Monday, 5 December 2011

C81 guide


EDIT: the catalogue has been on the internet for a few days now. I'm not going to link it, but if you're having trouble finding it I'd suggest you google "CCC81 torrent".

Comiket 81 is less than a month away!  People with a lot more experience than I have written proper guides to Comiket, but I decided to write a brief one with a bit of info, mostly to jog my own memory before I go to C81 myself at the end of the month. I’ve only been to one Comiket before (C79) so I'm far from an expert, but there is some information I’d like to have known before I went last time that might be useful to others.

The basics:
Dates: 29-31 December
Times: 10am-4pm each day (corporate booths close at 5pm for the first two days)
Comiket is a three-day event happening twice a year. The upcoming Comiket (C81) is happening on the last three days of the year like all winter Comikets. Different days have different focuses, which can roughly be generalised as:

Day 1: Yaoi, shounen, other manga-related works. Also things based on video games.
Day 2: Touhou (doujin, music, games). Some misc anime stuff, gundam, more yaoi.
Day 3: Porn and lots of it. Also doujinsoft, Vocaloid, works based on VNs and anime. 
(This is a generalisation, see here [jp] for a comprehensive breakdown.)

This refers to the doujin circles, as each circle is only there for one of the three days; there are also company booths in a separate area which are open all three days and sell the same thing each day, or at least until they sell out.

Entry is free, but it’s very crowded. As in, VERY crowded. In fact, it redefined the word 'crowd' for me to the extent that I've found nothing to be truly 'crowded' since. This means it can be hard to get where you want to, and that you’ll have to wait in queues for anything remotely popular. If there are specific items that you're after, you can’t just rock up on the day and expect to get anywhere.

Doors open at 10am, but people start arriving from 5am (or even the previous night) to line up. Lining up is worth it if you’re after popular items, as it gives you the chance to get one or two things before the queues for circles get really big. Lining up from early morning gets you in at around 10:30am, while if you arrive at 10am you won’t get in until after 11am. If you arrive at or after noon there won’t be any queue to get in.

Each day ends at 4pm, so you’ve got a very limited window of time to work in. Considering you’ll be doing well to get in before 11am, and most things will be sold out by 3pm, and that queues can be huge, you really need to economise on your time usage.

The planning

As mentioned above, Comiket is huge and you can’t just go in blind. The catalogue comes out a few weeks before the event, and you’re going to have to get your hands on it somehow. The print catalogue comes out first, but probably isn’t an option unless you live in Japan, or will be there well ahead of Comiket. The CD catalogue is your best bet: it comes out about two weeks before Comiket starts, and usually appears on torrent sites a few days after it’s released. It’s quite convenient in that you can search for circles you’re interested in, add them to your list, and have them put on a map for you to print out and take on the day.

The CD catalogue is easy to use. Ctrl-F brings up the search dialogue, type in the circle name under キーワード and hit the 検索 button. Click the circle you’re after, and click one of the colour buttons to add the circle to your checklist. I’d suggest using different colours to indicate priority, so you know where you absolutely have to go, and where you’d just like to go. Once you’ve found all the circles you’re interested in, go to File and choose the BMP option. On the screen that comes up, I’d recommend you choose the マップ印刷 option and then OK. You now have a number of large BMP files showing you visually where every circle on your checklist is. You will want to print these and take them with you.

If you want goods from the company booths, you can look at the attending companies here [jp].

Now you can look at the maps with the circles you want to visit all nicely coloured in. What you are yet to realise is that there’s probably no way in hell you’ll be able to get around to all of them, because of:

The layout

Basic layout, picture from the C80 CD catalogue. Not shown are the corporate halls (西3, 4).

The Tokyo Big Sight has two lots of halls: East (東) and West (西). They are connected by one narrow walkway. It’s long and absolutely packed with humans. It can take a very long time to navigate, especially early in the day when people are still rushing around madly. If you’re lucky, it’ll only take 15 minutes to cross between halls. If you’re unlucky…the point here is that you should absolutely minimise the number of times you move from east to west or vice versa. If there are two very popular circles, one in east and one in west, you won’t have much of a chance of getting to both. Having said this, at C79 I lined up from early morning for the West halls for one item I wanted, got it very quickly and still managed to get to East before the walkway got too crowded. It’s still a risky move though.

On the upside, it’s easy to move between different halls on the same side. East 1, 2 and 3 are just different parts of the one huge room, and the same goes for East 4, 5 and 6, which are pretty much right next to the first three East halls. West 1 and 2 are also the same big room. West 3 and 4 are the corporate booths, and separate from the other West halls (they’re a level higher, but have a totally different entrance so you can’t move between them very fast). They’re also particularly crowded.

Within each hall (not including the corporate hall), the tables are arranged in a certain way, as you can see on the image below. Around the outer wall are the most popular circles, with the biggest of these being right next to the big shutters that lead outside.  Queues range from 15 minutes to hours. The rest of the circles are given a spot in the middle of the hall, where there are rows and rows of circles with a small walkway between each. These are usually less busy than the circles on the wall, but occasionally there’s a circle that’s way more popular than anticipated, resulting in a lot of congestion in the walkways. For planning purposes though, you can assume you won’t have to queue for more than 5-10 mins for most of these ones. However, this doesn’t mean they’re not going to sell out of stock.

Stock availability varies widely by circle, and having only been once I’m not able to be a great deal of help here, but the popular circles will probably sell out before noon, and the lesser ones mid-afternoon.

Finding circles

Each circle has an identifier in the catalogue that you can use to find them. An example would be “東オ47”. tells you it’s in the East halls, is the row, and 47 is the table. There may be an ‘a’ or ‘b’ after the table number, which just means there are multiple circles sharing the table. Armed with this identifier, you can use your map to find where exactly you need to go.


As you can see, our example circle is located in East hall 3.

It’s very important to note the day down as well as the identifier. It’s a three day event, and you’ll have the best results if you’re looking in both the right place as well as on the right day.


You don’t really need to remember where each row is since you’ll have your maps with you, but some to keep in mind are: A, the wall circles in East 123; , the wall circles in East 456; and , the wall circles in West 12. A general rule of thumb is that alphabet rows are in East 123, katakana in East 456 and hiragana in West, although there are a few katakana rows in East 123.

Getting there on the day

The best way to get there is by public transport, or more specifically the trains. I’m not going to go into detail on how the Tokyo train system works, as I’m sure you’re capable of figuring it out, but I’ll mention a couple of key points:


  • You can save yourself a lot of hassle by getting a Suica card. It’s a rechargeable touch card for public transport that saves you having to figure out the right fare and lining up to buy a paper ticket. You can get them at most train stations.
  • The route maps and station names are given in English on most signs, so don’t stress too much about learning the kanji for station names.


There are two train routes to get to Comiket: the Rinkai line and the Yurikamome line. The Rinkai line gets you there quicker, but they’re both valid options. Below is a map of the Tokyo metro and JR line, and circled are the stations where you can get on one of these two lines to actually get to Comiket.


The comiket stations circled in blue, transfer stations in red.

Rinkai

From the Shin Kiba end, the trains start running at 5:40. You probably won’t be able to make the first train though, since you’ll likely have to catch another train/subway or two to actually get to Shin Kiba. From there, it’s only a few minutes to Kokusai-Tenjijo station.

Trains start at the same time from the Osaki end, but the trip is a bit longer, taking about 15 mins. Still, it connects to the Yamanote line so it’s more straightforward to get to than Shin Kiba.

Yurikamome

You’ll board this line at Shimbashi, which is quite easy to get to since it’s on the Yamanote, Ginza and Asakusa lines. I couldn’t find a timetable online, but I imagine trains would start at around 6. It’s a scenic trip, but takes about 20 minutes to get from Shimbashi to Kokusai-Tenjijo Seimon station.

The earliest you’ll be able to get to Comiket depends largely on where your accommodation is, and you’d do well to figure out a route in advance. Your other option is to get there the night before and loiter until the queues start forming, which may be a consideration if you really want to be in there quickly. It’s not technically allowed, but plenty of people do it anyway. I haven’t done it, so I can’t say much about it (though I think I'll be doing it for day 3 this year), but make sure you dress very warmly and bring something to sit on, unless you fancy freezing concrete.

Once you get there, you’ll be marshalled into a queue by event organisers. Their methods are arcane yet efficient, and you just need to go where you’re told. Your only choice is East () or West (西), then just follow the crowd from there. Eventually you’ll be given your own square centimetre of cold hard ground, where you’ll stay for the next few hours. Once it’s light you can go and buy a drink from the vending machines if you're quick about it, but make sure you remember where your spot is. And for god's sake don't do this near 10am, because if the lines start moving while you're not in your spot, you're screwed.

What to bring

Whatever you feel you need. I’ve never gone to a summer Comiket (and can’t say I plan to) because I’ve heard how damn hot it gets. I’m a fan of travelling light, so I didn’t take much. You may prefer to take a bit more, but everything you bring with you has to be lugged around through crowds for hours so don’t go crazy. Some things to consider:



  • A bag. Obviously. I’d suggest something with a shoulder strap rather than a backpack, because you’re going to get sick of continually removing your backpack to place things in it, and because it takes up more space.
  • Water. Not too much though, because you really don’t want to have to queue for the toilets any more than you have to.
  • Money. Of course you’re going to bring some, but make sure you have enough. Doujin prices vary, but the average price would be around 500 yen. The corporate booths are a different matter entirely, so bring a lot for them. I’m not sure if there are any ATMs nearby (though I can’t remember seeing any), so you’ll need to get your cash out before you go.
  • Printed hall maps. So you know where all the circles on your list are.
  • Food. For breakfast, if you’re arriving in the wee hours of the morning to queue, or for a light lunch if you don’t fancy buying food there. Stuff like bread or muesli bars would be good, make sure you don't bring anything that'll get squished in your bag. There are food places there, but the long queues and poor selection may turn you off, especially if you've got a tight schedule.
  • Entertainment. If you’re arriving on the first train, you’re going to be freezing your arse off with nothing to do for hours before you get in. Bring an ipod, a DS, a book or something.
  • Something to sit on. I saw other early queuers with these tiny little stool things so they didn't have to sit directly on the ground. Of course, that's something extra to carry around all day, but you won't get far if you die of hypothermia the night before. Probably most important if you stay overnight.


Queuing

Queues for the less popular circles are pretty straightforward – you line up and you wait your turn. As queues get longer they’ll incorporate some signage and may be moved or split, so you’ve got to know what you’re looking for. Handheld signs mostly either tell you where the end of the line is, or where it isn’t. You need to know a few bits of moon here, which are explained below. These signs may be held by an organiser, or by a normal person in the queue himself. In the latter case, when you join the queue you should take the “end of the line” sign off him and hold it up yourself, until someone else joins the queue behind you and takes it.

For especially long lines, the queue might be completely separate from the circle’s table or the corporate booth, and you might have to hunt around outside to find the end of the line. When you get to the front of this outside line, a small group of you will be escorted inside to a smaller queue that’s actually in front of the table.

It sounds more complicated than it is, really. Just do what everyone else is doing and you should be fine.

Taking it easy/miscellaneous

Although I’ve gone on about how important it is to go in with a plan, don’t feel you have to have your entire day mapped out. If there’s not a lot you’re interested in, it’s a lot of fun walking around the smaller circles and browsing. You can find some unexpectedly great stuff just from browsing around. Circles are broadly arranged by genre, so if you plan to visit a circle that has doujinshi of a show you like, look at the surrounding circles and you might find some similar doujinshi that you like the look of.

Don’t feel you have to queue for a really popular product either. For example, at C79 I was planning on lining up to buy the latest Umineko episode until I saw how long the line was. I’d have been there for hours, with no guarantee that there’d be stock left when I got to the front. I went and got some other doujin and browsed a bit, and picked up Umineko a couple of days later in Akihabara. The biggest names will usually have extra stock to send to Akiba afterwards, so keep that in mind.

If like me you aren’t into yaoi, consider starting the first day at the corporate booths. Stuff sells out quickly, and they may not restock between days. After you’ve done your shopping here, take a break and head over to the East halls so you can get a feel for what it'll be like in the upcoming two days.

Essential Japanese

You don’t really need to be able to speak any Japanese – you’d be surprised how far you can get just by pointing. This approach works well for those who can’t speak the language or, like me, lack the self-confidence to speak it. If you do want to learn some phrases, just google a basic phrasebook. However you’ll need to be able to read some Japanese or you’ll be hopelessly lost. There’s not much to it, so don’t worry.

– relevant as it’s the letter used to identify half the wall circles in the East halls. More generally, knowing hiragana and katakana will help you identify rows on your map so you can get where you want to go. Not really essential, but convenient.

– East
西 – West

These two are important as they’re the names of the halls. If you decide to come early and line up, there will be two queues, one for each hall. Not knowing these kanji could lead to you wasting hours of time lining up only to find you’re going to the wrong place.

最後尾 – The end of the line
途中 – The middle of the line. There may more words on the sign than this, but I can’t remember the full sentence. Don't join the line here.

These will be on handheld signs around popular circles with organised queues, and knowing these could save you some embarrassment. Note: if the guy holding the 最後尾 sign is standing in queue himself, you should take the sign off him and hold it up yourself until someone else queues behind you, at which point they will take it.

企業ブース – Corporate booths.

売り切れ – Sold out. Bad luck. You could always look for it in Akihabara afterwards.

一日目  or 29日 or or 木曜日 – Thursday, the first day of C81.
二日目 or 30日 or or 金曜日 – Friday, the second day of C81.
三日目 or 31日 or or 土曜日 – Saturday, the third day of C81.

Conclusion

That's pretty much everything I could think of. There's some things I haven't touched on, like the cosplay areas, since I didn't really get the chance to go look at them last time and therefore can't give much information about them. In the end though, it's easy enough to figure out on your own when you get there.

I had a great time when I went a year ago, and I'm really looking forward to going again. There's something about flipping through a huge stack of hard-won doujinshi at the end of three exhausting days that's very satisfying. If you're going too then good luck to you, and I hope you have a great time!

16 comments:

  1. I'm pretty jelly that you're going. Although, I'm also glad that I don't have to go to such a crowded area myself. This was an interesting and informative read. I hope you take plenty of pictures of the trip.

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  2. >I'm pretty jelly that you're going

    Pretty informative writing there; I hope you'll have a great time there. And of course, I'll be looking to the pictures of the trip afterwards

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  3. Oh wow, this looks crazy. Make sure you take plenty of pictures for us.

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  4. Great article! I've been going to Comiket for a couple years now. I think there's an ATM in the hall where you transition from East to West, though not sure if it takes foreign cards like much of Japan.

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  5. hello i have a question
    i will in japan around that time and also i have plan will visit C81 too

    actually this is my first time come to japan and my first time too will try attend the event
    ( which i hope i can get it there without get lost )

    may i ask some advice if not bothering you..?

    - if i stay in asakusa how i can go to there?
    the best way and easiest line..?
    ( i'm still confuse about the train line cause it so much oxo! )

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  6. @12domba

    There are two subway lines that have stations in Asakusa. Catch either of them in the city direction, then get off at Shimbashi station. There you'll have to walk out of the fare gates and look for signs to the Yurikamome (ゆりかもめ) line. It's a bit separate from the subway, so you'll have to walk for a few minutes. Get on that and ride it to the Kokusai Tenjijo-Seimon station, and you're there.

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  7. hello ^^
    thanks for replying my message
    i'm understand now the line

    then a little question again...
    what time i should go if my line start from asakusa? ( will the train take more than 1 hour and half..? )
    i read your guide and mention the word crowded, a little scare me ^^!

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  8. Hey I try to search the catalog and since I don't know Japanese very well, it's a bit hard to troubleshoot. I try to search and nothing comes up even though I think something should be coming up

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  9. @12domba

    I really can't remember, if you get to Japan earlier then try it out the day before comiket maybe?

    @VM3

    That does make things a bit harder. All I can suggest is try the circle name in letters and characters, and try the name of what they're selling if that doesn't work. You could just search the genre then browse but that could take forever.

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  10. Does anyone know where I can get a pdf or jpg of the C81 hall maps? I'd like to plan my route

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  11. Assuming you have the catalogue, go to the CD directory then go to the DATA81N\MDATA folder, and the .png files starting with MAP are the hall maps.

    Or go into the catalogue, go File -> BMPファイル出力 and select the 白地図印刷 option in the bottom set of radio buttons, this'll give you huge BMP files but they'll have the genre information superimposed, which may be useful.

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  12. Nice guide, but I thought some trains started around 4:30. You might be able to take a taxi too, I'm not sure.

    >途中 – The middle of the line. There may more words on the sign than this, but I can’t remember the full sentence. Don't join the line here.

    Speaking from experience? Oooohohohoho~
    Foreigner at Comiket is suffering.

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  13. @Ojousama

    You could be right about train times for the subway, the only timetables I could find online were for the Rinkai line.

    >Speaking from experience?

    ...maybe

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  14. I survived... got a bunch of good stuff, but as expected much of the great stuff was sold out even as I entered the hall at 11 am.

    I know a lot of the hentai books end up in the hentai doujinshi section of mandarake soon enough, but what about the non-hentai artbooks? I don't think they end up in Mandarake's artbook section as the items there are usually those thick commercial artbooks rather than these thin event-only releases.

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  15. I don't know about mandarake but you can find them at melonbooks or toranoana in the non-18+ sections, though you might have to look around the shelves a bit since they're just in amongst the comics rather than really having a separate section.

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