With 2022 coming to an end, anime and manga fans from around the world gathered at the Tokyo Big Site for one last event: Comic Market 101. However, in comparison to previous years, Comiket 101 was far more subdued.
When I think of Comiket, the image conjured in my mind is a mass of people in a chaotic maelstrom trying to get to their favorite vendors booth (both independent and licensed), people taking up every inch of space available to examine their spoils of war, and cosplayers roaming the entirety of the event space—especially around the East halls. However, due to SARS-COVID-19 restrictions, all of this was far less prevalent. But that didn’t detract from the many things to be seen at the event.
One of the major draws for the Comic Market is the licensed vendors, located in the South hall this time. While not to the same scale as something like AnimeJapan—there are no stage events with voice actors—attendees had their pick of official vendors to choose from. Granted, most of the vendors were there to sell their latest anime merchandise, but what was available would entice anyone to pull out their wallet.
Good Smile Company was probably one of the more alluring booths, with its display of figures and a large advertisement for The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie released earlier in 2022. However, Aniplex, Kyoto Animation, and Wit Studio booth also had displays to interest anime fans. Fans of Lycoris Recoil, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Violet Evergarden, and SpyxFamily were especially well served this time.
There were also a handful of displays in the area that stood out for reasons other than merchandise. For instance, the Bushiroad booth was advertising the all-women’s pro-wresting promotion World Wonder Ring Stardom, often called Stardom. It conjured up images of the 2016 anime series Tiger Mask W with its abundant use of professional wrestlers from the popular New Japan Pro Wrestling—if only because Bushiroad not only owns both pro-wrestling promotions, but also had a hand in Tiger Mask W‘s production.
One other booth that stood out was ufotable and its Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba wishing attendees a Happy New Year. While tucked away a bit, finding it was a real treat for attendees as well as for fans of both the anime and manga series.
However, one of the more interesting displays at Comic Market 101 was surprisingly a VR game of boat racing. For many people this may seem odd—I certainly cocked my head when I saw it—but it allowed for people to experience one of the few sports people can legally gamble on Japan from the point of view of the racer. One would think it’s a simple game, just hit the throttle and go as fast as you can, but to my surprise it was far more difficult than appeared. This was not only because there was no discernable traction, but because controlling the throttle into the turns, as well as the angle you hit the turn, required some precision boating. It really gave me a new perspective on boat racing in Japan.
Outside of the official vendors, both the West and East halls were occupied by independent vendors selling their latest books or self-made merchandise. These vendors are what many people attend Comiket for, but what was intriguing about this event was the distinct lack of a hoard of people crowding the halls and making it virtually impossible to move forward unless you went completely limp. That’s not to say that the halls weren’t full of people at peak hours (as the lines outside the halls showed), but not to pre-pandemic level. This may have had to do with the restrictions on the number of attendees and when they could enter Big Site.
Probably the most noticeably absent thing was the mass of cosplayers roaming the premises. Part of this was certainly on me as I focused mainly on the East halls, but even the areas outside those halls generally have many cosplayers enjoying the event. Again, this may have had to do with the restrictions on attendees, which made the event a little barren, in my opinion. But there was one good thing that came from this: a distinct lack of the rings of photographers trying to get a photo of (generally female) cosplayers. A welcome change if you ask me, even if it means a part of the Comiket experience is missing.
While Comiket 101 felt smaller than pre-pandemic events, it was still able to fill the South, West, and East halls of the Tokyo Big Site. I hope things will return to the state they were around 2019 and earlier, if only because Comiket should be a fun pandemonium of anime and manga fans celebrating their hobby.
Comiket 102 next summer is aiming for 120,000 people per day, as long as government and local guidelines are relaxed enough by that time, which is more than the 90,000 per day this year, but still lower than pre-pandemic levels. Perhaps by Comiket 103, we’ll see a full-blown event with little or even no restrictions on entry. But only time will tell.