If I would remember 2007 in anime terms, it is definitely the year when the legend of fan-based content finally entered my consciousness. I know, stuff made by fans (doujinshi, doujin games, etc.) have been around even before the first Comiket, but never has it exploded as much as today. I would mostly blame the internet for that, as with many other things related with such an easy way to connect with other people. Because it’s related to computers though, the term “doujin” would have changed for me. A few years ago, I would consider the majority of doujin as either manga drawn by fans for fans, or programmed games by fans for fans. In 2007, “doujin” now encapsulates almost every form of media ever created. Music, accessories, video… you name it… the fans got it.
Like it or not, the reason why all of us were selected as the people that changed the world in 2006 is because we wanted to share our own real, almost unedited experiences, thoughts, emotions, creativity, imagination, and aspirations to everyone else. This was not just about Youtube or Myspace, where our products are merely floating around as binary data on the internet. The definition of global internet community can extend even to reality. Like tangible products made by someone creative, but is just doing it as a hobby and not for commercial or financial gain. Well yup, products and services can be offered from person to person since the early days of humanity, but the ease of communication nowadays make it possible for anyone to reach a huge potential audience. Like this mere blog. 50 years ago, a ‘blog’ may have been just a diary, or chain letters of a person sent by snail mail. It may reach your nearest friend, neighborhood, or limited people in far places, but that’s just about it. Today, I can potentially reach hundreds of millions of people, and the only limit is on my own creativity, the topic I want to convey, and its popularity, among other things. Same as with doujin. They are tangible products, like manga or games. They can reach audiences, but a decade ago, they may have been only limited to Japan and the few people abroad who caught into the fandom of that kind of visual culture. Today the reach is potentially superb. As more and more people get into anime worldwide, more and more people would come to know doujin, or fan-made works. Of course, this is a side-effect of all the piracy in anime because of the internet, but then again doujin is in some ways a ‘pirated’ version of a commercial work. Err, I would hate that description as well, but thank goodness Japan is still lenient in their laws on copyright. Let’s leave the piracy issue behind because this is really a positive side-effect when you think about it.
Doujin manga and games have been distributed all over the internet (whether the makers like it or not) for years now, but only in 2007 did other forms of doujin works explode into the communication tubes. So lets see what the modern doujin world had in store for us in 2007.
Okay, the revolution didn’t exactly start in 2007. It was actually 2006, around the same time as the mainstream got so much into YouTube and similar video streaming sites. Everyone wanted to be in the game and be their own director. At the same time, the popularity of Haruhiism came to rise, most especially that ending dance video Hare Hare Yukai. That screams “viral”, and almost immediately the original ED video was posted on the streaming sites like crazy. But heck no it didn’t stop there. People start to film ‘themselves’ dancing Hare Hare Yukai. People start to film their robots dancing Hare Hare Yukai. People started editing videos to the tune of Hare Hare Yukai. This is the birth of doujin video. Ok, MADs have been with us for a while, but never has it exploded as much as this. Fans make self-created renditions of a popular thing, and show it to fellow fans. And because this is doujin, it can also pay homage to ANY topic on the planet, sky is the limit. Heck, imagination is the only limit. 2007 continued that legacy, but the greatness is even higher, because the visual culture fans now have the ultimate place to share and watch doujin video… Nico Nico Douga. YouTube was quite limited in the sense that it is a mainstream site, the otaku-related stuff kinda didn’t belong to that. But with Nico Nico Douga, essentially the YouTube of otakus, fans are finally free to create obscure stuff that only they themselves can relate to. As a result, we now see so much quality, and so much variety in these user-made videos, that they become even more interesting than the original anime itself, or whatever topic it pays homage to. Just look at one of these. It’s easy to drown an entire day away just by visiting Nico Nico Douga (or YouTube) and idling away at these videos.
In much the same way as indie artists start building up their popularity, doujin music is spreading to audiophiles like wildfire. It was a very life-changing thing to get into for me. I am a music-oriented person, and I like an extremely wide range of musical genres… as long as there is quality in the music. The thing is though, the music I listen to ‘were’ commercial. I don’t tend to listen to content made by indie groups or other people. But 2007 changed me, and not only do I look into rare but beautiful melodies splattered in the corners of the web, but also the ‘anime’ genre of music also made a spotlight of their own as well. I don’t know the true prime mover of doujin music, but I do regard Touhou, a doujin game, for spawning good music. It became viral for me with IOSYS’s Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, a very catchy dance song which still remains in my playlist for so long. There have been so many other cuteness (like Tsurupettan) But 2007 sparked not only one, but two revolutions in doujin music making. The first was Hatsune Miku, a virtual singer which is actually a software voice package for Vocaloid2, a song synthesizer application. With the software and the voice package, people can easily make their own renditions of just about any song, and of course the doujin people are quick in using the program to make Miku sing just about every popular song out there. I could probably replace my whole anime playlist with remixes by Hatsune Miku by now. The second revolution was Kumikyoku, a medley of popular Nico Nico Douga fandom items like anime, games, even doujin-based. This medley became so popular, there are literally thousands of versions out there. The effect was so great that the commercial industry took notice and even paid homage to the doujin song by doing their own medley. The Kumikyoku medley is so epic, and it currently stands as the unofficial anthem of the greatness of doujin music.
The cool stuff used to be composed of popular mainstream products that are bought by almost all people. You had to buy X product so that you will be as ‘cool’ as the others. Now, ‘coolness’ factor has become a relative term. With the information age, ‘cool’ is slowly evolving from the mainstream to the mundane. Don’t you think it’s way cooler to have a rare item, say, a very good portable media player as opposed to the typical popular stuff? While I drew a commercial view of things, it can be related to fan-made items. Don’t you want, say, rare otaku paraphernalia which are super-nice and high-quality, as opposed to a commercialized product which probably your friends already have anyway? ‘Unique’ is the name of the game, because nowadays fans can create stuff that can rival the official ones. Stick anime characters into a coffee cup. Print eroge girls into a dakimakura cover. It can be bought by people who have the drive, and now because we abroad can overlook at some of those good unique stuff from Japan, we are now able to acquire the nice items, same as with doujin manga and games.
It has been a memorable year for me. I was still in Japan on the first half of 2007, discovering that the power of the people is getting to be as exciting as any other official form of entertainment. And when I went back home on the second half of the year, I missed a lot of things that I normally see in Japan. Suddenly anime alone doesn’t cut it anymore. When the official episodes end, where would the fandom go next? User-generated content filled that gap, and made it overflow. From manga and games to videos, music, accessories, and so many other unique stuff, doujin works had its best year yet. Cheers indeed to 2007, and it will only get better in the year ahead.
Go doujin! By fans, for fans!
P.S. What is in store for 2008 then?
Looks like Kyonko is all the rage lately… very amusing doujin world… very amusing…