The Forgotten Otaku Pioneer: Comic Party

Introduction

Anime that revolves around otaku culture is nothing new – in fact, the earliest instance was a very unique OVA from 1991 titled Otaku no Video, which combines an anime story with live action interviews featuring real otaku in order to create a rather loose retelling of how critically acclaimed anime studio Gainax was founded.

More than thirteen years later we saw Genshiken, Welcome to the NHK, OreImo and a wide variety of other series dealing with the anime, manga and visual novel fandoms. And somewhere inbetween, we had Comic Party – a visual novel derived anime from 2001 that essentially spawned a genre but has been seen by fewer than 15,000 MyAnimeList users.

I first came across Comic Party about three years ago when I was searching for more otaku-focused anime, although I only got around to watching it last week. I came out of the series with mixed feelings, but I certainly don’t regret sitting through it.

The story

The show starts by introducing us to a generic main character who becomes very confused after turning up to school and being addressed by the wrong name several times. After a solid minute of shock and discomfort, its revealed that this was all a dream, and the opening begins to play.

This dream is the first of many references to To Heart, which is a lighthearted slice of life series by the same creators that I recommend watching first if you want to understand all the jokes in Comic Party.

After the opening, the show properly introduces us to Kazuki and Mizuki; a pair of high schoolers about to enter their senior year. They also have a friend named Taishi who is a massive otaku and suddenly decides to take them to a comic convention in an attempt to get Kazuki interested in doujinshi (fan comics, games, etc).

Taishi has a desire to conquer the world through entertainment, and he sees Kazuki’s art skills as a great first step towards this goal, so he soon forms a doujin circle called ‘Brother 2’ and starts sending vendor applications to conventions.

After some convincing, Kazuki becomes fairly enthusiastic about attending conventions and selling his work, but his close friend Mizuki is strongly opposed to his involvement in the doujinshi scene as she considers otaku smelly, dirty and disgusting.

From here, Kazuki learns of an upcoming convention called ‘Comic Party’ said to be the biggest ever, and begins working even harder on his comics in the hope of selling as many as possible – and like any author, he has his ups and downs.

My thoughts

I don’t think the series is anything spectacular, but it kept me entertained throughout all thirteen episodes and required very little brain power to watch, so it was good for relaxing after a long day.

The art style is pretty standard for early 2000’s slice of life anime and there’s nothing that really stands out for better or worse. As for the soundtrack, the opening is fairly catchy and I’ve found myself humming it a lot this past week, but the show itself is full of overwhelmingly average music.

One aspect in which Comic Party shines is character development. Script writer Michiko Yokote was constrained by both the short length of the anime series and the lack of personality the characters had in the visual novel, but she still did a great job of transforming Kazuki and Mizuki into totally different people at a reasonable pace.

Taishi remains the same eager otaku, although even he grows as a person when things don’t go exactly as he plans. Far less time is spent on the side characters, but they’re all interesting in their own right and some become more likeable towards the end.

To sum it up: the show is easy to watch, is sure to make you laugh, the characters will almost certainly grow on you, and its a must watch for fans of the otaku sub-genre, but don’t expect an extensive fleshed out story like Welcome to the NHK!

Where to watch

Unfortunately there is no legal way to stream Comic Party in the UK, nor is there a DVD release, but if you have a multi-region DVD player you can import a copy from the US via Amazon.

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