Manga Aggregators: I Turn My Back

I-It's not that I like you or anything, MangaHelpers! Geez!

In recent weeks there have been numerous articles all over the interweb explaining the coming demise of manga aggregator websites.  All the big hitters in manga publishing have formed a “multi-national manga anti-piracy coalition“, aiming to stem the flow of un-authorised content distribution through popular websites such as MangaHelpers, One Manga, Mangafox etc. These websites became popular with readers because of how easily they could tap into the scanlations available online, display them all together on one webpage, and as a bonus the owners could charge some ad revenue as well. Now, MangaHelpers is the latest of websites to take the cue and jump ship after threats from the anti piracy coalition to threaten offending websites with legal action. More after the jump.

How does this affect you and me? I, like you perhaps, am an avid fan of manga, and that means I use scanlations to a large extent to get my fix. Plenty of manga I have read has yet to be released in English, and I am grateful to all those out there who translated it for others to enjoy. However, this is by no means a justification for scanlating; it is still illegal and while it can serve as a boost in popularity for the manga involved, it can also result in losses to the manga industry. If we don’t support the publishers, then what will happen to them? Just take a look at Tokyopop and the licenses it lost last year. Love Hina, Chobits, Initial D; all are vastly popular titles, yet something made Kodansha, the Japanese publisher and copyright holder, opt out. Sure,  you could rely on a company other then Tokyopop to license the manga, but the prices will resultantly be more expensive and we, the targeted consumers, will lose out.

Not that we weren’t losers already. Any credibility we had by not buying the manga, whether it be language or availability, was effectively destroyed when websites like One Manga became the major source of manga for internet readers. It could be said then that these aggregator websites sustained the unsustainable lazy ethic of readers, completely eclipsing any efforts by publishers to distribute manga content to fans in their regions at a reasonable price. Now One Manga has became so popular that it’s peak visitor traffic is more then Crunchyroll and Anime News Network combined, and with those ads you can just imagine the revenue it’s pulling in. No wonder the manga anti-piracy coalition hopes to stamp these sites out.

In the end it comes down to the consumer, you and me. Here in Australia, all forms of manga are twice the price of their off-the-shelf counterparts in the US or Japan. Throughout university, I hid behind these excuses and they fed my naiveté. $20 per manga at a local retailer made me angry, so I turned to aggregator sites. However, I continued to convince myself that come employment I would cease to rob the industry that I love. I am now employed in my career of choice and am well paid enough to afford my favorite manga and anime series, and am greedily buying them up. Now though it is time for me to turn my back on websites such as One Manga. We must remember that the manga industry is essentially Japanese and while there is not much chance of personal favorites such as Otaku no Musume-san coming out in English, that is certainly no excuse to create ad revenue by visiting aggregator websites. If we want to see more English translations, we must convince the Japanese to keep exporting the originals. For me, I enjoy the Japanese language immensely, so perhaps this should be my cue to buy the original manga, to learn, and to not look back.

So next time you browse the interweb looking for the next chapter of your favorite manga, take a minute to step back and reflect that you will be getting it for free. Look at the website you are visiting, and if it has adverts then someone out there is reaping the benefits, and it ain’t the publishers or creators behind the manga. Keep an eye out though, we could be seeing a Crunchyroll-esque manga website appear sometime in the future. Would you join? I would.

Some interesting reading:

Brad Rice talks to the publishers about piracy @ Japanator