[Guest Article] Anonymous Confessions of a Scanlator

Topic started by Guest_Author on March 31, 2010. Last post by cfatalis 4 years, 12 months ago.
Post by Guest_Author (0 posts) See mini bio Level 7
The user who submitted this article requested to remain anonymous, for reasons that should become clear. I should note that the images I've attached to this post are for illustrative purposes, and that they are not of the series that the author works on.  - g
Guest posts are intended to encourage diversity of thought; the opinions represented within are not necessarily those of Anime Vice or its staff.     

Anonymous Confessions of a Scanlator 

 I've wanted to write this since I saw the scanlation guest article almost a month ago. 

Hello, Anime Vice. I might be choosing to remain anonymous, but I'm a scanlator. I work on an unspecified series which, thanks to cultural and/or legal and/or fiscal issues, could never be legitimately brought to the United States manga market, and it eats me up inside with every page I edit. I wonder how I can dare to call myself a fan when I purchase the beautiful volumes of the original manga and selfishly gut them, ripping apart their innards, leaving a mess of pages where a book used to be. I scan as well as I can, so my work can be a replacement for the original for those who don't speak Japanese. Even so, I feel guilt with every page, knowing that for each volume I edit, the odds of people purchasing a legitimate edition (should pigs fly and hell freezes over and it were to be legitimately published in English) are plummeting like a Looney Toons anvil. I'm stealing from the author whose work I love so much and committing grand scale piracy, and I constantly question whether or not it's worth it. I considered including the Japanese ISBN for each volume and links to where you could purchase Japanese books online, but honestly, how many of even the most devoted fans would do that? I'm not optimistic enough to believe that more than one or two people would even consider importing a Japanese volume to show support for a series which they read in scanlation.

There are people who happily scanlate things which are licensed, which is a mindset I can't realize. At that point you aren't just stealing from a nebulous crowd of readers who might purchase the original Japanese volumes to puzzle through them; you're stealing away people who might otherwise buy a legitimate edition in their own language because it's so much easier to log onto a scanlation aggregator website and download away. This is the sort of mindset that I just can't understand.

Added to this is the guilt that I feel for reading scanlations of fantastic series that, like the one I work on, are not likely to ever be released in English. Ancient shoujo or shounen epics which would never sell due to the old art style. Quirky series whose cultural aspects would never be allowable in the United States, like Saint Young Men. Extremely niche market manga, such as mahjong manga. Experimental seinen even more unusual than the fantastic Sig Ikki line from VIZ. This is the sort of thing that I want to read, but if it isn't available in my language, what can I do?

At this point, when it comes to obscure series without much of a chance of release in English, I honestly find none of the options to be worthwhile. I don't speak enough Japanese to just buy the original edition and read them myself. Sometimes there are other foreign language editions, but often I can't read those languages either. And while manga is a privilege and not a right, I don't want to be limited to only the sort of thing which is financially feasible to publish in the United States. Scanlations, whether the ones I shamefully create or the ones I read on the internet, are the only regrettable option, and I wish this weren't the case.

I won't tell you what I work on, but if you somehow read any of my series, I hope you're enjoying them, and I hope you'll consider at some point if not buying the actual physical series, at least buying any merchandise or artbooks that come out that tickle your fancy. If your monetary support can help convince a publishing company to take a leap and license something unusual, I'd consider every scanlated page I've put out to be worth it.    
Post by Juuhachi (88 posts) See mini bio Level 13
Ahh well, I'm grateful for scanlators. We barely have manga series here and the ones we do have I just purchase. So he's doing a lot of people a big favor.
Post by Kelleth (7,798 posts) See mini bio Level 20
Scanlator`s help me choose the manga i want to buy in real life sooooo thanks. ^^
Post by sunflower (191 posts) See mini bio Level 1
Most people I know who buy manga, buy stuff because they read the scanlations and loved them.  If no one had ever scanlated Viewfinder, for instance, I wouldn't have bought the English, French, German, and both editions of the Japanese.  I got into manga because of the wide number of scanlations available - they let me sample and discover the variety, because if I'd had to spend $10 per volume when I first got interested and only saw what was at B&N, I'd never have become a fan.  And to those doing the older obscure series, I love you, because not only will we likely never see English volumes, the Japanese ones are often next to impossible to find. You're preserving works and bringing them to the attention of a new generation that can appreciate them, when they otherwise would be lost to us.  
I'd also like to point out that the list of downloaded scanlations by popularity?  That pretty much matches the titles appearing on bestseller lists every week.  Popular titles sell, scanlations or not.  So don't feel guilty.
Post by DK1105 (21 posts) See mini bio Level 1
I always read the scanalation before buying manga. (Example:I read all of Genshiken then went out a bought every volume because I liked it) I do the same with fansubs but that slightly different.  On of my favorite manga is Over Rev! Its a street racing manga that is 31 volumes in and has been running since 1997.  I highly doubt that it will ever be released in english.  The only other language I have seen it released for other than Japanese is in Indonesian.  I know enough Japanese that I could sit down with a dictionary and understand whats going on but I don't know a single word in Indonesian.  The english scans have been a big problem as well.  Three different group have worked on it.  Its always group A works on it then drops it then Group B picks up were they left off.  Well Group C is working on it now and they only release a chapter a month and the chapters are rather short compared to other manga.  I really think this manga would do really with the Initial D crowd.  I got my brother into Over Rev and he does not like most anime or manga but he is a huge import car guy and loves this manga.
Side note: I honestly prefer reading some manga on a screen than in trade paperback.  I would love to have manga on a iPad like tablet. 

Edit: I forgot to point out the Over Rev! being scanned by a online car club not a normal fansub group.  We forget in Japan manga is way bigger than anime and that there is a manga that is aimed for everyone in Japan.  There are manga titles aimed at salarymen/grandmothers/teachers/ect.  In the states anime is bigger the manga and we think that manga is an otaku only thing including english manga publishers.
Post by relentlessflame (7 posts) See mini bio Level 1
Scanlation is always completely illegal, but if we got rid of scanlations for the licensed/popular works and were left only with the extremely niche titles that have little hope of ever being licensed, I think we'd be having an entirely different discussion. 
Like, for example, the "cultural and/or legal and/or fiscal issues" comment made me think that this anonymous scanlator could be working on something like a Kodomo no Jikan.  As we all know, the odds of that title getting licensed (again?) for English distribution are pretty much zero at this point.  If the only scanlations around were of those sorts of "non-licensable" works, and people bought the stuff that was legally available, this wouldn't be the sort of crisis that it has since become.  So it seems to me that the real question is how to convince people to not use the scanlations as a substitute for purchasing licensed works.  But I guess that begs the question of whether "kids these days" really want to own printed books.  Personally, I still love the printed page, but I think "my kind" is shrinking in number...
On a much less serious note, if the scanlator feels "gutted" every time he rips apart a book, I recommend buying two copies. :P
Post by sora_thekey (1,097 posts) See mini bio Level 16

I know many people who read the scanlation manga a lot (I don't cause I perfer to have the book, or just skip it and watch the anime) but the reason they do it is because the manga is not sold where they live.  
I guess scanlation might be possitive on that point but it's stil not right...
Post by JJOR64 (2,075 posts) See mini bio Level 16
A very interesting/good read.  Since I have practically no money at this moment, I'm stuck with scanlations.  One day, I would love to go back and buy volumes of the stuff I read online like Negima! and Love Hina.  I can see why people do stick with scanlations though.   "If I can read it online, why should I buy it?"  That's what many people think, which is sad.
@Kelleth said:
" Scanlator`s help me choose the manga i want to buy in real life sooooo thanks. ^^ "
This goes for many people as well.
Scanlations, like fansubs, creates user interest and may get consumers to buy the English translations of manga/anime when they are released in our region.  On the other hand, people can just use them as an excuse to illegally download the series and read/watch them.
This is just one topsy-turvy subject that's hard to grasp.
Post by DK1105 (21 posts) See mini bio Level 1
@JJOR64 said:
@Kelleth said:
" Scanlator`s help me choose the manga i want to buy in real life sooooo thanks. ^^ "
This goes for many people as well. Scanlations, like fansubs, creates user interest and may get consumers to buy the English translations of manga/anime when they are released in our region.  On the other hand, people can just use them as an excuse to illegally download the serieks and read/watch them.  This is just one topsy-turvy subject that's hard to grasp. "
 Well there is a little rule about how to make money on the internet and that is if you give it away for free you will make more money on it.  I know its counter intuitive but it works and there is proff of it.  Look at South Park.  They have every single episode online including the new episodes the day they come out.  Their boxset sales have skyrocketed when they started doing that.  Really if you think about it its not very diffrent that the TV model.  Most companies don't make money off there first run show being aired.
Post by crusader8463 (739 posts) See mini bio Level 9
Hello, my names Nicholas Totton; I live in Norton New Brunswick Canada and I'm a pirate.
Everything I pirate comes down to the simple fact that I don't have any money to buy them or I would. Whether it's a movie, video game, comic book, manga or anime series the only reason I'm downloading it is because i have no other way of getting my hands on it. While some people might have the will power to not download for free something they have wanted for ages because they don't have the money too, i do not have that kind of will power. 
If i see something i want I'll look into my wallet and see if i can afford it. When i blow the cobwebs away and see that I'm still a broke fucker who couldn't afford a piece of penny candy, assuming penny candy still existed and was still actually a penny, why would i then just say "Ah shucks, i guess i cant watch/read it now!" when i could be doing just that in less then two minutes by opening my web browser?
While in a perfect world everyone would have the means and willingness to buy everything they wanted to, we unfortunately don't live in that kind of world.
Post by FLStyle (424 posts) See mini bio Level 12
If the legit side of things was as reliable I'd happily spent my money.
Post by kippy666 (7 posts) See mini bio Level 1
I completely understand that some people can't afford to buy manga and that we don't have the opportunity to read every manga that comes out legally. I just really dislike people who have the money but refuse to buy it because they can get it online for free. I also REALLY HATE the people that tell me I'm wasting money by buying manga, this has happened a few times and it really annoys me! I love this industry and I want to support it! Also I love having the the manga I adore sitting in my room!
 The only time I read things online is when I'm trying to see if it is worthy enough to have in my collection or when I'm reading Naruto, Bleach and Bakuman. But I'm up to date with both the Naruto and Bleach manga that is being brought out by VIZ  right now, I will also be buying Bakuman but I have so much I wanna buy first. Because of what I've just read I feel like I should skip away and buy manga. In fact I think I will!
Post by Zeouterlimits (516 posts) See mini bio Level 7
@crusader8463: If you cannot afford to buy something do you deserve to read/watch/listen to it anyway?  
 Is it right that because you cannot afford it you should get to experience it anyway? 
 (Not trying to attack you personally, just want to see this addressed)
Post by Chengy (1,711 posts) See mini bio Level 17
You see i think theirs a line to this sorta thing, I would "Pirate" because i can not obtain said item in my country or not in my country for another five years. this is why i read scanlator manga, and i appreciate all of their work.
With anime its sorta the similur reason, but its also to avoid this terrible experience i had with dragonball z, show a arc five times, release a new one, restart both arcs about twice bring out a new arc then play all of them again and it took like four years to get to like the buu saga, which is utter bullshit. Where normally i finish an anime series in anywhere between a day - week.
I dont really bother buying Dvds as i dont really rewatch things, i find it boring to see something ive already seen, hence why i dont own any dvds my self.
 But if their was a film i wanted to see, yes i would go to the cinema to watch it, i wouldnt pirate it if it was showing in my country.
Games, i always and always will buy my own games, i must own over a hundered games spanning from my super nintendo up to my current Xbox 360. But again their are the odd games for hand helds i cant get in this country  so yeah those i might pirate. 
But im sure you see my point, Its only because i cant get access to something because of where i live that i watch or read something online,I think its wrong though that you pirate things for the sole reason "You cant affored it" if you can affored a computer, internet, console ect, then you must have money, if you really cant, go get a job and do something for the world, sheash lol. Im 18 and most of the stuff i buy is with my own money, next year im going to Uni then everything will be with my own money. If you cant affored it, simple dont buy it, buy it when you have money not Pirate it, thats just not a legit reason.
Post by crusader8463 (739 posts) See mini bio Level 9
@Zeouterlimits: @Chengy: 
Why? Why should I not get to enjoy something that I want to see just because of some innate sense of moral obligation to pay for it despite being in a position where I cannot? Why should I choose to sit on my ass twiddling my thumbs because I'm in a situation where in I can't afford to buy any form of entertainment or to find a way to earn a living? 

I live in the country. I'm not talking about just outside of town, but a forty to fifty minute drive to the nearest sign of civilization kind of country. I'm disabled and cannot do most forms of work because I simply physically can’t do it. Now, even if by some miracle of miracles I could find a job that I could physically do, and get hired to do it, I have no way to get to the job and back every day. Because of this I have no money, and no way of purchasing any form of entertainment that interest me. As I said in my OP, when I do somehow find a way to afford things I ALWAYS buy them instead of pirating. Sadly these situations are far and few in between. 
I can afford a computer because I bought it when I did have a job years ago. I can afford internet only because my father pays for it. I can afford to buy these things only around my birthday and Christmas when enough of my relatives feel sorry enough for me that they send me a few dollars each that I can add together to buy one or two things I actually want and not just download some shitty, bugged, badly translated pirated version online. I'm not one of these people running around screaming about sticking it to the man, or that why would I buy it when I can just get it for free on pirate bay? I'm just like you justify pirating stuff only when it is impossible for you to obtain it by any other means. Unfortunately for me I live in a situation where almost everything is impossibly out of reach for me to get by any other means.
As you said in your reply in a year or two you will be going to school and paying for things with your own money. We will see how long you have the same attitude when you spend every penny you own on rent, food and bills and don't have any money left over to buy the things you take for granted. When you are on month two or three of working your ass off at school and coming home looking for some way to relax or to take your mind off of the day and having the only entertainment available to you being to jack off, stare at the wall for a few hours, sleep for awhile, jack off again then go to bed for then night only to get up the next day to have nothing to look forward to but the same routine. When you find yourself in that kind of situation send me a PM and tell me the same thing you just said above with a straight face and i will agree with you that what I'm doing is wrong.

Post by Zeouterlimits (516 posts) See mini bio Level 7
For a second there I thought you were talking to me when you said about going to school. 
 As someone who is in Uni I can say that to you. Take Black Lagoon for instance. I hear it raved about constantly yet I've never see or read it past the first episode that was screened at an anime society event last year. I'd love LOVE to see it. 
  But I can't afford any of it, I've €300 in rent alone due next week! Am I downloading it? Hell no. I'll wait and get it when I've some money. 
Anyway, as I said, I just wanted to hear your thoughts, thanks for replying :-)
Post by crusader8463 (739 posts) See mini bio Level 9
@Zeouterlimits: I  just included you in the reply because you asked about it, it was mostly directed to the other guy :)
Post by Daniel_Newton (3,323 posts) See mini bio Level 20
@crusader8463: I don't get to live in a castle just because I can't afford it. Saying you don't have the money to buy something doesn't give you the right to steal it. Like Cheng said atleast he has reasons for doing it, such as actually not being able to buy it where we live.
Post by crusader8463 (739 posts) See mini bio Level 9
@Newten:  And how is that any different from me? By you're own logic you're just as evil a person as i am because you're stealing the product, but you think you guys deserve to get a free pass because you're own justification is better then mine? How is, because i cant have access to it where i live, any different then mine? I don't have access to it too, but because my reason's different i get vilified and he gets to be Robin Hood?  We are both doing the exact same thing, so ether we are both wrong or we are both justified. No ones stopping you from importing it and reading the translated versions online, but i don't see you guys doing that. 
You cant have it both ways, so please get off you're high horse.
Post by Daniel_Newton (3,323 posts) See mini bio Level 20
@crusader8463: We pay for what we can and then pirate what we can't. I never said it was right, no form of pirating is right or completely justifiable really. I just don't think "I don't have the money" is a good enough reason to do it. If you want to buy something then go out of your way to earn the money.
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