Doujin, Cosplay, Garage Kits and Dinosaurs: A Look at Do-Pe Magazine

Eazy E had the foresight to warn us “Don’t get high on your own supply” back in 1987, but when otaku subculture magazine Do-Pe launched two years later in 1989, they clearly hadn’t been listening. Branded as an “Identity Magazine for You,” Do-Pe ignored the mainstream otaku merchandising pushed by production committees and major publishers and focused on the small-time DIY crowd. Instead of the latest anime film or hot new series promoted on glossy color pages, Do-Pe was all about the latest doujinshi, doujin software, garage kits, and indie tokusatsu, among even stranger things.

Just to get this out of the way, “Do-Pe” stands for “Doujin People.” With that name, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the magazine was published by the same people who brought the world Lemon People (Google that if that doesn’t ring a bell—but not at work, ok?). Published for just ten issues between 1989 and 1992, Do-Pe’s demise may have been the result of the Japanese economy tanking in the early ‘90s or the DIY fan culture that had been so prevalent in the ‘80s slowly losing steam. As for the scatterbrained subject matter, well, the 1980s were not exactly a decade where people were left wanting otaku magazines. So it makes some sense that there was a professional magazine covering non-professional things otaku would be interested in.

While it may have been technically a professional publication, Do-Pe feels anything but. That’s not to say it feels cheap or looks sloppy, just that it skips over anything of the topics you’d find in more mainstream magazines and instead focuses on things like photos of garage kits from Wonder Festival, cosplay photos from Comic Market, behind the scenes photos from the set of an indie tokusatsu series, and extensive previews of pornographic doujin software. And that’s just the first issue. The easiest way to describe Do-Pe is that it was the newsprint pages from the back of your favorite ‘80s anime magazine—you know, where they published all the strange bits and otaku-adjacent subjects—spread out into an entire magazine. It is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating magazines from the era that I’ve encountered.

Cosplayers from Comic Market 36, the last event held at Harumi Fairgrounds before moving to Makuhari Messe for a couple of years. Do-Pe, Vol. 1.

“We’ll do it ourselves!” may as well have been the rallying cry of first-generation otaku, be it producing their own doujinshi, organizing fan clubs, or just rummaging around the dumpster behind their favorite animation studio for old animation cels that got tossed in the trash. Before big companies and production committees honed in on the purchasing power of otaku, there was a sense of do-it-yourself that permeated the periphery of mania. A fever for creating something their own, be it a garage kit of their favorite character or, say, some amateur animation. Much of this activity was covered in some capacity in proper industry magazines, but the focus was always on the product itself; the sponsors and publishers held the power and the focus was going to be on the latest series, the much-hyped movie, etc. Do-Pe is fascinating because it didn’t even attempt to do that.

While I question the logic of focusing a magazine on specific fandom interests in an era of increasingly siloed otaku interests, it’s hard not to respect the depth to which Do-Pe covers its various features. Cosplay and doujin fans were well-served with a multi-page feature on Comiket 37’s move from Harumi to Makuhari Messe in 1989, complete with access maps, information on amenities in the area like capsule hotels, and train timetables. Garage kit fans got full-page interviews with staff from companies like Volks, Kaiyodo, and General Products—something you’d rarely even see in dedicated model magazines like Hobby Japan or Model Graphix. Featured doujin got two-page spreads with example pages, publishing info, and a short description. It’s all very in-depth, but I wonder how much overlap was here for these particular niches and if they weren’t better served elsewhere.

Was a hardcore garage kit maniac really going to care about in-depth doujinshi descriptions or software previews? My assumption is they’d be spending all their money on resin and soft vinyl, and doujin fanatics and PC-98 software enthusiasts would be similarly focused on their own pursuits. Perhaps there was enough crossover to justify that variety, but on the other hand, Do-Pe also only lasted ten issues across three years. Those newsprint pages in more mainstream magazines I mentioned earlier featured a similarly wide-ranging number of products and focuses, but were usually just a small sliver of the total page count. In the case of Do-Pe, that range was the focus of the magazine and all the more interesting for it, at least in retrospect.

The sheer breadth of otaku-targeted magazine publishing in the ‘80s and ‘90s meant that there were more than a few approaches to otaku magazines. More “mainstream” magazines like Newtype and Animage covered anime, with a big focus on glossy color pages showing the latest and greatest. Magazines like Anime V and Globian attempted to focus on the emerging OVA market. Hobby Japan and Model Graphix kept modelers satiated. The closest magazine to Do-Pe would probably be the venerable Fanroad, but while Fanroad put a heavy emphasis on fan discourse, Do-Pe seemed to favor focusing on the actual products of fan creation rather than discussion.

“This is Summer Comiket Doujinsoft power!” Do-Pe, Vol. 1.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t some deviation from this formula. Volume 2 (Summer 1990) had a multi-page full-color spread all about Batman merchandise at the beginning of the issue. Other features in that issue included a short article about manga in Thailand, interviews with a bunch of different garage kit manufacturers, and a fully illustrated guide to Maiasaura. Yes, the dinosaur. Why? I don’t really know. But dinosaurs were big in bubble-era Japan. Do-Pe was all over the place, and all the more interesting for it.

Do-Pe was an odd magazine, for sure. If you’re looking for anime coverage, there are much better magazines to track down (and truthfully, Do-Pe had almost no anime coverage). But if you’re curious about all the strange, mostly forgotten things that otaku got up to in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a magazine that offered up a similarly eclectic cross-section of fandom of the era.

Do-Pe, Vols. 1-5.

Vol. 1, Winter 1989
Color photos of garage kits from Wonder Festival 8, cosplay from Comiket, and a photographic guide to getting to Makuhari Messe complete with train schedules and transport maps1. Interviews with staff from garage kit manufacturers Volks, Kaiyodo, and General Products. A how-to guide for casting your own life-size replica of the helmet worn by the hero of Star Shadow, an indie tokusatsu series. An article about the state of doujinshi in the year 1989 by Lemon People and Manga Burriko artist くあTero. Reviews and previews of lots of various doujinshi, including one that portrays characters from the Metal Heroes show Superhuman-Machine Metalder2 as sexy women. Assorted comics. Giveaway presents at the end of the issue included Dragon Quest puzzles and t-shirts from General Products, Patlabor garage kits by Kaiyodo, and replica SV-2 visors by Garrison.

Make your own Star Shadow helmet out of fiberglass. Do-Pe, Vol. 1.

Vol. 2, Summer 1990
Multi-page spread about Batman merchandise with a big focus on the 1989 movie. Garage kit coverage including a photo guide to building an Iczer-3 figure and a rundown on recently released garage kits. Cosplay photos and doujin soft report from Winter Comiket. A short article on manga releases in Thailand. Lots of doujinshi previews and reviews, including one titled “Juggs.” Interviews with staff from garage kit manufacturers including Max Factory, Zero, and Kotobukiya. An article/comic explaining how the firing mechanism of a Colt 1911 works. A how-to guide to replicating Jack Nicholson’s Joker makeup from Batman. Giveaway presents at the end of the issue included a 1/12 Guyver kit from Max Factory, a Batman playset donated by Billiken, and Iczer-1 figures from Kotobukiya.

Vol. 3, Autumn 1990
Full-color photo spread from an airgun game and Do-Pe’s “Airgun Best 10.” Photo coverage of the Tokyo Toy Show with a strong focus on airsoft guns. A tongue-in-cheek article speculating on what Comiket in the year 2001 will look like, including being held off the western coast of Kyushu and the appearance of aliens due to their confusion from all the cosplay. An article on doujin card games, including games based on Bastard!!, Patlabor, and Saint Seiya. Interviews with staff from garage kit manufacturers including Musashiya, SF Gallery Monolith, and Paradise. Color photo coverage of garage kits from Wonder Festival 9 and Artpla 23. Doujin soft reviews including a Wizardry parody called “Urazardry.” A photo report from the 1st Japanese Pasocon Convention, hosted by General Products and featuring Wizardry co-creator and AnimEigo founder Robert Woodhead. Doujinshi reviews and previews. Giveaway presents at the end of the issue included a jar of vinyl chloride (cast your own sofubi!) and a 1/6 Mister Spock figure from Musahiya.

An example of the full-color doujinsoft previews seen in most issues of Do-Pe.

Vol. 4, Winter 1991
Full-color cosplay coverage from Comic Market 38 (August 18-19, 1990). Full-color garage kit spread from Wonder Festival 10 (August 14-15, 1990). An article about doujin from the early 70s and the usual previews of various doujin comics. A full-color Comiket PC game report and some studio photos of fancy Space Battleship Yamato garage kits (with a corresponding article about how they were built). Interviews with staff from garage kit companies like Volks, Buildup, and Garrison (more of an airgun/survival game hobby shop rather than traditional garage kits). More dinosaur coverage, this month it’s the Triceratops. A rundown of upcoming doujin events and a preview of the film Robot Jox and the Australian-Japanese TV series Ultraman Great. A look at “English board games” which in this case meant Games Workshop stuff like Blood Bowl, Talisman, and Space Hulk. A very short bit about American anime fans, with photos of Nikaku Animart in San Jose and pages from Animag magazine (with an inset photo of future Animerica editor Trish Ledoux). Giveaway presents at the end of this issue included a 1/1 scale Space Sheriff Sharivan helmet from General Products, a 1/6 vinyl kit of Vision from Bubblegum Crisis Ep. 7 by Zero, and a Yoshitaka Amano calendar for 1991.

Slotcar feature with a group photo taken in front of a Volks shop. Do-Pe, Vol. 8.

Vol. 5, Spring 1991
Full-color spreads of garage kits from Wonder Festival 11 (January 5-6, 1991) and Comic Market 39 (December 23-24, 1990). A short photo feature on Daimaijin with a brief how-to guide for building a Daimaijin vinyl kit. A “super interview” between Bio Booster Armor Guyver creator Yoshiki Takaya and Max Watanabe4. Various articles on the state of fans in 1991. Garage kit manufacturer interviews with staff from Yellow Submarine, Oz Shop, and Zero. More doujinshi previews and full-color pages dedicated to PC games from Comiket. A big feature with color photos and comics about slot cars. More dinosaurs—Brontosaurus this month. A quick look at doujin card games (including ones based on Legend of Galactic Heroes, Saint Seiya, and Five Star Stories). A letters page called, incredibly, “Doping Party.” Giveaway presents for this issue included a set of Gunbuster setting material books, some Max Factory Guyver kits, and a set of figurines from the Gremlins.

Do-Pe, Vols. 5-10.

Vol. 6, Summer 1991
Full-color coverage of kits from Artpla, Medi-Kit Convention, and cosplay from Harumi Market. Even more slot car coverage (this time featuring Max Watanabe) and the usual doujinshi previews and full-color coverage of doujin PC games. A few pages (color photos and how-to coverage) on building the 1/6 scale soft vinyl Priss kit from Bubblegum Crisis seen on the cover. Garage kit maker interviews, this time with some smaller shops. Dinosaur coverage this month focused on the Plesiosaurus. Various artist pages talking about their personal Gundam experiences as fans. Doping Party is now two pages. Giveaway presents for this issue included soft vinyl kits based on Dragon Ball Z, Iczer-1, and Ultraman and a collection of Famicom games based on anime.

Garage kits based on Chisato Moritaka’s music video, 17才. Inset photo from Wonder Festival 10. Do-Pe, Vol. 4.

Vol. 7, Autumn 1991
Big photo feature on Tokyo Toy Show ’91 and a look at American horror garage kits. A photo series on all the things you can propel through the water using a Marubuchi S-1 model submarine motor (including a Nintendo Famicom and a Takora doll). Coverage of a whole bunch of garage kit festivals, particularly Hobby Japan Festival which was called “F-’91” that year… very clever. Extensive coverage of Indies Hero Festival, an event for indie tokusatsu and sci-fi projects. The usual doujinshi previews (featuring books like “Boy Beans” and a Metal Heroes parody “Secret Commando Zperm”) and color pages dedicated to doujin PC games. Artist pages with illustrations based on Western films like Rocky Horror Picture Show, Blade Runner, Edward Scissorhands, and Red Dawn. Giveaway presents this issue included Pony Metal U-Gaim and Gunbuster t-shirts from General Products, a couple of used cocktail arcade machines, and some Inazuman VHS tapes.

Edward Scissorhands by Senno Knife, Do-Pe Vol. 7.

Vol. 8, Winter 1992
Photo coverage of kits from Wonder Festival 12 (August 17-18, 1991) and cosplay coverage from Comic Market and AnimeCon ’91 in the US. This issue features a lot more comic pages and illustrator pages than previous issues. The usual doujinshi previews, color pages dedicated to doujin games, and more slot car coverage (plus a great group photo in front of a Volks storefront). The section on garage kit maker interviews seemingly ran out of manufacturer staff to interview, so this month focused on a guy who built a lot of Armored Trooper VOTOMS kits. Doping Party is back down to one page. Giveaway presents for this issue included a Red Mirage (Five Star Stories) kit from Wave, a Buster Machine (Gunbuster) kit from General Products, and some overseas copies of Starlog and Adam Warren’s Dirty Pair comics.

One of the many dinosaur features in Do-Pe, this time focusing on Brontosaurus.

Vol. 9, Spring 1992
Photo coverage of kits from Wonder Festival 13 (January 5, 1992)5 and cosplay photos from Comic Market 41 (December 29-30, 1991). The cover story for this issue was Z Knights a sort of Zoids-adjacent series of model kits that had basic motors, allowing them to walk, featuring a lot of customized Z Knights to look like the Thunderbird 2 from Thunderbirds, a sumo wrestler, school girls, and Ultraman among subjects. Included a full comic and bracket covering a tournament staff ran battling Z Knights. The usual doujinshi previews, but doujin soft coverage this issue doesn’t get the full-color treatment. Airgun coverage focusing on the M3A1 Grease gun, A feature on model kits based on dioramas; think Tracy Island from Thunderbirds. Coverage of Indies Hero Festival 3, including Milky Commando 2 and The Eagle Force: Radical Hearts. Giveaway presents for this issue included brass etching parts for improving the detail of your Z Knights kits, a soft vinyl kit based on Cybernetics Guardian, Milky Commando and Milky Commando 2 on VHS, and a pair of Thunderbirds shot glasses.

A scene from Comiket circa 2001. Do-Pe, Vol. 3.

Vol. 10, Summer 1992
Full-color photo coverage of the Artpla event held in late April at Sunshine City, plus photos from something called “Garage Art Convention 7.” A “Super Otakurama” article called “Electric Fleet” comparing different types of motorized boats and customized boats using the previously featured Marubuchi S-1 model submarine motor, this time featuring things like a 1/6 model of Catty from Gall Force on a jet ski powered by two S-1s. The typical doujinshi coverage and previews, including a Formula 1 doujinshi  “Tobacco Road” featuring a manga version of Alain Prost. A brief interview with M.D. Geist creator Koichi Ohata (perhaps not coincidentally, the very first page of this issue is a full-page color photo of a soft vinyl kit from Ohata’s Cybernetics Guardian OVA). Photo coverage of a tokusatsu-themed dance party called “Fight! Dance Party” with almost every photo including a guy dressed up as the Joker from Tim Burton’s Batman. Like Vol. 9, there’s no doujin soft coverage to be found. Giveaway presents for this issue included M.D. Geist on Laserdisc, assorted Z-Knight goods, and some 1/35 scale metal MADOX-01 garage kits from Zero.


  1. For Comiket 37, held in December of 1989, the doujin convention moved from the Harumi Fairgrounds to Makuhari Messe, where it was held until the event returned to the Harumi Fairgrounds in 1991. It’s currently held at Tokyo Big Site.
  2. Best known in English-speaking spheres as one of the shows used for the short-lived Power Rangers follow-up, Big Bad Beetleborgs.
  3. An amateur garage kit contest held by Kaiyodo.
  4. At the time, Watanabe’s company Max Factory had an extensive line of soft vinyl its based on Guyver. The American Guyver movie features, too.
  5. This was kind of a fascinating Wonder Festival and arguably marked the “end” of the first era of the event. For starters, the official Wonder Festival site points out that a dip in attendance was due to Gundam-related kits not being approved for sale because Bandai decided to back their own garage kit festival with JAF-Con. Secondly, this was the event where it was announced that General Products, the company that started Wonder Festival, would no longer be running the event.