Almost Otaku: Just How Bad Are Scanlations?

Topic started by No_name_here on June 15, 2010. Last post by skittlebunnie 4 years, 6 months ago.
Post by No_name_here (856 posts) See mini bio Level 11

 Would you pay the download fees if this were offered on an official site?
 Would you pay the download fees if this were offered on an official site?

An interesting article at Publisher’s Weekly been brought to my attention recently. It’s about the current rough spot manga’s going through in America  vis a vis the effect scanlation sites are having on print sales. I never claim to be an expert on the ins and outs of the business end of any kind of entertainment, let alone manga, but I can’t help finding some morbid irony in all of this. The article refers to first half of the past decade as being manga’s "boom years" in America, and I’ve seen that sentiment echoed in a lot of users' comments, here. What's ironic is that, as a comics fan, I remember those years as being  “rough times” the American industry was going through.  We all were kind of afraid of manga for being this upstart that was swooping in and doing cleaning up while big companies like Marvel were still hurting from bankruptcy.

I'd say the shoes on the other foot, now. See, I didn’t want to admit it at the time, but a big part of the reason for manga’s success back then was that their publishers were actually targeting audiences’ buying habits. A lot of new readers interested in sequential art would prefer to read a thick volume they can pick up at a Barnes & Noble (as mangas are serialized) over getting short issues at a specialty store. Hence, after some reshuffling, American publishers eventually started producing with bookstore-friendly trade paperback collections in mind.

As far as scanlations go, I don't use 'em and I don't approve of piracy. This article brings up that one publisher found that  BLACK JACK scans' availability on sites had an inverse relationship to sales, but my hunch is that this is an issue similar to the whole book store thing. If a significant enough portion of your audience is demonstrating a preference for digital delivery, then the answer lies in making an official alternative, and swiftly. A friend of mine who's a long time fan said the same things was going in the 80s with fan subs.  Fans would drop the fan versions for the official version as soon as they were available, even though they'd complain about the inferiority of the translation.  My friend even put out a theory that might be a fast solution:  these companies should just hire the scanlators. The staff and infrastructure's already there, why not make it official?
I'm sure you Anime Vice lunatics have strong opinions on this... so let's hear what you've got to say.

-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Studios and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. HYBRID BASTARDS! is available  here and UNIMAGINABLE is available here for pre-order on  

Post by FekketCantenel (47 posts) See mini bio Level 5
I used to work in scanlation, albeit only on then-unlicensed series. I actually tried to get a job in the American industry, but my impression was that they didn't like seeing fanwork experience because it was considered 'amatuerish' (despite the fact that scanlation groups put out pretty great products).
The word today is 'distribution'; DC and Marvel seem to be getting into it with the iPad comics apps, and according to Marzgurl's uncharacteristically boneheaded video on the topic, at least one American manga company is, too.
Post by BulletStorm (3 posts) See mini bio Level 5
I read manga scans of Negima books 1-7, never felt bad about it - just like how I don't feel bad about watching Negima episodes uploaded on youtube. 
BUT - after recently buying 8-9 I could tell that actually reading physical manga books was the way to go - I feel as though scans and such only feed fans of manga to a certain point before they actually start reading legally, so they in some cases, might help manga as much as it hurts it.  
I'm sure I'm not the only one who's switched from illegal to legal methods, and I'll probably end up buying the Negima DVD's too one day; all thanks to being hooked on illegal methods.
Post by Nimloth_MH (1 posts) See mini bio Level 1

 My friend even put out a theory that might be a fast solution:  these companies should just hire the scanlators. The staff and infrastructure's already there, why not make it official?

This is pretty much exactly what OpenManga is offering as seen here:
Post by FoxxFireArt (2,649 posts) See mini bio Level 25
I don't see scanlations as being as bad as everyone makes them out to be. They aren't my preferred method, but often times they are the only way to get the real story.
VIZ Media is the absolute worst offender of alteration of series. To me, they are the 4Kids of manga. They twist and pervert stories in ways they were never intended and off zero in the way of alternatives.
My favorite manga of them all, Detective Conan. I can accept they had to change the title to Case Closed in the US. Changing a title doesn't effect story, but they crossed the line when they altered all the names of the reappearing cast form the Japanese origins to corny, bastardized Americanized versions.
People keep telling me that VIZ was "forced" to do that. I call that excuse a load of crap. Some people say they did it to be consistent with FUNimation's alterations. That doesn't work out either, because they aren't consistent. The character Ai Haibara. VIZ renamed her Anita Hailey and FUNimation renamed her Vi Graythorn.
VIZ also renamed  the two major villains of the series from the series from their Japanese names of "Gin and Vodka" to Melkior and Kaspar. The best research I can come up with is that these are two of the three wise men from the Bible. They took two easily recognized English names and replaced them with two words I'm not even sure how to pronounce.
I wanted to like VIZ. I used to buy VIZ mangas, but after I saw just how horribly they were altering series. I made the decision to boycott all VIZ products.
Then there is that over sensitive P.C. alteration VIZ made to One Piece. Where they renamed God Eneru to Kami Evenru. Every mention of the word "God" in the entire Skypia Story Arc was removed and replaced with "Kami". In the Japanese version they are saying in English, "God Eneru".
What VIZ produces is of lower quality and accuracy to scanlations. It's down right fact. If they don't want people to use scanlations. They should make a product that is of equal or greater quality then scanlations groups make.
It's the reason why people online go to scanlations. There you don't have to worry about all this P.C. censorship. No one has ever pirated manga online for the altered series. No scanlation groups are ever going to use "Kami Eneru" or all those godforsaken names that were selected for the altered Detective Conan series. They want the real names and they want the real stories. Not what VIZ chose to make them into.
It's the reason why I stopped going to fan sub sites for One Piece animes. It used to be that was the only place I could get the real story. Now that FUNimation's website is offering One Piece in both subs and dubbed format. I wont go anywhere else to watch it.
If VIZ would provide an option for unaltered series with the real story and the real names. I wouldn't use scanlations nearly as much as I do now. I was seriously tempted to drop my boycott for the One Piece manga, but the I saw they pulled crap like "Kami Eneru" and who knows what else.
People may whine to me for boycotting VIZ and encouraging people to go to scanlations for those series. Here is some news people. VIZ is a single publisher in the industry. They are not "The Industry". As they are now. VIZ is not worth supporting. There are good publishers that are worth supporting.
Good Publishers
A publishing company should work toward making the most accurate product possible. That's what I get from Del Rey and Yen Press. These are two publishers I'm proud to support and buy from.
I still read Negima! and Fairy Tail online, but I purchase every volume when they are released in the US.
Post by hitsusatsu11 (10,747 posts) See mini bio Level 20
Nothing wrong with scantalations 
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
@FekketCantenel: It depends entirely on the work shown and the companies approached; I know many former-fansub/scanlation translators currently working in the industry in various capacities, including as translators. :) 
Scanlations are definitely a problem for the manga industry nowadays. We can sit and whine about whose fault it is, but the fact remains that many people get their fix illicitly because it's free and convenient, and the US and Japanese companies are struggling to catch up because, and this is a very important point that all fans of imported media should get into their heads: managing international rights is hard. Repeat that a couple of times until you've got it down.
It's not a good situation-- for anyone. Including the downloaders, because in the long term the media they're enjoying for free will cease to exist if no one is willing to pay for it.
Post by FoxxFireArt (2,649 posts) See mini bio Level 25
@gia said:
" We can sit and whine about whose fault it is,  "
VIZ Media
I would be willing to buy if their products were as good or better then the scanlation versions, but they are inferior. They aren't authentic or accurate as scanlations. If they would stop altering story content or offer an alternative. I'd be willing to start buyng again.
I was a buyer of their products for some time, then I discovered how horrible and idiotically they were changing series.
If the line in the sand is their altered series or the more authentic scanlations. I'll go with scanlations.
Post by sotyfan16 (1,341 posts) See mini bio Level 20

Scanlations are a problem for the industry, yes. I read them because I am able to read mutliple titles at one time and quickly. Also, there are many that I read that are not licensed so I can't go out and buy them (as I would if they were available). I primarily build my anime collection but eventually I will strengthen my manga collection as well.

Post by LordCraven (46 posts) See mini bio Level 8

Yeah I read scanalations, but i buy the serieses that i like.
Same for anime, I downloaded the fansubbed version of EVA 2.0 but I'll be buying it the minute its released in english. 
I just think of it as a pre-order of sorts :P
Post by No_name_here (856 posts) See mini bio Level 11
@FekketCantenel: Huh... the funny thing is, my friend said he kept sending letters to manga and anime companies in the 80s, pleading with them to hire the fan subbers, because they put more care, effort and, surprisingly, professionalism into it. Funny how issues resurface.
Post by Count_Zero (344 posts) See mini bio Level 20
My views about scanlations are about the same as my views about Fansubs - if a series is unlicensed or isn't available complete, then I don't object much. This provides an excellent way to get older manga series which haven't been brought to the US (Riki-Oh), or were only brought in part (Cosmo Police Justy), or won't be brought for other reasons (parody dojinshi). However, once the series is licensed, scantlators should stop translating, and stop distributing the torrents or rars. 
You don't need to scantilate Bleach or Naruto. You don't need to scantilate Berserk, Hellsing, or Tsubasa, because those are licenced and coming out with reasonable regularity. Area 88, on the other hand, wasn't completely released by Viz and because of its age will probably never see the light of day in the US in its entirety, and the license has to my knowledge lapsed, so the only way to get the whole thing in English is to scantilate it. 
That said, if Viz or someone else were to re-license Area 88 or Justy and release the whole thing, I wouldn't object.
Post by FoxxFireArt (2,649 posts) See mini bio Level 25
@Tom_Pinchuk said:
" @FekketCantenel: Huh... the funny thing is, my friend said he kept sending letters to manga and anime companies in the 80s, pleading with them to hire the fan subbers, because they put more care, effort and, surprisingly, professionalism into it. Funny how issues resurface. "
See, that's part of what I am talking about. If you ever get the chance. Check out a Del Rey or Yen Press manga.
In the back of the books they have "Translator Notes". That tells me that they are dedicated to the story and want the reader to understand the process. You wont find those in VIZ mangas. I've never seen it in any of the books they publish.
I can even show examples when some of the translation work is down right wrong and should of been caught in editing, but wasn't.
Scanlations take a lot of care to the series they work on.
Post by ZachTheAnimeGeek (76 posts) See mini bio Level 6

Well i use scans but only for series that i cannot find in the stores or i read like the first 2 chapters of a book im thinking about buying that way i dont buy a book i dont want
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
I agree with FoxxFireArt that Del Rey and Yen Press (and Dark Horse) books are awesome for their translation notes. Dark Horse in particular, because Carl Horn is both entertaining to read and amazingly well-informed; basically every significant translation decision he makes (and some less-significant ones!) are laid out there. Phenomenal work that I can't recommend highly enough. If you're not into the stereotypical Dark Horse titles (Hellsing, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service), they're putting out some CLAMP omnibuses and continue to release Oh My Goddess! and other titles as well.
That said, I hope no one takes FFA too seriously when he lays the entirety of the manga and anime piracy problem at the door of VIZ, considering that a) not all licensed manga that are scanlated are VIZ properties, nor are all unlicensed manga that are scanlated owned by VIZ's parent companies; and b) some so-called "scanlations" on these aggregators are, in fact, merely complete scans of official and legitimate North American releases, from both VIZ and other companies (Vertical Inc. in particular has seen straight-out scans of their Osamu Tezuka title Black Jack on aggregator sites). 
Anyone who thinks that the majority of scanlation-reading isn't just skiving off on paying is fooling themselves, really, for all that there are some very good intentions buried deep in the muck of people trying to freeload-- and now trying to make a profit as well.
Post by FoxxFireArt (2,649 posts) See mini bio Level 25
I say to that. You are putting words into my mouth by saying I am making the claim that I'm putting the entirety of the scanlation issue at VIZ's door. They are just a major contributing factor by mass producing such low quality books. Their part in it can not be ignored. Of coarse part of the issue is that there are just a lot of greedy and lazy people. You are most likely never going to reach that crowd, but that is no way an excuse to then not even try to reach the crowd that are looking for something worth supporting.
I was a buyer of their series until I discovered how low class their books are to the quality and dedication found in scanlations. I want the real story. Not what VIZ decides they want to make it. Right now, scanlations are my only source for the real story in an English format.
There is a market out there that is willing to pay for accurate products. It's VIZ's own fault if they refuse to publish to that market. They have done it in the past with Dragon Ball.  They should of learned long ago that if you start altering the products. There is going to be a market that wont want it.
Your "a)" issue. VIZ is one of the worst over all offenders of drastic alterations and censorship. One of the reasons I single them out. 
Their removing the word "God" completely from One Piece was just ridiculous. I'm not even sure if the word "God" was removed from Naruto when Pain or his followers were calling him a God. (I may want to look that up when I'm at the book store next.)
The Naruto manga as published by VIZ still calls the teachers "Master", but their anime version uses "sensei". They can't even remain consistent within their own company. 
It's as idiotic as renaming Gin and Vodka to Melkior and Kaspar. That alteration make no sense at all.
A publisher shouldn't be supported for just existing. It should be supported for putting out the most accurate product possible. VIZ does not. It's flat out fact.
Which is why if someone is using scanlations for VIZ products only. I see no problem. It was the same for the One Piece anime for a time, and what 4Kids was doing. Fan Subs used to be the only place you could get the real story. Once FUNimation got the series and started doing it right. I have not been on a fansub website in months. Most of the fabsub sites I know even quit carrying One Piece and removed the series from their catalogs. Even these sites are encouraging people to go to official sites.
It's why I encourage people to buy from high quality publisher.
I would like to add that I did purchase the Gunsmith Cats Revised Edition Vol. 1 published by DarkHorse. I seriously enjoyed it. I just didn't include them in the previous list because I don't know enough about their whole line of books. I'm also not out to name every publisher that does quality work. I was just naming my top two.
Post by Killajade (37 posts) See mini bio Level 6
i have to say when it comes to the 4-koma manga i read, not having tons of translation notes(many many japan only jokes feature in those and its hard to know whats going some of the time without notes) makes it hard to keep interrested in them. 
With scanlations though its kind of a mixed feeling for me, i want to support the creators of the manga's/anime's i like and i want to buy them for my collection(im a collector). But i have this problem that i live in a country(Denmark) thats pretty much dry of anything anime related, and if i want some anime or manga i either have to wait a long time for it to come or (in most cases unfortunately) have to order it online and pay shipping costs about the same as the product im buying. we have 2 stores with space put away for anime related goods in my capital city that i know of(and i really dont think there are any other worth mentioning) and the space they have put off for it is...well about 6 bookshelf with books or dvd's, and there is really not many new releases on them(oh and blu-ray is unheard of).  
So ye i pretty much get most of my new manga and anime online since i cant expect it to show up here or its only in dvd and not blu-ray(also manga and anime is more expensive here so even if it do show up its not always its worth it to buy the real deal even for a collector such as me) theres really not much keeping me off the net when it comes to my anime/manga fixes. 
Also the funimation website is only available to gods chosen country so its hard to find one-piece in good quality. 
btw how does this site keep up with Bleach, Naruto and One-Piece if not by getting them off scanlation sites? Does those series really get published in America same time as Japan?
Post by rein (5,465 posts) See mini bio Level 15
I don't feel that It's a matter of preferring To read it online, it's just that manga/anime is too expensive. I Try to buy most of the series i enjoy, But That has me shelling out anyway between 50 - 130 On It a month. Not that affordable on A high school Students wages.
Post by ShadowKnight508 (5,358 posts) See mini bio Level 19

I don't want to have to buy all of my Manga online (since the local anime market where I live is non-existant), so I sometimes read online scanlations of Kampfer, Sora no Otoshimono, and Rosario + Vampire II (the newest addition to the R + V franchise). I would buy more manga if there was a local shop that offered it.

 Most scanlations I see look to be of decent quality....but I have to agree about how VIZ Media screws up their manga series by switching around the details and changing names.
Post by FoxxFireArt (2,649 posts) See mini bio Level 25
If Japanese culture is that irritating to you, then why are you reading Japanese 4komas in the first place?
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