BigVinny July 2009

BigVinny is a member of the group Solaris-SVU. BigVinny joined Solaris-SVU around 2004 to help the group finish a series he was reading, and has since taken up responsibilities within the group, including translating, editing and quality checking.

Please introduce yourself!

BigVinny: My alias is BigVinny (leaves no imagination to what my real first name is), I've been working for Solaris-SVU for about 5 years now, first as a translator, now I do mostly scan, gather scan, QC, and some edit.

Tell us a bit about Solaris-SVU, what kind of group is it? When did it start? Why and how did you join the group?

BigVinny: Solaris-SVU is originally an offshoot of Solaris (in early 2004, I believe), which you can find more about it on our website, The group was founded by three folks who no longer actively participate in any current projects. Our current leader is Gari, who is the backbone of our group, as well as the person who dictates our style and themes. Solaris-SVU was originally meant to be a channel for risky (read: more adult-oriented) projects, and formed around the time I joined in. In the end, Solaris-SVU assumed the role of Solaris, and further expanded as Solaris-H has been created afterwards (I have my fingerprint on the "-H" part, LOL).

I was once a reader who infrequently dropped by to download some Lilim Kiss. After I started to read Ai-Ren, I couldn't stop reading that series. Then the inevitable question came (and something most people asked at some point): "Why did my favorite series stop?" In this case, it was Ai-Ren, and upon finding out that the series was in need of a translator, I volunteered myself to help out the series. Little did I know about translating... sigh...

When you first began scanlating, what was the scanlation community like? How was Solaris-SVU received by the community?

BigVinny: There were already some well-established (and well-respected) groups, such as MangaProjects, SnoopyCool and ShoujoMagic. We were considered a newcomer with a smaller staff body and smaller scale projects, even during the Solaris period.

When Solaris was working on Lilim Kiss, we (before my time as a scanlator) were in competition with Manga Coalition, and were considered inferior in terms of overall polish, not unlike many of the current speed-scanlators.

A major change that I noticed in the last three years is the explosion of speed-scanlators consisting of one member group, lacking distribution route, such as IRC channel or their own website (not a blog site). Inversely, there are less so-called "major" groups that have stuck around this business on a consistent basis for a long time (about 3+ years). Some of the old major groups I mentioned are no longer active, and currently we are few of the remaining "newer" major group. That, and none of our projects are no longer in competition with other groups, as Gari pointed out, that it would be a waste of anyone's resource to devote on same the project.

Why the name Solaris-SVU? Also, why is the site's URL as opposed to something like

BigVinny: "Solaris" is something those three founders came up with; I'm not too sure of their reasoning (maybe from Sci-Fi novels they read, just sounded cool? I don't know). "-SVU" stands for "Special Vanguard Unit," which was created as an offshoot to expand the creativity of newer staff members (for the type of series that I mentioned earlier). URL might have something to do with Ran, as she is the original host mistress. I am guessing that either or might've been taken already, or too expensive to obtain the rights of those URL. Either way, I believe our URL gets the point across well enough.

What were some of the biggest roadblocks you and the group faced? Did you get in trouble with any publishers or copyright issues?

BigVinny: Personally, my biggest roadblocks are the moments I'm translating every chapter (translating Ippo would be cut and dry, but most of Tanaka Yutaka's poetry narrations are a big pain), and times my Internet gets cut off during the time I move. This leads to the group roadblocks whenever Gari drops out of the face of the planet due to his frequent moving, changing ISP providers, etc... He really is the indispensible person in this group, so just about everything stops while he is inactive on Internet.

Another roadblock we encountered were lack of dependable editors. Too often, many newcomers dropped by in hope to edit, but they quickly realize just how time consuming this hobby is and most of them drops out after a few chapters. I pretty much start off with sarcastic tone nowadays whenever someone asks around the channel to be an editor, because I'm just not sure of how dependable they will be.

We have yet to face any problem with publishers (*knock knock*), because our policy is to drop the project once it becomes licensed in North America, no ifs, ands or buts. Many readers voiced in our forum about that policy and some pointed out that they do not live in the same area as us, hence do not see the point of our policy. However, we repeated over and over that we will not change that policy as most of the staff live in North America, and stepping into the publishers' toe is no way of respecting the series we love. That and I buy books with my limited budget (over 100 volumes in Japanese copy).

How was Solaris-SVU organized? What was it like running the group? Tell us about your day-to-day operations!

BigVinny: Solaris-SVU has one leader, with multiple personnel underneath specializing their projects, etc. Gari would be the project coordinator who oversees who will take care of which part of which series. Most of our project decisions are done in our staff channel (private), and the staff who completed their tasks will submit their work for revision, quality check. Once it's all finalized, Gari will update the website with a file host link, and a short announcement to let people know that a new chapter has been posted.

Some of our regular readers are involved in scanlation database sites, such as Baka-Updates, so they take care of the announcement on their end. We were happy that one of our readers donated a serverbot to host our entire archive, so that is updated at the same time as well (also by Gari).

Most of our regular staff are not involved in administration duty, so they are mostly inactive other than working on their tasks (translating, editing, etc.). I'm just one of those nosy people who pays too much attention to the channel and the forum, so I was also given a duty to moderate the channel and the forum to clean up the place once in awhile (and get cranky).

What do you feel is Solaris-SVU's most popular or influential project?

BigVinny: Most popular project? That would be Umi no Misaki (hands down). The most influential project... is probably Bitter Virgin. A series from Gari's favorite mangaka that is different from her usual mold.

Did Solaris-SVU collaborate with other groups often? How do joint projects usually come about? Since two or more groups are usually involved, how are they managed? What's your view on joint projects?

BigVinny: Majority of our projects are solo, with notable exception being Umi no Misaki. Some projects become joint-project out of necessity or lack of resource from the original group, as Ai-Ren was originally a KMTS project, but became a joint-project as an editor and a translator were sponsored by Solaris-SVU.

In case of Umi no Misaki, we originally did not have any intention of it becoming a joint-project as we have in-group staff at all levels, from the scanner (not hunted from raw scan sources, such as Winny/Share) to the editor. But as we caught up to the tankoubon, we realized that some speed-scanlation groups might use magazine source (often tens of chapters ahead of tankobon) and create a nasty competition. In the end, we took up on an offer from a group to form a joint-project for magazine sourced chapters in order to keep other groups at bay, and replace them with tankoubon sourced chapters in-group later on.

The management of joint-projects is mostly done by the leader of each group, divide the roles of each group, and supervise jointly. The timing of the release has to be done together, so sometimes the release is delayed due to miscommunication or lack thereof. Since all decisions are not done in-group, there is more cause for friction, hence why the joint-project rarely lasts though the entirety of the project. Some of our series are in collaboration with a staff from other groups, but as a guest, not as a joint-project (such as Momoiro Sango, one of editors are from Morally Bankrupt Translation).

Any memorable stories about Solaris-SVU you would like to share with the readers?

BigVinny: When I was translating Ai-Ren back in late 2004, I didn't have Internet for awhile, so any time I sent my script to p00k (editor), I had to use my school's computer lab. Consequently, I had to open up the chapter he sent me back to review it. If you know anything about Ai-Ren, there's plenty of nudity (as with all of Tanaka Yutaka's works). I remember trying to picking out the computer station far remote from the central location to avoid peeping from other students and helpers. I had to frequently switch my task to make sure they don't catch me looking at nudity, or face some serious penalty. I sweated out many times (but never managed to write this ridiculous situation on ranting space). Not to mention that Ai looks rather young. A double whammy. LOL.

Is there anything about scanlating you'd like to talk about that is not commonly known or misunderstood by people?

BigVinny: It's not as simple as typing out stuff on word bubbles using MS Paint (although a certain someone *wink* has done it out of spite on purpose). It certainly helps to be able to use a versatile program such as Adobe Photoshop, but not knowing is not a deal breaker.

There are some guides out there to assist on editing, but like everything else, nothing beats the hands-on approach of tinkering and experimenting on your own. I practiced editing using raw scans of Ai Yori Aoshi (no, I was not involved in releasing that series at any point) before working on the real release (Kyoukasho ni Nai).

Not all series are translated from a Japanese source. While most are done correctly enough, subtle notes are lost in most cases. I remember reading from our forum that someone raised objection over one of our Umi no Misaki chapter and Gari had to spend some time to counter using the original text. Nothing beats the original.

There are some "unspoken rules" in the community; for example "do not steal someone else's work without permission," could you talk about what some of these rules are and their purpose?

BigVinny: Stealing other group's project is probably the cardinal sin #1. While it is easy to decide on what project to work on, the decision seldom comes to fruition on its own (if you are expecting some quality work). It takes many days of hard work from many people, and it also symbolizes their ideal series and their group theme in many cases. Therefore, when some group (nowadays, some one-man-group) steals away that project, often done in order to achieve a quick fame, it marginalizes all the hard works done by the original group, and discourages them from searching out something new, knowing that their hard work might be for naught if it becomes popular enough.

Other rules that I can think of is not to poach staff from other groups. It creates so much animosity between the former and later groups, and many others who are not directly involved are affected by it. I've heard of a few stories of how staff poaching broke groups apart and split factions trying to take over each other.

Another one is to respect the staff from other groups. Since they understand the hardship of continuing well enough, most staff do give a certain amount of respect to each other. Not all of them play nice though, and those are quickly cut off from other groups and receive no support during hard times.

Were there any groups or individuals you particularly looked up to or liked throughout the years? What are some of your favorite scanlation groups or projects you have followed over the years?

BigVinny: Probably MangaProject. They are the trendsetter and guideline to other groups that followed after. They are the first on in my mind that seek for original series, with diversity and truly got all the fundamentals of scanlation (translation with script flow, editing with multiple fonts and various effect, and quality check). That and I love their scanlation of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.

Next group on my mind is Kotonoha. I think they inherited the spirit of MP, and perfected all aspects of scanlation, albeit on a smaller scale. Kotonoha seems to have a knack for picking out one quality series after another... Something I really admire.

What's the future for Solaris-SVU? And what do you feel is the future for scanlation in general?

BigVinny: Future of Solaris-SVU is solid as long as Gari is willing to be here. Once he retires and moves on, I'm not sure. At the moment, we do not have a replacement leader of his capability, nor did we seriously think about finding a replacement. If one of the staff rises to fill his shoes, Solaris-SVU might move on to the future, but if not, we might retire as many groups have done before us.

As for the future of scanlation, it is solid for now. Due to the meltdown of the anime and manga industries of the past few years, it became harder to find quality series being licensed as of late. As a result, scanlation appears to be thriving. Some of the one-man groups will consolidate into a solid group and pick up the slack left by the groups of old as it has been done before. Digital printing has yet to materialize after all these years, so scanlation will hang around for a few more years without much change. The only thing that can change scanlation overnight is C&D, but I have yet to see that happening, and many series are unlikely to become licensed.

Thank you for your time! Any last words?

BigVinny: Kana's boobies got bigger! Hurray! Thank you for interviewing me ^^.