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[Comic Party box art]
AKA: こみっくパーティー, ComiPa
Genre: Bishoujo dating simulation / fandom parody
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 25 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Discotek Media.
Content Rating: PG (mild innuendo)
Related Series: Comic Party Special, To Heart, Comic Party Revolution
Also Recommended: Genshiken, Otaku no Video, To Heart (if only for the references)
Notes: Based on the adults-only bishoujo dating simulation game by Leaf / Aquaplus in 1999. Many To Heart references crop up in this series, as this is from the same creators as that franchise.
Rating: Five StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive Stars
 

Comic Party

Synopsis

Sendou Kazuki is a fairly typical Japanese student, with very atypical friends. He would've been perfectly content to be a mundane, everyday Japanese student hanging out with his sorta-girlfriend Takase Mizuki. But his outrageous green-haired otaku "brother" Kuhonbutsu Taishi drags him (kicking and screaming) into a new world of knowledge, where the crowds are many, and art flows like wine. The evil, corruptive world of... doujinshi. So begins Kazuki's new quest to become a doujinshi artist worthy to be part of the greatest of all conventions: Comic Party.


Review

I will now attempt to review a title that is so good, that my words alone would hardly suffice to give it a fair description. But here goes.

First off, it's important to know what doujinshi exactly entails. Doujinshi are fanworks, often taking the form of comic parodies or homages for existing series, but sometimes as original work, and not necessarily comics at that. On a wider sense, doujinshi is basically the semi-professional market created by fans for fans, in the name of their love for manga and anime. The very real world of doujinshi results in gigantic conventions whose attendance, in some cases, can crack over a million attendees.

It is this zany, colorful world of doujinshi fandom that Comic Party explores, and this appealing, yet balanced look at the world of fandom in Japan is a treat for newcomers and veterans alike. Through the eyes of the newcomer Kazuki, even newer anime fans can begin to understand the reasons and philosophies behind being a fan, and why people write fanworks and dress in silly costumes.

The characters themselves are a big help. The out-of-control, shameless fanboy Taishi and the gonzo, but sweet doujinshi artist Yuu seem pulled straight from our own review staff. While one might say that the main characters (primarily female) seem a bit too caricaturish and convenient, they actually demonstrate realistic facets of the fandom experience, from the arrogant wannabe pro artist Eimi to the horrified non-fan Mizuki (who is still a sympathetic character). Even the two selfish, nitpicking, perverted freaks (known as "shadow kids", or kageko) are familiar figures in fandom. (It's sure nice to see them get their comeuppance and redemption, too.)

Of course, Kazuki is new to all this, and some of the scenes where he gets railroaded into fandom are absolutely hilarious. While Taishi conveniently explains the "rules of the convention" in one episode, Kazuki gets thrown to the wolves, trying to manage a con table on his own. Then, Kazuki gets a shock when the part-time job Taishi lines up for him turns out to be at a cafe staffed by cosplayers (people in anime or game costumes). But his exposure to all these different aspects of fandom is portrayed in a positive way, and Kazuki's road to meeting his own artistic aspirations remind us of our own reasons why we're all fans. The show gets surprising depth for a TV series, while always keeping its relevance to the everyday aspects of life as a doujinshi fan.

The one letdown here, and it's a really minor one, is the animation itself, which is really nothing more than you should expect from a short TV series. That being said, it's bright, more than adequate, and employs enough devices (like SD action) to get the point across. It's not as if there's a bunch of action scenes in here, anyway.

With so many high marks, it may surprise you to know this was based off a dating simulation game. Yes, we know from the running gags that Comic Party was made by the creators of To Heart, but we didn't realize that the shared origins ran quite that deeply. Of course, the bright color palette and appealing bishoujo character designs hint at its origins, but the direction this show takes is so far from series like Sakura Wars or Legend of Himiko, it clearly avoids many of the cliches of the genre. Where THEM found To Heart to be listless and boring (its own creators poke fun at its cliches after a while!), we thoroughly enjoyed Comic Party's look at what makes the industry *really* tick - the weird, fun people who make, buy, and in this case, become entertainment. There's something fun about the idea of marketing a game where you date fellow fans ... maybe they're dropping a hint or something. *snicker* Seriously, though, the nice thing about this series is that, while there's a lot of parody here, it remains a consistently good anime in plot, storyline, and characterization. No harem here: all the girls DON'T fall head-over-heels over the lead!

Comic Party is today's Otaku no Video, a story for a time when fandom has left the basement, invaded the convention centers and cafes and televisions of the Japan, and is bent on the cultural conquest of the universe. However, its accessibility and its ability to take itself seriously as an actual story make it even better than anything else in the genre. So quit reading this review and get it already, will you?

A charming, gentle, and witty look at fandom that hits home for us here at THEM. We like this series too damn much to give it anything less. Those not so involved in the various fandoms (and generally don't get the jokes) or who really, really do not like romance in their anime may drop one to two stars.Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: Some innuendo and a bit of implied fan service with the cosplayers, but nothing really offensive at all (quite unlike the adults-only video game). Should be okay for children, though older children and above would get more of the jokes.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub, R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Comic Party © 2001 Aquaplus / KSS
 
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