And kanji with manga
Monday, October 10, 2016

doujin 同人

Now, be honest, I'm pretty sure you've heard about doujnshi 同人誌 before, haven't you? Haven't you?! I know you have. You'd be here reading this post about the words doujin 同人 and doujinshi 同人誌 were you not concerned about what their actual meaning were in Japanese.

What is Doujin in Japanese

I don't know what you were expecting, but the word doujin 同人 in Japanese means more or less what it literally is, "same people."

Yep. "Same people." Combining the kanji for words like onaji 同じ, "same," and hito 人, "person," the word doujin means literally "same people" in Japanese. A doujin is one person or a group of people who shares the "same hobby," onaji shumi 同じ趣味.

That's to say doujin can refer to all people that have a certain hobby, or point out that some people "have the same hobby," that they are doujin. Most of the time, doujin refers to people with the anime and manga hobby, or the "anime fandom," but it isn't exclusive to that.

So what do these "people of same hobby" do together? Stuff and things. Most likely stuff and things related to their shared hobby. Stuff like drawing manga, writing stories, making music, etc., which would be the so-called doujin katsudou 同人活動, "doujin activities."

Doujin vs. Doujinshi

So if doujin 同人 is that then what is a doujinshi 同人誌?

The word doujinshi 同人誌 is, obviously, just the word doujin with this shi 誌 attached to it. The shi 誌 part, which is the important part, means "publication," just like in the word zasshi 雑誌, which means "magazine," a sort of publication.

So the difference between doujin and doujinshi is that the doujinshi is a publication made by a doujin.

Though I use the word "publication" here that is by no means professional.

Many doujin do not publish commercially or professionally and do not make a business out of it. Those who do are often considered "indie," most likely have a proper job and are making doujinshi on their free time.

Finally, there are actually professional, full-time doujin out there, but by that point you stop saying a doujin published something and start saying a company published something.

Doujin vs. Dōjin

Sometimes you might come across the words dōjin and dōjinshi, and you might wonder what's the difference between doujin and dojin. Well, there's none. That's just a different romaji for the same word.

Likewise: dōjin and dōzin are the same, and dōjinshi, dōzinshi, dōzinsi, douzinsi, douzinshi are all the same thing.

Are All Doujinshi Hentai?

In the west, the word doujinshi is often used to refer only to pornographic doujinshi, and pornographic manga gets called hentai 変態 in the west.

So some people end up thinking that all doujinshi is hentai, that all doujinshi is pornographic, but this isn't true. There's nothing about the term doujinshi that makes them exclusively pornographic.

複線ドリフト!! quote from the multi-track drifting doujinshi: Densha de D, 電車でD
Doujinshi: Densha de D 電車でD, an Initial D parody.
Photo source: やまひで's blog, 同人ゲーム「地主一派 電車でD LightningStage」で遊んでみた -, accessed 2019-01-09.
  • fukusen

    Multi-track drifting!!

In fact, there's even a name for a doujinshi that's pornographic: usui hon 薄い本, meaning "thin book."

They are called that because these books have few pages, some having around 30, others having less than 10 pages, so they are really "thin." There are doujinshi anthologies that have multiple stories printed together, so they're thicker, but they still get called usui hon anyway.

Maybe it's just that the porn ones get all the attention, and get translated, while nobody cares about the other ones, which never get translated. This bias in attention makes people in the west think non-hentai doujinshi don't even exist. Or maybe it's just that people make more pornographic doujinshi than they make non-pornographic doujinshi, who knows?

Maybe the idea of a doujinshi containing silly antics of the girls from K-on but made by someone who's not the original author doesn't get people very interested in it, but if it's yuri 百合 then suddenly everybody wants it, or wants to make it.

Anyway, to have a better idea, the webcomic Awkward Zombie, which isn't pornographic, it's satire, is close to what doujinshi means in western media. It's a publication made by someone who likes a thing for other people who like the same thing. Except it's not a book, and it's not sold on conventions, but I'm talking about the content.

Doujinshi vs. Manga

The difference between manga and doujinshi comes from its consumers, and to whom they're targeted.

You see, a doujinshi isn't merely made by a doujin, it's made for a doujin. Because doujin means "same people" and you can't be "same people" by yourself, you need a second person, in this case, the doujin of the author, the seller, is the reader, the consumer.

So a doujinshi is a manga made by someone who likes manga and anime for someone who likes manga and anime.

Doujin = Fandom

But wait! People who buy "real manga" like manga too!

Well, although in the west manga and anime are considered rather niche, in Japan this 2D cocaine is plastered just about everywhere. Any person, a kid, an office worker, housewife, an elderly man with back pain, whoever, can just waltz into a convenience store and buy a monthly published magazine containing the newest chapter of the coolest shounen 少年 manga. And they can do it without even buying an expensive bluray set of their favorite anime.

In other words, manga such as One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, etc. are serialized for the general public, for filthy casuals. They aren't marketed at people who burn their salaries buying body pillows and figurines of their favorite characters, they are marketed at anyone with two eyes who can read Japanese.

To have an idea, a great deal of doujinshi are parodies of these mainstream works. A doujinshi of One Piece, for example, is made by someone who likes One Piece, for someone who likes One Piece. One great example is a doujinshi of Initial D that sarcastically parodied the series and included things like multi-track drifting. Someone who likes the series Initial D (a doujin) would get what the the author of the doujinshi is making fun of, but someone out of the loop could just laugh it off as being ridiculous.

Consumers of doujinshi, who love manga and anime, are often called otaku オタク. Among the doujin, those who fujoshi 腐女子 are notoriously known for making BL and yaoi やおい doujinshi and for purchasing them.

Publishing Differences

Most doujinshi are not serialized and never get reprinted, they're self-made. That means you can only get them if you go out of your way and visit a convention, which's an event that happens for only a few days a few times a year, and buy it straight from the hands of the author. (or steal it from the dead cold hands of someone who had bought it, although buying an used one in an online auctions is also a thing). You can't just get them on any convenience store.

Note that nowadays doujinshi are going digital. So the "can't reprint" part is slowly fading away. But that doesn't applies to all doujinshi, most doujinshi are still pretty much gone from the universe the moment the convention ends, so if you didn't buy one when it was being sold, you'll likely never get to read it.

Doujinshi is Manga too

Furthermore, the above is the difference between manga that is doujinshi and manga that is not doujinshi. In Japanese, manga 漫画 is just what comics are called. So all doujinshi that are comics are manga. There are doujinshi that are not comics, and therefore aren't manga, but if the doujinshi is a comic, then it's a manga.

Types of Doujinshi

Because the hobby of a doujin is likely to be drawing manga 漫画, most of the time all a doujin publishes is manga, which can also be called doujinshi, because you can pretty much assume whatever a doujin publishes is going to be a manga. However, some doujin have other hobbies to make in mind, like:
  • doujin komikku 同人コミック
    Manga series. (why komikku)
  • doujin shousetsu 同人小説
    Novels. Stories.
  • doujin ongaku 同人音楽
  • doujin geemu 同人ゲーム
    Game. Video-game. Computer game.
  • doujin sofuto 同人ソフト
    Software. (includes games)

And so on.

In the case of doujin geemu it's important to note that software like RPG Maker and others contribute to the great number of them. Even outside Japan and Japanese, there are people of same hobby using RPG Maker to make their own games for fun. For visual novels, software like Renpy is also popular.

Doujinshi vs. Fan Art Comics

Plenty of doujinshi is also fan art. That is, they're derivative works based upon or which use characters or ideas from series which the doujin has absolutely nothing to do with and has no legal right whatsoever to copy.

Some people mistakenly assume that all doujinshi are parodies. However, that isn't true. There are plenty of doujinshi contain original characters only, that are not parodies, but even so were made by doujin for doujin, therefore they're doujinshi.

The doujinshi which parody anime are also called aniparo アニパロ, a slang that abbreviates "anime parody."

Meanwhile, doujinshi that are not parody may be called orihon オリ本, because they're "books," hon 本, and their stories are "original," orijinaru オリジナル.

Doujinka 同人家

In Japan, many professional mangaka 漫画家 have started out as doujinka 同人家, that is, many mangaka which have their mangas serialized and sold for the general public started off by drawing doujinshi, and, most likely, started off by drawings characters which they didn't own copyright of.

Because of this, the Japanese animation culture rarely persecutes doujinshi authors (doujinkas) legally. That is, the doujinka drew a character a mangaka created without their permission, license, consent, or knowledge, and then published and maybe even sold it commercially, but the mangaka does not attempt to sue doujinka over this, because the mangaka started the same way and recognizes if this isn't allowed the industry would cease to exist.

This bit of the Japanese culture is strikingly different from how American culture works, for example. If you sell something containing a Disney character, be ready for a lawsuit.

What is a Doujin Circle?

A "circle" is a geometric shape with no sides that looks like this ◯, and by the way is called maru まる in Japanese. A saakuru サークル, however, is the katakanization of the English word "circle" and has a meaning like a "circle of friends."

In reality, a saakuru is just a name for a "group" of people, often a group of doujin.

That is, you can have a saakuru where its members are not doujin, they don't have the same hobby. In this case it can be used like any "group" or "club" really.

However, most of the time a saakuru refers to a doujin saakuru. A doujin saakuru is a saakuru made of people with the same hobby. And why do these people have a "group"? Because they often publish doujinshi under the saakuru name.

For example. Say you have two people, A-san and B-san, they like manga, they are doujin. They form a group, a circle, called AB, and in this circle A-san is a writer, B-san is an artist. Under the name of this circle, they publish a doujinshi called "Story 1." Thus, the doujinshi "Story 1" was made by the saakuru AB whose members are the doujin A-san and B-san.

In conventions, etc. this is more or less how the system works. One note is that some circles are groups of one single person, in which case it's called a kojin saakuru 個人サークル, "individual circle."


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  1. I recently saw a survey asking if fans used the term "doujinshi" or "doujin" for self-published Japanese works sold at Comiket and the like. So I decided to see what the difference in the terms actually was. Thanks for the lesson!

  2. Well that's confusing. I figured the doujinshi was the artist, since I've seen '-shi' refer to a profession (eg. Mushi-shi), and therefore the doujin was the comic.

  3. It appears the description is not entirely correct here, as far as I see the term Doujin seems to be used while referring both to the people who create Doujinshi and the Doujinshi itself. Doujin is like a main category which also includes Doujinshi, and both words are often used interchangeably.

    1. That may be the case in English, but I don't think anybody says "I'm going to buy a 同人" in Japanese.

    2. We are not talking about how Japanese use the word here though. Or do you have a hard a time understanding what's said in English?

    3. "We are not talking about how Japanese use the word here though"
      This is what this site is about actually.