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What is the "Works of Interest Groups" (Donjinshi)?
The term "Works of Interest Groups" means the literary and artistic works "the Works" collectively created by a group of people with similar interests (“Interest Groups"). That is to say, if people with common aspirations bring together a collection of literary and artistic works individually produced by each of them and have it printed at their own costs for circulation among themselves without going through commercial publishers, this can be called the "Works of Interest Groups".
Later on, as the culture of animated cartoons and electronic games becomes popular in Japan and because hot items have been very well received by Interest Group members, adaptations from commercial productions into externally circulated cartoons of Interest Groups gradually become the main stream. This kind of productions mostly uses the same settings in terms of characters and historical background as the commercial productions and then different stories are created according to the likings of the Interest Groups. These represent the most frequently seen "Adaptive" externally circulated Works of Interest Groups.
The Difference between Works of Interest Groups and Commercial Cartoons
In terms of definition, commercial cartoons are those published by commercial publishers and sold in the cartoons market; Works of Interest Groups are the collections produced through photocopying or small scale printing at the cost of Interest Groups and circulated among themselves. In terms of contents, commercial cartoons must take into account intellectual property rights, cost recovery and market demand. Therefore, often to a certain extent, there are special requirements in determining the theme and contents and they are also subject to editor's selections. In addition to reaching a certain standard in the skills of drawing and scrip-writing, they must also match the style and editorial direction of the magazine.
A cartoon strip has to go through lots of tests before it can possibly appear in commercial cartoon magazines. During this process, cartoonists frequently have to make a lot of compromise, e.g. in the alteration of the plot, deletion of their original ideas or the addition of certain scenarios to meet the likings of readers and the market. Because of such practical limitations, commercial cartoonists very often cannot freely express what they really want to draw.
But it is a different story for the Works of Interest Groups. As these authors do not need to publish their books through publishers and are not required to consider the limitations due to the style of the magazine or market preferences, they can freely draw what they want. On a separate note, though the drawing and script-writing skills of some authors of Interest Groups are not up to the standard of cartoonists in commercial magazines, their creativity or uniqueness in the way they express themselves in certain areas of the Works of Interest Groups are still quite worthy of reading. And certain works of an adaptive nature are quite often not seen in commercial cartoons. Therefore from the perspective of free hand, Works of Interest Groups can be said to have a wider horizon than commercial cartoons. Comparatively, because sales channels are narrower, authors of Interest Groups, very often, have to suffer losses in publishing their books, but their passion for drawing and script-writing can support them going on.