Feb 15, 2012

Commentary: My Views on the MangaStream vs. Viz News

There are a lot of things I want to say about this issue both as a manga fan and a scanlator.  As a fan, I say true fans show their support through rewarding creators with money.  I think if you are reading scanlations, whether you read Japanese or not, you have an obligation to buy at least one volume of the Japanese version of your favorite series.  You have the translation, so the "I don't know Japanese" excuse isn't valid.

As for the reading scanlations as a try before you buy option, reading 1 or 2 volumes of a multi-volume series in scanlation is understandable.  However, reading all 59+ volumes of something online is not "try before you buy".  There is no reason to have an entire series online in scanlation when the series is licensed and available for purchase.
As for the quality of a translation, if you don't know Japanese, then you have no authority on the matter of Japanese to English translation.  However, you can complain about the English adaptation in terms of word choice and flow.  I admit that I continued to learn Japanese because after learning a little Japanese and seeing all the stuff that was edited out of Americanized versions, I felt cheated.  At the same time, though, I realized many scanlations had numerous errors.  I felt that I had to learn Japanese in order to fully enjoy manga.  I'm not one of those people who's gonna tell you to learn Japanese if you really love manga.  It took me 3-years and $7200 in lessons at UCSD Extension just to get to an intermediate level.  However, what I'm going to say is the Japanese is hard to learn for native English speakers (and vice versa), so please recognize the difficulty and appreciate the effort.  Viz is doing its best to write in a way that appeals to American sensibilities.  If you don't like the English Adaptation, then please let the license holders know and be specific.  To be constructive, quote a line and then suggest a better way to write something.  Just don't tell someone "it sucks" or "I hate it".  Feedback like that is not actionable.

As for MangaStream itself, as a scanlator I believe groups need to be humble and they need to promote the purchase of legitimate manga in order to support the artists.  Groups exist at the mercy of the mangaka and the publishers.  When they ask you to stop the first time, then stop and move onto another series.  There's no need to cause a bunch of drama and strut about, especially when to trained eyes, there is no reason to brag.  It reflects poorly on the scanlation community in general and thwarts the cause of more legitimate manga for everyone.  The original point of scanlation was to make unknown manga series and mangaka visible so these works could get licensed and we can give our favorite mangaka money.  Once a series is licensed, our job as scanlators is done.  Yes, I understand the frustration of being years behind in a series and in my mind, have the latest chapters of series that years behind will not have such a big impact.  However, still having volumes online that are available for purchase is not helpful.

On the subject of legitimate digital manga, we are still at the forefront.  As someone who in her past work life experienced a major Japanese publisher from the technology side, I know that the digital transition is something that has been looming over the publishers' heads for at least 7 to 8 years.  There are business and cultural forces in Japan at play here.  It's not very easy to unravel a system that has worked for many years and the Japanese, as a culture, are not historically good at change or accepting risk.  My feeling is if you want to accelerate the digital transformation, then support the current efforts.  Show the Japanese publishers that there is money to be made with very little risk.  In other words, send a message with your dollars and warm encouragement.

As for the future of scanlation, I hope for the day that scanlators and publishers can work together to provide manga in every language for a reasonable price in a user friendly manner.

Sorry for babbling on like that.  Now that I've said my peace (piece), what do you think?