Comic Non-Sans: Learning from Online Manga Scanlations

Let me just preface by saying that there’s no way in hell you’re going to catch me writing an “Are fan translations okay?” manifesto.  That’s been done, and if there’s one thing I don’t want to bring you in my weekly columns, gentle reader, it’s stuff that’s been done.

I promise, too, that I won’t go into honorifics, leaving words untranslated, “subtleties of the Japanese language,” etc.  Though I really, really want to.  That’s not what you’re here for.

I will admit to being fairly new to scanlations.  I’ve never been a big manga reader, and I tend to be fairly picky about the ones I do read.  But when anime companies are adapting manga left and right, and only the anime gets picked up (or the manga only gets picked up to a point), my interst is naturally piqued.  Thus, as I actually got into reading multiple projects, I was rather surprised to see the various ways they compare to webcomics as we know them.

And also, you know, as they don’t.  And as I almost wish they did.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the community aspect of it — the fact that there are websites like MangaHelpers and Manga Fox where hosting is as readily available as, say, Keenspot or DrunkDuck.  Everything on the internet has a hosting-related community with built-in formatting anymore.  It even looks to have a similar sense of community forum-wise, though the dynamic (translator vs. full-on creator) is going to be different.  Scanlations have the advantage (or is that disadvantage?), after all, of being adaptation over creation, to the point that multiple people can work with it.

Much like anything with fan translations, you’re going to have vast differences in quality, both visually and translation-wise.  In print manga there’s a standard now of leaving Japanese sound effects untouched and putting a note under the relevant panel, but I’ve started seeing people get super-creative and retouching the art itself to include the translated sound effects.  It’s rather hard to judge someone based on fanciness, though — a bit like webcomics in that respect, a lot of the quality can come from who’s got Photoshop and who’s got GIMP.

One major thing I will say I wish webcomic community sites would bring away from scanlation community sites is actually something of a minor thing: page-throughs.  Perhaps it’s my reader-laziness coming out, perhaps my fascination with improved ease of browsing, but a standard piece of formatting on pretty much every site I’ve seen is the ability to browse with the arrow keys.  Lazy?  Picky?  Guilty as charged, I suppose.  But had I the know-how, I’d certainly format my own archives that way.  This would be a fantastic convenience to incorporate as a norm, as I haven’t actually seen a webcomic yet exploit this.

Also re: distribution and ease of browsing, the repackaging of “issues” into .zip files for download.  This had never occurred to me as useful in terms of webcomics until the whole thing is done.  But looking into my own download folder and seeing my stash of K-On! ready to unpack and read at my leisure without relying on load time, I wonder — could that be another option for webcomickers?  Is it, at the very least, worth experimenting with?

It’s likely that having something uploaded in bulk makes ease of reading all at once a logical necessity.  Hearing from readers (my own and others), though, there seems to be an increase in “saving up” webcomics rather than reading each day.  Should that move continue, perhaps we as creators and personal distributors could learn a lesson or two from scanlators.

Just so long as we don’t get more Western artists thinking you’re only drawing proper comics if you work right-to-left.

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 10:11 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , ,

3 Responses

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kara Dennison and Jefferson Institute, Geeking Out About. Geeking Out About said: Comic Non-Sans: Learning from Online Manga Scanlations […]

  2. Written by Alan Scott
    on 2010-06-15 at 16:11

    “I promise, too, that I won’t go into honorifics, leaving words untranslated, “subtleties of the Japanese language,” etc. Though I really, really want to. That’s not what you’re here for.”

    Oh, I would totally be down for this.

  3. Written by Kara Dennison
    on 2010-06-15 at 16:33

    Oh, lover, don't get me started. We'll be here allllll day.

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