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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.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 7:09 p.m.
Detective Conan is also published in the very same magazine as One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto. In fact, in Japan is one of the higher selling manga and animes in Japan.
Shonen Jump is more targeted toward teens boys. That's why it often has sexual humor, fan service, or 'nearly' nude scenes. (Examples: Nami's nude bath shot in Thriller Bark, Matsumoto's nude scene in Bleach, and the abundant breast humor with Tsunade in Naruto.) Those cases are hardly for children. They are not for the 9 year olds that VIZ are publishing to. 
How many parents would want their 9yo child reading about a woman who slashes her ex boyfriends neck with a straight razor because she didn't like the idea of anyone else ever cutting his hair? A woman who murders a TV producer and then commits suicide. The list of violent and senseless killings goes on in that series. That VIZ is targeting toward 9-12yo.
The lead character just appears to be a young boy. Just because a series character looks like a young child doesn't make the series for young children. That's why South Park isn't for grade schoolers. The content is for adults.
I don't have to get over anything, If you don't like it. Leave the conversation. I don't have to hold back to satisfy you.
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 7:19 p.m.

Oh dear god 
I knew you were stupid but not this stupid 
You claim to be this huge fan of Detective Conan but you don't even know what anthology it is in.  Your not a fan of Detective Conan, a fan of Detective Conan would know which Japanese company makes it.  They would know what anthology it is located in, you just proved my god damn point that real fans just don't pirate their manga. 

Anime Vice should frankly be embarassed that they allowed someone  like you to write such an ill informed piece of work. 

GodLen staff on March 3, 2010 at 7:47 p.m.
@MrBoobo: As stated at the end of the article "Guest posts are intended to encourage diversity of thought; the opinions represented within are not necessarily those of Anime Vice or its staff."
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 7:48 p.m.
Yes, it's the end of the world because I messed up which of the various Shonen Magazine's it's in. Doesn't change the fact that VIZ is publishing content not appropriate for 9 year old children to 9 year old children.
Also, over use of cap lock is just childish.


I want to read and enjoy that story I have been enjoying for years. Just because what VIZ makes is inferior is no reason I should have to go without ever reading it again. I am saying that if a local publisher refuses to fill the demands made by the consumer. The consumer goes where it can be filled. It's basic economics.
FUNimation did it right. The consumer wanted to have One Piece subtitled. They not only put the series up on the site subtitled. They also started airing episodes right out of Japan and hour after they air. That's why I only go to FUNimation to watch that anime. It's official and everything I could of asked for. If VIZ started publishing unedited. I wouldn't go to scanlations to get the series.

If you are so against scalations. You should be demanding they cancel the new feature 
Weekly Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach Manga Discussion  , because that is completely dependant on information that comes from scanlations. The same goes for two thirds of the information in the wiki section profiles. A lot of the series listed here are using scanlation information and images. A lot of those series aren't being published in the US right now, or it was on the site long before it was being produced for the US market.
rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 7:57 p.m.
wow.  So, finding one detail that FFA got incorrect invalidates all his other arguments? 
In my own response, I at least attempted to address the points he made in the article.  Sure, fansubs are wrong -- but to attack a reasoned (incorrect, but reasoned) essay over trivia -- yeah, knowing the original anthology would be good BUT IS STILL TRIVIA -- without addressing the other points (poor localization, responsibility of liscensors to present faithful reproductions of the work. and, um, those two are really the same point and I can't say FoxxFireArt had another argument, but still) seems to me to be overly harsh. 
Let me state again, I disagree with the article and it's point of view -- but to attack the poster does not invalidate his points.  Why does your ALL CAPS INSISTANCE not ONCE BUT TWICE make you correct and FFA wrong?  Should he have used more all-caps in the original post?  And how many fans are familiar with *all* the anthologies, companies, and the many myriad and byzantine relationships that bring Japanese properties to the American audience?  Professional bloggers occasionally slip up, to say nothing of a guest blogger posting an opinion piece
It's great you know the difference between Shogakukan and Shueisha.  Other than the fact that both are investors/owners of Viz Media, if they know that much, most American fans might be forgiven if they conflate the two, particularly in a discussion of how their subsidiary Viz Media presents titles to the American Market. 
You've ably proven you're a bigger nerd and Better Fan than FoxxFireArt -- but this wasn't a fan contest.  Did you have another comment on _why_ downloading fansubs of a manga readily available in English (in whatever form) might be wrong, or bad for the industry, or ultimately bad for fans?
rocketbomberon March 3, 2010 at 8 p.m.
oops.  looks like you were already on a response.  It takes a while to type this stuff in, yes?
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 8:06 p.m.
That's not a simple mistake, a Batman fan wouldn't think the comics are published by Marvel Comics.  I have seen nothing that could sway anybody whose done any research.  Your simply making up excuses for why you don't buy several comics.  You claim to be this huge fan and that Viz is ruining it, but you don';t really know anything about it.  It's not aimed at adults, it  was never aimed at adults, if it was aimed at adults it would be in Shogakakun's adult magazine.  If it was aimed at teens, they wouldn't have made Conan a child in the first chapter.  it would be the adventures of Shinichi Kudo, teenage detective, and they sure as hell wouldn't have made a group of children a major part of the series.  You make claims based off of american censorship, while in Japan censorship for children is a lot less (in contrast it's illegal to make porno videos with genitals unblurred in Japan). 
As for typing in caps, well it seems to be the only way to get your attention.
MrBooboon March 3, 2010 at 8:09 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt: Actually I have mentioned to Gia and others that they should cancel Lens column for just that reason. A legit site should not encourage people to break the law. 
Also Len I read that and understand it but I just don't think it is good enough. It is like saying we don't think people should pirate but for discussion here are links to fansubs and scans. Oh and here is where you can buy drugs and download games free copies of games. But we don't support it. I would be more accepting if it wasn't a post on the main page. But hey this is all designed to get hits, views  and comments.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 8:24 p.m.
At what point did I say it was aimed at adults as you keep claiming? When VIZ originally started publishing Dragon Ball they edited much of the content and the art work to be appropriate for the an age group of 9-12. Eventually, they started publishing it unedited for 13+.
Shinichi is a teenager that is trapped in the body of a child. That's the premise of the series. It's why everyone is so amazed at his skilled. It's the way the author chose to keep the character active and still in secret from the organization out to kill him. Not to mention that the other children are not in every single case of the series. More often he's interacting with other adults. In the vast majority of the overall plot based cases with the Black Organization. The grade school class kids are never present.
You still have not addressed the issue of VIZ marketing a manga with violent and often times senseless murder toward a 9-12yo audience. Does the idea of reading about a man murdering his wife and hiding her body under a bed to frame someone sound appropriate for a 9yo.? In the very first chapter a woman murders her ex-boyfriend on a roller coaster causing his head to be taken off. There was a fountain of blood.
How is it the only way to get my attention with all caps when I have been talking to you prior??
I'm for GodLen's article. It's a nice place to discuss what is already being talked about anyways.
If they cancel his segment, then they need to remove all information from series on the site unless they are published in the US..
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 8:42 p.m.
When did you say it was aimed at adults?  When you claimed it was like CSI an  american series aimed at Adults.  Thankfully since I used to read quite a bit of Detective Conan, I can safely say that it is not like CSI because the tone is completely different. 

As for the stuff about the Black Organization, one of the reasons why I stoppred reading Detective Conan was the fact that we rarely ever got cases on the Black Organization, and when we did they never advanced the plot.  Now maybe it changed since I last read it since I admit that it has been more than 5 years when all of Detective Conan where on websites with just random cases translated. 
As for the violence, like I said before Japan is a lot less concerned about violence, which is why Shonen Jiump can have everything from say Death Note which is aimed more at teens to One Piece which is clearly aimed at a lower age group. 

The thing though is that what your claiming is some righteous crusade is simply just an excuse to not pay for stuff, if you did care about Detective Conan and Viz treatment you would have boycotted Detective Conan but showed your support for other Viz work like Fullmetal Alchemist. 
Personally Viz could decide that Ed's new name is Chippy and I would still buy it just because I want to support the excellent job Hiromu Arakawa has done. 
You're a thief, and no excuse you make would make me even began to support anything you say about pirating
Mikenon March 3, 2010 at 8:44 p.m.
I understand a bit of where you are coming from -- being disappointed with a certain company's localization of a series that you enjoy a lot [brings me back to the English release of the Tales of Phantasia GBA port...]. However, by simply reading scanlations, are you still supporting the series? I know you still buy the official english releases for non-ViZ series, but how does Detective Conan figure in? Do you import any of the tankouban? Do you buy any official merchandise? I know you have your own justifications for preferring to read scanlations, but how are you openly supporting the series? Are you looking through any legal means to support Detective Conan in any way?
I know this is going sound [and probably definitely is]  hypocritical, since we both have done work on scanlations before, but there really is no true way to justify them. Yes, I know that what I do is a very gray area legally, and I know you are definitely intelligent enough to know that scanlations are not 100% justifiable by any stretch of the imagination. Even if you do factor in your reasoning for not supporting ViZ's release. However, by simply disregarding ViZ, I'm just wondering about how you are still supporting the artist behind Detective Conan? It would be most wonderful if you could clear up that much.
It also must be considered that ViZ is a company seeking profit, just like any other [and you really can't blame them for wanting to make enough to pay their employees]. Even if they have long since decided that it would have probably been better to work with more Japanese names/references left in, I highly doubt that they can consider it a viable option to simply reprint 30+ volumes and possibly anger those who ended up collecting the series in the meantime [Yes, people buying a heavily edited series! I'm sure not everyone ended up boycotting, like you]. Changing their format midway, even if they do note it somewhere would also probably turn some heads.
[At the very least, we've got a very heated discussion going on, right?]
Papasanon March 3, 2010 at 9:05 p.m.

That's it. Call me a curmudgeon, a troll, a killjoy.... 
Maybe the american Anime and Manga industry should just die. 
I know, I know... I'm mostly just being hyperbolic, but honestly, there just wasn't an argument in the old days! Little effort was being made back then to license series out of Japan, so fansubs and scanlations were not only perfectly legal, they actually were a welcome source of free advertisement for anime and manga worldwide. If it hadn't been for the VHS-tradin', script-mailin', siftin'-through-the-horrible-english days of manga and anime's Wild West period, there wouldn't even be an american industry.  So maybe this might just have to be the end. 
The licensees alter the original product, making it undesirable, people such as the author of this article refuse to pay for it, the money goes down the toilet, and it all just folds like a Bedouin encampment. We go back to getting our titles the tough old-fashioned way, with furrowed brows but clean, unambivalent souls.  What little money that does get made afterward, from ridiculously expensive import sales, goes exclusively to the Japanese companies. 
Who is going to learn the lesson in the end? Maybe everybody; Probably nobody. Unfortunately, this is a niche interest. If it dies, it dies unheralded, unmourned and unsung. The few of us left after the debacle will not have near the numbers to stand as any kind of warning to future generations; and it will all, if anime and manga ever manage to rise to popularity again, happen the same way as it did this time.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 9:29 p.m.
I said, 

" Read it the proper way and it's closer to CSI. "

I said "closer", because the cases can often times be complex and involve a great deal of science. I didn't say it was for adults.
How believable would it be for a secret organization to be constantly appearing everywhere. They are secretive. It's much in the same way in Sherlock Holmes. Professor Moriarty wasn't in every single Holmes novel. Detective Conan is a murder mystery/detective series. Not a suspense thriller. It's suppose to be long and drawn out. That is more proof it's not for kids. Child reads are short and to the point.
No mater what they are doing in Japan with their ratings. It still does not explain why VIZ is pushing a series with a lot of gore and violence toward 9 year old kids. In Volume 8 a man is pushed off a building because he had this tangential involvement in the death of some woman's brother. He falls on a statue in real time. A fountain of blood and gore filled the page as he is impaled on the statue. How many parents want their not even teen children reading that?
I quite clearly point out that I am trying to advocate for an alternative. That I want to support the series, but see no reason to waste my money on an inferior product that no longer makes any sense and often contradicts itself. I just want the option that they give others. Dragon Ball gets two different version in edited and unedited. Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece are almost completely untouched. 

I could think of a variety of option I would love for them to do. The best option would be to purchase unedited like Dragon Ball, even if just off their website and it may cost extra per volume. Another could be an online service where you can read the manga unedited. Make it a pay service or fill it with ads.
Better yet, do something along the lines of what FUNimation is doing with One Piece. Have a website where they show the latest mangas out of Japan with translations so many days or a week after they are out of Japan. FUNimation is airing One Piece episodes with subtitles one hour after they air in Japan.

VIZ is already publishing One Piece to try and catch up with the Japanese publications.(After hearing that I was never more tempted to drop my boycott on VIZ products.) I'm not sure how far behind Naruto is to the Japanese releases now. I think it's Volume 47 is out in the US and this month in Japan Volume 50 is out. These are great steps to undercut the scanlation market. I would support them in it if I didn't have my over all VIZ boycott.
I'm trying to get something out of VIZ so I can abandon scanlations and still get the story I love.
I'm currently still studying to learn to read Japanese. Kanji is very difficult.

" I highly doubt that they can consider it a viable option to simply reprint 30+ volumes and possibly anger those who ended up collecting the series in the meantime [Yes, people buying a heavily edited series! I'm sure not everyone ended up boycotting, like you]. Changing their format midway, even if they do note it somewhere would also probably turn some heads. "

So, abandon the market that wants to buy the series unedited, because they screwed up early on? That's basically, the idea that they have already dug themselves into a hole. They might as well just keep digging.
GodLen staff on March 3, 2010 at 9:36 p.m.
@MrBoobo: I'm sorry, but the reason why I became an anime bloger is because I like anime and manga. Simple enough. I didn't become a writer because I like all the drama that surrounds the means of obtaining a particular anime/manga series. So now it's all of a sudden wrong to write about a series that some people can get in underhanded ways? What about the people who can read Japanese? I'm not encouraging people to break the law, I just want to talk about the actual manga.
ZachTheAnimeGeekon March 3, 2010 at 9:36 p.m.

OMG LLAMA LOL!!!! -points at picture-
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 9:37 p.m.

What are you talking about?  Shonen  series are always longer than Seinen series.  Out of  the 4 major manga Rumiko Takahashi has wrote, the one aimed at adults was more than half the size of the rest.  Children love One Piece, and that's more than 50 volumes and according to the writer only about half done. 

Don't talk to me how your a huge fan of these series when you aren't, you don't pay attention to anything, this is why I hate the current anime culture because it has people live in the now without any real clue about their surroundings, and what came before them.

Mikenon March 3, 2010 at 9:42 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt said:
I'm currently still studying to learn to read Japanese. Kanji is very difficult.

" I highly doubt that they can consider it a viable option to simply reprint 30+ volumes and possibly anger those who ended up collecting the series in the meantime [Yes, people buying a heavily edited series! I'm sure not everyone ended up boycotting, like you]. Changing their format midway, even if they do note it somewhere would also probably turn some heads. "

So, abandon the market that wants to buy the series unedited, because they screwed up early on? That's basically, the idea that they have already dug themselves into a hole. They might as well just keep digging. "
Yeah -- seeing as they've already gone so far in, it'd be hard to resurface and start again with the way you suggest that the series should be handled. So I collect that you plan to import the manga once your hold on the Japanese language is stronger? Or do you already own a few volumes. problem isn't the Kanji, since I can recognize most of it by connecting it with Chinese. Rather, it's the grammar, though I suck at grammar in nearly every language I've learned, so that's to be expected. I suppose that once I get to college and [maybe?] have some extra time, I can either find a proper outside course or find more time to teach myself. In the meantime, I'll just connecting the dots from the vocab that I know to understand my imported manga...Not exactly the best way, but it works for now. ^-^;;
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 9:43 p.m.
I apologize for pulling your feature into the discussion. I probably shouldn't have done that. Very Sorry.

I love the new feature, GodLen. As a One Piece fan, I really look forward to the next one. 
CharredKnighton March 3, 2010 at 10:58 p.m.

If you where a One Piece fan you would buy the thing.  It's not even 10 bucks
As for Anime Vice not agree with the person who made the editorial, when you publish a website, and just let people say what they want, then you are putting your support behind what they say.  That's why theirs not really any balanced political websites.  When you go to the Huffington Post, you know your going to get Liberal viewpoints because Huffington is a liberal.  By putting this on the website you are putting support that pirating is fine as long as you can come up with some excuse no matter how lame it is.. 

If the New York Times published an editorial stating that the USA should lock up all the muslims and put them in internment camps, than the New York Times is at fault for publishing that editorial.  Take responsibilities for the actions you take.

FoxxFireArt moderator on March 3, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.
It's intriguing that you are stating what the opinion is of everyone at Anime Vice.
People really tend to give mixed messages on the site. Anime Vice Staff or I write something that is promoting anime/manga, for example my positive review of FUNimation airing One Piece. It hardly gets any comments. I write something controversial, and it's a bloody bees nest of comments. lol
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