Project Haruhi
14Jun/1014

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

About Chris

Chris (aka Kagami) cares for only two things; cars and women. As an engineer, he appreciates all things mechanical, such as hot rods and giant transforming robots. He also collects various anime figurines.

Filed under: Fandom, Manga, News Leave a comment
  • Nice article there :3

    I’ve been thinking similar things, when reading manga online. Sadly some of those I read are likely never to be published in English (Kodomo no Jikan, for instance) as it would be likely give a bad name to the company who did.

    I do hope that, when I’ve learned that all-important Japanese language, I may be able to turn away from scanlations for such releases. But for now… If I still want my full fix, I can only make the first steps in the right direction by buying those I can in English.

    Which I have been doing, despite the £8 price tag (Was yours in AUD or USD?).

    • AUD. Borders Australia put a $18.95 price tag on each volume of Naruto. Ouch…

  • Nice article there :3

    I’ve been thinking similar things, when reading manga online. Sadly some of those I read are likely never to be published in English (Kodomo no Jikan, for instance) as it would be likely give a bad name to the company who did.

    I do hope that, when I’ve learned that all-important Japanese language, I may be able to turn away from scanlations for such releases. But for now… If I still want my full fix, I can only make the first steps in the right direction by buying those I can in English.

    Which I have been doing, despite the £8 price tag (Was yours in AUD or USD?).

    • Kagami

      AUD. Borders Australia put a $18.95 price tag on each volume of Naruto. Ouch…

  • deaky

    > However, this is by no means a justification for scanlating

    On the contrary, if there is no official release being planned and fans can’t convince a publisher, how else are they to get their fix? Hiding behind the letter of the law, in this case, is foolishness on their part.

    None of this is a justification for outright piracy, true. But a publisher still has the option of monetizing digital scanlations, don’t they? They HAVE an audience, they just won’t cater to them.

    I have several manga I can’t read, but bought because the scanlation’s image quality frankly sucks (and also because I want to support the mangaka). Not everyone will have the time to learn how to read another language, but they certainly do want to support the mangaka so they can keep getting their fix.

    I feel the publishers are really just being lazy here. They equate mass production printings with easy profit, and this justifies them not releasing digital copies and limited-print offerings through online-only purchases. There really is no excuse for them, if there are online sites that can make a successful ad-run “business” big enough to need to be brought down, why can’t the publishers themselves?

    • Kagami

      Deaky, your comments are completely true. I was trying to take the opinion of the publishers. Scanlating brings a wider audience to a manga that is written only in Japanese, allowing people like you and me to enjoy it. However it is still unsustainable. Not all manga go for 50 volumes and are a worthwhile investment; I am assuming officially translating the smaller novels has become a huge risk because of the rapidity it is uploaded. On the other hand, if its like Otaku no Musume-san, then it gains a lot of popularity across the web via scanlating and as a result it is published, I would be SO there.

      I agree too that if One Manga can do it illegally, why can’t there be a legal alternative? Crunchyroll ala manga. Publishers need to adapt somewhat, capitalise. In that, we can all enjoy it.

  • deaky

    > However, this is by no means a justification for scanlating

    On the contrary, if there is no official release being planned and fans can’t convince a publisher, how else are they to get their fix? Hiding behind the letter of the law, in this case, is foolishness on their part.

    None of this is a justification for outright piracy, true. But a publisher still has the option of monetizing digital scanlations, don’t they? They HAVE an audience, they just won’t cater to them.

    I have several manga I can’t read, but bought because the scanlation’s image quality frankly sucks (and also because I want to support the mangaka). Not everyone will have the time to learn how to read another language, but they certainly do want to support the mangaka so they can keep getting their fix.

    I feel the publishers are really just being lazy here. They equate mass production printings with easy profit, and this justifies them not releasing digital copies and limited-print offerings through online-only purchases. There really is no excuse for them, if there are online sites that can make a successful ad-run “business” big enough to need to be brought down, why can’t the publishers themselves?

    • Deaky, your comments are completely true. I was trying to take the opinion of the publishers. Scanlating brings a wider audience to a manga that is written only in Japanese, allowing people like you and me to enjoy it. However it is still unsustainable. Not all manga go for 50 volumes and are a worthwhile investment; I am assuming officially translating the smaller novels has become a huge risk because of the rapidity it is uploaded. On the other hand, if its like Otaku no Musume-san, then it gains a lot of popularity across the web via scanlating and as a result it is published, I would be SO there.

      I agree too that if One Manga can do it illegally, why can’t there be a legal alternative? Crunchyroll ala manga. Publishers need to adapt somewhat, capitalise. In that, we can all enjoy it.

  • Maybe Onemanga will try going legal after so many others are just quitting.

    Their audience will increase due to having no opposition over time, but further pressure will be put on them to close up shop. I know I wouldn’t.

  • Maybe Onemanga will try going legal after so many others are just quitting.

    Their audience will increase due to having no opposition over time, but further pressure will be put on them to close up shop. I know I wouldn’t.

  • If they’re going to close down these websites perhaps they should fill the void with their own version where the scanlations can be read legally, I expect some sort of small fee would be required but good manga is good manga and at least none of the translations would be dodgy.

  • If they’re going to close down these websites perhaps they should fill the void with their own version where the scanlations can be read legally, I expect some sort of small fee would be required but good manga is good manga and at least none of the translations would be dodgy.

  • well i have followed the progress of this quandary and so far i have seen a great terrible mess that people need to clean up so in this turn of events manga aggregators have to evolve to suit the publishers conditions or die due to copyright infringements.

    but there is an adverse effect that the publishers are quite out of it and scanlating manga is of course a prime effect that affects both the audience and the publisher.

    let’s face it they are slackers and trolling the fans i terrible waiting times e.g the melancholy of haruhi suzumiya vol 7 release date october 2010 next volume release date march 2011

    this example shows a waiting time of 5 months which in my book is too long and to top that up is the jap version is up to volume 11 (and it still hasn’t been added to the volume list)

    for the audience well if no one scanlated the manga then billions of people round the world in TMOHS’s case the fans miss out on the haruhi related goodness and job oppurtunities would lessen because a scanlators job is to translate into their or the english language because the publishers are quite lethargic i’d bsay 3 months should be the waiting period Average for manga 5 months would be justifiable if the manga was over 550 pages

    well according to my observations i can see a war where nobody wins (they all lose out)

  • well i have followed the progress of this quandary and so far i have seen a great terrible mess that people need to clean up so in this turn of events manga aggregators have to evolve to suit the publishers conditions or die due to copyright infringements.

    but there is an adverse effect that the publishers are quite out of it and scanlating manga is of course a prime effect that affects both the audience and the publisher.

    let’s face it they are slackers and trolling the fans i terrible waiting times e.g the melancholy of haruhi suzumiya vol 7 release date october 2010 next volume release date march 2011

    this example shows a waiting time of 5 months which in my book is too long and to top that up is the jap version is up to volume 11 (and it still hasn’t been added to the volume list)

    for the audience well if no one scanlated the manga then billions of people round the world in TMOHS’s case the fans miss out on the haruhi related goodness and job oppurtunities would lessen because a scanlators job is to translate into their or the english language because the publishers are quite lethargic i’d bsay 3 months should be the waiting period Average for manga 5 months would be justifiable if the manga was over 550 pages

    well according to my observations i can see a war where nobody wins (they all lose out)