For the past five or so years, I’ve been a participant in what some might call the “Scanlation Business” as a translator. No, not for any of the big name series (aside from Bakuman), but smaller series that are a bit more quirkier, if I had to say. Some of them I loved and continue to read them if they are still serializing, while others I enjoyed the experience itself.
Back in the fall of 2014, I was interviewed by a Mr. Matt F. in regards to the scanlation scheme. Being someone studying Translation Studies for his PhD, he wished for personal input from someone who is already neck-deep into the scanlation world.
The following are snippets of some of my replies during my conversation with Matt:
My first response when Matt mentioned his PhD:
“Glad to hear that you are working on a PhD on such a focus; I feel the scanlation world isn’t an explored-enough area of translation so I would be glad to offer my thought.”
After Matt explained how in his home country, most published manga were of the Shonen demographic:
“[…] the word “shonen”. Translators may seem to have a “hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” on how Japanese words should be translated, but that is not true. As you are aware, different translators translate differently. Some will write the above word as “shounen,” which is the original Japanese phonetic. I would otherwise write it out with the original. There is also the issue with plurals of Japanese words. There are translators out there who will say “samurais” or “ninjas“, and while this is wrong (ie they should be “samurai” and “ninja,” just like how fish is “fish” even in plural form), it can’t be blamed since it’s not a clear fact to most people that you don’t use the plural “s” for foreign words.”
After having some real-life chatter with a friend of mine about manga and anime:
“I mentioned before how manga is above comics in how serious they approach the subject, yes? This friend of mine, who I’ll just name “Mr. H”, told me how he saw manga as an intermediate between comics and novels: manga can be as serious as novels but also as silly as comics. Manga/anime has this unique factor to be taken seriously but also not so seriously that comics do not have most of the times.”
In regards to Matt’s talk about “Translation is usually about money and ethics, while Scanlation circles around interest and passion”:
“The first portion of your explanation is indeed correct: outside of scanlation, manga is translated out of money or ethics. Yes, there will still be translated anime/manga of the erotic or grotesque, but those are not as commonly found.
But there is a slight denial to your second claim. Scanlation does have a different perception, where, while it does support big series such as the Big Three, what scanlation does is not “care more about a small number of readers who enjoy your same taste, rather than translating a popular manga that you don’t like”, but something different. Yes, we don’t objectify on what is popular; we aim to “equally” publicize manga that is out there.”
On the subjects of “Scanlations that are paid” and “haters”:
“[…] a couple years ago, if memory serves me right, a scanlation group under a regime similar to being a “mercenary group” promised good scans if they are paid. And for the first week, I admit, they gave what they were paid: good scans with quick releases. But the problem went downhill from there. I had already disliked the idea of scanlations working for money, and this scanlation group had opened up a weak-spot in itself. Week two: although they boasted good translation and cleaning jobs on scans, their work was poorly done. Where had their good work gone last week; I don’t know. But what they provided and what they had advertised was pure irony. And by god, there were haters.
Now let me elaborate on haters: there are the anon haters and the smart haters. Anon haters is your usual “F-bomber”, insulting whatever they want. What they do is idiotic, but it becomes extra fuel to the fire of smart haters. And I was one of them. Smart haters can be good and bad (I was a good one); good ones offer constructive criticism, bad ones will be able to rant in paragraphs. After a few nights, this mercenary group disbanded into oblivion.”
These are only small bits of the conversation and emailing I had with Matt, and would rather elaborate more on the subject of Scanlation another time. But for now, these do illustrate some of my thoughts in regards to scanlation and its relationship to the world it takes part in.