Japan's version of self publishing or independent press.
While doujinshi is traditionally represented as self-published manga, it literally means "amateur publication" and has come to be used as a synonym for any independently published fanwork. Doujinshi produced by a team is usually credited as a "doujin circle" rather than an individual pen name.
Notably, doujinshi may feature completely original content or content derived from an existing intellectual property. Printed doujinshi was traditionally published in limited amounts because of financial limitations. In regards to non-original content, this also assures fans do not step on the toes on the IP's original owners to any large degree, and many companies see amateur work as free promotion. Since doujinshi are also a way of dodging Executive Meddling, doujinshi are less subject to censorship; sexualized and otherwise trangressional depictions are infamous traits of doujinshi, though not actually representative of the whole. They're Best Known for the Fanservice, after all. They are also less subject to quality control (which also contributes to the stereotype).
In recent years,[when?] there has been an upswing in the activity of both amateur comic artists and professionals wishing to work "outside the system." Concurrent to this has been a support system enabling the production and sale of these works at a scale that few Western artists or writers could accomplish. The biggest semi-annual doujin sale convention, Comiket, has an attendance of some 500,000 people over each three-day event, making it the largest fan convention of any type in the world. Because of even tighter financial and legal limitations, doujinshi in the West is represented prominently, if not almost exclusively, on the internet.
The second most popular form of doujinshi is games, often programmed by one person or a very small group. Probably the most well-known of doujin soft producers, and one of the few ones to cross over into commercial game production is Type Moon'. The Touhou games constitute possibly the longest-running series of doujin game productions, since the first one was released in 1996 and there have been 19 games in the series, although there are other potential contenders to that throne. Game Mods and Visual Novels are a gray area, in that most are some sort of fanwork independently "published" as Freeware, so depending on exact definition anywhere from very few to almost all may count.
This has two effects upon anime. The first is that several highly regarded anime have been based on either doujinshi or on artists who established their presence as creators of doujinshi. This includes famous individuals such as CLAMP, Ken Akamatsu (who dabbles in both), and Yoshitoshi ABe (who created the original doujinshi Haibane Renmei is based on.)
The second effect is that a number of anime feature doujinshi as either primary plot points, or sideline elements. Involvement in doujinshi is usually a trait of Otaku Surrogates. Comic Party and Doujin Work are stories centered around it, while Genshiken addresses it as a fandom trait; Studio Gainax's Otaku no Video is essentially a fanciful self-biopic of the company's origins as a doujin circle.
Interestingly, the first doujinshi were made in America during the early 20th century. They were called "Tijuana bibles," and were eight-page porn comics usually starring cartoon characters or movie stars having explicit and often-comedic sex. (There have been guesses why they were called "Tijuana" bibles, but the reasoning is always obscure.) The creator of Li'l Abner famously said that he knew he'd hit the big time when Tijuana bibles of his characters began to surface. The first "doujinshi" to raise a major fuss was an underground comic called Air Pirates Funnies. After the first issue, the existing designs were replaced with Disney characters in rather explicit situations. This did not please Disney.
- Harumi Fujiyoshi from Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei is, as her name holds true, a Yaoi Fangirl. Naturally, she's into slash and a lot of her drawing material involves Shout Outs and references to other anime, mostly involving material like the above picture.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima, Haruna writes Doujinshi, although we don't see a lot of her work. There's even a memorable interlude where she drags Negi to a Doujinshi convention, and he unknowingly picks up a Yaoi hentai, nearly giving Chisame a coronary.
- Konata from Lucky Star is a Comiket veteran, once recruiting her friends to come with her, during which episode, Kagami spots the yaoi doujin pictured above. Curiosity gets the best of her, and...well...hilarity ensues.
- The eponymous club in Genshiken has a locker full of Doujins in the club room. Later, the club produce their own doujinshi for Show Within a Show Kujibiki Unbalance. Oguie also draws Yaoi doujinshi, and once accidently spills a large pile of hardcore one she bought in front of the boys in the club.
- Nagi of Hayate the Combat Butler draws her own, it's her Berserk Button if you call it a 'picture diary'. Several chapters of it have featured well in the anime and manga. The only one who's able to understand the story is Isumi.
- Doujin Work is, unsurprisingly, about people involved in the doujin manga scene, with varying levels of success. Apparently, one can make quite a profit in making doujinshi, as Justice can attest.
- Comic Party is an anime (based on a dating sim game) about the process of making doujinshi. The main character is convinced by a friend of his to use his artistic skills and use doujinshi to "Take over the world." The process of doujinshi is shown in detail, from scripting to printing to selling.
- Hanaukyo Maid Tai La Verite episode 5. Ikuyo Suzuki takes the main characters to Comiket to sell her manga, which (based on its cover) features a (fictional) relationship between the maids Yashima Sanae and Konoe Tsurugi.
- Visionary Replay Of Homu Homu, a sexually explicit Puella Magi Madoka Magica Homura/Madoka Girls Love story.
- The character designer of Madoka Magica, Ume Aoki, makes doujinshi under the pseudonym Apricot+; a Madoka doujin is amongst works she made under this name.
- Gundam Wing: Ground Zero, which actually got published in the US through Viz, and can be distinguished from the official manga by the fact that it doesn't have any of the show's staff in its credits (and because it conflicts with manga that do like Blind Target).
- Nakuru from Mayo Chiki is one. She's obsessed with making BL manga, particularly after seeing the butler for a local rich girl, Konoe Subaru hanging out a lot with Ordinary High School Student Jiro.
- Chihaya from Asu no Yoichi is another in-universe example. She draws manga and goes to school, but sometimes has trouble trying to fit both into her life. When some of her classmates belittle her efforts, Yoichi beats them up and also chastises them since they lack motivation to do anything themselves but are quick to criticize others for trying to make something of their life. Which then gives Chihaya some more ideas for her manga.
- Morefuyu is based on Morenatsu, but taking place in winter instead of summer.
- Doujin works in this format have a tendency to be created as fighting games, usually emulating the style of Guilty Gear:
- Doujin shmups are also quite big:
- Doujin action titles are notable as well:
- Questionable Content convention arc revealed Pintsize makes these. But inverts the stereotype.
- In Ghastly's Ghastly Comic, Freddy draws doujinshi based on Chick Tracts, and after Cosplay Girl converts to Buddhism, she draws a Bishonen Buddha/Drunk And Bitter Jesus doujinshi (with Jesus as Seme). Bishonen Buddha then recommends she start worshiping Fat Buddha instead.
"He's Japanese, you know. You kids love that crazy Japanese stuff, right?"