Dōjinshi (Part Two)

I would like to begin by examining two dōjinshi based on Studio Ghibli’s film Spirited Away. The first work, Yuya sōshi (油屋草子), focuses on the romantic relationship between Haku and Chihiro in three short stories. In the first story, Chihiro goes outside on a snowy night to deliver blankets to her parents in the pig barn. She passes out from the effects of the cold wind and is rescued by Haku. The events of the second and third stories take place after the end of the film. In the second story, an older Chihiro follows her baby brother through a familiar tunnel and returns to a world she had forgotten. She and her brother are rescued by Haku, who tells Chihiro that she must not look at him lest she remain in his world forever. After making sure that her brother is able to return home safely, Chihiro turns to look at Haku, thus sealing her fate. The third story, an alternate possibility, involves Haku making a decision of his own to journey to the human world to visit Chihiro. Throughout this dōjinshi, the characters are drawn in the Studio Ghibli house style, and a great deal of care is given to maintaining the tone and worldview of the original film.

In Senya ichiya (千夜一夜), a darker interpretation of Spirited Away is presented to the reader. The artist of this dōjinshi associates Yubaba’s bath house with traditional Japanese hot spring inns, which generally employed or were associated with female entertainers who would attend guests privately after dark. In this dōjinshi, Yubaba arranges for the young serving maid Rin to attend to the private needs of one of the bath house customers, a strange, hoary creature with many tentacles. At the last moment, Haku appears and offers himself in Rin’s place, ordering her to flee as he submits to the god. This dōjinshi thus explores the relationship of the characters before the arrival of Chihiro, as well as the more disturbing implications of a bath house for the gods staffed by people who are effectively slaves to its owner. Although the art of this dōjinshi is clearly influenced by the Studio Ghibli style, it takes on more lush and erotic tones, as is appropriate to its subject matter.

Many of the dōjinshi based on Howl’s Moving Castle deal with the continuation and outcome of the romantic relationship that develops between Howl and Sophie during the course of the film. These dōjinshi contain many confessions of love and many first kisses. Other dōjinshi emphasize the sexual tension between the two characters, which is notably absent in the film. Since Sophie is a shy girl who turns into an old woman whenever she becomes overly embarrassed or loses her self confidence, dōjinshi artists have speculated that Howl might have some trouble getting her into bed for the first time. These artists turn to scenarios suggestive of rape, which capitalize on the characterization and appeal of Howl as someone who loses control of himself in moments of intense emotion and stress. Other artists merrily suggest that Sophie hides all manner of illicit desires under her seemingly retiring exterior.

Finally, a piece titled Honogurai umi no soko kara (仄暗い海の底から), which is based on Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, is an example of what is called a “gag” (ギャグ) dōjinshi, which eschews any sort of sustained narrative in order to make jokes about and poke fun at the original work. This particular dōjinshi is centered around the comic figure of Fujimoto, the scatterbrained wizard who is Ponyo’s “father.” It is drawn in a style that references the Studio Ghibli house style but exaggerates the comedic aspects of the characters and their interactions with one another. These interactions mainly involve the attempts of the awkward and socially inept Fujimoto to act as some sort of father figure to the now human Ponyo, who continues to be as willful and energetic as always. Other jokes lightly suggest sexual undertones completely absent from the original film. One short story interprets the intense private conversation shared between Sōsuke’s mom Lisa and the sea goddess as being about the deliciousness of ham. Fujimoto, seeing the hungry look in the ladies’ eyes, misinterprets their conversation in a humorous way.

Part One
Part Three

11 thoughts on “Dōjinshi (Part Two)

  1. A fun post. I myself have never read dôjinshi at all, but some of these sound like fun. Yuya sôshi in particular, not only has a great title, but sounds like it could be a pretty good story, assuming it maintains the tone and mood of the film, and isn’t too shôjo or something, focusing on the author’s personal romantic desires for Chihiro and Haku… Haku’s perhaps one of my favorite of all anime characters, and Sen to Chihiro certainly among my favorite anime films, so it’d be fun to explore that world again.

    PS How do you type out macrons? Do you just copy and paste, or…?

    1. Dōjinshi are very fun. Sometimes I find them a lot more fun than the original works in certain aspects. If there’s any sort of lack of development in an original work, you can bet it’s going to be developed in the realm of dōjinshi. For example, I always wanted to know more about Snape and Lily and Remus and Tonks, and there are dozens upon dozens of dōjinshi devoted to those two relationships.

      Dōjinshi based on the films of Studio Ghibli are a bit harder to find, though. Maybe that will have to be one of your challenges to yourself the next time you find yourself in Tokyo. To me, dōjinshi hunting sometimes feels like treasure hunting. It’s a large subculture, but a subculture nonetheless.

      I have no idea how to type macrons in an internet browser. I usually write everything in Microsoft Word and then cut and paste. (>_<)

      1. I’ve been wondering how you did it for awhile, too. Cut and paste for the win!

        This is a nice series. Congratulations. Are you thinking about trying to expand it and submit somewhere?

      2. Thank you so much!

        This essay is actually an extremely condensed version of a paper I had presented earlier. I had initially thought about polishing the paper and submitting it somewhere, but there’s already a great deal of material written about dōjinshi in English, and I suspect that there will be even more after the next two issues of Mechademia are published. Besides, I think I’m too personally invested in the subculture to write about it from an anthropological or media studies perspective, and writing about specific dōjinshi from a literary perspective would present all sorts of problems (for example, how one might handle the extraordinary amount of plot summary that would be necessary for such a discussion).

        If one *were* to consider expanding something like this into a larger project, however, my advice would be to start by consulting the mountains of Japanese literature that has been written on the topic. So far, most of the people who have written about dōjinshi or BL in English seem to have completely ignored it. A good place to start might be the back issues of ユリイカ (especially the ones from 2007), a journal which is good for all sorts of pop culture awesomeness…

  2. Can I ask, where did you find the Ponyo Doujinshi? I want to find them, since I know they exsits, but I can’t find them anywhere.

    Great explanation though on Doujinshi and the genres.

    1. Perhaps this is just a question of semantics, but the texts I’m writing about are manga, not novels, and many of them are quite short (around 20-30 pages). If you’re not in Japan, the best place to look for them would be eBay. Your search term isn’t “novel” or “manga” or even “dōjinshi” but rather “doujinshi,” which is how the fan community refers to them. Also, a search for “Studio Ghibli doujinshi” on Google won’t get you these particular titles, but you should be able to find scanlations of other Spirited Away dōjinshi fairly easily.

      If you already knew this and your question isn’t a matter of what search term you’re using, please forgive me for being presumptuous. Anyway, since Studio Ghibli is sort of like Disney, it can be difficult to find Ghibli-themed dōjinshi. If you’re in Japan, it’s only by making the round of all of the dōjinshi stores in your area that you might be able to find one. (If you’re lucky enough to attend a convention, though, they’re all over the place; just look in the catalog beforehand.) If you’re not in Japan and can’t find what you’re looking for on eBay, your best bet is to hire a proxy service. This can be prohibitively expensive; but, if you’re still interested, you can find many listings on Google if you run a search for “Japan proxy service.”

      I suppose I should have mentioned this before, but a really good guide to the process can be found here:


      Good luck!

  3. I know it’s been almost 6 years since you posted this article, but I’m curious to know who is the artist that created the Senya ichiya (千夜一夜) doujinshi, you mentioned here? 😮 I would so check it out.

    1. The artist is Hoshino Lala (星野ララ), and the book was published in 2007. Other than that, there’s no information (such as a circle name or website) provided. For what it’s worth, I found my copy at the Mandarake in Shibuya, which has a sizable Studio Ghibli section. Good luck!

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