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Why Scanlations Should be Used Sparingly

Updated on October 26, 2010

If you're an avid reader of manga translated into English, then you're probably familiar with scanlation, but, for those of you who don't know, it's the practice of taking scans of an original Japanese (or any language, really) comic and translating them to another language by modifying the text in the scanned images themselves.

The translations can vary in accuracy and quality widely, depending on how fluent the translator is in Japanese (or in the target language)--though this is true even of official translations, but that's another story.

Scanlations are insanely popular, but there are several things wrong with the practice. Here, I will guilt-trip about them.


Scanlations reduce the need for a person to buy something when it does come out officially.

If you've already read something, are you really in a rush to buy it when it finally does officially come out? If so, are you really in as much of a rush as you were to download the scanlation that came out months or years earlier?


Less sales leads to less legitimate licensing--that which ultimately indirectly pays actual producers of material.

Scanlations will always be out there, even after something is licensed.

You can argue until you're blue in the face that scanlation is fine so long as the scanlation group stops distributing the scanlation when a manga is officially licensed, but you're living in a fantasy world if you think this will do much. After release, scanlations quickly get picked up by other manga-aggregating sites and get spread around by people. There's no way every last copy of a scanlation file can be tracked down and deleted. It doesn't matter that the original source of the file dried up and won't distribute it; every copy of that file is a new source. It hardly makes a difference.

It's copyright infringement.

Really, who cares that this is technically illegal? That's the least of our worries.

More importantly, it's the notion that you're helping other infringe on the intellectual property rights of the very person (or people) who produced your beloved manga. You're denying ownership to exactly who made that manga possible in the first place.

That just feels distasteful to think about.

Scanlations facilitate people not learning Japanese.

Really, you should just learn Japanese anyway.

Don't you hate sitting around, begging for some group or another to translate something already because you're dying to know what's happening next, even though the raws (or the original source material) has already been out for days or weeks or months? Wouldn't it be better if you could just buy the manga magazine the day it comes out and read the comic yourself as-is?

Sound like a dream? It doesn't have to be. (Really, trust me, it's not as hard as some people say.) Scanlations have the sad tendency to perpetuate fans of largely Japanese material not being able to read the freaking material, not even a smidgen, not even a little. There will be the few main translators in scanlation circles who can read the material, but the vast majority of the fanbase--even very, very hardcore fans--can't read real Japanese for beans and only know how to type a couple of words in romaji to throw into their fan fictions like fashionable French.

And what about the stuff that will never be scanlated, that isn't popular enough, like very obscure doujinshi that no one but you cares about?

Seriously, if you're a big fan of anime and it bothers you that this or that scanlation isn't out yet and you're irritated that the translators are slacking, learn Japanese!

Hopefully, these reasons will convince you to use scanlations sparingly, or only in conjunction with material you've already purchased. Of course, it's your choice, though, I'm just here to question your rationalizations.


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    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Lady Wordsmith 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Fantastic hub. I do wholeheartedly agree with you, though I have never read a single Manga comic or anything like one. However, I am about to start learning Japanese (I'm just waiting for the application that I've chosen to be available on Macs!), so that I can converse with my brother who does speak a little. But about the whole copyright infringement thing: that's just reason enough for me to take against scanlations (which I'd never heard of until now - thanks for educating me). I feel the same about pirate copies of films - I get very angry about that particular issue. People don't seem to realise that they're preventing the money from going to the people who will make the films they want to enjoy in the future. Just plain stupid!

      Sorry, I'm going on a bit. I'll shut up. Only meant to say that your hub is very good.


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