English Doujinshi: Fragments, by Aiwa (Umineko no Naku Koro Ni)

Finally, one of the first books from doujinPress. This new site makes it easier for fans around the world to sell original doujinshi, both by selling second-hand and handling print runs for artists.

So, my first question with this book was: How good’s their printing? With the book in hand, it looks pretty nice. It’s a proper off-set book, with a thick glossy (and beautiful) color cover. It also came with a neat postcard of Ange (for pre-orders only):

The b/w interior printing compares well to mass-market manga; it’s even better than some of Tokyopop’s lower quality.

The content is just as impressive. I’ve been following Aiwa’s art for a while, on her Pixiv and deviantArt pages. It’s incredibly cute, but also with a good eye for composition. She could be a professional manga artist with the stuff here. The story is broken up into three short vignettes: Shannon’s day off with Yasu, Battler and Beatrice’s memories, and a young Eva struggling against gender discrimination. The cover might seem all cute, but it’s a mix of light and dark, more bittersweet than just sweet. With their shortness, they can’t draw the reader in as much as they could. But they’re still some interesting takes on the characters; I especially liked Yasu’s story.

The book’s only other imperfection is the English. Aiwa’s native language is Spanish, so the English this book is entirely written in can feel slightly awkward. It’s not that it’s written poorly, mind you…just not as well as it could be. Over all, it’s a great book. If you’re a fan of Umineko, you should definitely get it.

Aiwa has also uploaded an earlier Umineko doujinshi, “One Winged Eagle,” on her new Tumblr account. It’s also quite good, and more gag-oriented than “Fragments.”

I’ll be following DoujinPress in the future. I think it could do a lot for encouraging doujin culture outside Japan. Plus it has a focus on yuri doujinshi, which works for me. There are two things about the site, though, that give me pause:

1. The cut of profits that the artist gets in sales seems rather small. Although this is balanced by the artist not worrying about costs, since DoujinPress handles all the printing, stocking, shipping, etc. It might still be better for the artist than other options.
2. They refuse to accept any doujinshi containing rape, or which “extraordinarily sexually objectify women or men.” So they’re not a conduit of completely free expression; all those ahegao-packed ero doujinshi will have to find somewhere else.

So doujinPress is no final solution for original doujinshi, but it’s an interesting step forward.

I also got two English Madoka Magica doujinshi in the same order: “Soul Wishes” by Kenneos and “Erinnerungen Ferne” by Hinagi. I won’t be reading or reviewing them yet, though…I don’t watch fansubs, so I’m still waiting for Aniplex USA to release it on BD here (woot). They look pretty good, too, though.

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