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Mainichi Manga - Scanlation vs. Published

What are Scanlations

The word scanlation comes from a combination of scan and translation. Scanlations are fan-translated manga. Fans usually acquire the original manga pages from magazines, scan them, and translate them. Not to mention cleaning up and typesetting the pages. Scanlations have made manga much more accessible to people who would otherwise not be able to read it.

At first, scanlations were viewed positively because they brought attention to manga and got people to buy the official published work. Many groups take down their work if it gets licensed by a publisher. However, there are some that continue after a license is announced. This is sometimes done so that people don't have a long wait time to be caught up with a story. The major current problem is that aggregator sites that host thousands of manga are widely available and they generally don't take down work even if it gets licensed. Even if a scanlation group asks that their translations not be shared anywhere and even if they take their files down, there's no way to prevent them ending up on aggregator sites. Most scanlation groups are still well meaning, and it's the aggregator sites that pose the largest threat.

Reading manga on aggregator sites that's been licensed and is available to buy is harmful to publishers because people are reading free scanlations instead of buying the official work. If you read stories that aren't licensed or are extremely hard to get copies of, it's not nearly as bad. There are countless stories that will never be translated and fan translations are the only way to have access to them, apart from learning Japanese and buying manga from Japan. It's still better to find the scanlation groups themselves to download from, especially with many of them not wishing for their work to be redistributed.

Differences Between Scanlated and Published Manga

If you aren't convinced to buy officially published manga, you may be interested to know the differences between the quality found in scanlations and the quality of manga made by publishers. There are certainly some scanlation groups that do professional level work that may be just as good as or favorable over the official translations, but that is far from the majority.

Listed below are some of the differences that can often be found between scanlations and published manga. You can always look through our collection of manga to compare for yourself.

Scanlations Published
Overall Page Quality The page scans that scanlation groups use may not be entirely clear, high quality. This becomes more likely if reading on an aggregator site. There may also be watermarks on the pages. The pages in published manga are always the highest, clearest quality they can be and are provided by the original publishers.
Cleaning and Typesetting Some scanlation groups do excellent cleaning and typesetting. Many others fall very short. There may be noticeable problems with the cleaning on the pages, including areas colored over white. Typesetting may be lacking in the placement and sizing, and the fonts used may not be the best choices. More and more, publishers are being given pages that are already clear of the original Japanese so that they don't have to clear it off. Even if they still have to, they do high quality cleaning. Typesetting is never a problem, with good placement, sizing, and font choice.
Level of Detail Some people may not be aware that mangaka go back through their work when it's about to be made into a tankobon (volume) and add details. Most of the chapters that scanlation groups use are from magazines before there is added detail. You may be missing out on details when you read scanlations. One positive side is that sometimes chapters have a front color page or pages, and the only time they're printed in color is in magazines. The pages that publishers use are the final, complete versions that have all corrections made and details added. The front pages that were in color in the magazines are printed in black and white. There may be one color page at the beginning of the book. A bonus in place of not having color pages is the inclusion of extra pages or whole chapters. Mangaka may add pages that are only published in the tankobons.
Translations Some fan translations are very well done and may be preferred over official translations that may come out later. Part of this may be because there is more familiarity with the first translation read. There are some fan translations that truly rival official translations. As with other aspects, this is something that isn't done so well in many cases. There can be translations that have multiple noticeable problems and may be so bad that they are hard to read smoothly. Except for a few minor mistakes that might be spotted rarely, official translations are professional level. Some people may view an official translation as worse than a fan translation because they prefer the other wording used. There are always multiple ways to translate the same words, especially between two very differing languages. The original Japanese publishers also have a large say in how everything is handled for the entire process of publishing.
Consistency While there are manga series that are consistently translated by the same group, others change hands and are subjected to differences in how they are handled. There may be noticeable differences in translations, especially for important words or recurring phrases, changes in how sound effects are handled, and changes in the fonts used. Sound effects can be left without translations, leave the Japanese and have English equivalents either written next to them or small and off to the side, or have the Japanese removed and replaced with English. Unless a publishing company closes and another takes a series over where they left off, there is no need to worry about the consistency of the manga they publish. They make sure to use the same words for recurring phrases and the same spellings for names and other important words. It's almost unheard of for a publisher to change the way they handle sound effects, and they never change the base set of fonts they use.