hatsune Miku. Yeah.
Love Live in video format. Yes, there are ads blasting all over the place.
The hallway dividing the two eastern halls. Taken around 1300, so the event has been going on for a while. I made a similar video on day 3 (see down below) where there are even more people.
Prism Nana ad. This is still a thing, apparently.
Overview of the area below the reverse pyramids. I think this is about when people started leaving. My voice makes a cameo in the beginning.
As a regular visitor, you don’t actually get to enter the pyramids themselves. I think they’re changing areas for cosplayers? Not too sure.
Apologies for the audio, it was windy. Again, this all takes place on an artificial island in the Tokyo Bay so the wind can get pretty strong.
This is below the inverse pyramids. There’s a line for the trains (of course there’s a line, there’s always a line). We decided to wait it out a bit so I took a shot of all the people leaving. You’d think they’d run out of people eventually. Two hours after the convention officially ended there were still hordes of sweaty humans trying to escape.
Half an hour later. We sat down. People were still exiting the building. Starting to go a little crazy at this point. My thumb makes a cameo somewhere in the middle.
So at this point we’re pretty much done at Tokyo Big Sight. But Odaiba has more than just comiket. It’s an entire island packed with commercial capitalism. I met up with my normals again to go to Diver City (Odaiba -> daiba -> diver. Get it?). It’s a mall with all the usual suspects (I got a nice jacket from Forever 21), but it’s famous amongst otaku for one thing: the 1:1 Gundam statue. You can walk under it and can see the (fake?) bolts and soldering. At night it lights up. There was a light show with music and mecha fights projected onto the Gundam. At one point it flared red and I shouted Unicorn. I got pretty excited recognising the different series. My normals just thought they were pretty lights w.
Sorry for the shaky cam ;w;
When WWIII happens, the Japanese will reveal that this is actually a working prototype that can only be activated by teenagers.
That about wraps up day 2. It was a fun day and I got to taste the atmosphere of comiket. However, the real battle would begin on day 3.
Day 3: lines, doujins, more lines
First things first: preparation! This is probably the most important step. Knowing what items will be popular, which ones will be exclusive, what you can order afterwards in stores, circles you’d like to get autographs of, coordinating with friends on what to buy, routing.
I did exactly… none of this! Most of the info is in Japanese and my reading is quite slow so I was too lazy to do most of this. It’s probably better to prod a local otaku friend and have them help you. I ended up with an OK set of goods to take home, but a lot of regrets too. I forgot about a lot of circles and by the time I remembered they had already sold out. There are only so many lines you can stand in, which is why it’s better to coordinate with a group. Some of the things I got were available to order later on so it’s essentially wasted time. Anyway, lessons were learned. I should do it properly next time and I hope you won’t make the same mistakes.
Despite the above, I still had a good time. I took an early train and arrived around 8 am. When you arrive at the train station, which has a hallway directly connected to Tokyo Big Sight, there are signs pointing you to where the line starts, away from the convention centre. So I walked a bit further, and further, and further. At a certain point, I couldn’t even see Tokyo Big Sight anymore which, as its name implies, is pretty big. In fact, the moment I couldn’t see the convention centre anymore is when I saw the the start of the line. Welcome to comiket. There’s a reason why it’s called the original linecon.
Despite the three hours I waited in line, I felt like it all progressed very efficiently. I’ve heard that the Japanese are masters of standing in line. I truly experienced it at comiket. The lines are neat and orderly. People actually listen to the volunteers who manage the lines.
This might also be a good time to mention that the weather was fairly nice. Reminder that Tokyo has been hot (30C-ish) and humid for days now. During comiket we were blessed with clouds and occasional rain. Yes, the rain sucks if you’re a cosplayer, but for the rest of us it made things relatively cool. That made a great first experience. I’ve heard the horror stories of people fainting because of the heat, with inside temps reaching 40C. Oh it’s a battle alright. This is why they say fuyucon (winter comiket) is easier for first timers. There are less people and they’re not nearly as sweaty.
The doors open at 10 am, so the line starts moving a lot around that time. At 11 am I found myself indoors and marching towards the halls. I had a few circles listed I wanted stuff from so I had a route, more or less. There are basically 3 areas: west hall, east hall and kigyo/corporate. Kigyo has the big companies like kadokawa, aniplex, Type-Moon etc. From what I hear, the lines are pretty hardcore so I mostly skipped this area. West hall generally contains the classier stuff, east hall the more hardcore hentai (I didn’t find out until I went there, see how prep is key). First up are the so called wall circles. They’re the popular circles and located at the wall so lining up can happen outside. I wanted to pick up a nicomaki book, but the line was actually way too long and I promptly noped out. I settled for a much shorter line.
They pass around a sign at the end of a line, stating what circle and booth you’re lining up for (in this case Reimei Nördlingen, table れ51b). It’s usually accompanied with a list of all the items for sale. Another example of excellent line management skills by the Japanese.
Here’s another crowd shot, similar to the one I took on day 2. This time during rush hour. You can more or less see the streams of people going from one place to another. I remember in Lucky Star and Genshiken they were warning you not to get caught up in a stream or you’re not getting out for a while. I found this to be a bit exaggerated, but maybe it helps being a tall rude gaijin who’s used to pushing people around.
Here’s a peek into half of the eastern hall. The shot starts at looking at the corridor (do you see the droves of people coming from the escalators?). It then pans over to the actual hall. Reminder that this is only half of the hall and a lot of people are lined up outside.
There were basically three series I was looking out for: Love Live, Idolm@ster and Nanoha. Just like akiba, Love Live is everywhere taking a huge portion of the booths. Idolm@ster is always somewhat popular. I expected a lot less Nanoha, so I was pleasantly surprised. Books are nice to buy, but usually you can order these afterwards. What you really want are the sets. They come with weird goodies like bags, fans, towels, posters. I even got some nicomaki bath salt (I don’t even have a bath…).
Overall comiket was a pretty good experience. I was expecting the worst and it wasn’t nearly as bad as the stories told me. I was pretty exhausted near the end. But writing this post made me realise that I really want to go again.
The next part in this series will be about climbing Mt.Fuji! Look forward to it.