Anti-Scanlation Coalition vs. Common Sense?

I’m still working my way through Le Chevalier D’Eon. Hopefully I’ll have that review done before next Christmas. I’m so sorry to everyone that I keep letting down in regards to that. That said, this post is about the recent news.

Once again I am late to the party. I’m sure by now all the cool blogs have posted their thoughts and opinions on this current news, and I doubt my opinion is much different, but hey, I have a blog and I have opinions, so I may as well use this blog to express those opinions, right?

Alright, so according to Anime News Network, several Japanese and American manga companies have formed a coalition designed to combat manga scanlations. Naturally, this has the anime fan community in an uproar. Scanlations and fansubs are always a controversial issue, since some people deplore their very existence, others refuse to consume anime or manga any other way, and still others are in the middle and use them here and there, but still obtain some of their series of choice by legal means as well.

As you might guess, I’m in that middle ground. I buy a lot of manga, but I also read a fair amount of scans. I mostly read scans for unlicensed stuff, but I’ll also do it for long running shonen or stuff where something about the licensed translation or editing/censoring bugged me. In that last case, I still buy the licensed version for the sake of supporting the title. I’ll buy a volume here and there for my favorite chapters when it comes to long running shonen, too. Overall I’m very supportive of the industry and I want it to succeed.

However, this anti-scanlation coalition has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve heard of in a while. Fundamentally it’s a good thing. Going after illegal copies of their licensed material is something that should be done. That said, the way this is being handled sounds like it will ultimately create more harm than good. How?

-No alternatives provided. Even if you knock out all of the scanlation hosts, if you don’t provide legal alternatives, more will pop up in the old ones’ places. This will turn into fighting a Hydra if the coalition doesn’t figure that out fast. People go to sites like OneManga instead of buying their manga at a bookstore for a reason. If there isn’t something similar but legal in the place of these sites, then the audience for said sites won’t be served and new ones will step in to serve that audience.

-As a direct result of not providing alternatives, this feels somewhat like an attempt to stifle the fans. It’s silly, since this is copyrighted material that they’re trying to keep from spreading illegally, which is perfectly fair. The problem is that, whenever a company doesn’t listen to the fans of its product, that looks bad. Obviously manga fans want more convenient (and less expensive) ways to access manga, or else sites like this wouldn’t exist. Of course some of the people that use them really are leeches that would never buy a single volume of manga, but that isn’t the only issue here. If it was, it would be a waste of time to shut down these sites anyway because the userbases would just stop reading manga. By not giving fans more methods to get manga legally, this anti-scanlation coalition will be seen by some as a move against the fans, not a move against piracy.

-Some manga ends up censored and/or given a subpar translation. This sort of thing really just has to be done away with before doing away with scanlations will ever be a good idea. No one wants to read a manga with a bad translation or unnecessary censorship. Some people will cry “bad translation!” just as an excuse to not pay, but there really are cases of bad translations out there.

The one good thing about this news is that it sounds like they’ll more be going after scanlation aggregator sites like OneManga and MangaFox rather than scanlators themselves. That said, manga companies really need to step up their game and fast if this is going to cause any good. Viz’s Sig IKKI site is a prime example of what we need more of. Assuming it works out, OpenManga is another good thing. These really need to keep on coming, though, or else the Hydra that is scanlations and scanlation aggregators will just grow three more new heads for each one the anti-scanlation coalition cuts off.