Manga Editor on Scanlations Then and Now

Justin Stroman interviewed Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, former Tokyopop editor (and co-founder of Chromatic Press), who comments on her history with Tokyopop, why manga isn’t often available legitimately digitally, how online surveys don’t match sales figures, and what publishers can do about scanlation sites.

She’s been involved with manga professionally for ten years and longer as a fan, so she’s got a good take on how access to the material has developed, from bootleg tape trading to digital downloading. Here’s one set of compare and contrast:

“People wouldn’t have known about Fruits Basket as even an option if it weren’t for things like scanlations and fansubs. It’s very clear that those built a level of awareness for some of these early properties in the marketplace at the time and they still do.”

“The frustrating thing about Gakuen Alice was that at the time — 2010, 2011 — it was the third or fourth most popular series on MangaFox. There were literally millions of people reading that series every month. And not even a fraction of them were actually buying the book…. it was incredibly frustrating to see that there was all these people enjoying an inferior and mediocre product and we have something that we really want them to enjoy and get excited about, and they weren’t doing it.”

“So I think that kind of fan feedback that had existed when I was first getting into the fandom and then into the industry has been completely disconnected, both by internet culture in general and by the nature of the aggregator sites, which, they’re not even connected to specific scanlation groups.”

What do you think? Has the nature of online fandom and sharing changed? She also addresses fans becoming pros:

There’s a lot of translators, at least there were, I assume this is still the case that we’re coming out of, the fansub community, there’s a lot of editors who were coming out of the scanlation community. Both editing and translating are kind of apprenticeship positions where you can be a Japanese major and sort of learn the language but the way you get good at sort of the nuance of translating things that are colloquial which is by practice, there’s kind of a learning process. Textbook Japanese and what people use in real life VS Japanese that people use in anime and manga. And you kinda have to practice that and the scanlations and fansub community is one way to get that experience. And there’s definitely a recognition, or certainly a tacit recognition, in the industry, that these people who are really passionate about the media they’re working on, they really care about the quality, so they make good employees.

There’s a lot more in the interview from a very smart woman, so definitely check it out.

1 Comment

  1. It is sort of infuriating to see the same industry decisions that were made with MP3s being repeated with every other media type. Especially coupled in this case with the “josei/indie don’t sell” truism, because I think they are linked.

    I think there are a lot of grown up manga fans who are perfectly capable and willing to plunk down the ebook price but don’t necessarily want the physical books. The Bride Story hard covers are beautiful but I’d rather have the kindle version. That goes double for the gender-coded hot pink Karikuri Odette covers Tokyopop put out.

    We’ve seen several publisher specific apps appear and disappear taking the purchased content with them. Several ask invasive questions that are obviously pure market research but are functionally a barrier to the step between the impulse to buy and the point where I give them money.

    I’m really glad VIZ has made some titles available on kindle because I’d balked at the amount of personal info their own app wanted before they’d let me pay them.

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