Design and Devotion – The Doujinshi Scene in Japan


In this interview I speak with a Japanese developer who goes by the internet handle “とりすーぷ” (torisoup). He has released one game, NITORI BOX, a quaint puzzle platformer based on Touhou Project. Tori is currently working on a second unnamed title and works as an IT Developer.

Like many people in Japan, having a doujin circle of his own is a hobby to practice their skills at programming and perhaps making a little money on the side. The real goal, however, is to have fun and do what they want as he will reveal among other things.

A little introduction to the concepts in this interview. Doujin circles are groups of people (or one individual) who program a game, write stories, or create art, CG, and manga often times derivative of established works like Touhou. With resources like Pixiv, DLSite, and Comiket they can come together to share their work, meet, and overall inspire each other.

On top of these subjects there is also Vocaloid and MikuMikuDance, allowing just about anyone with a little ingenuity to contribute to the creative sub culture that all comes together on NicoNicoDouga.

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This interview was not translated with a fluent speaker on hand, but rather between myself and Tori. 


Can you tell us about yourself and your games? Where did you begin with developing software?

Tori: I work for a Japanese IT Company. I have a doujin circle, BirdStrike, from which I develop my own games as a hobby. I started developing games a few years ago. In elementary school I always wanted to make games, and in High School my colleagues and I attempted but failed to make one because I did not have the programming skills.”

In college my friend had made a game engine which we used to develop NITORI BOX. I created mods for GTA4 in C#, the same language I use to develop my games now.


What can you tell us about the Japanese game industry? Specifically, the doujin game community and derivative works.

Tori: The difference between “commercial” and “doujin” is clear in Japan. Commercial games prioritize profit while doujin games are about what the creator wants to do. People who make commercial games look at what’s preferred in order to sell, and on the other hand doujin game developers make what they want with little stance on profit. If it’s lucrative, that is excellent, but is not the focus.

Similar but unlike doujin games are “indie” developers. Their goal is to commercialize and become major developers. There is the distinction of being an “indie game developer” or “doujin game creator” in Japan. In many cases, doujin game exhibitions are not permitted at indie game exhibitions.

In summary, I think:

Game companies making commercial games will give profit a priority. Indie games are professional independent people, which aim to commercialize like big companies. I also have the goal of commercialization. The doujin developer is a wild card, a regular person who does things for fun.

There is another summary on the following blog that summarizes the state of the game industry in Japan. It is not something I wrote.


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The Japanese development community has been consistent for many years, using avenues like DLSite and Comiket to sell their works. Do you think that will change, or stay the way it is? You mentioned that the Japanese tried to find a native solution like Valve’s own Steamworks in the West.

Tori: I think that it will not change.

There are two factors in the creative culture of Japan: the content and the producer. With DL sales like Steam, you are only getting the content and not anything of the developer.

But, events like Comiket are important, because the user can come to meet the producer and also buy their work. I think that Comiket is the very foundation of the doujin culture, not just a sales method, for this reason. Meeting people of similar interests at these gatherings is the original meaning of doujin.

I get the communication through the internet now. However, there is a psychology to the culture. Comiket is a valuable opportunity to meet real people, and there are a lot of people who look forward to seeing the content creators.


You showed me that you work using technology like the Oculus Rift. Do you think there will be a big market for independent developers in Japan for this?

Tori: Oculus rift is becoming famous in Japan, but the general public still doesn’t know much. It is said that that development for Oculus Rift is thriving in Japan, but I think people who bought Oculus Rift outside of Japan just want to “play” it.

There is still no content to play with Oculus Rift, and few people like to play FPS game in Japan. When I bought the Oculus Rift, there were no games to play, for this reason only a developer would buy it.

As a result of all this, development looks popular in Japan. Some companies now have internships involving the use of Oculus Rift as well.



What do you think is important to the Japanese industry?

Tori: New games. There is too much remaking of the past and too many sequels. Like FF1,2,3,4…14,15. FF5 on Smartphone! FF5 on DS! FF5 on PSP! Users are getting tired and irresponsible.


For anyone curious about the Japanese side of the gaming community, I hope this proved enlightening for you as it did to me. My favorite question was asking him about comiket.

As having only ever caught glimpses of the event and the amount of ideas and people that come together at the event, I wish we had such a thing here. I thank Tori for allowing me to conduct this interview, and if you’re interested in following his second coming game, you can find him posting about it and other tech on his twitter feed here.

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I was born in a generational gap where the golden age of gaming overlapped with the toxic age of gaming and had to claw for a proper understanding of quality and standards.

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