X days #11: Tokyo Steampunk is hardcore should infiltrate cosplay

Consider one of last season’s less obvious action and adventure offerings; Princess Principal. Amid the elite private high school’s girls led by royalty doing spy stuff adventures and the princess/ pauper subplot; the out of chronological order episode jumble; the ninja girl, the mechanical throat girl; the Checkpoint Charlie divided Britain; Sandbaggers-level vignettes of loss and betrayal; invariable bad (or at least disappointing) behavior by almost every male in the show and spy-des as shorthand for class-S same-sex affection, we have one more thing of note that might have slipped by:

PriPri had a strong steampunk motif and did not get tripped up on it.

This is quite rare for anime and manga. Steampunk drag usually overpowers the story and then plot fail hits hard. Contrast Pripri to the trainwreck that was Empire of Corpses. Anyone remember Steamboy? Steam Detectives?

If you have not yet, Princess Principal deserves a watch. I liked it a lot, enough to put aside a few misgivings (the OP would have been better without the grating throwaway english lyrics) and fall into the treacherous hostility of alt-victorian Britlandia Albion and our heroines’ deft navigation of its dangers.

Over on this side of the ditch, Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio [http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php] has been going like gangbusters with the same basic perilous formula for years. Does strong woman character(s) quite well, complete with corsetry, powerful women-friend allies and requisite good boy/ bad boy (plus assorted other jack-ass boys and men) competing for her favor. Yup, looks like Agatha (The) Heterodyne has got herself a reverse harem and a posse. Girl Genius might not be the only way to do steampunk but it serves as a good indicator of how to make it work for, rather than bumble about at cross-purposes to, your story.

Princess Principal has some of the same mojo.

I had been expecting a greater Japanese use and enjoyment of steamish settings and backgrounds for some time now. Fantasy Europe has a long tradition in shoujo properties and their subgenres, including early bishonen (and we know where that ended up – which might be why Empire of Corpses foundered) stories. Euro-gothicky stuff is always a safe bet for a shonen adventure romp populated with Stoker-ish creatures and para-vatican-ish cabals. Why is it so damn hard to add a few brass valves, corsets and a dashing hat or two?

It’s all about the corsets and the hats, really. And the yuri subtext. You probably can get by without the Cavorite, the Babbage Engines, brass telescopes and dirigibles. We learned this from Iono the Fanatics. Guys get tweed, vests and goggles. Some of the more spunky girls can go for these too.

Fortunately the folks at Tokyo Steam Garden The Tokyo Inventor’s Society [ http://www.tokyosteampunk.com ] are out to change this. They might not even need the yuri, though they appear to have a good number of exotic outlanders.

Last time I was in Japan I ended up with a swollen ankle (again!) and skived off on the chance to spend one and a half hours on a train and $40 to attend one of their greater Tokyo (area) Hunter’s Fair get-togethers. I understand that one can’t be cheapo all the time with one’s enthusiasms in Japan – someone has to scrape the yen up for the hall rental and long commutes to events are a given. (the October Hunter’s Fair had some free admission times; was not in Japan. Drat!) One should be happy that the commutes are possible, convenient and inexpensive. Just charge up your pasmo card and hop on the train.

I probably unconsciously wimped out because I didn’t have a nifty costume. If you follow their twitter feed [https://twitter.com/TokyoSteampunk] you get the gist of it fairly fast: SCA-ish impulses melded with alt-historical romanticism, cosplay and indie fashion design. Why cosplay someone else’s hero when you can be your own? Why act out someone else’s adventure?

hunters fair world market detail via TokyoSteampunk

At this point this post needs LOTS of pictures from Steam Garden events but there is undoubtedly some polite protocol about randos grabbing such off Twitter and using them – especially identifiable pix of participants at these events. I will have to get by with a few pix lifted from their website. Notable that if one was a member of the fairer sex, one can enjoy the stylings without having to present a half acre of skin and goosebumps to the world and still come off as powerfully hawt.

I suspect that the community is recruiting followers and mustering their forces for an eventual foray. Whether they decide to invade Harajuku’s (or some other street’s) street fashion or Comiket (or both) they will be something to be reckoned with. The costumery and accessories are their secret weapons.

The works are elaborate, detailed, handsome and sexy without necessarily succumbing to otaku impulses. While there is a fair degree of crossover and appropriation from the local gothic lolita fashion folks and even some of the more elaborate (and expensively niche) European fetish wear designers, the stuff already appears to have a robust local design and sales ecology (and economy) supporting it.

lifted from Tokyo Steam Garden website

And then there is the “gear”. Every adventurer needs a retro zapgun or two. If you have an urge to learn how to spray paint plastic to get that weathered brass patina look, these folks have you covered. There is on this, by necessity some crossover from the plasmo community.

What with Princess Principal, I was surprised Comiket didn’t get a corseted expeditionary force this winter. Perhaps it did and I missed it on the Twitter machine feed. The closest I saw to it was one lone Rory Mercury. Or perhaps the hardcore Steam Garden folks tut-tut Pripri as cute but beginner level? Perhaps different fan communities are rigidly siloed in Japan?

Meanwhile, Cosplay…

Winter 2017 Comiket Twitter hash searches:  

I understand it was 5 degrees during the day over the year’s end weekend and I am only going by the twitter feed (and the memory of 2 year’s ago’s winter ‘ket and the previous March mini-ket) but cosplay in Japan seems to be weathering a bit of an enthusiasm shortfall. You are not getting that many Genshiken-level  ensemble efforts. That many… The Land of the Lustrous ensemble this winter looked impressively dedicated and well organised.

Twitter posted by kira @kira__nm7 See also: https://twitter.com/kira__nm7/status/948873066100137984

The solo efforts, while fun and inventive appear to have to navigate the perils of the  “celebrity cosplayer/ model” vs everyone else. Its grandparent, the SF Worldcon second evening “Masquerade” costume parties and competitions suffered from similar frictions.

Going by the twitter pix feed, the folk most organised and into making sustained efforts with their costumes/ outfits this Comiket were the military fanboys (ostensibly cosplaying video games such as Call of Duty), followed by the super sentai fans. Otherwise, there were many solo or pair efforts of whichever charas were sexy (and wearing painfully revealing costumes) this year. A good amount of Fate stuff popped up on the feed. Most memorable to me were the novelty efforts; such as the guys doing the Japari park serval-kun bodybuilder poses.

Thank the eight hundred thousand gods of Japan – and the hardcore cosplayer Yurikotiger for her Dragon Maid this ‘ket.

Never have embedded a tweet before, lets see how this works:

Comiket’s non-profit organisers might still be getting comfortable with cosplayers. A short while back they were regarded as a disruption and peripheral to the main autonomous fan collective fanzine/ fan-made artifact raison d’etre of the exhibitions. Like unruly lineups starting the night before, cosplay was seen as a possible subject of complaint from businesses surrounding the Big Sight. If too revealing, an excuse for the secular authorities to invade, interfere and proscribe. While cosplay is now acknowledged as a pure fan-made activity and as “The Ambassadors of Otaku Culture” residual unease persists.

You still have to keep the cosplayers proper (and their photographing followers) from getting in the way of the corporate booths and the traditional fan-made goods tables. And you have to manage the photographic consent rules implicit in Japanese privacy legislation – posing in the cosplay area, yes: if one-on-one be polite, ask, give, exchange meshi/ cards. Outside of designated cosplay areas; NO without expressed consent. Shoop in stickies over bystanders faces. I have yet to sit down and fully sanitize my pix from 2015, even though I rashly said I would up them way back then. (besides, they are mostly boring as I wimped out on documenting table sales and did not have the patience to do cosplay scrums)

So perhaps there are many good, local reasons why the steam tribes and the Comiket folks have yet to co-mingle. Perhaps it is because the Steam Garden folks have a whiff of the commercial con about them. They are in no way a trade show for any industry (yet) so there is no fundamental culture clash – unless the steamers find the otaku crew too far into the bad-taste amateur pr0n lewds for to want to cozy up to.

Hope for a second season of Princess Principal and better weather during this summer’s C94.

Or… (not steampunk but I couldn’t resist)


day1 winter 2015

I am following the hashtags #comiket#C89 and #comiket89 on Twitter to see what I am missing on Day 2 of the big event. It looks like the lines are far longer today then they were yesterday. The weather is sunny and cool but not chilly and it looks like it will be a fine day. Yesterday was majority but not exclusively fujoshi day; there was also a good deal of loli yuri to keep the guys happy. Today is supposed to be game-centric and tomorrow is a hentai-fest for guys. Don’t take my word for it: you can ride page translate and sign up to view the free online catalog at https://webcatalog.circle.ms/


  • FC (jump ball)
  • FC (jump Other)
  • FC (Youth)
  • Prince of Tennis
  • Gintama
  • FC (girl)
  • Creation (girl)
  • Creation (JUNE / BL)
  • Animation (Other)
  • Anime (Sunrise)
  • Gundam
  • FC (boy)
  • Hetalia
  • FC (pounding) (Gangan)
  • FC (novel)


  • This ship
  • online game
  • Game (RPG)
  • Square Enix (RPG)
  • Games (Other)]
  • Swords Ranbu
  • Game (love)
  • Game (history)
  • History and creation (literary-fiction)
  • Special effects · SF · FT
  • TV · Film and entertainment
  • Music (western-Japanese music)
  • Music (Male Idol)
  • Sport
  • Eastern Project
  • Railway, travel and Mekamiri
  • Game (power required)

Day 3:

  • Creative, Anime & Game (man propensity)
  • Creation (boy)
  • Gaku漫
  • Digital (Other)
  • Cosplay
  • Creative, Anime & Game (man propensity)
  • Critic and Information
  • Coterie software
  • Original Goods


Now that I have done the haj, that’s enough for me this time… The next time I attend I will make it a point to either(/or): (1) Have a rudimentary ability to read hiragana and katakana and be better able to carry on limited conversations in Japanese. (2) Be actually at a booth selling or helping to sell something. (3) Be a part of the volunteer army that helps to keep the whole show going. Accumulate experience, not stuff.

I scored a catalog and a few give-aways yesterday and that’s enough. I really don’t need any heavy, pr0nish souvenirs to annoy she-who-up-with-me-puts or to box up and ship to myself lest the customs officers at Pearson take a dim view of my hobbies. I have more than enough stuff to last a lifetime and a half. I really don’t need any more. Hooray for a hobby that has almost all of its content online and in digital form.

Yesterday I watched as legions of Big Sight employees received load after load of skimpily clad chesty waif emblazoned oversized shopping bags at the trash bins, along with Comiket catalogs, (heavy as a phone book – scored one minus the tear-out coupon thing in the front pages) tons of industry flyers, promo pamphlets and cards. Japan has top-notch recycling mojo; still the sight of so much printed waste is a bit shocking. I was also disappointed that the old mainstay of promotional giveaways, the little packet of tissues seems to be out of fashion. Them things are handy when you are traveling!

As previously mentioned, I am working to assemble the pix I took of the day into a Flicker set/ sideshow for this blog… Soon…

In the meantime, a few observations:

The influence of Pixiv on the dojin creation fandom cannot be overlooked. See this post then go to the source and use page translate. Once again, note that Comiket/ Comic Market is unlike most North American “conventions” in that the reason for it and the overwhelming majority of the content is self-produced. It is all about fanzines and fan-work. Commercial participants are like delivery trucks in the narrow residential streets of Japanese neighborhoods; tolerated for the useful work they do, but they better damn well know their place and yield to pedestrians at all times. Having a place like Pixiv to post your practice sketches, get comments and tips and perhaps even engage in a bit of shameless promotion for your dojin is a force multiplier for the fandom.

The other really interesting thing about Comiket is the legion of volunteers. The orange baseball hats and armband brigade were everywhere. There are reportedly over 2,000 of them working the convention and they are all superbly organized. I want their ops manual. The know-how and the procedures for coordinating that many people, how they are detailed up for setup, crowd management, line-wrangling, take-down, ship-back and the myriad other tasks is amazing lore. You just don’t pull that kind of thing out of your ass and get away with it. Add to that how they coordinate with the staff from the Big Sight, the shipping companies and the industry booth folks and you really have an amazing level of organizational mojo on display.

Watch this fun video if you doubt…
Sauce: http://upvoted.com/2016/01/16/crowd-control-in-japan-is-mesmerizing/

While most of the folks at Comiket were looking at the stuff, I tried to  keep an eye on the volunteers. I’m sure that they had their share of tense moments and snafus but I saw no hint of such. You really have to have an institutional reserve of experience to pull something like that off. I am in awe.

Congratulations and thanks to all the staff and participants and fans! Happy Comiket 89.

Forty thousand in gehenna

It is nearly the end of the year.
JP dec sunset web

Tomorrow is the first day of Comic Market, AKA Comiket. It is fujoshi day but I’ll go anyway. My feet feel like the Turkish secret police have worked them over, so it will be both canes and plenty of Meridol. No lines for me: if I make it by 12:30pm that should be fine. Experience the rush of humanity, see some cosplay, visit the dealer booths. I am in Japan, it is the time, it has to be done. End of discussion.

Please note the freshly minted twitter link on the left of the main sidebar or visit [http://twitter.com/Mudakuntweets]. I have a data-sim plan and intend to work that little smartphone camera like a rented mule.

A shout-out to this 2008 guide to ‘Ket. At least it has a useful map:

Meanwhile Chapter 119’s raws have surfaced in the usual nefarious grey spaces, (amazing what can be done with Ctrl-Shift-I, resources, frames, images, drag) the fan conversation is getting heavy and I’m guessing that Mada has put his foot in it again. BIG TIME.

Joni Mitchell’s case of you is playing in the background…

Dr. Maniax has a most excellent summary freshly posted.

Happy New Year!