The Rise and Fall of Manga Scanlations

For the first time in at least four years, I bought a manga from the bookstore. The manga in question, Pluto, is a nice short series that I had always planned on purchasing, having already read the series and was very pleased with it as a whole. But where exactly did I read the series in its entirety? A friend? The library? Please—if you even considered either possibility, I will be forced to ask you in return just exactly when you’ll be deciding on replacing your VCR with a DVD player. As most are well aware of, or at least most familiar with the topic, manga, like most things, is most accessible through them there thing the kiddies call the internets.

Let’s face it—even if you want to be as legitimate as possible when it comes to your manga reading, whether it be buying official volumes when released or borrowing them from friends/the library, it cannot be ignored that reading manga online via scanlations is much more efficient. Sure, the eye strain from staring at the screen for hours on end is a con, but the same was said about comic book nerds back in the day when reading their printed weekly releases. Not only does the internet have a wider range of titles to read from than any friend, library, or bookstore has to offer, but you also have the whole “instant gratification” factor working for you as well, getting your freshly scanned and translated manga titles available on a weekly basis.

… but that still doesn’t stop the fact that this is technically stealing, if the manga title has an official releaser in whatever region of the globe you happen to be in. I, myself, made something of an effort to fight the good fight back in the day. Before I even knew what scanlations were, I would buy volumes of manga on a regular basis, keeping up with multiple series at once and buying every single volume, even in the case where the plot started to noticeably dip. What choice did I have? I enjoyed the series and was hell-bent on reading the series to its end, in hopes that the plot would get better as long as I kept buying volume after volume. Back then, manga wasn’t exactly mainstreamed, and when it came to things like SSR-time during school, I was happy to share some of my volumes with friends. But as time passed and friends started to get hip to the times, the ancient-old trend of having to “be in on the conversation” kicked in. Manga conversations about things I had no idea were going on in any of the series I was following started to become somewhat regular conversation among some peers. For a while, my mantra was that I would wait it out until the corresponding volumes were officially released in the states, but a guy can only take so much until he wants back in on everything.

So I started catching up and reading scanlations, and for a time that seemed perfectly fine.

Of course, leave it to the corporate guys in suits to bring on the guilt-trip.

Sure, manga scanlators would occasionally bring up instances of cease and desist orders from companies and would eventually stop their scanlations altogether, but that only led to the burden of scanlations being passed on to another group, continuing what the guys before them started. In the world that is the internet, it always feels as if having an infinite amount of resources at your fingertips means that even things like cease and desist orders are nothing more than a temporary setback. But this… I mean, just read ANN’s opening statement on the issue:

The 36 publishers in Japan’s Digital Comic Association and several American publishers are forming a coalition to combat the “rampant and growing problem” of scanlations — illicit digital copies of manga either translated by fans or scanned directly from legitimate English releases.

36? Try typing that out: thirty-six. Yeah, that looks like even more than before, right?

Now in general, I don’t exactly keep up with the latest and greatest in news concerning the manga/anime fandom, but in this case, I stumbled into this story at least three times (the third source being—what else—facebook) online and with each read of what was to happen, I became more and more anxious and began to mentally plan myself for what I’d have to do in the worst case scenario. At least with the bigger name titles out there, American publishers have really started to get their game-face on and are practically on the toes of their Japanese publishing counterparts, which made me consider getting back to renewing my domestic Shonen Jump subscription. And of course, when it came to the more small-time titles, I guess that would just mean more time spent at Borders and Barnes & Noble snooping through the shelves and seeing exactly which chapters I’ve yet to read. I honestly didn’t make all that big of a deal of things at first, but as notices were put up on my go-to scanlation site and buddies constantly brought up the topic, I felt like something on my part had to be done just to prepare.

All this planning and preparation for the manga-apocalypse ultimately resulted in my purchasing of Pluto Volume 1 today and I must say that actually having gone through the process of stepping foot in a bookstore and leaving with manga at hand has reminded me just how utterly and ridiculously out of proportions the situation has gotten.

Yes, publishers are finally cracking down on scanlations, but this does not in any way affect the online scanlating community as well as the manga community as a whole. Just doing a quick google search right now, there are still plenty of scanlation sites still up and running, ripe with perfectly intact manga titles—I’m not condoning scanlations, I’m just saying that realistically, there will always be people out there that want their instant gratification and are willing to go to any seedy underbelly reach to get their fix. So while I’ll admit that I’ll be looking up a new site for my scanlations, I’m more than willing to reach some kind of middleground and go back to picking up some titles from the bookstores—sporadically reading through a series while on the can is more comfortable with a tangible book than with a laptop, anyway.

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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