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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.
taotasticon March 4, 2010 at 10:18 p.m.
@CharredKnight:  Thanks.  I try not to flaunt my devotion, since I'm aware that most just don't have the funds I used to when I imported all that stuff (back in 2008 when the dollar/yen ratio was still pretty good). But really, boycotting does nothing.  Edited versions still sell. Funimation even admitted that the horrible SK DVDs better than they expected, it was only 4Kids who wasn't satisfied.     
The place I buy my manga has coupons each and every week, plus there's RightStuf, who just had a sale on Viz manga.  If you have some form of income, but can't muster $10 (or less with coupons/sales) every two months out of spite, I really have nothing nice to say to you.
John_Thomason March 4, 2010 at 11:22 p.m.
If you are unsatisfied with the English translations, then your only justifiable recourse is to learn Japanese and purchase the original tankobons. How else can you justify ripping off the creators?
Ephidelon March 5, 2010 at 8:16 a.m.
@ John_Thomas 
I have to confess, that is the one answer I loathe seeing in scanlation debates, and it appears every time.
Whether the entire point is that its just not that easy, or that if you really like something you should put in the effort, the way it gets thrown in as an oh so viable alternative always makes me tense up... quite possibly because I'd love to learn (not because I'm unsatisfied, just because I'd like to) but can't find anywhere I could do so outside of expensive holiday conversational classes (which aren't really even remotely close to what I'd be looking for) or Rosetta Stone (which I've never actually found much information on in terms of 'results'. That, and languages always seemed like something you should learn in person). :(
John_Thomason March 5, 2010 at 9:31 a.m.
@Ephidel:  
 I do not understand why learning Japanese is not a viable argument.  
 
Part of the argument of the original poster is the publishing companies are not giving an authentic experience through their translations.  
 
I would argue that it is impossible to have that authentic experience without reading it yourself in the original language. A hundred translators would translate any volume of manga 100 different ways. A hundred editors will edit those translations 100 different ways. Authenticity in translation and publication is always a goal, but no translated release (besides Gon) will be "100% authentic". That's the nature of the beast.  
 
So if authenticity is that important, why is the option of eliminating the middle man so inviable?  
 
"It's hard." "I don't have the time." "I don't have the money." "I don't have access."
 
Suddenly these demands of the hardcore fans start to sound disingenuous when an alternative is offered that requires an effort on their part.  
 
True hardcore fans actually do try and learn Japanese in order to read manga. You can find them on any college campus or manga club.  
 
There are ways to have that authentic experience without stealing from the creator. 
Ephidelon March 5, 2010 at 11:55 a.m.
@ John_Thomas
 
Oh, my problem isn't with the suggestion itself. I think that the suggestion to learn japanese and cut out the middle man is fair enough really.
My problem is the flipancy with which the suggestion is usually put forward, by people who assume that every reason someone could put forward as a reason why they have not done so simply makes them a lazy person who doesn't really give a toss making excuses. In my opinion, assuming that some of the excuses you mentioned are said truthfully, they could be entirely valid reasons.
 
I agree with your statement that you can have an authentic experience without stealing from the author.
 
I also agree that learning the language to obtain that "authentic experience" is an entirely valid course of action, because I think you're right;
People are individuals, so of course translators and going to translate differently, editors are going to edit differently, and things will come across differently when you read it, so yes if you want to read it exactly as it was written then learning the language is going to be the only way you can do that.
In terms of 'ease of use' you could probably make a case for the idea that reading is meant to be a leisure activity, and so books is designed to be read by people who are comfortable reading them. While reading in the original language might give you the most accurate experience, reading it translated into the language in which you are most fluent could bring you closer to to the original "feel" of reading the book, as you would be relaxing more and focusing more on the content of the book than on actively trying to reading it.
 
As you might have gathered from that last bit, I don't actually think that simply the act of reading in english instead of japanese makes the experience less authentic, but maybe I';m just odd that way.
(Edits can be rather annoying though, depending on how obvious they are, and how pervasive. There was a tokyopop title I recall where some of the characters referred to each other as 'ducky' and 'sweetie' and other pet names that really didn't seem to fit... that bothered me. I've seen Tiamat mention that Psychic Academy was poorly done too. Whether honorifics are left in, or removed and their formalities incorporated some other way, doesn't bother me either, so long as the end result works well. In some cases I can be one of those annoying 'ew, they retouched the sound-effects' people though. It isn't that I have a problem with retouching the sound effects, and often it doesn't bother me at all. It depends how its been done, and sometimes how its been done can make the end result look a bit odd :|)
 
 That bit at the end of your post about being able to find hardcore fans learning japanese on "any college campus or manga club" though? That assumes there is one.
 My College and University Campuses had no Anime or Manga clubs, and I can't imagine its alone... so maybe you can find them in some places, but some places are not everywhere.
 
Hrm. Do spoiler tags work here? If spoiler tags work here I'd be more willing to hide the rest of this under them so not everyone has to see my potentially annoying whining, as I don't really want to detract from the original discussion more than I already have :|
I guess to drastically shorten what I wrote, I am assuming you're talking from an american perspective, whereas I'm talking from a UK one, and from my own little corner of the UK.
The majority (though of course not all) of the courses offered here tend to be in languages like french and spanish. I could mention numerous attempts to find something locally, but they're not important; For me, personally, to attend a 'proper' Japanese course, I would have to travel to London for it. London is not nearby. It is a long way, in terms of both distance and time. I'd be lying if I said I didn't go to London sometimes, but when I go its for special occasions. It certainly isn't a trip I could afford to take every week or multiple times a week... not just because of the money, but also because of time it would take to travel there. Buses, train journeys, undergrounds... they all take significant amounts of both. London is not accessible to me, and I consider myself perfectly correct in stating that I don't have access and that I am not making petty excuses by saying so.
(I would admit,  however, that something like Rosetta Stone is completely accessible to me, and so in that sense yes, maybe I am making excuses. I'm just not comfortable putting down the money for it when I know so little about it, and reading reviews on amazon.com (because the amazon.co.uk ones suck somewhat) doesn't really make me feel better about making a decision either way).
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 5, 2010 at 12:09 p.m.
Wow, it was surprising to log in today and find my article on the front page, top section.
 
@John_Thomas:
It is possible to have an authentic Japanese experience written in English. It's being done and has been done for years in the scanlation version for years. 
 
It's not my only justifiable recourse. I have scanlations. It's the US publisher that says they don't want me to use scanlations, but wont provide me with an unaltered series to purchase in the US.

 
@Ephidel:
The problem there is that Japanese is a VERY difficult language to learn to read. That's the problem there. The kanji and writing system can be very hard to get your head aground.
Ephidelon March 5, 2010 at 12:18 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt
 Oh, I know. I don't really think any languages are easy to learn, but languages with a common alphabet are at least far more approachable. Japanese having a separate one (or even multiple separate ones ¬_¬) makes my brain choke on where I'd even have to start. Its why I think I'd probably need the 'support system' of a formal class of some kind to make myself learn.
taotasticon March 5, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt:
That's the thing.  There isn't one definitive translation for anything.  Many times, the sentences come out awkward, and this requires rewording on the company's part.  Yes, localization is sometimes essential.  Some scanlation and fansubbing groups have been warming up this idea, and the end result is quite good.  While again, I don't agree with the name changes in the Conan releases, I can't see how this justifies you depriving Aoyama-sensei of your $10 every other month.   If you really liked his manga, why are you so against supporting it, no matter who's putting it out?
 
Scanlations are never justified.  It's just you being stubborn and silly.
John_Thomason March 5, 2010 at 12:46 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt: You are making the assumption that scanlation translators are better than profession translators. Unless you are fluent in both Japanese and English you have no basis to make that argument.  
 
How do you know your experience was authentic? 
 
You say it is the US publishers which won't "provide" you with an "unaltered" version. Without even getting into money issues, define "unaltered" (without talked about Conan). The fact you are reading it in a foreign language means it has been altered.  
 
If your argument is that scanlators do not "alter" their translations where publishers do, therefore the stealing of licensed works is justified because the experience is more "authentic" then I think it is full of holes.  
 
@Ephidel: I am not saying studying Japanese is easy, and I think you understand that. I am saying if someone's argument is the only way to have an "authentic" experience reading a manga is stealing it then they are wrong. The only way to have an "authentic" experience reading a manga is to read it in Japanese.  
 
OT, but Rosetta Stone is probably not the way to go to learn to read Japanese. There are all kinds of textbooks and even free webpages that can help you get off the ground. 
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 5, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.
  @taotastic said:
" @FoxxFireArt: That's the thing.  There isn't one definitive translation for anything.   "
Yes, there is. In the scanlation version. It's very close to the actual Japanese version of the series, but read in English.
 
The same way Del Rey does Negima, Fairy Tail, and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.

@John_Thomas: 
The reason I know it's authentic. Wait for it..........much the the translation staff for the Detective Conan scanlations are Japanese.

UNALTER: 
Using of the names the author actually wrote when creating the story. No changes to the artwork.
 
I've seen the fan subbed animes. I know what the characters real names are.
JapanAltered
Ran Mouri
Rachael Moore
Shinichi Kudou
Jimmy Kudo
Heiji Hattori
Harley Hartwell
Serena Sebastian
Sonoko Suzuki
Eri Kisaki
Eva Kadan
Kogoro Mouri
Richard Moore
The list could go on like this. 

Reading Japanese and speaking Japanese are two completely different matters.
John_Thomason March 5, 2010 at 1:47 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt:  
 
You think the fact that the translators are Japanese makes the experience "authentic"? Tell me, what does the race of the translator have to do with the authenticity of work? Nothing. Some of the best translators I know for Japanese to English are native English speakers, and some of the worst I have dealt with were Japanese, so that argument holds no water. 
 
The ideal in translation is to have the final product delivered by a native speaker of the target language.  
 
I thought I asked if you had other examples besides Conan, but more importantly, you didn't answer my question. I assume you do not read Japanese, so how do you know your experience is authentic or not? How can you confirm that? You cannot. The race of the translator is of no consequence, and if I didn't think that statement was kind of funny I might be a little offended. 
 
 @FoxxFireArt said:
   Reading Japanese and speaking Japanese are two completely different matters. "
 
What do you mean by this?
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 5, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.
@John_Thomas: 
It matters because they know what it is to be authentic. They know their own culture rather well.

" some of the worst I have dealt with were Japanese"

So, because you have never met any good Japanese translators into English mean that none exists?
 
Have you ever read a Del Rey manga of Negima!, Fairy Tail, or Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei? They're great.

I could quote you all day why the scanlations are more authentic, but I don't you think you would get it. It's something you have to see. I'm not going to spend aday trying to explain to you every reason why. Partly, because you don't want to see to even try and see where I am coming from. 
You'd have to see the scanlations of the series to understand it. You are judging them without ever seeing them for yourself. I've seen the US version "Case Closed". I've compared the two. You haven't.
 
All I am asking for is this series in English with the original character names. The way you all act you'd think I was asking it to be gold plated. They do it for Naruto, Bleach, Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist, and in One Piece they change one letter of one person's name(Zoro to Zolo). I just want the same kind of experience that their readers get. The original names with very minor edits.

@FoxxFireArt said:

   Reading Japanese and speaking Japanese are two completely different matters. "

" What do you mean by this? "
Have you ever seen the language written? It's not exactly Spanish.
John_Thomason March 5, 2010 at 2:41 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt said:

 
It matters because they know what it is to be authentic. They know their own culture rather well.

" some of the worst I have dealt with were Japanese"

So, because you have never met any good Japanese translators into English mean that none exists?
 

FoxxFireArt, it is becoming clear to me that you don't know as much as you sound like about Japanese, translation or publishing.  
 
I never said I have never met any good Japanese-native translators. Some of the best out there are from Japan. I am saying that just because someone is from Japan does not make their translation authentic. Just because someone is French they make good pastries? Of course not. I think I need to speak more directly. To judge a translation based on the race of the translator is ignorant. Pure and simple.  
 

@FoxxFireArt

said:

Have you ever read a Del Rey manga of Negima!, Fairy Tail, or Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei? They're great.

I could quote you all day why the scanlations are more authentic, but I don't you think you would get it. It's something you have to see. I'm not going to spend aday trying to explain to you every reason why. Partly, because you don't want to see to even try and see where I am coming from. 
You'd have to see the scanlations of the series to understand it. You are judging them without ever seeing them for yourself. I've seen the US version "Case Closed". I've compared the two. You haven't.

Yes, I have read many Del Rey titles, as well as Viz titles, etc. etc.  
 
I am not asking you to quote me all day, but just give me one example (besides race of the translator) that isn't Detective Conan names. But it interesting you use the term "more authentic" now rather then "authentic". Are you seeing that there is no "100% authentic" translation?

 
 
@FoxxFireArt

said:

Have you ever seen the language written? It's not exactly Spanish. "
Have you not read a word I have written?  
 
I translate Japanese to English for a living. I see the written language all day every day. 
giaon March 5, 2010 at 2:58 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt: John is actually the translator for Dark Horse's release of the excellent Blood+ novels. :)
paplooon March 5, 2010 at 3:06 p.m.

Wow.... Wow.... somebody tell me why something like this is popping up on anime vice?

Gia and Co. please do not let someone post stuff like this in the future. Looking at his replies, I think it damages your look to honest fans, and to companies.

paplooon March 5, 2010 at 3:09 p.m.

Or was this some kind of bizarro attempt to educate this guy by having us all get mad at him? 
Having studied Japanese in an academic environment (ie- classes, not just me repeating what I think I heard in an anime), I can solidy say that fans claim to know what's more accurate, speak/read no japanese, and only read bootlegged materials have no idea at all what they're talking about. Though CharredKnight's and John's posts clarify that pretty well.
taotasticon March 5, 2010 at 3:10 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt: Oh now you're just making excuses...wait you've been doing that this whole time! 
So, if I pull up three separate scanlations, they'll all say the SAME EXACT thing?  Oh, okay. Allow me... 
Endless Youth & Co.  (translator is self-taught Japanese, aka American)
Nusantara  
DCTP   
 
You seriously think that these people are better than Viz?  A professional?  You think they just pulled some bums in off the street?  How ignorant.  And even if I were to entertain your little notion that all the good translators are Japanese, the Viz release lists Naoko Amemiya as the translator for volume 18.  English actually isn't a walk in the park to learn either, so don't be ignorant of the fact that Japanese people have to learn English to be able to translate, and they're not always going to be perfect.  Del Rey uses American translators too.  Just saying.
 
I really think you should face the fact that you are indeed the one who doesn't want to see the other side.  As I mentioned in my post which you conveniently ignored, I understand your frustration, I've been there many times myself. However, I don't understand how you can justify stealing your favorite series.  If you loved it that much, wouldn't you WANT Aoyama-sensei to have your money?    
 
Your argument is invalid.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 5, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.
@John_Thomas: 
 You asked me how I know the series in scanlations is authentic to the Japanese version. I said because they are Japanese in Japan. They have the original Japanese printing of the series. Someone in Japan knows their own culture well enough to tell if something is authentic. I don't even know if they are Asian. I never said anything about race. When I said they were Japanaese. I meant they are from and are in Japan.
 
I cant tell you why it's more authentic, besides the obvious of not changing the names. It's far too complicated to have to just say in words. If you saw it you would understand. How can you claim that it's not more authentic when you haven't seen the scanlations of the series?
The best was I can describe it. It reads online a lot like a Del Rey manga. That's the simplest way to explain it.
 

" I translate Japanese to English for a living. I see the written language all day every day. "

Then why'd I have to explain to you why reading and speaking the language are two different things? Any translator knows it's always easier to learn to speak a language then to read it. More so when the language isn't in words but characters, such as Kanji. Every child learns to speak long before they learn to read.

 
People who are anit-scanlations want to know why people use those and not buy the manga in the US. I don't know why other people do it. I can only tell you why I do something. I read it in scanlations, because it's my only source for the story with the original names. I want to buy it in the US. It's the one series of all manga I would love to collect, but not when it's been so altered. Keep the "Case Closed" title change. That doesn't effect the story. The names of the characters do.
 
How am I being so unreasonable when all I want is the same kind of experiencethat VIZ gives the readers of Naruto, Bleach, Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist, and One Piece? Even if they only offered the series unedited through their website and it cost more then the edited version.
Sigueon March 5, 2010 at 3:21 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt: I don't think you really understand the point all these people have been making. Wanting and unedited experience isn't unreasonable. Using the edits as justification for stealing the product is unreasonable.
taotasticon March 5, 2010 at 3:27 p.m.
@Sigue said:
" @FoxxFireArt: I don't think you really understand the point all these people have been making. Wanting and unedited experience isn't unreasonable. Using the edits as justification for stealing the product is unreasonable. "
*circles in red marker**many exclamation marks**draws stars all around**encases in heart* 
 
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