Shounen – Comedy, drama, harem
5 Volumes (complete)
Kazuki is feeling a bit lost after failing to get into an art college. His friend Taishi decides to drag him to an event — a huge convention full of fan-made comics! Seeing the passion the artists put into their work awakens something in Kazuki. His other friend, Mizuki, however, can’t stand to see him enter a world full of disgusting fanboys.
Some of you may recognize Comic Party from its two anime adaptations. The series actually originated as a visual novel, and the manga certainly doesn’t hide this fact well. Comic Party‘s manga version appears to be parts of the various girls’ storylines strung together to create a wholly unbalanced plot.
After attending a Comiket-like event, Kazuki decides he also wants to start drawing doujinshi. Taishi encourages him as the other (non-drawing or writing) half of their new circle Brother 2, but Mizuki is completely against the idea. Kazuki meets several other girls connected to the world of doujinshi, and new friends and rivalries make Kazuki grow as a creator.
That sounds nice. Except instead of focusing a lot on drawing techniques or character development, girls tend to march in and out of Kazuki’s life.
Let’s talk about the actual doujin aspect. For the first few conventions (aptly named Comic Party), Kazuki draws parodies and homages before venturing out into his original works. Anything beyond that, I haven’t a clue. Readers can gleam from the covers as to the types of manga Kazuki is drawing, but the actual creation process is pretty much, “I’m drawing the outline. Hey, can you touch this up for me? To the printers!” If you want a funny but realistic and informative look at the world of doujinshi or manga-creating, this is not it. Advice is pretty much limited to “be passionate, be creative, and know your audience”, clichés found in every chase-your-dreams story ever. Instead, Comic Party tackles the everyday issues of doujin conventions, like forming a Comic Rangers defense squad to stop a terrorist who gives out his name.
Yes, almost two volumes is spent on one girl’s Amelia from Slayers-like obsession with justice. Who needs an explanation of name and outlines when instead we can read about a terrorist who stupidly reveals his name over the intercom and then gets into a physical altercation? Maybe episodes like this would be enjoyable as part of a character route, but too many characters — including Kazuki himself — are vying for attention. Mizuki hates otaku but loves Kazuki. He meets the queen of the convention. A voice actress is secretly Kazuki’s fan. Plus, the girls in the story are often dropped without a word. Sometimes, they return as if they’ve been important this whole time. I don’t how the original game routes are, but I think most people agree that dropping in and out is not good planning.
So with all these characters, who is the real star of the manga? Mizuki with her nail bat? Kazuki who starts off kind of emo before being straightforward and hardworking? Nope, Taishi. While not as hilarious as his anime counterpart, Taishi still manages to appear out of nowhere (once even wearing a cockroach outfit — WTF?!) and can be bizarrely passionate about the oddest things. He is the biggest otaku out of the group; at times, Kazuki and Mizuki would love to ditch him permanently. But despite his flair for the dramatic, he can be surprisingly grounded sometimes. He’s the type where you never know what he will do next or if he’s secretly plotting something, and so his randomness can liven up the story.
Taishi is also responsible for the bulk of the comedy. While this series has two girls armed with a fan and a nail bat and features people spying from a banner hanging from the ceiling, the manga does spend quite a bit of time on more serious subjects. The aforementioned bomb is one of them. The final volume, for instance, spends over half the volume on a showdown between Eimi and Kazuki on what makes a manga good, ending with plenty of tears. Then more tears as Mizuki believes Kazuki is only going to keep getting further and further from her. Again, Comic Party tries to mix genres (probably a holdover from its original source), but it feels like the author is cramming full character arcs into much shorter arcs or even single chapters. It’s a bit like the Uta no Prince-sama anime in how it appears to be a comedy but has deeper dramatic roots; as we all know, though, there’s no voices, bright colors, or background music to help patch the story flaws.
Fitting with its theme, the people at AQUAPLUS chose a doujin artist to do the manga adaptation of Comic Party. This is Inui’s first serialization, and it shows. Inui’s art changes over the four years he drew the manga. Compare Mizuki on the covers of the first and last volume:
Like most of the other characters, Mizuki changes from the more 90’s, early 2000s Saber Marionette J-like style to a more moe, anime-like style. Here’s a Kazuki example:
Again, this is one year later in manga-time, and Kazuki is much happier now, but there are some stark difference. The rest of the cast (including Taishi) don’t have as much of a visual change, but the size of the females’ eyes can be very inconsistent. Even at the end, Inui is still developing. One of the last images of Mizuki makes her look as if she has more weight in her shoulders and her back than in the front. However, even as his style becomes cleaner, since Comic Party isn’t Inui’s own original work, he is still constrained by the original designs. Perhaps Kazuki wouldn’t have looked as if he transformed from a boy band member to high school everyman if Inui could have more leeway to change Kazuki’s appearance. Towards the end, Inui starts taking more risks. One key scene is a picture drawn vertically, and the scenes involve punching have a lot of impact with the blacks and the greys. The early volumes try to stuff it full of gags like Mizuki’s anger and Taishi’s randomness. While these are funny, too much can be distracting. I still wasn’t blown away, but his pacing certainly improves.
Taishi’s comrade/brother habit is mostly kept, and Chisa calls Kazuki “Brother”. Some honorifics are used. No translation notes are included, so you may miss some of the more subtle anime/manga references.
The dialogue tends to be harsher in English. Parts appear to be rewritten in order to add jokes, like Mizuki saying she needs a shotgun. Even things like Taishi’s first appearance has him chortling for Mizuki instead of “my brother”, and in that same scene, a line is rewritten to have Mizuki laughing instead of be shocked/creeped out. Puns that make Kazuki grab fat in confusion or grab a club are completely skipped, but yet the sketchbook confusion is kept. While names are written in Western order, Yuu’s introduction has her name in Eastern order. Money is kept in yen.
Also, while some advertisements call Mizuki Kazuki’s girlfriend, this is not true.
In short, an all-too-typical TOKYOPOP release with some rewriting but not too many errors.
Several manga and anime have been done about doujin (fan-made) projects like Doujin Work and Genshiken. But Comic Party doesn’t know whether to focus on the humor, the romance, or the struggle for recognition, and all three aspects suffer as a result. The anime is better (specifically the first).
Comic Party had several official fan books, and Central Park Media started releasing one collection under the name Comic Party: Party Time, but it is incomplete. Broccoli Books released Inui’s Murder Princess, and TOKYOPOP (and later VIZ Media) started releasing the Ratman manga.