Scanlating for me is therapeutic
Continuing our talks with scanlators, we spoke with JazD801, the leader of doujinshi scanlation group Casual Scans. JazD801, an experienced scanlator, entered the scene in 2011 and witnessed changes in the scanlation communities and readers over the years. Although still running a scan group, JazD 801 is among the scanlators that entered the manga industry and currently works as a professional typesetter. In our interview, we touch briefly on the shifts in scanlation communities, drama, and the ethical implications of this hobby.
We have lightly edited the interview for clarity and privacy.
I know some people think it is an illegal thing, but I am honestly thankful that I started to scanlate because I found paid work by just typesetting mangas that I really enjoyed.
futekiya: Could you please introduce yourself and your involvement with scanlation?
JazD801: Let’s see, my name is JazD801 and I used to go by the username of “xryuchan27.” I got involved with scanlation when I first started as a proofreader for a group that did Hitman Reborn doujinshi but I wanted to do more so I tried out as an editor (cleaner/typesetter), and then a year later started my own group which was Moi-xRyu Scanlations.
futekiya: How long have you been scanlating?
JazD801: For seven years, I started in 2011, and counting
futekiya: Wow, that is an impressive amount of time. Over the years, have you noticed changes in the scanlation scene/scenes?
JazD801: In my experience, in 2011, the scanlation community was a lot more tame than it is today. The readers started to demand more stuff from us, scanlators and even started to break scanlation groups’ policies of no uploading to any other sites. Manga aggregator sites even started to pop up one after another and steal more from lots of scanlation groups. Personally, readers should give scanlators credits for giving them these opportunity to read manga for free and not demand us of stuff like update faster. The scanlation community today is really annoying now, to be honest, especially for those who are scanlating mangas.
futekiya: When did you start noticing a change?
JazD801: Hmm, I think it was between 2012 and 2013. When a reader from a scanlation group that used to work on Viewfinder shared the manga outside of their Livejournal community, and then around the same time, there was this someone who has a website called “Yaoi-Sei,” they were giving us, scanlation groups, a difficult time and full of dramas by uploading and sharing scanlations to their site. It was then that a lot of scanlation groups started to dig themselves further into the darkest hole of nothingness (aka, they went underground and doesn’t accept any new member access, but are still working on scanlations.) There were those who disbanded as well because they didn’t want to get in trouble.
futekiya: Ahhh I remember Yaoi-sei.
JazD801: Oh yes, they targeted my group before, and it was full of drama. They became tamer now though. I used to talk to them on Twitter, [they] said that it got boring because lots of groups started to come out more in public.
futekiya: “Got boring,” in terms of, less drama?
JazD801: Nah, I think it’s coz scanlation groups started to come out more from a private community. There are a lot of those that are on Tumblr now or uses WordPress even has their own online readers. Yaoi-Sei only targets those who have the policy of “no sharing anywhere.” Those that have online readers are safe, though.
futekiya: For your group, you use an online reader?
JazD801: Yes. I dislike having them uploaded to those manga aggregator sites like Mangago. I mean, why would people need to upload them when they can just read them over at our own online reader?? It depends on the scanlation team if they want to upload their works in other sites
futekiya: Have you found your scanlations on aggregate websites?
JazD801: Yes, a lot of my scanlations from my past group are on a lot of aggregator sites. I didn’t have the time and manpower to put them down anymore since they don’t listen to us to be taking them down from their sites so I just let it be. Moi-xRyu Scanlations is no longer working on scanlations though. The drama was too much for me to handle, and readers started to be more daring. So I decided to disband my group. I don’t scanlate manga anymore. I do have a new one that is for fandom doujinshi only.
futekiya: So you scanlated original manga before?
JazD801: Yes. When I first started my group, we worked on doujinshi for Hitman Reborn fandom, but a year later, I tried to do manga and had picked up one of Ichikawa Kei’s works – Slow Starter. A lot of people enjoyed it so I decided to invest more in BL manga.
futekiya: You mention a drama quite a bit. How does drama manifest itself for scanlation groups?
JazD801: Ah, yes. Usually, these dramas start when someone breaks one of the scanlation groups’ main rules – no sharing outside of the community. And well, we all know scanlators aren’t robots who are just scanlating for the people out there who just read and doesn’t understand what we, scanlators, go through in real life. For me, people who demand more from us is a whole lot of kind of drama already, because that would give us pressure to update more of our work. If we got pressured, more dramas start to arise, like you’ll get impatient and your motivation will slowly diminish ‘coz what are we scanlating for again? And then readers would ask us when the new chapter will come out, rinse and repeat.
futekiya: What does scanlation mean to you?
JazD801: Scanlating for me is therapeutic. I have Chronic Depression and the only way I managed to stay sane is working on scanlations. I know some people think it is an illegal thing, but I am honestly thankful that I started to scanlate because I found paid work by just typesetting mangas that I really enjoyed. I used to be just someone who reads and reads too, but once I started my own scanlation group, I realized how taxing and hard work it could be; I had to manage the group, deal and manage with projects, upload them to our online reader and hosting sites for download, also had to talk to a lot of people in the same scanlation community, I even started to buy my own manga just for scanlation. Right now, I am enjoying my time both in scanlating as a hobby and as a new typesetter [for a manga localization company].
futekiya: How much time do you dedicate for scanlating?
JazD801: How much time? Hmmmm. I don’t know honestly since my routine is gaming and scanlating and doing real life stuff. So when I’m not in the mood to game, I scanlate, and vice versa. I guess I have to say, I give my whole day to just scanlate. Every time I am in the mood, that is. One time when I was still in Moi-xRyu Scanlations, I had worked on this Hitman Reborn doujinshi the whole day, from morning to morning, because it had over a hundred pages; I had to both clean and typeset it. Once I start scanlating on something and am clearly enjoying it, I forget every other thing existed, like the time and sleep.
futekiya: What made you first start scanlating?
JazD801: I was a fan of Katekyo Hitman Reborn, and seeing there wasn’t much English scanlation for my OTP, I started to make my own group. I wasn’t even aware I was already managing my own group, to be honest. I used to just ask people to translate in exchange of points in the Aarinfantasy forum since I could clean and edit, and post them in a Livejournal blog that I had made to dump all of them in. Next thing I know, my dump blog became an official scanlation group.
futekiya: Have you ever contacted an artist asking if you can translate their work?
JazD801: I have never! I want to though, but I just don’t know how to speak and write Japanese. I don’t wanna use Google Translate because we all know it sucks.
futekiya: Do you think contacting the artist is important when it comes to scanlation or not so much?
JazD801: Personally, I think artists would appreciate it if scanlators try to contact them and ask them to scanlate their work, but there are those who don’t allow their works to be translated so usually we end up not contacting them at all and we just try to keep it from public view.
futekiya: I have come across many authors who do not like having their work translated and even now there are doujin with notices on them saying please don’t upload/distribute.
An increasing number of doujinshi artists are printing statements like this, in English, begging overseas fans not to scan and post their books. It’s hard to get more direct than this. pic.twitter.com/8gRy3LQGQs
— Square Pudding (@robotdere) September 3, 2018
JazD801: Oh yeah, that’s true. My new team recently scanlated one that has that notice I feel kinda bad about it to be honest. But it couldn’t be helped >,< I just really wanted to read them.
futekiya: Could you explain more by what you meant with “it couldn’t be helped?”
JazD801: We all know scanlating has its pros and cons. The only reason I could think of why scanlation community is big right now is because a lot of people doesn’t have the luxury to access some online reading sites nor purchase the licensed ones, so people who can translate and edit usually make a team of their own and scanlate these original manga in an illegal way. The cons is, we don’t contact the artists to ask them to translate because like I said previously, some don’t allow to be translated without profit for them. I’m an artist before becoming a scanlator, and as a fellow artist who used to live off of my art, I can understand a little bit of each comic artists’ dilemmas. “It couldn’t be helped” because as someone who cannot afford to purchase the license ones, I do the illegal way by scanlating them without permission. If you think about it more, it’s kinda a sad thing for the comic artists. But the pros is, some artists get more publicity from people scanlating their works, like, Ichikawa Kei for example. She/He has become really popular now and as someone who had started the trend by scanlating Blue Sky Complex, I’m sorta happy the artist got more fans. That’s one of the good things if I think about it about scanlating.
futekiya: Are there other pros for scanlation you think?
JazD801: Hmm. I can’t think of anything else aside from comic artists getting more recognition and popularity. I think there are more cons than pros really.
futekiya: More cons than pros, for the artist? Or for the readers and scanlators?
JazD801: For the artists. You know, when I was still working for [a new manga distribution platform], my project manager gave me a manga by an artist that I used to scanlate without permission. I felt really bad about it. If I could have the opportunity to apologize to each artists, I would gladly apologize to them and ask them if they could permit me to translate their work. The only cons I could think of for readers and scanlators is when the comic artists decide to stop their work and they quit, that would make us really sad. It is why some scanlation groups hide behind private communities.
futekiya: This is perhaps a broad question, but what do you think of the relationship between scanlation and official publishers of BL?
JazD801: That is probably a grey area. As far as I know, some official publishers of BL think scanlation is to be stopped. I think Libre Publishing tried it before with those C&D letters. But there are those publishing companies that hire scanlators for a paid work. I don’t know about now, but there are indeed some publishing companies that support the scanlation community.
futekiya: Could you tell me more about publishers that support the scanlation community?
JazD801: Hmm, I can’t say much about them since I don’t know a lot of them. That, or maybe some publishers are just too busy to take care of the many scanlation groups popping about in the internet. Sorry about that!
futekiya: Ahh I see. Recently Renta published a public letter to scanlators, and Japanese publishers are trying to bring more awareness to the issue. What are your thoughts on these efforts and the publisher’s stance?
JazD801: Was it about the “end of scanlation”? If so, I would totally understand if they do it but I would be greatly disappointed if I can no longer read more manga in English. I honestly haven’t updated myself with what’s going on between official publishers and scanlations, but all I know is that scanlations can either ruin a comic artists’ lives or make them more popular. I’m not sure how publishing companies work but I guess they hire comic artists and pay them right for their manga? So if people illegally scanlate them, then that would add more trouble for both parties. It’s a really complicated zone there if I think more about it. Personally, they (the publishers) should just start a new trend like what [a new manga distributor] are doing.
And as for the “trend”, you know [a new manga distributor] right? They hire scanlators or more precisely, translators and typesetters to do legal scanlation work and upload them to their website. Ah, it’s actually kinda the same with Lezhin Comics if you look it more closely o.O Since a lot of the people can’t afford to buy the actual license English manga, they [the publishers] should just do this kind of thing. That’s what I think of anyway. As for the article, I can’t really say anything about it since I don’t buy stuff from Renta. I heard some bad stories about them, that’s it.
futekiya: As you mentioned before you are working professionally as a typesetter. Do you have advice for scanlators who would like to work professionally?
JazD801: My advice is, to just do it if you enjoy doing it, and try to meet the deadlines!
If you would like to hear from a professional manga localization group and hear more about the manga industry, be sure to check out our interview with Local Manga!