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Scanlation Sentiments: My Answers to Your Statements

The recent press release regarding the manga coalition, which saw a slew of companies finally banding together to battle the evil that is manga aggregator sites, was met with the excepted amount of drama, assumption and protest. While the number of fans cheering the decision and understanding the positive implications of it came out in healthy force, the nay-sayers remained as always the prevalently loudest.

With the resulting week or so of virtual fandom butt-hurt across various forums and sites, I was finally compelled to finish my rough manifesto of why so many of those arguments are completely nutso. Some are sympathizable, many are wildly shared and all have been corrected a hundred times long before I decided to step into the ring of legality and logic. But, to try and take the edge off that voice in my head that constantly screams ‘do they even know what the heck they’re talking about?!’, I’ve conglomerated my brain-responses to hundreds of people’s emotionally-charged internet responses into one post of fairly-frank, honest and thus likely offensive-to-those-who-take-it-all-as-personally responses to those statements you never meant to be taken as a question.

And here we go…

“It’s not available in my language!”

If all you want is to be able to read the manga in your language (which is completely understandable), then wouldn’t you use scanlations only after owning the original Japanese version? If not, then news flash, you’re not reading the scanlation for the translation – you’re reading it for the manga itself because it’s free, not because it happens to be in your language. Can’t afford to buy the original Japanese version? Then skip ahead to the “I can’t afford it!” panel. But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt, what if you have the original book and can’t understand it or you’re looking for it out of curiousity and it’s not licensed to be released where you are?

Solution (Part One): Finding Japanese manga isn’t as tricky as one may think, nor as expensive. Not as easy as finding English translated manga, sure, but it’s out there and there’s a lot of it. Manga is predominantly sold on the cheap in Japan, especially for older series, and your real issue is the shipping itself if coming directly from Japan. Looking for cheaper alternatives? There are a few Kinokunyia bookstores scattered around the states with it in healthy-stock or check out English-language sites such as Akadot Retail or JList for Japanese manga with more localized shipping options. You can even ask your local comic book retailer as they have distribution abilities to get you some original-language titles as well. And don’t forget sites like eBay (note: always be careful shopping online with sites like eBay though!) and places like conventions, which can often have little treasure troves of books in a variety of languages.

Solution (Part Two): Supporting the stories you want to see published in your language is the tried and true way to take steps towards making it happen. Publishers want to license what you want to buy – happy customers are buying customers after all and the days of blind-bulk licensing is behind us as the market leveled out from its initial surge. Publishers are always asking what readers want licensed and those who request the most feverently are often the most rewarded (look at Digital Manga’s recent boys’ love license announcements for example). Already series out by a creator you’d like to see more from? Buy it, love it, share it! The best way to get more is to show you want what they’ve already gotten for you.

“I can’t afford it!”

…Then you don’t get it. Life lesson time – this is how the world works. Want a car? Want a PS3? Can’t afford them? Then you don’t get them. But you can save for them! And manga at $8.99 a full book? Not exactly a huge investment. Manga is a business. The creators and those who publish it need to make a living – they have families, homes, food and health to pay for same as you. You say you need your money for other stuff (and yes, food and living very important), well so they do.

Solution: There’re lots of ways to read manga for free that’s legal and completely supportive of the creators. Companies are doing all they can without bankrupting themselves and artists right now to give readers what they want and they know free stuff is one of them. Viz Media’s Shonen Sunday and SigIkki websites offer lots of series to read including some simultaneously with Japanese releases. Digital Manga’s website offers free previews of it series which it sells for pennies a chapter and it’s the same for NetComics. Not to mention a few new projects on the horizon we’ll be hearing about shortly.

Not enough? Try out your local library. Don’t have the titles you want? Ask them! Libraries want books that they know people want to read but they’ll never know if people don’t tell them. Don’t wait for the maybe-day they’ll get the books you want, suggest and ask, you may be surprised how many (and how quickly) your requests are put into motion!

And don’t forget the financial survival tactic of sharing with friends. Whether it’s borrowing a copy of their book(s), pooling your money for a new copy of Shonen Jump to share, going splits on a new volume of manga you both love or combining orders to get that free shipping on RightStuf, your good friends can quickly become your manga reading and collecting best friends!

Also buying manga makes manga cheaper (an important fact I was reminded of by @ABCBTom), and I don’t just mean the buy x get x sort of deals us collectors love to hate (poor bookshelf space!). The more people buy the books, the cheaper the books will become. Shonen Jump titles such as Naruto and Bleach are perfect examples, consistently cheaper than more niche titles such as Viz Signature, Dark Horse’s books or boys’ love. Why? Because they sell more and consistently. It’s a simple matter of affordability – the more books a company gets printed, the less they’re charged by the printer (the power of bulk buying!), but they can’t buy a lot if they won’t sell a lot. So the more people buy, the cheaper books will become – now that’s a great reward!

“But I need to know what happens now!”

You don’t (patience is a virtue) but we’ll pretend you do. And yeah, spoilers suck but even if we had just the books to go on as they were released, there’d still be spoilers. It’s an unfortunate fact of pop-culture life (and we boo on you spoiler-people!).

Solution: Utilize the simul-posting already available, let companies know which series you’d like to have simul-posted. Buy the books as soon as they come out if you can, show the demand is there to have it now! If you put off until an entire series is done in book form, not only do you deprive the companies of the money they need to finish printing it but also don’t do much to show you want it OMG-now.

Viz Media is already doing the simul-posting with Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne series and that’s just the start. More of this is coming but it’s a long process getting the okay from the Japanese creators and companies, many of whom are uncomfortable putting anything online because of the theft that already exists. Hard to blame them for worrying it could only make things worse. Do whatever you can to promote what’s happening now and embrace that which comes, the manga-world is changing and we’ll all need to adapt along with it to get us all where we want to be including down the road to simultaneous releases.

“Well it’s not like I’m paying the scanlators for it!”

Maybe not directly but do you know how much money scanlation aggregator sites make off the ads on their pages that you visit? A lot and I mean a lot. Judging from recent numbers (Not-so-fun-fact: A certain big manga aggregator sites is one of the most visited in the world), it’d likely be safe to say that they’re making more money off of you than even the creators themselves – in many cases stealing not only from creators and publishers, but even scanlators themselves. The thieves of thieves certainly aren’t Robin Hoods, that’s for sure.

Solution: The manga companies are already tackling the biggest issue head-on – taking down the sites that are making money off of these illegal scanlations; making money off of you, whether it comes directly from your wallet or not. Help them! Stop being a tool to these individuals out to use you and the work you love for their own gain; they are not manga fans looking to share, they are profiteers looking to gain money for your time directly at the manga creators’ expense. If you’re reading scanlations, at least stick to the little guys who are actually sharing lesser-known works to select crowds and not mass-sharing pages for proceeds.

“Scanlations are free advertising!”

It’s true, scanlations are fantastic advertising. They’re what many publishers use to gauge good licenses and popularity; they are what drums up real excitement for books when they’re licensed. Scanlations are strong tools for marketing that come free for publishers and creators. However, the benefit of promoting content to a group who by all majority-proven isn’t interested in actually paying for content, you have to see how the benefit falls flat. It’s like playing a trailer before a movie that you’re already watching (and worse one you’ve stolen as with scanlations) – what is it going to accomplish? For those who actually purchase the books when they’re published in their language are the only real audience to these advertising benefits but, as covered in the next point, scanlations aren’t advertising to the millions of others – they’re just illicit alternatives to the real deal.

Solution: How can scanlations really be decent advertising? Many scanlators claim they’re in it for the love of the medium and supporting the companies and creators past distributing their work without permission could go a long way. How about ads for companies on their websites? Heavy promotion to actually buy the book before and after it’s licensed? Scanlators should also set-up reading online instead of offering downloads, keeping the reading more regulated and the sharing minimal. Scanlators should work with companies, not as vigilantes or shadowy figures and the same goes for readers as well.

“Well I pay for the books after I read the scanlations!”

And that makes you awesome. Really, it does. Unfortunately you are the minority – the extreme minority. When you see a book has sold maybe a couple hundred hard copies but the illegal versions online have been downloaded over 2 million times, it becomes pretty evident who’s not doing what. If everyone bought the books after they read them illegally then WOW – what an industry we would have. And, if publishers knew their readers had this kind of morality, then you can bet that free legal distribution would already be light years ahead of where it is now. Heck, going back to the point about buying the Japanese editions, if everyone who read scanlations was doing this when English books weren’t licensed then scanlations wouldn’t be an issue at all because they would just be translation-share, not book theft.

Solution: Promote these decisions and acts of goodness! Share your books with friends, get excited – you own the book, its proudly, prettily and legally yours. You’re doing something that makes the actual creator happy and helps see to it that more of their books end up on bookshelves as well. Someday you’ll be able to skip the illegal copy step altogether as companies gain further permissions to offer digital copies themselves (Fun-fact: Being allowed to post series a company has licensed online is a whole other contract, cost and set of permissions from the Japanese creators. This is one of the main reasons you don’t see it being done more yet), but in the meantime, if you’re buying the books then keep being a damn proud minority.

“Scanlators work really hard on what they do and don’t get paid for it!”

Yes, in many cases true. But… what does that change? It’s admirable, sure, there’s some talented folk out there but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re doing something illegal. They are stealing from the creators. If they were only doing what they did to practice their skills, have a translated copy for themselves that’d be fine. In many cases the original scanlator has bought the original so them making a version in their language for themself, no problem! But it doesn’t end there – they distribute and they distribute to thousands, if not millions, of readers who will now have no need to go out and buy the copy for themselves. Hard work does not make something okay. I’m sure robbing a bank isn’t easy but we don’t cheer them on (you know, as a fun but still poignantly similar example).

Solution: Scanlators should put their powers of skill towards the forces of good. Apply for jobs to work with actual companies, create your own work and promote something you own. Digital Manga is also working towards the launch of a service that’s looking to bring aboard experienced scanlators in a way that’ll see everyone involved get paid for their work while still offering fans the stories they want to read. Exciting stuff in the works!

“But official translations are wrong! I like scanlations better!”

Translators who create scanlations are no different than those who translate professional (past of course professionals being paid for it, doing it legally and having potentially more education). Translations, especially when going from a language from Japanese, is very a tricky and subjective art form. Like any art form, it will also be viewed by different people in different ways who want different things. Some prefer a literal translation over smooth dialogue, others want a clean reading experience that keeps true to the original but doesn’t need to stick word for word (something that in many instances simply isn’t possible).

More often than not what readers see as ‘incorrect’ translating on behalf of licensing companies, is because it differs from the scanlation they read first. People have a tendency to take what they see/read/hear first as fact, with anything following it being an argument or alternative. In translation, this is simply not the case. Just because you read the scanlation first, doesn’t mean it’s the right or accurate version. That isn’t to say all legally translated work is perfect but the same can most definitely be said for scanlations as well. (Fun fact: Manga-ka and Japanese license holders have more input in translation than most may think – often times changes in things such as names is a different request from the original owners of the story, not the English companies)

Solution: Learn to read Japanese. Not as easy as we’d like sure, but you can’t go proclaiming which translation is ‘right’ when you yourself can’t understand the original. Simple solution is fundamentally simple?

“This is just publishers wanting money! What about what the creators want?!”

Eye-opener: the creators don’t want you stealing their stuff either. Why does this seem like a such prevalent thought among anti-anti-piracy people? You’re sucking away their livelihood, disrespecting their work and not showing love so much as you’re using their stories like disposal worth-nothings. Talk about depressing for them! When publishers make moves to protect their copyrights, it’s as much to the creators benefit as theirs. And for money? Yeah, sure, publishers need money so they can pay everyone who made the work. Paying the creator, and then paying the company which is then split among the workers who helped bring the manga to buyers’ hands.

Solution: A lot of people’s misconceptions about creator’s rights, opinions, and perhaps what makes it so easy for people to outright steal from the creators they claim to respect, is likely due to a lack of human-face the creators have. Not many creators come across the sea and the bulk of reader ‘interaction’ with them is the author notes in books. While occasionally they refer to the English-speaking crowd (for example), they’re still really just a one-way street of communication. Translated communication via publishers from creators could help give a real face to these theft issues and offer a whole new side of manga-enjoyment for fans. It’d be a big eye-opener for a lot of the dangerously entitled fans out there who don’t realize how many manga creators don’t even want any more of their works released in English because of the disrespect shown with scanlations.

“But charging money for manga is just mean! Companies don’t care about my feelings at all! We’re being punished!”

(Note: Yes, this is actually a repeated argument.) Feeling ‘bad’ about having something you stole taken away isn’t a reason, a justification or anything that people should have to read you trying to use as a reason to keep getting what you want when you want it for nothing in return. Sorry folks, in this instance you’re just being whiny. And punished? No, by having something taken away that you never should’ve been stealing in the first place does not mean you’re being punished. You just feel like you are – because that’s really what this all comes down to is how people are feeling, which often gets in the way of those logical brain thoughts. And while we can understand your emotions run wild, the cursing, repetition and ‘well you’re wrong because it doesn’t make sense because I feel bad and that’s bad’ logic does not fly.

Solution: Grow up? Maturity-speaking of course. I know needing to spend money on stuff you want can be icky and sometimes you won’t be able to afford what you want. That’s part of life. Earning the money to get the things you want is also a part of life. If you want manga, games, whatever then earn it. Just wanting makes you selfish, not entitled. And companies do care about your feelings. I mean, really, how much good is it going to do a company to do ‘everything you hate’? Sometimes they need to make hard choices and sometimes you’re not going to like it but the ball is always in the consumer’s court. Buy, promote, suggest – they change based on what you, their hopeful consumer, does or doesn’t do. They want you to be happy, they want to provide you with the things that make you happy, they want you to be their happy customer – but you know what? Happiness is a two way street. You give and you get. So give! Then get! And remember that publishers have the original creator and their workers to support, not just your wanton hands.

Some final thoughts to my thoughts: Are scanlations evil? At their core of intent, no – in their execution, absolutely yes. There’s a need for them, or something in place of them, but it’s all manga fans responsibility to support manga in its legal form and really prove that scanlations, that free manga, can be a support to the industry – not a precursor to the failure of it.

Going to go actively avoid forums and give my brain a rest now (and then read some manga – naturally!)

Image above copyright to Seimu Yoshizaki/Viz Media from “Kingyo Used Books

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
See an ad here linking to a scanlation website? Please let us know!

30 Responses

  1. A. Brenner says:

    Great arguments against the arguments. I think the point of aggregator sites making money is one that should be pushed to the front of this conversation. People will be misinterpreting copyright laws until the sun dies out, but the fact that these sites are making money off of translations they didn't work on, of titles they didn't get permission from the creators to post, would give any fan pause.

    Here's hoping DMP's initiative, Viz's sites, and whatever OpenManga's got cooking up back there help "ease the pain" of the aggregators closing down.

  2. Jack says:

    Uh, what kind of —- idiot buys a book they can't read? What's the point of buying the Japanese version of a book if you can't read Japanese? That's a gigantic idiotic waste of time, money and books. It's an insane assumption to think people that want to read a story in whatever language they speak would go out of their way to buy it in a language they don't. The other arguments, whatever, they make sense. That one is so beyond stupid it's amazing you didn't edit it out of the final post.

    • Lissa says:

      It's not idiotic at all – it's called supporting the creator. I have a collection of Japanese-edition manga because they're not available in English but I adore the art, love the artist's work that has been printed in English and want to support that. As soon as the English editions come out (if they do) then I'll be right there to have it. And I'm definitely not alone.

      It comes down to the reading and ownership of manga, not theft. Scanlations are theft – but sharing translation wouldn't be viewed as such if people actually bought the books.

  3. Daryl Surat says:

    While I can't say that I have any strong investment in this argument either way–if no manga or anime ever came out ever again, I still already have too much to go through for this lifetime–I'm unsure how exactly your solutions to "it's not available in my language" are, in fact, solutions at all. Does my personally having the Japanese language editions of Hokuto no Ken, Cyber Blue, Sakon, Dummy Oscar, AIUEO Boy, etc do anything to help alleviate the issue of them not being legally available in a language I can read, (English)? No, not really.

    Certainly, I can and do look at the pictures and be utterly baffled yet highly intrigued at what is transpiring before my eyes. Then I talk about them on the Internet…but few people seem to listen or care about manga from 15-25+ years ago. The fan support has to be large enough to be commercially viable, and most of what I like (non-moe seinen)…isn't.

    Case in point: I recently wrote an article for Otaku USA about Hana no Keiji, a glorious manga that was partially released in the US several years ago for which there are not even any scanlations. It was–and is–my hope that if I informed people this stuff exists, then perhaps it could develop some sort of fanbase which in turn could lead to some sort of English-language release, fan or professional. But the only feedback to this article I have received to date has been negative, since it turns out the act of talking about how great manga that nobody else can get is viewed as snobbishly elitist.

    The scope of this discussion, really, is to the large quantity of scanlations created that are inevitably going to be released in English. For everything else, I can only take a somewhat pragmatic stance. If someone out there is willing to release the rest of Hokuto no Ken (nearly 30 years old now; two companies to date have tried and not been able to do so, due to low sales!) or any of Hajime no Ippo (nearly at 900 chapters, from a genre that has not yielded a single success in the US), then I'll buy it. Until then, if I want to read them and know what's going on then I have no other option but to turn to scanlations…should they even exist.

    For me, most of the time they don't exist anyway. So I just…read something else.

    • Lissa says:

      I can certainly understand where you're coming from – there are a lot of fantastic series that are just too out-there or too old to be licensed in English. The point I was trying to make however is that just becauase it isn't available in English, doesn't mean readers suddenly have justification to steal it.

      Those who read scanlations are seeking them out because they the free, easy, and offer immediate-gratification but it doesn't show or provide any support or compensation to the creator. If folks truly love a series and want to support it, and show they're willing to pay for it, then they should buy. I know most won't, they care more about the manga-now than the manga itself, but it still drives me batty how so many people use 'It's not in my language!' to explain how stealing is their absolute-only option and buying is in no way a possibility.

  4. BruceMcF says:

    It would be a fine thing to have a tool that translators could use to create foreign language text overlays for original manga available online in various ways. Take the "scan" out of scanlation and make it purely hobbyist translation.

    • Lissa says:

      That sounds similar to what some groups are trying to do, such as the recently announced OpenManga and Digital Manga's new project. Whether they're original or existing properties, they still sound like they'll be offering that kind of text overlay to offer multiple language versions of manga. However it pans out, it'll be interesting to see what direction it takes translated manga online.

  5. Kuroneko003 says:

    Jobs: I guess you haven't noticed the manga publishers that have just been shuttered or the lay-offs at Viz or the downsizing at TokyoPop a little while back. I'm happy for the twinkle-in-the-eye pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps-attitude, but in this current economy, it's not realistic.

    Ad revenue — maybe if you happen to be Google…I imagine most of the aggregation sites make just enough money to pay for the server space. Check Roger Ebert's blog for a nice explanation of the ad revenue myth.


    As for the rest of your points; they are great, but oversimplified. There are some unmet customer needs and as long as those needs are not met by the publishers, then the customers are going to find other means to get what they want. Unfortunately, the current solution is only a win for the customers and the large manga aggregation sites (maybe).

    Moving on to the business aspect: like anything that's a niche, it's hard for large companies to come up with the justification to expend the effort for paltry returns. Conversely, how is a scanlation group that has NO business connection to the HUGE Japanese publishers supposed make any kind of inroad? Again, not realistic…it's simply not a part of Japanese business culture.

    That said, I'm not justifying scanlation, but it is a means to an end. It gets series attention so they can be licensed in English and it seems the current kerfuffle may be the beginning of an e-manga revolution. I think the real fear here lies with the non-Japanese publishing companies and not the artist, themselves. Publishing is changing. The artists don't need big companies to distribute their work any longer and it's only a matter of time before the artists realize this themselves.

    I look at all of this as the turbulence before the major change. I hope to see an outcome like what happen with Crunchyroll when this is all over. If the US publishing companies seriously believe the manga aggregators are making piles of cash, then they should make a deal to take one of the larger ones over, draft some scanlation groups, and put all the manga goodness they can find behind a pay wall. They won't beat the scanlators because scanlation is inherently efficient, so they should just join the scanlators so everyone wins.

  6. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the article good points

  7. Kat says:

    In response to Kuroneko003 about ad revenue. I happen to know someone who runs a bootleg media site which includes a large amount of anime (disclaimer: I do not approve AT ALL, but if he wants to stick his neck out like that…well, the FBI won't be knocking on MY door.). They make BANK. I mean, he bought a house, travels around the world, and quit his day job. And this is a small website.

    It's not a myth. It's very, very real. :/

  8. Jura says:

    Dead horses. You're beating them.

  9. JRB says:

    "When you see a book has sold maybe a couple hundred hard copies but the illegal versions online have been downloaded over 2 million times, it becomes pretty evident who’s not doing what."

    Overall, this is a very good post, but this point is significantly flawed. Only about 25-30% of traffic to the aggregator sites is coming from the US, and a few percent more from Canada, Mexico and Europe; most are from countries in Asia and the Middle East, where English-language manga is just as hard or harder to obtain as Japanese-language manga is in the US, and in some cases may be flat-out unobtainable by legal channels (all pornographic material is illegal in Indonesia, yaoi is subject to severe importation restrictions in several countries and is functionally illegal in mainland China, etc).

    Viz's online efforts with Rin-ne, SigIKKI, etc. are to be applauded, but access is limited to North American viewers. That means that there is still a substantial international audience that is not being served by the legal online distribution of these works; Viz's online manga has already been pirated and posted to sites that allow viewers outside the US and Canada. As long as online efforts are geographically restricted, the problem isn't going to go away. Even the financial motive for piracy isn't solved; currently, advertisers can't tell where the eyeballs viewing their ads come from and many of the ads are for online products where it doesn't matter anyway.

    Legal online distribution is a necessary component of combating piracy, but Japanese publishers need to accept that "online" automatically means "global" and that English is the lingua franca of the web. Whatever solution is used to monetize or subsidize digital distribution has to accommodate the vast number of international viewers, not ignore them. Whether Naruto or Fruits Basket (or Children of the Sea) is available on the shelves of a Barnes and Noble in Boston is *utterly irrelevant* to a potential reader in Kuala Lumpur.

  10. Cait says:

    Get off it, buddy. Plenty of people, particularly people who read aesthetically-driven genres, like BL, import Japanese volumes, even if they can't read them. I import Japanese volumes and I know dozens of others who do as well. You don't speak for everyone, just yourself, so don't call something "stupid" when it only concerns your own opinion of the issue.

    In addition, in the US, these online retailers are also good sources of import manga with decent pricing and shipping:


  11. […] buatkan topik Barometer taanpa persiapan cukup, mudah-mudahan artikel ini bisa cukup bermanfaat Kuriousity | manga reviews and news […]

  12. Andre says:

    If the horses were dead, then the scan sites would all be long gone, and the manga industry'ld be stable. It's not, and they're still a problem, so yeah, people'll keep talking about them. It reminds me a conversation I had today- some people, when they see somebody doing something wrong, will get really mad. I am one of those people, and so are a lot of the people taking these sites to task. Sorry, but the mangageddon pony is quite alive [and probably designed by Junko Mizuno]

  13. […] usual stages—sadness, indignation, dismissal. I rounded up a few of the responses at Robot 6, and Lissa Pattillo does a good job of answering all the arguments at […]

  14. […] bites for justifying scanlations. Lissa Pattillo of Kuriousity takes on many of these, and gives her own rebuttal. It’s a long post that she obviously put a lot of time and thought into. It’s worth the […]

  15. lys says:

    Additional sites for ordering Japanese manga:'s US site (they also have real stores you can go to if you are lucky enough to live in NY or on the west coast (I'm not, but I can dream))., which recently created a book request form where you can ask them to get any Japanese book you want, as long as you can provide the ISBN and some basic title/author info. Their shipping rates are quite reasonable and they're really quick to respond to requests/emails. I just made an order with them and it's shipping even now!

    I've taken two years of college Japanese, which means I can read the furigana and figure out about 30% or so of what's going on in my J-manga—mainly I'm just looking at pretty pictures. Still, I consider it perfectly reasonable to purchase books in this language I can't really read (the pictures are all there, after all—it's not like buying a foreign-language novel for the privilege of staring at a wall of indecipherable text). I buy the books in Japanese because I adore the artists who create the works and I want to be able to experience the stories in whatever legal form is available. I think it'd be great if we could go back to the days when text-only translations of unlicensed series were swapped around, and curious fans could buy the original editions to follow along…

  16. Jack says:

    I'm glad you have the money to buy the same series of books twice, but most people don't. A book is meant to be read, the money I make isn't going to be spent on anything I can't use for its intended purpose. Especially not if there's a free version available that I can use. It's really just stupid to expect that everyone throw money away on a symbolic gesture, rather than to buy a product they want.

  17. […] Lissa Patillo’s column rebutting a lot of the scanlation-related arguments has been popping up a lot in these discussions. After reading it again, I’ll say that it’s that I’m definitely siding with the allied publishers (as if there were ever any doubt about that.) As a published writer, myself, I don’t think I’ll surprise anybody by saying that I sympathize with the creators’ rights in this fray. I’ve come across torrents of my work online before and, believe me, I don’t find it flattering to know that they’re out there. […]

  18. erika says:

    Love the argument made in: “But official translations are wrong! I like scanlations better!”

    I'm bilingual, so I see that some scanlations I've seen are terrible. Mind you there are brilliant ones, and some official translations are too official with no play. But having it official allows the intent of the artist come through better as mentioned above, and more true to the story. I've seen scanlations ignoring delightful details just because it's too much of a hassle to translate for free. So both are good and bad at the same time.

    I do hope to see though, that translations are made officially in Japan and not fall victim to watered down localization as we have seen in some Anime (like putting underpants on little Goku in Dragonball and totally not showing the perviness of Kamesennin). That's a crime like painting leaves on the naked murals by Michael Angelo in the Vatican.

    I just hope everyone could work together and make everything amazing.

  19. Jaime Samms says:

    Yay! You are very right, and it isn't just a scanlation problem. E-book publishers (and us authors) face the same pirating dilema. We have to pay bills, and it's so frustrating to see our hard work being given away for free. I often want to ask the downloaders if they want to pay my kids' dental bills with all that money they saved not buying my books legally, but I guess that's petty.

    I especially like your argument against their "I can't afford it" arguement. So true. Life lessons can be hard. It seems people have just decided to opt out of learning them in favour of "me, me, me, nown, now, now." My three year old didn't get away with that, you know.

  20. YahwehTzVaoth says:

    I would take issue with the section “It’s not available in my language!” (Full disclosure, I don't read scanslations anymore. I tried reading Death Note when it was scanned and not out in English. While it is a very good read, it is no fun reading comics on a monitor. No fun. I got to volume 2 and said "that's enough." I later bought the English books.)

    I tried to think of a nice way to put this, but I can't, the argument in section one is mornonic.

    Let us operate under the assumption that Title X is written in Japanese and is not coming out. By not coming out, I mean no English publisher has announced that they will publish it. The older the series or more unknown the author, the less likely it will be licensed. The proposed solution is to essentially buy the Japanese version – which our assumption admits is largely useless to the consumer – and hold it on a shelf until it gets published in English? That is a waste of money. I understand the idea of buying the author’s works that were translated, if any exist, but it makes zero sense to ask someone to buy something they can’t use on the off chance that it will convince the IP holder to later put that work out in their territory so the reader can buy it again. I do not dispute that it is easy-ish to get in-the-original-Japanese manga in America, but I do dispute that buying said product is any kind of solution.

    Whenever I hear of a video game, manga, movie or anime that is not being brought out in any official capacity in America, I always think one of two things: 1. That title has too many licensing issues to make it worth publishing (i.e. most Super Robot Wars games); more commonly 2. That publisher does not care about American sales. A publisher has made the decision that it is not worth the effort of translation and republishing to try and put something out in America.

    For my money, the response to the second issue is always the same: fine, then you, the publishing/artist, don’t deserve to see any money from that territory for that product. If people put out a free, readable copy of something when there is no translated version available legitimately, then the IP holder shouldn’t be crying about lost sales because there are no real sales in that territory anyway. At that point, I do not even see that free translation on top of a scan of an original as piracy, although it is my understanding that it does violate the law.

    While a bit divorced form the issue – the principle is the same – Front Mission for the SNES was a game that was not brought out in America until recently. If you wanted to play it and read the text you could: A) buy a Super Famicom and the cart then learn to read Japanese or B) download a translated rom and play it on your rom player of choice. Clearly Squaresoft thought it would not make business sense to translate a mech strategy game for America when the game first came out. So they didn’t get any money in the US for that game until they put out a legit version for the DS a few years ago. Did they lose revenue because some people said “I already played that, why would I buy it again?” probably. But maybe part of the reason the put it out was they saw how many people were downloading the rom or discussing the game after playing the rom (more likely), “Huh, I guess there is more interest than we thought.” (That and its on the DS, and it’s a SquareEnix joint, and Front Mission brand now has some penetration in America after a PS1 and PS2 game).

    I am just saying, it is hard for me to see a scanslation as stealing if it is not out in your area because it is not a sale that was lost. The publisher never had that sale to begin with.

    Obviously the totally legal solution to this problem is to learn Japanese. But that is not really a realistic solution for the vast majority of native-English manga readers. Since the issue of language in a global audience is the same across media, this is never really a solution.

    The foregoing being said, I thought the rest of your points made sense and would agree with them. The first section, not so much.

    A ton of movies made in the good ol’ USofA are put out in other territories with either subtitles or movies because film companies want the box office cash (well, the licensing cash). A lot of anime from Japan has English subtitles on the disc, so its effectively available in America. But when you read a free scanslation of something that probably will never see the light of day in your area, you are not taking money from a publisher. You are robbing them of a potential sale that has been prevented from being due to a business decision made by the publisher. It’s like kidnapping the idea of potential children from of a couple that uses condoms. It doesn’t harm anyone.

    Unless its out in your country or will be coming soon, in which case you should buy it.

  21. […] The comments to that post include the interesting factoid that manga cafes are hated in Japan. Lissa Pattillo has summed up many of the arguments for and against scanlations in this “quit doing […]

  22. Sommer says:

    Um well did I mention yet that you sound like a complete douch bag? Well now I have.. so my thoughts on this…. Yes, alot of people can't aford this.. I certaintly can't, and I don't plan on buying them. They are a waste of my money.Secondly, in a foreign launguage I dont intend on buying from Japan. Thats a no go there. It's basicly all a waste to me. Atleast I completly transferd over to anime, It's about all I have left, since this incident. This is just bizzare. To finally return to my main Manga source (Onemanga) which im sure most of you also frequent there, found out threw their announcment of removing manga. I have no other problems, just as long as they don't make a move to remove anime online as well. Then I might just lose it. I understand things in life are not free and everyone has to make a living including the aurthors,I even plan to be one someday, but literly takeing something that is a world wide pleasantrie away, is like stealing a suker from a baby.This world is almost in a depression. Even without us buying the acual copyrighted version, it really wont make a differance. People are too damn worried about keepign their light bills paid or else. or buying drugs (no joke) , there are many things out there that keeps us from buying what we acually want. Its just a flow of things. Well unless your bloody rich. So I supose I rest my case.

    That concludes my complaint. I belive I feel better.

    • Lissa says:

      Firstly insulting others does absolutely nothing for your case. If you're trying to garner sympathy, I recommend doing so in a less obnoxious fashion. If you believe manga is a waste of your money, then I recommend not reading it because you obviously don't care about it and apparently others supporting it causes you undue stress and requires you to lash out irrationally. Hardly worth something you don't care about, right? Entertainment is a want, not a need after all.

      And no, I've never read manga on websites like OneManga and don't plan to. Really no need to though, way more than enough manga out there to read legally, buying or otherwise. I'm more than happy with the dozens of free series online, and thousands upon thousands of books out there.

      And you're analogy about "stealing a suker from a baby" is certainly an accurate one in some respects if only because you've hit the nail on the head perfectly with the use of the word 'baby' to describe certain individuals. Kicking up a huge fuss about having something you're indulging in illegally taken away from you is just silly.

      Everyone's due their own opinions but you'd do well not to make assumptions about others based on your own personal emotions. I know having something you enjoy taken away gets people really riled up, it's a huge emotional rollar coaster for most, it's just a shame it makes people tear others up so negatively.

  23. Lise says:

    I have a few questions. What about the manwha? These are on these scanlation sites. However, you can't find them anywhere else except in Korea. Are the Korean manwha artists speaking out as well? What ways do people who love manwha purchase them?

    My other statement is about the ads on the people's sites. I thought ads on sites pay just enough to keep a working site. I work with people who are building up websites, and they've said those ads do not pay out great deals of money as you say.

    • Lissa says:

      There's a good number of manhwa released in English – Tokyopop has released several (in both English and German) and almost half of Yen Press's library was all Korean comics for a good while since they bought the company ICE Kunion who only released manhwa. NetComics also releases lots of manhwa both online and in book form. It has a pretty strong following among English reading fans. Manhwa Bookshelf ( is a good site with info and reviews on manhwa released in English.

      If you mean where to buy manhwa that hasn't been legally translated into English, I'm not sure of that myself. I've purchased Japanese manga from a variety of places but not manhwa. I'll certainly look into it, I have several friends who adore manhwa and buy it a lot from around the world.

      And in regards to ad sites, it's true that small websites won't make much from ads. I've had this site for years and I've yet to make enough to pay for the site itself. But when you get to sites that get millions of hits a month, suddenly things get much different. If a small site makes say… a penny a day, multiply that by the thousands more hits these large scanlation sites were getting on a regular basis (some of the most visited sites in the world) and you can imagine how much they were bringing it. This is part of why the same sites would host the same content on multiple 'shadow' sites – more different ads means more ad revenue for those who visit the sites.

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