Doujinshi is a word that means “fan-fiction”. It’s a type of fan art, but it’s not just any old fan art. In Japan, manga and anime get turned into doujinshi all the time. The official title for “doujinshi” is actually just “dōjinshi”, but the word sounds more like “doitsu-shee” than it does “doh-jin-shee”. So people call them doujinshi to make it easier on non-Japanese tongues!
A lot of doujinshi are explicit stories about characters from established series. But they can also cover other topics too, like comedy, food adventures, even serious drama… anything the creator wants to do with a character or world they love.
People make enough money off their DIY comics in Japan for it to be considered a part-time job by the government! Of course you aren’t going to get rich drawing them yourself–the big publishing companies (like Shueisha and Kodansha) totally dominate the manga industry. But there is enough of a market for self-published work that doujinshi are given their own section at big conventions like Comic Market, where people can buy new art directly from the artists themselves.
There’s even competitions held to find out what makes the best new manga! Dozens of business come to check out daikaiju (giant monster) comics or robot-driven sci-fi epics–and some of them might get turned into official series someday! Of course they’ll hire professional writers and artists… but it won’t be impossible for an amateur creator to get recognized by one of these companies after showing off their stuff at the dōjinshi event.
Not everyone who draws fan art gets called a doujinshi! If you draw Naruto pinups and post them online, that doesn’t count–nobody’s going to pay you money for that stuff without an official license from Japan. It has to be something longer, with its own plot or story line–and if there are characters in it, they should be doing things that aren’t in the original work.
Doujinshi are meant to explore all the possible aspects of a world…and their creators take this responsibility very seriously! They take characters and ideas from other people’s stories and try to tell them so well you’d think it was an official part of the canon. Being a doujin artist is a lot of hard work, but it can also be a source of inspiration for everyone who tries it out.