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News Article
Cardiff University: Working with Translation
A member of ours, mattfabb, has been doing research on manga translations. You can see some of his past work here. He has created a new video and is looking for feedback. The video is here: steps/128935

Specifically, he is fielding these questions:
  • Have I been truthful?
  • Have I represented the community fairly?
  • Should I do things differently if I ever get to do something similar in the future?

Feel free to give other feedback too. You can do so by commenting in this thread or by emailing him at mattfabb[_at_]
Posted by lambchopsil on October 25th 3:06am Comments ( 18 )  [ View ]  [ Add ]

» mattfabb on October 24th, 2016, 9:23pm

My research would not be possible without the help I received from the community. I cannot express how grateful I am to the number of people who dedicated their time to explain things to a noob like me, and to Mangaupdates for helping me to keep in touch with the community. I try not to lose sight of the important things, so please take one minute to leave some feedback if you think I should have added something or explained scanlation in a different way.

Anyway, this was a short video of a larger serie on translation that my uni has produced. I was super nervous as it was my first time doing anything on camera. Apologies for the clumsiness.


» Nachi on October 25th, 2016, 4:42am

Hey Matt!
I had an opportunity to hear you speak at EAJS when your phd paper was still in making. Already well submerged in scanlation community at the time I didn't feel welcome to speak out, but I think that was more due to other researchers present than you yourself.
Reading Inside Scanlations and hearing Frederik Schodt years ago (Creation of a manga-comic hybrid) I always felt that manga fans were first to start translations out of interest to share and show good stories before or alongside first official translations, rather than starting because they were unhappy with official translations. Obviously unsatisfactory translations and slow releases contributed to scanlations becoming widespread...
And another thing I wanted to comment on for a long time, since it popped up in videos as well i feel I must say it now.
This may be because of works I'm reading lately, but I haven't seen many T/Ns lately and personally I'm strongly against using them in my own scanlations. I teach any newcoming translators to avoid those as well. There are instances for cultural reference where those are needed, but we keep them to minimum especially if cultural reference is not important to the story of manga. Comments about cute characters and how hard this was for me to translate are an absolute no-go for me. As a long time reader I notices that comments like this pull me out of the story on a major level and take huge amount of fun out of reading. Every time I get a glimpse of T/N on a page I make super hard effort not to read it because I know I'll get disturbed in my reading flow. I fell most of the time ^^
It's based on this that I'm huge advocate of not using T/N if possible... or to use extra page in beginning where you explain what's going on (I loved old Del Ray manga prints because of this, I donno if US Kondansha does that now).
I haven't seen many of T/Ns lately, more so if it's direct translators comments and not context explanations (aside from a newbie scanlator here and there). Again, this might be because of manga I'm reading lately, but it may be interesting to examine how often they pop up in latest scanlations. And more importantly how this influences (if it does) official localization and vice versa. I did mention Del Rey releases which felt very homey to me and having a good balance for every reader in sense of not shying away of showing manga is Japanese content and at the same time trying to keep it understandable to every reader regardless of their background. I do recall few T/Ns in localization too, but for life of me I can't remember any specific title (that said, I remember translator (not a scanlator) for the only manga translation in my country saying she included quite a few T/Ns with the translation script and asked publisher to include them, they were all cut out). And than maybe how far this "let's keep as many Japanese reference as we can" is taken to? Scanlations being made by fans have the freedom of every translator doing whatever they want with original text, so as a reader you're aware of that fact and can (or maybe not) forgive any exaggerations or go along with it (like "according to keikaku" became due to fansubs). But I remember reading in German Carlsen Comics in one of Kazumi Yuana's translations somewhere in span of 2 or 3 pages "Okaasan" and "Oniichan". To me that was unexceptionable and one of the reasons why i switched to buying Japanese original print only. Even today I can't phantom why they would decide to leave both words as they were. Translators/proofreads mistake, or influence of fandom?
My thoughts and wishes obviously, with you having your own plans and focus.
I think one of the biggest disappointments following(?) your research all this time actually comes from your EAJS speech where you made it blatantly clear your research is about the translation and not something else. I'm quite sure you need to explain that many times, while to us scanlators "how" we translate is of leaser importance (as long as we have fun, or gain new experience, or whatever our personal reason is) than is the discussion of "what" our translations actually are. I think many of us would like to see more obvious shift in companies mindset that scanlators are not necessary enemy if at all, but than we have a huge mess among ourselfs so it's hard to get anywhere. And this same reason is why i didn't feel welcome to comment at the conference, being close to audience i heard a few snarky comments here and there because your presentation was about the scanlations, the evil illegal entity surrounding manga. If I remember correctly few that posed questions to you at the end said something in lines of "ignoring the fact scanlations are illegal" (not exactly in those words) before they proceeded to the question that actually concerns your research.
It's a battle you're fighting since your research is not about that, and it's a battle we fight because we don't want people making us feel bad about things we like to do.

Going back to the actual questions I think the video was good. As you said you were obviously nervous but that'll go away with time. Considering my own experience if there's anything I'd want to see different is maybe a mention that what you said does not necessarily apply for every fan translation or that there are vast differences depending on genre as well. It was a general video tho, so I know going into detail is not really an option.


» mattfabb on October 25th, 2016, 7:15am

Thank you Nachi for the long and thoughtful reply!

It'a a shame we didnt talk at the EAJS! Are you doing translation studies as well? Anyway, regarding your observations...of course professional translators and teachers of translation feel threatened by the rise of fan translation and crowdsourcing. It's normal - translation studies is a relatively new academic discipline and they are very defensive of the status of translation as a profession, as they have a vested interest in the professionalization of translation.

The problem with this kind of attitute of course is that TS and translation risk becoming a vehicle of cultural homogenization and even oppression. Translators need self-reflexivity in order to exercise ethical agency. And to develop self-reflexivity, one has to acknowledge that there are alternative methods and histories of translation (from minor cultures and languages, for example). In fact, I would argue that at the moment, professional translation is only a small proportion of the many forms of translation that take place on the internet.

In my opinion, any translator should have a choice of what to include and what to exclude from his/her translation. There is no right and wrong, of course, but one should be at least able to give an account of his/her translation choices, and this opportunity is not always present in commercial manga translation (but its ok for example to write lenghty translation forewords when translating and retranslating classics of literature).

By the way, here's the cfp for a special issue of the journal of translations studies on voluntary translation:
Its an emerging field for sure, but there is definitely interest! Why dont you submit something as well?


» Chibi-Chibi on October 25th, 2016, 11:08am

Ah, no, Japanese is my major and I lean(ed) toward studying social issues through popular culture. Both topics my department doesn't favor at all, which is why i called quits... to many obstacles on home territory to even get a good chance to go out :x
Threatened or not... weren't we all thought to to discard our bias as much as possible while research? Or is it really that hard to see it.
I donno, it's just disappointing that after all this years you get to hear comments like that in academia.

Homogenization and partially oppression is something I feel at the moment too. I'm trying to bring manga into local language now and I have many obstacles who to translate. First people having prejudiced to reading manga in local language (way to used to other "world" language). Localize names or not, keep suffixes or not, stick with what proofreader says (even tho it's based on old rules) etc, while knowing I have a base of readers that are used to fan translations that are heavy on cultural references and also trying to produce content I could introduce to people that don't know manga at all. It's taking me so long to translate because I still don't know which "rules" would be best to follow ^^

Of course translator should have a choice what to include and what not, but they shouldn't base their decision solely on their own but consider target audience as well.Sometimes I fail to see how that's taken in account to... but we're all still human at the end.

Thanks for the link. I'm out of writing papers, but maybe I'll master up something anyway smile

EDIT: Well this is an awkward second account appearance seatdrop.jpg


» VawX on October 25th, 2016, 4:06am

I'll write my feedback later after I watch the video mate mmm...

Very nice video, you're able to capture the essence of scanlation and you make it easy to understand even to those who don't read fan translation in general, or even to those who don't read manga mmm...

But the thing that's lacking is probably you should show how the community grow in term of quality, maturity and diversity. But I guess to keep it simple and interesting it's okay to say that mmm...


» mattfabb on October 25th, 2016, 7:51am

I agree. I felt as I was watching it that I wished I had more time to explain more in detail the diversity of the community. As you said, scanlation is very heterogeneous, and often it feels more like a network of groups and individuals engaged in similar activities more than a 'community' in the traditional sense.

And of course, I also feel that male and female groups tend to have different practices! I promise if I do this again I will explain it better.


» eito on October 25th, 2016, 11:13am

Hi Matt,
I just watched the video and first of all need to express my fondness of going further than just text, as probably not too many people had a chance to read your thesis yet and a short video is just way more accessible. I got a hand on your thesis quite soon after you handed it in and really liked it, but I think that many in this community don't have the time to read through 150+ pages, especially if they work or study in an unrelated field.
Nachi earlier commented on the problem of focusing much on translation. I think it's a very interesting starting point, even if it's obviously only a small part of the whole process. You name the main points, in which fan translations differ or differed from commercial ones. Again, Nachi named it: commercial translations have adjusted much and at times to extreme levels. Because of that, the distinction between fan translation and commercial translation might not be the most relevant in terms of manga translation anymore.
But the identification of main points you did is extremely useful either way. I suggest you look at differences in translations of manga for different target audiences and in different settings. My impression is, to give an example, that groups mainly translating seinen manga leave out honorifics much more often than shounen or shoujo groups. Commenting TNs are probably much more often found in comedy manga than in, say, a drama. Some characteristics are surely universal though, e.g. that fan translations don't localize names or events. Scanlations are heterogeneous, but at least for the more established groups, it should be possible to more or less map this heterogeneity.
On the other hand, the change of commercial manga translation is obviously also a great topic to look at. Given your research so far on how fans translate, adjustments commercial publishers made could be compared to the "fan way" in a historical perspective. If I recall correctly you did that a bit in your thesis already, but it surely would be an interesting topic.
In regards to motivations I think it's necessary to emphasize how old scanlation is now. In the video you outline the initial motivations, but by now there are many more. Scanlation has been the source of many communities, and if your friends are scanlators, of course that's also a motivation. Getting fame is quite clearly one for some people, too. Finally, with the rise of online advertising, commercial aspects should not be forgot (even if most here probably don't like to think of them). In your references you also list Ratti 2013, where this is analyzed more in regards to Italian translations (the role of re-translation is another interesting topic).
Finally there's one point in the Video where you talk about footnotes on the first "page" of a chapter. I think here again the historical perspective is important. The idea of what makes a release changed over time, I'd argue. In old releases by Mangascreener and Mangaproject, the translators included explanations and comments in a separate .txt file. Say, the release equaled the container the groups uploaded wherever. With releases being hosted and read elsewhere more and more - the rise of online reading sites - the text files went unnoticed more and more and scanlators had to resort to image files to spread additional information. That of course applies also to credits and recruitment calls.

P.S.: I think your nervousity in the video wasn't all too bad. Especially since you noticeably got more comfortable with the setup later on, when it got beyond the really introductory questions.


» mattfabb on October 25th, 2016, 11:50am

Thank you eito! I am planning to write about these differences that exist within scanlation - and I fully agree that, when you look at it closely, 'scanlation' is not even a useful label in a sense, and you need to start looking at different groups doing different things for different reasons.

My initial idea was to say: there are manga series that are more 'mainstream' (more popular?) and manga series that are, somehow, less mainstream.

Some groups deliberately choose 'mainstream' series, other groups deliberately choose 'non-mainstream' series, and other groups chose a mix - some popular series but also some less known series. These initial choices matter especially for groups that are focused in particular manga genres - yaoi, yuri, doujinshi, some even gekiga. In a sense, the more 'marginal' the type of manga (with shonen and shojo being the mainstream?), the more there is to say about the reason for focusing on minor works (for example, yuri groups motivated by a wish to promote lgbt literature?).

The other side of this is to argue that groups working with particular genres and demographic share common translation strategies - I observed for example that shojo/women groups tend to redraw sfx more than shoen/seinen groups.


» eito on October 25th, 2016, 1:03pm

That's great to hear! I think "mainstream" vs. "non-mainstream" is the first and most important dichotomy here, too. Importantly, there is more than one mainstream: manga that could be described as mainstream shoujo get translated in a different way from mainstream shounen ones. Both draw speed scan groups and/or groups working with magazine scans to them, so there are similarities.
To define a "mainstream group" I think the question to ask is how much popularity the group thinks the manga will have eventually. Shounen and shoujo manga are more often mainstream, but given it's popularity something like Berserk could be counted as such, too. For further studies, a framework that includes groups working on series that are like the successful ones but are themselves not successful in the mainstream category (or categories) should be helpful: it's likely that they use similar approaches to the ones used by larger mainstream groups.
As for the "non-mainstream" groups, I think the categorization by usual target demography/topic/genre is still much more necessary. The field is just still more diverse here - also in regards to the manga translated.
As for motivations, I think that they are very diverse in both fields, while some aspects are exclusive to mainstream ones. E.g., if you are the head of a group and make money from translations, you'll surely want to work on mainstream manga. Also, it's important to see that motivations are shifting all the time. You may initially start scanlating because of a series that has been discontinued or because you want a series of an author you really like to be translated, but eventually the people one works with become more important.

I forgot to mention it earlier, but it fits here: the setting of the manga is extremely important, too. For a manga that's clearly set in Japan and draws much from this context, say one with a historical theme, keeping honorifics is the logical choice. If the manga is set in a western country however, it makes less sense (even though I recall having seen "Smith-san" instead of "Mr. Smith" before, too).
Also, the amount of offtext is important in regards to whether or not SFX are redrawn (quite obviously). In a manga with little offtexts (which usually means those for older audiences I'd say), the amount of SFX is much lower and it's easier to consistently redraw them. For action-themed manga - even worse for hentai - there are just much more SFX and you need more people to redraw them. It's however hard to determine if there is much thought given to this or if the example of the main groups working on manga from a given genre/demography is enough to make others follow it primarily. Some groups are also not consistent on whether to redraw SFX or not - deciding anew for every series they work on -, while others strictly follow a rule regarding this issue they set up before.
This is of course only an idea for how the different translation styles developed. Another one is of course the background of the translators themselves: people working on the "older" demographics are also usually older, and I have the impression that the ratio of Southeast Asians working on shounen series is much higher than among scanlators working on seinen manga (this is only my personal experience though).
Generally, I would totally agree that there are differences in translation styles between the genres.


» residentgrigo on October 25th, 2016, 2:35pm

To say in the video´s introduction that manga are broader, or have more genres (Batman alone is regularly presented in dozens of genres), or that they are deeper rooted in the Japanese culture than "Western" comics (a very broad term too) in the US or EU is... problematic.

Superman officially faugh Muhammad Ali in the 70s and the new Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) is about the immigrant experience of a Pakistani-American, besides the super-heroics. Her creator got to meet President Obama due to her accomplishments!
These are just mere superhero comic, but I will mention Danny the Street, who was now brought back by the My Chemical Romance founder Gerard Way (see what sort of people write comics?), and Wonder Woman just joined the UN (as the 4th fictional character).
US troops were supplied with her´s and other (DC) books during WW2 and she is more importantly a widely recognized icon of feminism around the world.

Indie books as Stuck Rubber Baby, the exceptionally recognized works of Robert Crumb (he did heaps of highly regarded hard-core porn but name me even one "recognized" hentai), the genre bending EU works of Moebius or DC´s Vertigo line (i still can´t believe that Peter Milligan´s Enigma got published by WB) show how varied the medium can get.

Noone will write a decades lasting comic about restaurant culture and true romance books barely sell / exist anymore (they were the biggest genre of the 50s), so there are notable differences, yet all 3 international comic publishing forms go about equally deep and broad. Japan is the modern (print) sales winner, as they didn´t suffer a catastrophic market crash, as the US did in the 90s, and they don´t cost you an arm and a leg, as EU comics due to their high production cost. (Asterix is still serious business all over Europe, even in print.)

These are the criteria i would use for a proper contrast. US comics also went into a “cinematic age”, with sales around 100.000 - 25.000 copies for a "successful" book and prices of about 3-4$ a 20 pages issue, but the adaptations now rule Hollywood and many major tv stations with an iron fist. How many people are currently talking about THE Walking Dead kill (it´s 1 to 1 from the books) and how many comparisons between Zack Snyder and let´s say... Hitler have you seen on major internet sites for daring to bring a comic accurate DC universe on the silver screen. Even lambchopsil made fun of BvS in a recent poll, just out the blue. People got VERY loud when Snyder deviated from the universally recognized Christopher Reeve Superman, as people take their Superman VERY seriously it seems. The highly criticized Attack on Titan films + prequel show though almost got a free pass in the end. These actually sucked and they bastardized the most successful new manga of this century, yet the hate came as it left, and Shinji Higuchi now redeemed himself with Shin Godzilla.
How many people will you further see in Japan with a One Piece / Titan shirt and how many will you with a Batman / Superman shirt all over the world?
The isn´t a conversation about adaptations but western comics characters are still as internationally recognized and beloved as ever. Just in a deferent form and the pioneering manga of the 40s / 50s are historically rooted in western comics too.

Feel free to disagree on everything but have fun proving your theses scientifically.
Here are also the 9 Best Selling Comic Series Of All Time‏ but you need to contrast the list to the up to date list of best-selling manga. There are mistakes and the numbers are outdated. 1991´s X-Men No.1 is further the bestselling single comic ever.

PS: Western Comics have (official) footnotes too. Such as callbacks to older issue, cultural context and so on. Fan-comics / Fanzines are nothing especially Japanese either and everyone can now be a "writer" due to the internet.
I lastly read scanlations of EU books every week, so even scanlations aren´t necessarily a manga only domain. The manga ones came first though.


» mattfabb on October 25th, 2016, 10:07pm

I dont really disagree with anything you said! I think you are reading WAY too much into what I said! I am also a big fan of 'Western' comics (well, fumetti in my particular case, but you know that Italy produces Walt Disney comics in Europe as well?), but, regardless of my love, I have to admit that they are not as broad as Japanese Manga.

I mentioned super heroes comics like superman and spiderman in my intro because they are well known and loved, and in a sense they represent the idea of 'comic book' in many (lay people's?) mind.

Dont get me wrong, I could spend hours talking about this topic, I love all form of comics. But if you had been in my position and had to explain in a sentence the characteristics of manga to somebody who may not have ever seen a manga (and also explain why there is a such a thing as scanlation!)...what would you have said? I said 'well, they are not quite like superheroes comics', to explain that they are different from those. No malice intended, as I also read superheroes comics.

Also consider that I was invited to contribute to this project that is meant to reach out to 'lay' people outside academia. My hope was not to misrepresent the scanlation community, while keeping it simple! If I had more time, I would do a series....well maybe not, because I hated being on camera. But ideally videos are more digestible than essays I feel.


» mattfabb on October 28th, 2016, 11:21am

We have more than a 100 comments! And most of them positive!


» bhui on October 29th, 2016, 5:36pm

Were you aware that the German version of Asterix had translation notes for Latin sayings (as opposed to the French one)?


» bhui on October 29th, 2016, 5:44pm

This is a recent interview with the German translator of Asterix. -Deutsch-lernten.html


» mattfabb on October 30th, 2016, 1:07am



» Suxinn on October 30th, 2016, 3:28am

What an interesting project!

I don't have any suggestions at this point, but I was just wondering: what precisely is the scope of your work? You mentioned something about SFX in another comment. So are things like typesetting, cleaning, etc. going to be included in this project as well? Or are you more concerned with the translation aspect?

And, just curious, but how much are you delving into the history of manga translation? Since so much has changed with both official manga translations (simulpubs are a thing now!) and scanlations (the obvious online reader boom, of course) in the past few years, that it feels difficult, to me, to talk about current translation practices without contextualizing extensively how this all came to.


» mattfabb on October 30th, 2016, 4:00am

Hi Suxinn

I am interested in other aspects of scanlation, not just strictly speaking the 'scanlation' part, but also recruiting, training, and the interaction between groups and aggregators. I started from translation because that was the focus of my PhD but I am trying to move away from that.

As for the second point. It all depends on what I am trying to argue. My hope (and it is a big hope) is to show that 'scanlation' as a whole is ultimately beneficial to Japan because it helps spreading a positive image of Japanese culture around the world. So, the history of scanlation comes into that, but I guess its only relevant insofar as it makes my point stronger.


» mattfabb on November 22nd, 2016, 3:04pm

Hi guys, my new article on manga scanlation is out finally: 489/20939

All feedback is welcome, as usual (be gentle).


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