This post is partly in response to SDS’s comment about wanting to hear more on this topic. In a nutshell, during his recent trip to Japan, he went to the Love Live Thanksgiving event that was recently taking place. I remember reading about the event mainly for the giant LLSIF game they set up where nine different people can play by tapping separate buttons, and seeing it on a big screen. He also posits the “trigger” about choosing between that and a similarly-timed Love Live doujinshi event.
Just to speak out of my own experience, the past few Million Festiv@ls were like, the few times in recent years where I really wanted to go to a doujinshi event. Given my inclinations for doujinshi, it was more to get all those Matsuri x ??? books, or just seeing what’s out there and which fan base ships what or how did the fannons operated. I remember also about Comikets 87-89, when I would actually research the catalog for ML circles and seeing if there’s anything really worthwhile. It turns out thin books themselves are not where it’s at, but also accessories like card mats? Thanks, guys, that’s some next-level artist alley stuff. (By the way, Million Festiv@l 4 is coming up next month. There are also a few other series of IM@S-only events that are inclusive of ML/CG stuff as well.)
A bit of backdrop about these tiny doujin events. Like most Artist Alley types, Japanese booths nowadays also gravitate beyond the humble thin comic format, at least when it’s focused by specific IP like this. Fans buy merch–not just prints, but the whole nine yards of them. As a reference point, my last “set” purchased from Lunatic Joker last year comes in fancyass plastic folder (full art on it) along with a printed shikishi and a couple other misc goods. The book itself is lusciously printed with a color cover. The whole thing is like 2000 yen but the book itself probably could have gone for just 1000 alone. So you buy the set…because artists know they make more money this way. Perhaps one of the most well-known Million Live doujinshi circle/person, Taka, makes Mocho merch for all occasions and while he also has a series of fan books (mostly detailing Mochoisms on radio) and doujinshi (CG/ML/765 SD stuff) he makes a lot more on these polyester eventer shirts (that wicks away sweat!). Or why Bin1’s now-smash-hit Captain America collab translates into T-shirts and a book of prints. Or why there were so many ReDrop shirts in the crowd during IDOLM@STER 10th.
I guess, in a way that ought to be obvious, the communities within the fandom are engaged persistently. The “artist alley” narrative is a different sort of thing than the typical eventer stuff. Fans at an IM@S live show up in Taka shirts meant a certain context permeates those people’s fandom, for example, and this a particular sort of cultural currency that only pays off in that specific context. But this is the same and yet different than saying you are a Kikuchi Makoto producer, for example. Rather, these fan creation actually reflects more nuanced and specific/unique, composite meanings. It’s easy to be a MakotoP and wear a pin badge of her, as you can get countless official and fan-made pin badges of her. It’s another if you show up with custom black coat embroidered with Hirata Hiromi on the back (let’s congratulate her on daughter #2 by the way). Or a ReDrop Makoto. Or certain pins over other pins.
To paraphrase, official events like lives and such are not “canon” but rather “content.” Fans ultimately have varying levels of preferences in terms of the engagement they want to have, they can have (eg., oversea versus domestic; rich versus poor; student versus salaryman), and what’s available. But unlike watching an anime or playing video games, event-as-content is both ways, as in fans at the event exchange/create ideas as well as consume new content. If the defining mark of otaku entertainment is its cultural ouroboros of remixing aspects of fandom in subsequent work, eventing culture seems like the same thing but on hyper mode.
In the US, I really don’t know AA culture enough to make a statement convincing enough about how it works to the degree that it runs parallelly like Tumblr or whatever. The truth is that these cultural spaces generate its own kind of content, but at the same time it resolves around other contents in which defines these spaces as fan spaces. That much applies across the board. In as much if you have only so many days visiting Japan, what you do with your time visiting which space is entirely a matter of your limitations and proclinations.