Tag Archives: Manga

Some Thoughts on the Change in Publishing

Publishing is changing and the folks in media are screaming bloody murder (not that I blame them for doing so).  Spurred on by the success of Amazon’s Kindle and the iPad, things are moving a lot faster than they ever dreamed I suppose.  Just last month it was reported that Kindle Books sales over took the sales of hardcover books.  It sounds amazing at first glance until you think about how bulky and brick-like hard cover books are compared to the sleekness of the Kindle or the iPad, both in form and bookshelf space (or lack there of…).  Other than the changing form in which we consume printed media, something else is afoot.  There is a challenge to the foundation of traditional publishing itself.  I think we’ve all seen it, but for the most part denied it.  As self publishing becomes easier, the lack of authority rises.  I’ve talked about this before, but I think now I see two stark mirroring realities that can be best summed up as, “Anyone can publish almost anything they want.”  At first I thought “wow” and then this quickly turned into “oh no…”

I guess I’ll focus my thoughts on a subject I’m familiar with: manga.  Leaving aside the current legal controversies of scanlation, I’d rather think about the issues of “authority.”  The truth of the matter is anybody can do scanlation with the right software (or in some cases without).  When I speak of authority in scanlation, I mainly think about the project choices a group makes and whether the translation offered is any good. Continue reading Some Thoughts on the Change in Publishing

Mobile Manga

Google Analytics has now added separate segmentation for mobile users.  I’ve been looking at mine lately and I don’t have many mobile users visiting my blog.   But, then again, my anime and manga blog is not mobile friendly because the widgets and the large images make it slow to load over mobile.  Also, since I deliver my manga in zip files that are usually 5MB or larger, mobile viewers can’t view my work.  I’ve found on my iPhone that I can’t download the zip files, so there really is no reason to view my blog unless the reader wishes to actually read my prose.   I wonder, though, since most mobile screens are so small,  are they relevant manga viewers?   But then I consider the future.  The tablets are coming and, so, perhaps, I should be prepared?

Many of the manga aggregation sites I visit are in the early phases of experimenting with delivering manga images via mobile devices.  I’ve attempted to read manga on my iPhone and it’s no fun because my iPhone’s screen is too small.  I’ve also read manga using my mini-note.  The problem with the mini-note, though, isn’t the size, so much as the image needs to be rotated 90-degrees to see a full manga page at a reasonable size.  (By the way, I’m still waiting for that little application on my mini-note that rotates the screen and remaps the mouse pad and the arrow keys so I can use it as an e-reader…)  My guess, though, is that the manga aggregation sites are welcoming the tablet PC with open arms and making preparations for explosive growth.  I wonder how this effort compares to that of the actual the actual manga license holders and legitimate distributors?

So far, the mobile manga efforts appear to be rudimentary.  The sites are using simple “liquid layouts” and have stripped out most of the content. leaving the page image and basic navigation.  The images, too, are smaller and more compressed.   Here’s an example of the difference between the default site and the mobile site from the One Manga website:

Default Site

Mobile Site

One Manga gives the viewer 3 size options, but there’s nothing fancy like Google maps’s ability to zoom in on an illegible section.  Regardless, it’s a good start and they are thinking ahead to the coming technology.

I think it’s very interesting that the folks who are taking the first steps toward mobile manga delivery are not the big publishers.   Again, we have a situation where resistance to evolving technology or the inability to adapt quickly is leaving big businesses open to somebody else meeting the unfulfilled wants and needs for their products.  With respect to sites like One Manga, the product is being given out for free by fans who are doing the manga translations as labors of love.  But as a consequence, the expectation that manga is free online is being reinforced further.  This may also prevent mobile manga delivery from being one of the value adds that could have been monetized directly by the legitimate distributor.  Regardless, I applaud One Manga and sites like it for their foresight and a willingness to innovate.

There’s a lingering question, though.  If One Manga and sites like it aren’t doing this for money (perhaps they get enough money from advertising to cover the cost of servers), then why are they constantly moving forward and innovating?   I wonder has it ever occurred to big business that money isn’t the only thing to compete over?   But more on that at another time…

Santa Delivered — HP Mini 1000

I guess I was nice this year because Santa delivered :). I didn’t get the Vivienne Tam Edition, but I did get the HP Mini 1000 Mini-notebook with the 60GB harddrive and bluetooth connectivity. So far I’m surprised by the power of this little notebook. I am able to play standard definition avi files on it.

We’ve place the little notebook in the kitchen next to the telephone. This turns out to be a perfect place for it. So far I set up e-mail, I used it today to look up recipes for Christmas dinner and I researched external laptop sound cards for our entertainment laptop. It was convenient to have the little notebook on the counter so I could browse while waiting on food to cook. The small footprint also it made it fit nicely on the little bit of corner space we have where our phone is.

A few things about the notebook that you may want to know before purchasing. It is strictly wireless. There is no Ethernet port for a wired connection. It comes with Windows XP installed so you don’t have to worry about the little laptop barfing on Vista. I went ahead and moved the windows bar to the left side and had it auto-hide. I found this to be a good use of the small screen. It also came installed with Microsoft Works, which has everything you need for home and student use — word processor, spreadsheets, presentations, e-mail, and a calendar. The keyboard takes a little getting used to. True the keyboard is about the same size of a standard keyboard, but some of the keys do double duty when combined with the function key.

I don’t recommend this little laptop as a main computer. I think you are far better getting a full-sized laptop if this is your first or only computer. It is a great secondary and travel laptop. It does basic computing and supports music and standard definition videos nicely. I also recommend getting the 10-in form factor. Web pages display nicely and are readable. It also passed the online manga test ;p. Now if only I could rotate the image on the screen like an iPod touch or the iPhone so I could get a full page of manga or a book on the screen. The screen is about the same size as a paperback book and the arrows keys are in the right place currently for page flipping ;). Hint, hint … it could be fudged with a software update … Though, the hinge doesn’t allow the device to open the full 180-degrees … maybe the next gen …???

Confessions of an Online Manga Translator

I have moved a step closer to realizing my dream to be a fansubber.  Unfortunately the world of fansubbing is quickly becoming uncomfortable as Japanese media companies start to complain.  I guess the Japanese media companies don’t recognize that the fansubbers are serving willing consumers that they themselves don’t serve.  Curious that they don’t see the opportunity or have not latched onto the idea of crowdsourcing so they don’t actually have to hire translators and the other staff needed to localize anime, drama, books, and manga.

Anyhow, I’ve begun to translate one of my current favorite manga series and I have posted the chapters online in one of my blogs.  I don’t do “scanalation”; that is taking scans of the raw manga and filling in the dialog bubbles with English.  Rather, I write a script for the manga in English, wherein I translate the dialog and verbally describe what is going on in the drawings.  There is an “Inuyasha” translation blog that does the same thing and I found reading this to be more fullfilling than reading the actual manga because my imagination creates the images, rather than being led into the vision suggested by the managka.  This is why I decided to take this approach too.  What’s interesting about this is that I feel a very strong connection to the original text and to what I’ve written.  I didn’t expect this.  It feels sort of like I’m a part of the story creation process because much of how I feel about the story and the characters comes out in the words and the phrasing I choose to translate the words to and the way I describe the action in the pictures.  I also feel that I have a greater understanding of the story because I’ve had to fully digest the Japanese words and the pictures in order to choose the proper words and phrasing.

Does it matter to me whether I accurately present the mangaka’s intent?  That’s a tough question to answer.  I really can’t say for certain what the author intended without talking to the author.  Besides when I read a manga, all that is present goes through my filter and that shapes how I percieve the story.   Therefore when translating and then scripting, what exits my filter is what goes on the screen.  I think this is very powerful and double-edged.  I endeavored to learn Japanese because I didn’t like the way the professional publishers localized manga for an American audience.  I sought purity and from this pure base I wanted to be able overlay my own interpretation.  Being on the other side of it as a translator, I’m am not offering purity to those that read my blog.  This leaves me to ask myself, who am I to offer up my interpretation of this manga to the world?  Am I providing a service or satisfying myself?  I think I am doing both.  Besides I know not to take myself too seriously since anybody that reads what I’ve written, will apply their own filter on top of my filter.

This also has been a great learning tool for me because I can compare my translation to the professional translation when it comes out to see how well I’m progressing with the language.  Plus, my vocabulary, both words and kanji, is growing quickly.   The sad thing is, with a dictionary, I can translate pretty well (I’m still quite slow, but I’m getting better daily) but I have tremendous trouble producing Japanese, so it’s difficult for me to speak spontaneously.  I experienced the same thing when I was learning Spanish.  I understood what Spanish speakers were saying to me, but I could not get out anything intelligible in response out of my mouth.  Rather in both languages, I end up spitting out a bunch of words with no syntax.  Oh well, …

So You Want to Buy Some Manga

So you want to buy manga for either yourself or as a present for the winter holidays.  First of all let me say, if you know nothing about manga and arbitrarily order something over the Internet or purchase a book in the bookstore without flipping through the pages first, you could be in for a nasty surprise. There is a lot of violent, sexual, weird, and close to illegal content out there lurking under innocuous covers.  So here are some hints to steer clear “mature manga” or to identify it, if that is what you are looking for:

  1. “Hentai”  =  xxx-rated content
  2. Manga has a rating system similar to movies and video games.  This rating is usually displayed on the back of the book near the ISBN and UPC code block.  Respect this rating system because it, in my opinion, is fairly accurate.
  3. If the manga is wrapped in plastic, then it probably contains nudity and/or gory violence
  4. Some of the manga rated 13+ can be racy and/or include matters that may be morally or religiously challenging (homosexuality, incest, age inappropriate relationships, pre-marital sex, anti-Christian themes, and supernatural themes) so review the manga and make sure you are comfortable with it before gifting it to anyone under 18.

Yes, manga in the wrong hands can be downright terrifying, but there are plenty of wonderful series and one off books out there for every taste.  Here are some of my favorites:

Shoujo — manga for girls.  These manga are usually romantic in mature and focus on the relationships between people.  They can either be comedies or dramas or somewhere in between.

  • “Fruits Basket” is the #1 manga title in the US.  It starts off well and ends well, but drags in the middle.  This is a good one for the over 13 set.
  • “His and Her Circumstances” or “Kare Kano” — this is a high school romance that centers around the lives of the top two students in a high school.  This manga is a very beautiful and involved drama with some funny moments.  I recommend this for older teens and adults as it does have some sexual and violent themes.
  • Anything by Arina Tanemura (“Fullmoon wo Sagashite” (Search for a Fullmoon), “Kamikaze Kaito Jeann”, and “Gentleman’s Alliance”) — again this is one for older teens due to some sexual themes.  Besides having very engaging stories and characters, the artistry of these manga series are top notch.
  • Anything by Hino Matsuri —  “Vampire Knight” is hot both in the US and Japan.  “Meri Puri:  Marchen Prince” is nice too.  Both I recommend for folks over 16, especially Meri Puri.  Like Arina Tanemure, the artistry of these manga series is amazing.
  • “Crescent Moon” — this a good one for the younger set.  It the story of the Moonlight Bandits, jewel thieves who steal to save their world.

Shonen — manga for boys.  These manga generally focus on adventure or they are stories of a single boy in the middle of a girl harem.  Most of the girl harem manga contain “fan service” which depending upon your perspective may be quite offensive (and there are debates as to whether “fan service” runs afoul of child protection laws — so be careful).  I will steer clear of these types of manga in my recommendations.

  • “Deathnote” — a freaky manga series that was too exciting for me.  I couldn’t sleep after reading the 4th volume because I was too pumped with adrenlin.  This is a good one for older teens and adults.
  • “Full Metal Alchemist” — 13+
  • “Kekkaishi” — high school barrier masters with ghost dog side kicks 13+, my husband likes this series too.
  • “Samurai Kyo”  16+ — very violent

Good manga for everyone:

  • “Xxxholic” — despite its name, there is nothing XXX about this series.  The series contains stories akin to stories from the “Twilight Zone.”  The stories are centered around the relationship between Youko (the Time Witch) and Watanuki Kamishiro, a boy with psychic perception. 13+
  • “Tsubasa” (by Clamp) — this manga series intersects occasionally with Xxxholic and takes the characters from “Card Captor Sakura” (another wonderful manga series) and re-imagines them in a different universe.  Other Clamp characters appear in this series. 13+
  • “Crest of Stars” — this is a sci-fi epic.  It is also being novelized.  13+
  • “DNAngel” — this is like “Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne”.  I recommend this for 13+

That’s all for now.  I’ve read a lot of anything, so if you are looking for a more specific recommendation or want to ask about a series, please ask!  I’m more than eager to discuss manga.  Oh, and anime too :).

Manga Featured in the Latest Issue of Wired Magazine

Here’s a great article from Wired about decline of manga in Japan and the rise of manga all over the world.  The article discusses the types of manga and the unspoken agreement between manga publishers and doujinshi artists.  Doujinshi is like fan fiction, or manga featuring existing characters drawn by fans.  What’s interesting is that the publishers have recognized that the presence of doujinshi does not negetively impact sales of the original manga, but rather fans buy both.  It’s also interesting that the publishers see doujinshi as a means to cultivate new artists and encourage creativity.

On a side note, the buzz on the bittorrent distributions portals is that Japan has asked the US to crack down on the illegal distribution of copyrighted TV shows within the US.  I find this strangely contradictory since this is the way anime series get introduced into the US.  Since I’ve been watching, most of the popular shows (that don’t run too much afoul of an American sense of decency) get picked up by the cartoon network.  “Bleach”, “Naruto”, and “Full Metal Alchemist” come to mind.  All of these shows I watched at least 2-years prior to their US release.  (Original versions are much better due to better voice acting in Japanese and, also, the stories tend to get dumbed down and censored for American audiences.)