From the Con With Love
You know you love 'em! Focusing on the... *cough* unique world of fan comics (doujinshi), Comic Story is one parody title not to be missed
Every few years a title will steal the spotlight and become the parody classic of the decade, or parody of the year as it is now. Just take for example Otaku no Video, Excel Saga, and the indescribable FLCL. Another subset of this unique parody genre are the production spoofs, where the unforgettable must-see OVA Animation Runner Kuromi should quickly spring to mind. But -and we do mean, but- get ready to add Comic Party to that ever-growing category.
Meet Kazuki Sendou and his friend, Mizuki Takase, two regular kids starting their senior year of high school. Little did they suspect that Taishi Kuhonbutsu, their megalomaniac, semi-acquaintance/friend/otaku, would whisk them away to a doujinshi convention -a world that the young couple never imagined that they would be thrown into.
Right from the start, Mizuki is swept away from Kazuki by the endless throngs of people, leaving Kazuki to fend himself. As anyone who has ever been to a con can attest, if you get lost in a convention's maze-like halls, the chances of finding your party again are, to quote the series, "less than 0.00008%." On top of that, conventions are genuinely smelly, noisy, and just plain too hot. Words that mirror Mizuki's very own. Unlike Mizuki, however, conventions are the most unabated destination for pure fan euphoria. Simply put, the key is to have fun.
It is while wandering these halls that Taishi gives us the first true glance into the mindset of a doujin creator. In a botched attempt to escape through an emergency exit, Kazuki is 'captured' by doujin artist Yuu Inagawa and forced to help peddle her wares to the masses. Quickly he realizes that selling books is not the only thing associated with doujinshi, but it also includes signing autographs, offering back-issues, and even accepting fan feedback.
This single experience forces Kazuki to side with Taishi and embrace his view that through doujinshi, they can take over the world (cue the Pinky and the Brain music)! Unfortunately, with Kazuki's newfound passion there also comes a price...his friendship with Mizuki.
Based on the 1999 bishoujo game of the same name for the PC and Dreamcast and adapted into a thirteen episode anime series by Aquaplus, the same team who brought us To Heart, Comic Party is a series that can simply be described as pure fun. The cast of oddball characters are all likeable in their own way, especially the scatter-brained Chisa Tsukamoto and Miss Too-Much-Caffeine, Eimi Ohba. These two characters simply steal the show in either version, but in the dub they seem to truly come to life.
In Chisa's case, she's been raised as the heir to Tsukamoto Printers, a small printing company. She has that na´ve Shinobu quality to her, but it's her dialogue that is most memorable. Take for instance this inspirational moment in episode three: "Somehow Mr. Ink and Mr. Paper always seem to know the intensity of the heart of the artists." Or how about this one? "The printers never once became unhappy. Mr. Paper and Mr. Ink were always smiling." Cute, simply cute.
On the other hand, we have Eimi, whose bad girl character would be simply unbearable if it wasn't for the fact that she's so super-stupid. Eimi knows doujinshi and she knows it well. Just take a peak at her philosophy: "If it's not popular, then it's garbage. A fan comic that no one reads is just super-sad!" She has hundreds of fanboys just lining up just to score her latest masterpiece. She sells out when others are still struggling to sell a single issue. By all accounts, she's a snob and she's let it go to her head. But don't think about crossing her super-awesomeness or she'll get "super-pissed" and start calling you a "stupid panda", like she does with Yuu.
Lovable characters aren't the only things that this series is good for; it is also a learning experience. As with all great production spoofs, the viewer gets an inside look into the inner workings of a facet of fandom that they might not be intimately aware of. Otaku no Video was about fans, Animation Runner Kuromi was about producing anime, Comic Party is about creating doujinshi. Analogies about printers being the luxury cruise ships of the armature comic world (and photocopies being steamboats) come and go throughout each episode. The series is a learning experience, and it is one that will leave a mark long after the credits have rolled. The series tries to implant a seed in the viewer to get up and create something of their own. Now that's power.
But wait, there's more! Packed inside each episode of Comic Party are a slew of manga and anime cameos. The most recognizable stuff is To Heart, for obvious reasons, but there are also dozens and dozens of cosplayers dressed in everything from Nanako to Wedding Peach. Undoubtedly a single viewing is not enough to catch every convenience store name, food product, and poster that graces each frame, but the '.comic//PARTY' insert makes a good place to start before embarking on an all-out Where's Waldo search.
All this Comic Party goodness is being brought to us by the good folks at Right Stuf, the same company that released Gainax's seminal His and Her Circumstances and the quarky Irresponsible Captain Tylor. The first DVD comes complete with three episodes and the first of three five-minute mini specials. Just don't get caught off guard when you see the cover and do a double take (trust me, you will). Yep, it's printed "manga style" for that truly authentic Japanese right-to-left feel. The back is the front, and the front is the back. Even TOKYOPOP is getting in on the party with the release of Sekihiko Inui's three volume manga series. Expect the first volume to hit bookstores this June. Ah, just feel that doujin lovin'.