barbapapa July 2009

barbapapa is a core member of oceanizer's shounen scanlation group KEFI as well as an active member of the scanlation community. After oceanizer left the scanlation scene, barbapapa has been helping out groups like MangaScreener and SnoopyCool with various projects.

First of all, please introduce yourself!

barbapapa: I'm barbapapa, and that's about the only name I've ever had in the community. I'm kind of a jack of all trades, in that I've edited, proofread, QC'ed, scanned, and aim to be a translator one day. Groups I've done this for are KEFI, where my scanlating "roots" lie, so to speak; MangaScreener, SnoopyCool, Reimu and maybe a few others I can't remember helping out.

Tell us a bit about the group KEFI, what kind of group was it? How and why was it formed?

barbapapa: I think at first it was more of a side project of ocean's, who created it as a sort of a gateway to post translations or at most a few one-shots. Afterwards it became a bit more of a genuine scanlation group with the addition of some bigger names, but with it came the extra baggage of a demanding fanbase and a larger workload. So eventually, when ocean stepped down from his functions, we decided to focus on the few seinen projects we were doing at the time. Projects that would otherwise never get translated by anyone at the time; even though times are changing, there's still a lot of uncovered territory out there, but people keep dabbling in the same, moldy water.

What was working at KEFI like? Was it any different from other groups you've worked for?

barbapapa: When I joined I was surrounded by experienced people who held certain scanlation ethics high, so it was the best possible environment for a newbie like myself at the time. I learned a lot there about scanlating, not just how to edit. I think I kind of got spoiled in the groups I was a part of, in that I never really opened up to "less experienced" groups anymore, afterwards.

What's the current status of KEFI? It seems to be inactive?

barbapapa: We're still alive, technically. :p

Tell us a bit about the other groups you've been in, in particular, MangaScreener.

barbapapa: What I know from MangaScreener's history is whatever info has been passed down to me. It's a long history, of 2 eras if you will. As most of the early scanlation groups, the primary aim was to get English translated manga noticed, so it was important to do projects that have a larger target audience. One Piece, and the likes.

When the community boomed for the first time, there was an eventual shift of focus to digging for underrated and overlooked seinen manga, mostly spurred on by experienced translators who were already part of the group IIRC.

Why the name MangaScreener? What was the group's goal?

barbapapa: I think the name was a play on movie screeners, like "Read it here first."

Tell us a bit about the scene before and after you joined MangaScreener, what was the community like at the time?

barbapapa: Before MangaScreener I was already a part of several other groups, so when I joined my outlook didn't drastically change. The most important thing that only got confirmed to me by reading, and eventually working on MS projects, is that individuality, and trying to broaden your horizons is the only way to keep a hobby interesting.

There's been a huge spur of new groups that come and go who create "fast food" scanlations; a race to get the material to the readers as quickly as possible, sacrificing quality for quantity. No one really seems to know, or care what the incentive to scanlate was in the first place. Places like MangaHelpers originally had very good intentions, but they quickly became places that spurred every John Doe on to try their hand at scanlating, no matter their motivation. Uncaring whether a project was being done, legally or slightly less so by 10 groups already. In the end it became a matter of "Me, me, me, now, now, now."

How was MangaScreener perceived by others from the community?

barbapapa: I guess we became kind of an oddball group, only appreciated by a select group of readers that are into a different kind of comics; but I'd like to think we were more than that. We were a group that still held their old school values high and always aimed to look beyond what was on the surface.

What were some of the biggest roadblocks MangaScreener encountered throughout its life?

barbapapa: The same problems any group that depends on volunteers encounters—people moving on, and needing replacement to warrant a continued existence.

How was MangaScreener's relationship with manga publishers? Did the group ever get into any trouble?

barbapapa: I don't recall any issues, but there might have been some before I joined when we did more high profile series. I think once MS shifted its focus, we kind of fell of their radar. Besides, as soon as a manga got licensed by a stateside publisher, we felt our mission was completed.

Scanlation groups were pretty well organized back then, how was MangaScreener organized? Tell us about your day-to-day operation!

barbapapa: Life at MangaScreener was pretty basic. When I joined the group, we were a bunch of experienced scanlators so there were never any major complications. Scripts and scans would get posted on the FTP dump, from there on the assigned editor conjured up a chapter which received a final quality check by our main guy. After that it's release time. Everyone knew what they were doing, so it was a smooth operation.

What do you feel is MangaScreener's most popular or influential project?

barbapapa: That's very subjective. I always felt MangaScreener as a project was the most influential, to those who opened up to it; most projects we did tried to redefine what the community perceived as manga. That said, in the end it all came down to quality storytelling in places you wouldn't expect.

MangaScreener often collaborated with other groups to work on joint projects. How do joint projects come about? Since two or more groups are usually involved, how are they managed? What is your view on joint projects?

barbapapa: A joint project is a difficult situation. It's a great way of dividing the work, but if it doesn't work out (which you never know beforehand) you just wish you could just wash your hands of the entire matter. Different groups work in different ways, and a lack of communication is the worst ingredient. The only reason most joints have worked out for us in the past, is because just like in our own group, everyone knew each other and it was more like a group of friends joining efforts to promote a hobby they love.

Any MangaScreener staff not currently present that you would like to mention or talk about, for example iansmith?

barbapapa: I never knew Ian too well, as he was more in charge of ye olde MangaScreener. But flyingrobots, who took over after Ian, and ended up translating every project we did was pretty much the first person I really got to know in the group. Our taste in manga often aligned, so I always found some excuse to idle in the IRC channel before I joined and spark up a conversation. I guess, without his translations, I would've never found out about some of my all-time favorite manga. His contributions to the community are, in my opinion (and not just mine) of immense value. I don't think I've ever met anyone with his amount of dedication, and workload. But in the end he's just a guy who loves manga enough to spend countless hours on it.

MangaScreener seems to be on hiatus at the moment, what is MangaScreener's current status? What does the future hold for the group?

barbapapa: Anyone's guess really. If lightning struck twice on the same place, we might find new help, and manage to continue. There are still a few people left willing to, but I wouldn't hold your breath until something concrete is going on.

There are some "unspoken rules" in the community; for example "do not stealing other's work without permission," could you talk about what some of these rules?

barbapapa: It's more a question of ethics, than rules. I can understand if there are people that get impatient waiting for their favorite manga to be released, but more often than not those people just ignore the group that's already spent a lot of time and effort on a project, but have fallen short a staff member. Instead of simply offering to join forces, they just start their own group, and eventually face the same problems. I feel it's more illogical than wrong.

Were there any groups or individuals you particularly looked up to or liked throughout the years?

barbapapa: Shortly after I joined KEFI and felt confident enough in my own skills, I sort of made it my goal to join MangaScreener, as I looked up to their choices of manga. Luckily after a while, flyingrobots asked if I was interested in editing a new project he was working on.

What do you feel is the future for scanlation?

barbapapa: With publishers being more aggressive in their licensing choices, I feel that the quality of scanlating is only going to decline even more as people with common sense will deem it useless to start new projects. But there will always be exceptions, and hopefully a new batch of scanlators will make the stage and manage to find those hidden lumps of gold everyone seems to have walked passed.

Alright, let's wrap this up, what are some of your favorite scanlation groups or projects you have followed over the years?

barbapapa: To be honest, 80% of what I read was MangaScreener stuff, before and after I joined. I've kind of fallen off the radar because most of what's still being scanlated just doesn't thrill me anymore. I am however quite looking forward to Viz' Ikki Signature line-up. If you were ever a fan of MangaScreener or groups that did similar manga, you can't pass up this opportunity to read these unique series.