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Scanlation Ethics Rant

We get quite a few comments on this site and via our email. The main 3 categories can be broken down in as:

  • Thanks (we always welcome this :P)
  • Scanlation Speed / Quality
  • Money

Typically I write up some long-winded reply in the comments (e.g. last one on scanlation quality can be found on:

https://turnipfarmers.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/kingdom-chapter-422/#comments

but in the interest of laziness, I’ve decided to post a response here for once just so I can refer to it in the future.

Scanlation and Money (Warning: Long ass rant)

The problem with scanlation is that the mangaka (in this case: Yasuhisa Hara) does not receive any money from us translating it into English or from it’s increased popularity outside of Japan.

One hopes that raising awareness of a manga would entice an actual publisher to take a chance and publish this in English or other languages but on the other hand, the existence of free translations somewhat counteracts this.

Translations accepting donations or running ads is something so ubiquitous nowadays that it’s hard to take issue with it. Personally, however, I have mixed feelings about this.

Essentially we’re operating in a grey area here, a sliding scale of what is ethical and what is not. Who’s to say how much compensation in donations or ad revenue is ethical before we cross the line into profiteering off of the authors work. Sites like Mangajoy and ReadManga.today are clearly attempting the latter but what about other scanlation groups like mangastream or even smaller groups?

Recently, while bored when commuting to work, I read a few chapters of a Xianxia novel called Coiling Dragon from Wuxiaworld. The site makes roughly at least $500 a month (my estimate) from donators and promises more chapters for each new milestone in donations that is reached.

I have no idea how much mangastream makes but they release shonen jump flagship titles so I’d assume a damn lot. I’m interested if any of that flows down to the people who actually work for them (doubt it).

What excellent business acumen! Except for the fact that it’s not actually legal for them to do so (especially on licensed titles). I vaguely recall a time when Naruto became licensed and mangastream temporarily shut down scanlation on this but then picked it back up due either to its popularity or how much lost revenue it would cost them.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually have no problem with this. After all, if mangastream didn’t scanlate Naruto, someone else would have (and they would have made a killing doing it too).

But if a reader asked me whether I thought they should donate to a translation or not, I would tell them absolutely not. We’re not doing this for money and if they are, they’re making money via ads and not relying on your donations anyway.

If you’re really interested in helping out the scanlation scene, learn to actually clean, redraw or typeset. I’m pretty damn sure anyone over the age of 16 should be able to learn how to do these. Unless you’re dyslexic, in which case, stick to cleaning. You will need 2 hours a week to contribute so don’t give me any excuses about not having any time unless you work 3 jobs and are up to 100k in student debt.

But as to whether a person does end up donating or whether translations want to accept money, that’s their prerogative. In the past, we’ve accepted donations to help pay for our raws and server (which I might shut off soon). If we wanted to, I’m actually pretty confident we could have made at least ~$8000 over the last 2 years, particularly if we kept it open when we were doing 8 chapters a week.

Eventually I might turn donations back on just because people keep pestering me and now that we’re no longer working on Kingdom at full speed but if I could turn back time, I still would have deleted the donation widget from the site back in 2013.

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Kingdom Chapter 394

We mistranslated Earl Shi as Shihaku in earlier chapters. Makes a lot more sense since he’s called Shi Ei.

So tomorrow we’ll:

  • v2 the last volume of chapters to correct that along with the typos in c393.
  • Release volume 33’s omake (extra / bonus pages) from the tankoubon
  • Update the server with volume 35 and 36 PSDs and batch zips

In the mean time, here’s this week’s chapter.

Chapter 394: MF | Read Online


Updates!

Volume 33 Omake (Bonus Chapter)

Chapter 360.1: MF | Read Online

v2 and v3 Edits

Chapter 382v2: MF

Chapter 387v2: MF

Chapter 388v2: MF

Chapter 389v3: MF

Chapter 390v2: MF

Chapter 391v2: MF

Chapter 392v2: MF

Chapter 393v2: MF

 

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Kingdom Chapters 328-330

Celebrating the end of our first year of Scanlation!

I’ll post these first before my obligatory 1 year anniversary wall of text.

Chapter 328: MF

Chapter 329: MF

Chapter 330: MF

Looking back, it’s been an interesting experience.

When we first began scanlating, neither of us had ever touched photoshop or knew how to go about scanlating.

Here’s a few interesting things we’ve learned along the way.

1. Once you start scanlating, you notice errors in almost everything you read. You see typos, sub-par or no redraws and strange English in every chapter that isn’t released by a group with 40+ members . I’d be willing to bet there’s at least 1 minor typo for every 3 chapters we release. Conversely, high quality scans are scarily good to the point that I sometimes sit there staring at how well a page was cleaned.

2. Scanlation is incredibly easy. A lot of people say “I’d like to help but I don’t know how to do it”. You can pick up how to clean, redraw and typeset properly in under a week if you have a functioning brain and know what Google is. Even “advanced” techniques like using filters to clean take all of an afternoon to figure out.

3. Scanlation costs are close to nonexistent. Our running costs over the year for 317 chapters total less than $200. Anyone that tells you that they need to pay for their server or for volume raws is either getting enough traffic to support themselves already or seriously needs to reconsider why they’re spending so much. Anyone scanlating a weekly jump title should have enough hits to buy multiple copies of the magazine to use as toilet paper. Anyone buying another type of weekly magazine should probably just hire better cleaners and work off free raws.

4. Scanlators are slow. I mean, really, really slow. Being a leech for over a decade prior to scanning Kingdom, you get used to a series taking years to finish or to even catch up. Some scanlators tell you it takes 40 hours of work to finish a chapter… heh. Supergroups like Easy Going Scans and Japanzai release incredibly fast but have staff and project lists longer than this website; many of which are updated infrequently.

5. Joint projects are slow. The more people there are, the more time you spend checking and fixing stuff someone else has done. Difficulty in communication in joint projects prevents you from even getting the other group’s staff to do anything in the specific. In the end, you spend the exact same amount of time working on it.

6. Readers are incredibly generous; or at least you lot are. I have no idea how much other groups make from donations but way back when, I didn’t check my paypal for 2 weeks, then logged in and a bunch of nuts had donated $200. Though, we no longer accept donations any more for reasons that are now listed in the FAQ.

7. If you release on a regular schedule, your comments and hits section goes crazy. Someone’s even been using an auto-refresh website on our release days. I’m actually quite sure I could generate ad revenue if i migrated this site to an actual server. Too lazy and I hate ads though.

8. For some reason or another, we get a hell of a lot of comments on each release. A lot of other blog style scanlation sites average around 10. Thank you, all of you, for your comments. Even if it’s just a simple thanks, it’s very much appreciated.

To Wrap Up…

Over the past year, we’ve released 317 chapters which is rather a lot faster than we had originally planned. Our expectations going into this back at the start of 2013 were that the project would take close to 3 years to catch up so we’re rather ahead of schedule.

We’re now currently around 60 chapters behind the Japanese raws and should catch up in May at the earliest!

Looking forward to catching up and likely, many more years of Kingdom! (albeit, at a much slower release rate).

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A Note on Naming

Or why we use Japanese names.

Warning: incoming wall of text.

When we first began scanlating Kingdom, we decided we would be using either Chinese or Japanese names exclusively for the sake of consistency. It makes no sense to use Japanese names for one character and a Chinese name for another such as what we saw being done on myanimelist or the anime wiki etc.

Points for using Chinese names included:

  • The manga is set in China.
  • Shin and so on are actual historical people who actually have pages on the Chinese Wikipedia.

Points for using Japanese names included:

  • It’s a manga and Japanese pronunciation of all Kanji is actually provided and used.
  • Some names are given solely in Katakana (i.e. the mountain tribes) and don’t use Chinese characters at all.
  • Translator bias even though we’re chink.
  • A mistaken belief that anime fansubs would use Japanese naming due to discrepancies in what subtitles would display and what the characters would say.

Regarding the fact that Shin and the majority of the cast are actual historical people, to the English speaking community, this information is largely inaccessible anyway so this point was rather moot. The fact that Sei is also Qin Shihuangdi, the first emperor of China is also largely known and easily looked up.

On the last point, due to being in Malaysia on work at the time we began scanlating Kingdom, verifying what fansub groups were using was difficult (5th slowest internet in the world tethered through my phone). We also didn’t really feel like poring through subtitle scripts to see what they used although we did download episode 20 or 22 later to find out what people were translating Ouki’s title as (see Chapter 8 post here). I almost shat myself when they said Ouki and the subtitles read out Wang Qi.

As a result, we’ve used Japanese names exclusively and will continue using them and don’t really feel this detracts much from the manga that anyone who can’t read Chinese will miss out on anyway.

A Further Note on Naming

Some astute viewers may have noted that:

  1. Chinese State names are used
  2. Ou Ki vs Ouki, Sei Kyou vs Seikyou

We’re using Chinese state names (Qin, Zhao, Wei etc.) because they are easily recognisable to any English speaking person with a slight interest in Chinese history. This is the only exception of Chinese naming we are using. Also, the Japanese pronunciation for Qin is Shin… yeah…

We introduce characters with the characters for their name split up (Sei Kyou) and then use them in dialogue as Seikyou. This is because while generally the entire name is pronounced, Family names become somewhat important a very long way down the track. Ei Sei remains somewhat the exception as everyone either just calls him your majesty or Sei.

If you somehow managed to read all that, give yourself a pat on the back and eat some watermelon.

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Kingdom Chapter 8

Many of you who watch the anime or have read the previous translation of Chapter 8 may be wondering, “Why all the different titles for General Ouki AKA Wang Qi, funny looking dude with the fish lips?”.

The characters for his title literally translate as “strange bird” a la Hadena-Fansubs or i guess “mystery bird” a la Anime-Destiny although to me it sounds like some sort of dinner (mmmm mystery bird soup, sounds legit).

The first character in Ouki’s name however, is also used in the word monster (Kaibutsu) and is presumably how whoever did chapter 8 before ended up with dinosaur… Anyway, Ouki’s title actually has a rather more menacing connotation in Japanese or Chinese and we’ve decided to use “monstrous bird” here to convey the spirit of the title rather than it’s literal equivalent after around 2 hours of fluffing about and bitching at each other.

TL;DR mmm watermelons.

Chapter 8

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