When I knew that the doujin artist who brought us “Jam it in!” is actually a professional manga-ka, I was overjoyed. His name is Hiroyuki, and he has been penning Doujinwork, a 4koma manga about a group of quirky doujin artists and their quirky interactions, and serializing it in Manga Time Kirara since 2005. In the summer, I picked up the two volumes of this work from a local bookstore, and they don’t disappoint.
Pretty much like Comic Party, Doujinwork is a story about the main character’s exposure and adventure into the world of doujinshi. We follow Osana Najimi (What a name!), a high schooler tempted into becoming a doujin artist after seeing how much her friend can make at a convention. A sucker at drawing, Najimi soon learns that the road insode the doujin world is not paved with roses as she expected, but, as she attends more conventions and meets more people, manages to find a group of very interesting friends.
The characters of Doujinwork are, how do I say it, very unique. I would say that none of them fits any character stereotypes I have seen. They are all weirdos, and interactions among themselves are very entertaining and refreshing. Well, let me introduce you to them then:
From top to bottom, left to right: Osana Najimi, Tsuyuri, Justice, and Kitano
- Osana Najimi (長菜なじみ): The main character of the story. She starts out as an ordinary high school girl. However, after being recuited by Tsuyuri, her classmate, to help sell doujinshi at a convention and see how much she can make, Najimi decides to take a dip into the doujin world. Unskilled at both drawing and storytelling, her books don’t sell. Nonetheless, she manages to have one fan, Hoshi Junichirou, who is more interested in her than her works. “Beauty Love” is her pen name, and she runs the “Beauty Love House” circle.
- Tsuyuri (露理): Najimi’s classmate who introduces her to the doujin world. Calm, cool, and calculating, Tsuyuri rarely shows emotion except when she can sell her doujinshi, which makes her smile from the bottom of her heart. She is quite a successful author, selling approximately 500 copies each convention. Despite being only a high school girl, she draws highly erotic doujinshis, and specializes in BDSM genre. Moreover, she’s cool with it, and can tell others what she’s doing with a straight face. Tsuyuri runs the one-man circle “Pantsu Doumei” (Panties Alliance) under the pen name “Buruma-ko” (Bloomers Girl).
- Justice (ジャスティス): Najimi’s childhood friend who’s an immensely popular doujin artist, seliing 30,000 copies each convention. Justice always wears a black suit and keeps a gentlemanly appearance. He draws ecchi doujinshis half the time and clean ones half the time, and wishes only for his readers to be happy, therefore selling his doujinshis at very economic prices. According to the author, Justice is a “gentlemanly pervert,” and his two contrasting personality leads to many of his weird behaviors. Justice does not use a pen name, and his circle bears his real name.
- Kitano Soura (北野ソーラ): A loli doujin author who, after meeting Justice randomly at a convention, falls in love with him at first sight. While it is unclear whether Justice is serious about their relationship, he reciprocates her affection to some degree. Soura is very possesive of Justice, and always come up with plans to go on a date with him or draw him away from Najimi and Tsuyuri, whom she thinks as competitors for Justice’s attention. Still a child, Soura draws only non-pornographic materials. Her doujinshis sell unexpectedly well, and she was able to sell all copies in her first conventions. Soura’s circle name is “North Sky.”
- Hoshi Junichirou (星純一郎): A self-delusional Najimi fanboy and stalker. Hoshi is the first person who bought Najimi’s doujinshi, an act with makes her so happy that she shouts “I love you!” and hugs him. Mistaken it for a real confession, he has taken a liking of Najimi since, but his attempts to approach Najimi often incur the wrath of Justice, who acts like Najimi’s guardian spirit.
- Nidou Kaneru (二道かねる): An office lady who publishes doujinshi in her free time and is below average at both work and play. After making friend with Najimi, a fellow sucker, at a convention, Kaneru has been competing with Najimi in number of copies sold since, but it would seem that she loses and cries like a babyevery time. Unlike Najimi who comes to the doujin world knowing nothing, Kaneru is an otaku who would kill for Justice’s sketchbook illustration.
Unlike Comic Party where everything is clean, many of Doujinwork’s gags exploits the sexual side of the doujin world. All but one doujin artists in the story draws ecchi doujinshis, and many gags have sexual undertones or feature Najimi’s or Kaneru’s struggling with embarrassment generated from the doujinshi they draw. However, there’s no pornographic maternal in the manga, as Manga Time Kirara is a mainstream publication. Those who like the humor in “Jam it in!” or “A cat is fine too.” would be delighted to find the same kind of humor in Doujinwork (myself included).
The trademark of Hiroyuki’s work is the ability of the reader to witness thoughts and conducts that people normally wouldn’t show to those around them. For example, we can see Hoshi’s internal proclaimation of his love towards Najimi, and his cute self-serving thought process when he plans to take the girl to a love motel. Justice and Tsuyuri are most of the time too open and casual about sexuality and their doujinshi work that you would feel awkward hanging out with them. Moreover, Najimi is often too straightforward and to-the-point in her speeches. Perhaps the uncovering of what the author calls “キモイ言動” is what makes Doujinwork so amusing because it provides the reader with a bunch of stupid people who don’t know how to properly conceal their thoughts to ridicule. On the other hand, I also think that it makes the characters easy to identify with as we all have some disgusting thoughts of our own, and maybe we are envying the characters because they can express their disgusting thoughts so freely.
Hiroyuki’s drawing style, although not very unique or exquisite, is clean and crisp. The manga features a lot of funny exaggerated expression and facial distortions that best amplifies the impacts of the character’s disgusting speechs and conducts. So, while you won’t find any characters to be moe or kick-ass, they would leave a strong impression on you nonetheless. As for coloring and the use of screen tones, I find that the manga is quite bland in this department as quite a number of panels have white backgrounds. I also think that his coloring, although very neat and clean, resembles coloring in anime too much to my taste.
“J… J… Jam it in!”: One of Hiroyuki’s trademark facial expressions.
If you like random comedy or is amused by Hiroyuki’s previous doujinshis, I’m pretty sure that Doujinwork will not disappoint you. However, as a gag manga, Doujinwork is not something in which you can look for well thought-out plots or character developments. Unfortunately, no English-speaking group has scanlated this awesome manga and spread the love to the world, so the only way to enjoy it would be to buy the manga and read it in Japanese. I once had the idea of scanlating the manga myself, but, as I’m no editor, this project proved too hard and time consuming.
Oh well, here are some sample gags:
Hoshi: It’s not like that I hold some weird prejudice against you or anything…
Najimi: Yeah! That’s good!
Najimi: One… One more thing!
Najimi: Writ… Writing ecchi books doesn’t mean I’m sexually frastrated… or anything like that! Not at all!
Hoshi: I understand…
Hoshi: You see… I kinda like girls that write this kind of manga…
Najimi: This is sexual harassment!
Najimi: What are you doing, you pervert!
Justice: Na… Najimi… Why are you here… Tsuyuri-san too…
Najimi: I’m buying references for the next manga.
Najimi: Geez… What are you doing here…
Soura: So many ecchi books…
Soura: Onee-chan is ecchi…
Justice: Yes. Najimi is an ecchi girl.
Najimi: Look who’s talking!
Tsuyuri: She’s running a circle.
Justice: Seems like this is her first day.
Justice: You know… Justice also writes lots of ecchi mangas… Much more erotic than mine.
Soura: Dou you write ecchi manga?
Justice: Yes… Well, half of the books I wrote are actually worksafe.
Soura: …You ecchi…
Justice: Huhu… Yes, I’m ecchi.