Robot 6

Viz lowers the boom on scanlators

Just two weeks after Viz debuted Shonen Jump Alpha, its digital replacement for Shonen Jump, the publisher has forced a group of fan translators to stop posting chapters of a number of Viz series.

The scanlation group Mangastream posted the news on Saturday that Viz had forced it to stop releasing chapters of seven series, including the ultra-popular Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, which are included in Shonen Jump Alpha. They couldn’t resist a snort of derision:

They’ve succeeded in little more than invoking inconvenience to the community as their digital magazine missed the mark; it runs several issues behind and only features 3 of the above series. So long as their product continues to be slow, awkward and inferior to something a ragtag group of nobodies can churn out in a few hours – fans will continue to look to scanlation groups and aggregators for their weekly fix.

This is the first time that I can recall (someone will probably correct me on this if I’m wrong) that a publisher has gone after the scanlators themselves, rather than the sites that carry their work. Onemanga.com, once one of the top 1,000 sites on the whole internet, and most of the other “free manga” sites are aggregators who depend on a handful of speed scanlators to bring them the latest chapters of the most popular titles. While shutting down those sites has proved problematic, cutting off their source of material may be more effective than a cease-and-desist letter. On the other hand, it may not: one aggregator site lists 363 translators for Naruto alone.

One fan took their complaint right to the source, the Shonen Jump forum:

Stop hogging things here. Mangastream gave us fast, accurate translations and we need it back. Why don’t you try WORKING with them?

The responses that follow this more or less run the gamut, but there’s a surprisingly articulate person there who is explaining Viz’s point of view rather well and defends Viz’s translations.

And there’s more! The site Narutofan, which has been around for over five years and stirred up quite a controversy among scanlators at one time, has been forced to relinquish its URL. Tazmo, the owner, sounded rather aggrieved in his post on the matter, claiming the Viz people were always nice to him and sent him free stuff, and then all of a sudden they sent him a notice saying that they should have the Narutofan.com domain, because otherwise people would be confused. Tazmo isn’t buying it:

Apart from having the word *FAN* in the domain name, we mention in one way or another that we are a fan-site on nearly every single page of this website. The NarutoFan.com domain name has also been registered for nearly 5 years before VIZ Media even owned, licensed, and profited off of the Naruto series with any copyright or trademark.

The Narutofan.com domain now redirects to Viz’s Naruto site.

Viz is definitely using a comprehensive strategy here, attacking piracy while offering a legal, affordable alternative in its Shonen Jump Alpha. Carrots and sticks, in other words.

There’s another angle to this. I’m not intimately familiar with the scanlation world, but I get the impression that there is a lot of turnover in scanlation groups. This makes sense: Scanlators work for free, and you can do that for a while, but once people move on, graduate, get a job, have a family, they don’t necessarily have the time or energy or inclination to keep doing it. Scanlation as a whole continues because there is always a fresh crop of enthusiasts willing to take over—people who are so passionate about the comics that they will translate them for free. In a way, that’s a tribute to the popularity of these manga, and when that doesn’t happen any more—that’s when Viz really has to worry.

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Comments

9 Comments

What a pack of snide, entitled little assholes.

I like the one who’s absolutely outraged that Viz is three whole weeks behind Japan in releasing new chapters.

Nice article, Brigid!

I’ve almost never used scanlation sites (though I did briefly when Tokyopop’s Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad went into limbo) but I think there’s at least one valid point they make: if Viz wants their official output to take the place of unofficial product, they’d be well-served by increasing their communication to at least come close to matching that of the scanlation community.

I have no doubt their spokespeople were buried thanks to all the glitches that occurred in their first week launch, but there were absurdly long lags when I heard nothing from tweets or emails I sent asking questions.

Following on the heels of having my questions outright ignored for the weeks leading up to the launch, it didn’t leave such a great taste in my mouth. Taken in tandem with that shaky first week, it’s been much harder for me to recommend SJA to others than I would’ve liked…and I really should’ve been an easy slam-dunk for them.

Scanlators and others who download stuff they shouldn’t often cite the quality of the product. The one quoted in this article cites the timeliness and the quality of the translation as a major factor. People who download other forms of media (music, movies, TV, etc.) will often do the same thing. They believe the publishers are releasing an inferior, untimely, or otherwise severely limited product.

While I might be inclined to agree with these points, I think the fact that they can get such “superior” products for free plays a bigger role than anyone lets on. At the end of the day, nobody wants to pay for something they can get for free, and they’ll invent whatever rationalizations they care to in order to keep doing what they’re doing.

Maybe we should just let these people have their way. Then a few years down the road they can wonder why there’s no industry anymore.

On the other hand, I think companies should look at things like scanlators not as enemies but as their competition. Let this fierce battle motivate companies to produce superior products that people would be willing to pay for. I’ve seen Viz make a lot of progress in this regard. I’ve heard the idea of a “Steam for movies” floating around… Maybe there should also be a Steam for comics.

Three WEEKS! It’s *inhuman*!

With an action like this, I do wonder how VIZ media will handle the other manga hosting sites. I suspect that because of SJA, they may order those sites to stop hosting their series (at least with Shonenjump)

I could understand the anger for Reborn and Hunter X Hunter though. Nieither of those series are on SJA. I do hope VIZ media will add more series to SJA at some point, especially with the other series not licensed yet like Bezelbub. But more series for SJA would be very cool.

This is egregious! I never really liked viz, but now my contempt for them has enlarged.

The sole reason why I would perfer mangastream’s translation over viz was because of my preference. Viz is more literal and kept to maintain reading for children while mangastream is liberal using cuss words and whatnot which I prefer.

If people blamed magastream for the sole reason why publishing company are deflating I would have to disagree with that. Mangastream had a policy of removing a chapter after 8 weeks I think and they were encouraging everyone to buy the manga volumes whenever it is release in their area when people finished reading the chapters. If blame had to be put out I say mangafox and mangareader since they disregard mangastream policy for hosting which they don’t allow.

The three weeks thing wouldn’t be bad at all, but sadly shonen jump alpha is only available to Americans, us European fans can’t rely on it, and without scanlation, we’re very behind on the latest manga.

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