Anime Vice News

Scanlations: The Pirate's Life for Me

AnimeVice member FoxxFireArt stops in to give his take on "scanlations" and why sometimes they're essential to staying current with your favorite manga.


 Publishers - VS - Scanlators
 Publishers - VS - Scanlators
The topic of scanlations (fan translated scans of original Japanese manga publications) has been a rather hot topic recently on Anime Vice. It played a rather large role in the article Required Reading: Plagiarism, Fanart, and Scanlations. I was a little confused. How was it that 'scanlations' were getting dragged into the topic of Nick Simmon's "alleged" plagiarism of Bleach? The question that was posed was if users can justify scanlations.

Localization or Accuracy?

 That's right. Conan is actually JAPANESE!
 That's right. Conan is actually JAPANESE!
I do justify scanlations. It's not something I prefer to do, but there are some cases when it's the only way to read the story properly. Such as in my case with the murder mystery manga, Detective Conan. I face the VIZ Media publisher that refuses to publish the series in the country without dramatic edits that alter story and events. Every reoccurring character in the manga had their Japanese names replaced with European style names. All the while they leave other series virtually alone. This wouldn't be the first time that VIZ has faced trouble over their alteration of mangas. They had to republish the entire Dragon Ballseries because they had altered and censored much of the art work. As reported by ICv2 back in a 2001 article. It always struck me as odd. What is the point in bringing a series to the US if all you are going to do is change it? Alterations hurt series. The best example is what 4Kids did to One Piece.

It's not about the change of title to Case Closed. Annoying as it is. That doesn't effect the story. The name changes do. Bleach and Naruto. These series all get to keep their original names. Do you honestly think these series would sell half as well in the US if they had changed the characters names? I seriously doubt it. They sell well, because they are closer to the Japanese product. The online audience, that follows scanlations, buys it. (Though, it always struck me as odd that in Naruto the manga they call the teachers "Master", but the anime it used "Sensei". Both are produced by VIZ.)

 Meitantei Conan Vol. 1
 Meitantei Conan Vol. 1
The Detective Conan series is my favorite manga series of them all. I have been following it for many years online. It's not just a series that you read. It's something you can experience. Your average case in the series ranges in three chapters, sometimes longer. The fun of the series is that they give you the chance to actually try and solve the case yourself before the solution chapter is produced. As I showed in this BLOG ENTRY of how I solved a mysterious code from the manga. There is just such a thrill to read the series and see that your deduction is right. It's like reading a modern day Sherlock Holmes story every week. 
 
When VIZ made those changes they were basically telling me and the entire online audience that they didn't want us as readers. We are not the target audience that they wanted to publish for. Yet, we want to read and enjoy that story. It would be different if VIZ offered some kind of alternative. For example, the ability to purchase unedited versions off their website. The way they started offering Dragon Ball either edited or unedited. Scanlation is the only way I can get the real story in English.

If VIZ wont change things back, or offer some alternative. I see no reason to have to pay for a flawed product that is filled with inaccuracies, contradictions, and incorrect translations while I wait for them to realize their mistake. People tell me that you need to support the series and maybe they will change things later. (VIZ is currently 30 volumes into what is nearing a 70 volume series.) Even if I was buying them and they did republish with the proper names eventually. That would mean I would have to buy the same volume twice. It's ridiculous for something they should be doing in the first place. 

FUNimation I think has the correct idea going right now, and should be applauded. They wanted people to stop pirating One Piece and other animes. Their solution was to give them the ability to watch those episodes on their website an hour after they air in Japan with subtitles and older episodes with the dub work. If you don't like the dub work. There are the Japanese versions to watch too. If only they would do the same thing for the Detective Conan anime.

 Negima! by Del Rey
 Negima! by Del Rey
I read scanations of many other series such as Negima! and Fairy Tail just to stay current, but I also buy every volume when they are published in the US. Their publisher, Del Rey, is dedicated to bringing the reader as close to the original story as possible. That's the kind of action that needs to be supported over a company that feels the need to alter content. Before my boycott on all VIZ products due to their butchering of the Detective Conan story. I was collecting Bleach, Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist, Evangelion, and One Piece. Not anymore. I haven't purchased a single volume of those series in several years. Until they give me some option to have the realDetective Conan story. VIZ wont get a dime from me, and I do my best to try and convince others to avoid their products altogether.
 
If you are like me, and your local publisher wont produce a series in your country without drastic edits to the story. I say go where you have to in order to get the real story. In the mean time. Be sure to support publishers that strive to be as accurate as possible. Scanlations and Pirating shouldn't be our first choice, but in some rare cases it's the only one we are given.

- Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.  Guest posts are intended to encourage diversity of thought; the opinions represented within are not necessarily those of Anime Vice or its staff.
metalsnakezeroon March 3, 2010 at 1:35 p.m.
By now they should realize that the audience that is reading these series can understand what is going on and don't need some silly edits. I do wonder if VIZ were the ones that decided to do the edits or was it the Japanese owners that told them to do it.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 2:02 p.m.
I don't know if I would describe it as the only way to stay current. That was a rather small part of the argument. My point is that it's in some rare cases the only way to read the series the way it was intended.
 

@metalsnakezero:

 
The "silly edits" were the changes in the first place. I could easily quote you both rhyme and verse of how they have messed this series up, but they are going to discover one rather big problem when they reach Volume 53.
 
Those who make up that VIZ was forced to change the series by the Japanese copyright owners are just trying to excuse VIZ's incompetency. Why would the "Japanese Companies" force publishers to only remove the Japanese names from THIS series where the names are part of the story?
 
You missed the point entirely. I was just pointing out an example that I live with. I want to buy the series, but not edited and altered. VIZ doesn't want people to pirate the manga, but wont offer any options. That means the only place I can get the series the way it was intended is through scanlations.
rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 2:47 p.m.
 
"I was a little confused. How was it that 'scanlations' were getting dragged into the topic of Nick Simmon's "alleged" plagiarism of Bleach?" 
  
The explicit connection was likely first made at Comics Worth Reading: http://comicsworthreading.com/2010/02/25/plagiarism-scanlations-and-copies-nick-simmons-incarnate-rips-off-bleach/
 
While the article written by Johanna Draper Carlson was pretty straightforward in its argument that while plagiarism=theft, most illegal scans also equal theft, it was Simon Jones (of Icarus Publishing -- I won't link his site as it and his books are NSFW, but I also highly recommend them) pointing out in an early comment to the post linked above that some of the art used to prove Nick's tracing was in fact from books not yet released in English: 
 
That is to say, to connect the dots for some who 'don't see a connection': the plagiarism was first noticed by people who had downloaded pirated scans.  These people, who had already stolen Kubo's comics, then took to the internets to denounce Simmons for also stealing Kubo's comics.   And we've been arguing which theft is worse on the web for days now. 
 
Of course, this also means that Nick also downloaded scans -- maybe he thought he could get away with it if Viz hadn't released the Bleach books yet?
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 3:02 p.m.
@rocketbomber: 
Still you are dragging scanlations into the spotlight when the topic is plagiarism. Even if he was using scans from yet to be released volumes. He was the one who drew them like the panels.
 
What I'm basically trying to say is that if a publisher wont produce a series in the country without alterations to the story or some sort of second option, the way FUNimation is now offering One Piece episodes both subbed and dubbed. There isn't anything wrong with scanlations.
VIZ doesn't want to market to the Japanese fans, but we want to read the story. Why is it that Bleach and Naruto don't have those edits?
TigerUppercuton March 3, 2010 at 3:28 p.m.
All because you can justify it, it doesn't make it legal. I'm sure all the rapist and murderers in the world had justified their crimes as well.  I'm not saying do away with scans, I  read them as well. But I at least know they are bad.
rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 3:34 p.m.
The Owners own it.  They paid money to the Artist (& ideally are splitting profits with them) so the book or show is theirs. 
 
The Licensees also own it.  They paid money to the Owners for the rights to publish/release the stuff in the US (or Australia, or UK, or Germany, or Dubai or wherever) 
 
The people buying books and DVDs also own them.  They paid money to the retailer, who pays money to Licensee, who pays money to the Owner, who pays money to the Artist. 
 
Art in service of Art is fine, noble, and admirable.  Wanting to enjoy something for the art and craft of it is also a Good Thing[tm] so I'm not telling you you're wrong.  But manga and anime are not art-for-art's-sake, they are commodities intended to be sold.  Money greases all the wheels, money makes the whole thing work. 
 
If you don't want to buy something, don't buy it.  That's perfectly fair, and sends the proper message to all parties via established market feedback. 
 
But fans are not _entitled_ to content.  Yes, we all love it, and yes, we'd like more of it, and yes, sometimes what we're handed isn't what was promised, or it's not 'authentic'.  Whatever. 
 
There is no *right* to manga and anime.  And theft is theft.  If you don't want to buy something, don't buy it -- and if you enjoy something that was fansubbed and offered for free online, that's fine too (in a way) but your enthusiasm and carefully crafted rationalisations about why the free version is better only matter to other fans.  By not buying something, the only message you send to Owners, Licensors, Retailers -- and Artists -- is that manga and anime like that don't sell.  And things that don't sell eventually don't get made anymore, or don't get licensed, or don't get stocked in stores (or stocked by online retailers). 
 
I think the core of the argument is Art.  Art is great, love the stuff, I've written whole columns to praise it.  We are fans because we love the art:  the character designs, the stories, the action and drama, the execution on idea in ways that Blow Our Minds --  but the sticking point is Money.  Art is not Art for Art's Sake, the Whole Industry Runs on Filthy, Filthy Money
 
The Owners own it, the Licensees pay good money to get their hands on it, and we can disagree with how they treat & present the property, but that's not our call to make.  Companies put money on the line, and make their choices, and their failures are their own fault -- but their mistakes do not excuse or justify theft.  You as a fan can't make that call.  You don't have any skin in the game.  Your love of a property means nothing in an economic sense.  
 
You can love the art -- you can love it to death. 
When you download illegal scans, you can be said to be doing that literally. 

FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 3:49 p.m.
@TigerUppercut said:
" All because you can justify it, it doesn't make it legal. I'm sure all the rapist and murderers in the world had justified their crimes as well.  I'm not saying do away with scans, I  read them as well. But I at least know they are bad. "
How did murder and rape get dragged into this? They actually caused either life long psychological scars or stole a life. You could of just pointed to shop lifting.
 
@rocketbomber:
When VIZ made that decision to alter the series they are the ones who made the choice that they were not going to market to the online reader base.
No one is pirating the altered version with European names. I want to buy and support the the real series and be able to read it. Since the publisher doesn't offer some sort of alternative. Scanlations is the only option I have presented to me.
VIZ doesn't alter Naruto or Bleach and many other series. They offer Dragon Ball in both edited and unedited version. Anime DVDs have the option of both dub and subtitles.
 
It's why I don't go to fan sub sites anymore to watch One Piece. FUNimation gave me the option I always wanted and I'm going to support it.
rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 4:01 p.m.
 There is no *right* to manga and anime.  Your enthusiasm for the series is commendable, and your ability to discuss it critically and to point out why Viz's version sucks is also, actually, helpful -- but I don't know if anyone at Viz is reading the manga and anime sites.  (That's their loss.  They should task an intern with this, or even better, someone on staff who can exercise editorial control)  
 
The fansub/scanlation may in some cases be better, but that still doesn't make it legal -- and no money goes back to the original creators.  And to say your 'only' option is to pirate works may seem to be true, but is also a prevarication: There is always the option not to steal.  If no one scanned Meitantei Conan and translated it, would you buy & import the Japanese originals?
rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 4:07 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt:   
don't get me wrong:  I actually agree with you.  But there is no safe, comfortable justification.  There is no final answer.  We just have the ongoing conversation [conversation--not always a debate], a whole range of shades of grey, and an enthusiasm for manga and anime that occasionally seems important enough in and of itself to excuse a lot of other behaviours.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 4:22 p.m.
@rocketbomber: 
I would LOVE the chance to plead my case to VIZ and just ask them to give me some other option with the edits removed the way they have for other series. Hell, I'd work on it.
It is there loss, and that's the point. It sucks that no money is going to the creators for it, but it hurts VIZ a hell of a lot more since they are the ones putting up the capital for the publishing, translating, and distribution.
They claim that they don't want people to pirate, then why alter the series? I've tried writing to VIZ in the past and heard nothing back.
Like with FUNimation. They wanted to stop pirating of One Piece. So, they gave the option I always wanted.
It's simple economics. Supply and Demand. There is a demand out there that only scanlations is supplying to. People go where they can get a supply.

No, I wouldn't of bought the altered versions under that condition. I'd be more confused why all these detectives in Japan are European, including all the police; but everyone else is Japanese.
 
Sometimes acting peacefully outside of the law is the only way to bring about change.
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 4:24 p.m.


Amazing a One Piece fan trying justify theft, and people wonder why One Piece is outsold by Rosario + Vampire. At least when I read scanslation I knew I was stealing and didn't make any excuses for what happened.  In the past two years my manga collection has exploded from a couple issues of the pokemon manga to about 20 volumes of Rurouni Kenshing, more than 20 volumes of Negima, more than 15 volumes of  FMA (the ones I am missing are 5 of the first 6 volumes), all of the Mai-Hime manga, the last 5 volumes of Trigun Maximum and the issue of Shonen Jumo that has Yahiko's reverse blade sword in it. 
 
Keep in mind that I don't have a real job, and I am basically doing house chores for money.  Most of my money goes to buy manga
 
I could find excuse if your where reading scanslations of mangas that are probably never going to be brought over to America like Violinisit of Hemln, but to steal from series that have minor translation problems because of one series WHERE WE KNOW HAS HAD JAPANESE INTERFERENCE is just wrong. 
 
Your the reason why the anime business has turned to crap, people who go out of their way to steal and then play the victim card to justify how they just stole.  
 
YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM YOU ARE A THIEF!!    
Renkon March 3, 2010 at 4:31 p.m.
 I've pretty much taken the same stance when it comes to Viz and it stemmed from the same reasons. Just as I refuse to watch anything 4kids has touched and do lots of research on DVD versions of their work before buying if i even do at all. Other than that, what i watch and read through fan subbing and scanlation groups is always followed up by buying it when it comes stateside(as best i can anyways, being a poor freelance web developer and all =P). that said, it doesn't mean it's ok to read licensed stuff online and I'm not trying to pretend otherwise or justify doing so, but I'm going to do it anyways. I guess i'm lucky that half of the things i've been reading lately aren't going stateside any time soon XD.
 
Whenever the argument springs up about it being right or wrong it's the same as pirating video games(a realm i plan not to step into). No side of the argument will win, it will just continue to cycle through the same motions each and every time.
 
@rocketbomber:
 
besides the obvious, whats to say that he didn't just import it? or that the people who first brought it up didn't do the same? honestly, bringing up the scanlation 'theft" in the matter of his plagiarism is kind of silly... not to mention arguing over what form is worse. theft is theft.
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 4:42 p.m.


You are honestly comparing Viz to 4Kids? 
 
YOU ARE HONESTLY COMPARING VIZ TO 4KIDS!

 

Sure Viz doesn't put out the best translation, but to honestly compare them to the bane of anime, the people who butchered One Piece, a company that could have easily have made a ton of money but didn't due to gross incompetence is completely overboard. 
 

rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 4:56 p.m.
@Renk: 
 
I'll apply Occam's Razor:  did Nick Simmons, casting about for source material to steal, spend $20+ (¥420 plus int'l shipping) and up per to import Japanese volumes of Bleach or did he just download it?  Now granted, his dad is rich (which doesn't always trickle down) but let's go back to those fans who have both the free time to read both Incarnate--a new comic from a little know American start-up-- and Japanese Bleach volumes; do you think this fanbase with so much time on it's hands also has the income from whatever source to import manga... or did they just download it? 
 
Whatever.  Swipes are wrong, and damnable, unless you've established yourself as a comic artist in your own right for at least a decade or so, and so can claim, as an artist, that it is fact an artistic homage.  Scanlation, while admirable in some contexts is also, as you say, theft.  What's delicious in this context is the unintended irony of thieves calling someone else out for theft.  So long as we're looking at digitally scanned images as proof of plagiarism, the topic of digitally scanned images of manga is going to come up in conversation.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 5:15 p.m.
@CharredKnight: 
Both are companies who alter products from the way they were intended to be read or seen with no reason or explanation and change stories to appeal toa  younger audience then they were intended to be viewed by.
Yes, I do compare the two.
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 5:45 p.m.

You do know what Shonen means right?

 
Here's a hint 
 
IT DOESN"T MEAN ADULT! 
 
Detective Conan was never going to be a sucess in America because while it was too violent for children, it is also too childish for adults.  Do you also believe that Yugioh! was clearly aimed at adults too?

FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.
@CharredKnight: 
Since when was eight year olds adults or teens? The seems to be the target they are aiming at. Seeing how Nauto and Bleach kept their proper names. When they altered Dragon Ball they were also aiming for a younger audience. When they produced the unedited versions they were aimed at 13 and up. Meaning the edited versions were for younger then 13.  So don't try and tell me they don't target young children with series when they clearly do.

Have you ever read Detective Conan in the proper form? That series is far from childish. Read it the proper way and it's closer to CSI.
 
The Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon mangas were targeted to a 9-12 yo reading audience. They also target "Case Closed" to 9year olds.
rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 6:13 p.m.
more commentary here, and I don't mean to steal thunder or credit from Shaenon on this point -- I just want you all to go read her take on it.
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 6:38 p.m.
  •    @FoxxFireArt:
    Detective Conan runs in Shonen Sunday, which in english means Boys Sunday.  In other words Detective Conan is aimed at children, that's why it has a child as the lead, and why he befirends a bunch of children to frequently go on adventures. Yes I have read Detective Conan, and it is indeed childish.  Now I have yet to see CSI but from what I have heard it does not involve children solving murder mysteries.  Though I would totally watch CSI if it was children solving murder mysteries.  Your basically the guy who 10 years ago was telling me that theirs a missing episode of pokemon where Ash and Misty have sex in a cave, or the guy who tells me that in the original Dragonball Goku swore a lot.  Detective Conan is not seinen, and no matter how much you want it to be seinen it's not going to be.  Get over it, nobody gives a crap that you read children's entertainment, I
     
    Maybe the person you should be e-mailing is Gosho Aoyama and ask him to change Detective Conan from Shonen Sunday to Big Spirits Comics the Seinen magazine that Shogakakun makes.
MrBooboon March 3, 2010 at 6:51 p.m.
I would be fine if you bought the Japanese versions but the fact that you are looking for excuses to justify your theft is just the same old bs. You are correct if a company puts out a poor product you don't have to buy. You should not support Viz if they produce crap. But that does not mean it is ok for you to steal. 
 
I know most people on this site steal much of their anime or manga or both but it is even worse that you can't or won't see it as being wrong.
 
Also the fact that a professional site would host this article in such a way makes it seem like they support the view (even though I know many of the writers for vice don't). 
 
I wonder if Giant Bomb would post an article about pirating games from Japan. I mean the same bs argument could be used. That the US localizer changed some meaningless or even meaningful detail so I'm not paying for it. I should be entitled to it for free.
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