Binky July 2009

Binky is a staff member of Binktopia, a speedscan group formed in 2006 that scanlated popular Weekly Shounen manga like Naruto and Bleach. In 2007, when Binktopia merged with MangaShare, Binky became an administrator at MangaShare, and later accepted the role of a global moderator for the site.

Please introduce yourself!

Binky: I am Binky, a creature almost as useless offline as I am on. I was chronologically the third member of the Binktopian scanlation group and consistently amongst the least useful. Over the years I have cleaned, typeset and proofread, though the last of the three is the only thing I'd ever dare consider myself reasonable at. Since 2007, I have also been on the staff at MangaShare, first as an administrator and now as a global moderator. I can tie my own shoelaces.

Tell us a bit about Binktopia, what kind of group is it? When was it formed? Why? And where did the name Binktopia come from?

Binky: Binktopia was formed in early 2006, on a forum of the same name. The original intention of Binktopia had nothing to do with scanlation, or indeed, even manga, as I myself had only just started reading my first manga—Bleach—and had not a clue about the scanlation scene (some/most/all would argue I still don't... They'd also be right). Rather, the forum was created for its own sake, as a kind of "collection" of people I'd encountered on other forums and developed a worshipful admiration for. One of these people was thatbabo, who I'd encountered on Club Bleach, my first dalliance with the manga community. Previously thatbabo had been part of a group called Rei-Buntai (which has been at points an addendum to or synonym of the Binktopia name and was even briefly a sort of partner group.) which released subbed Bleach episodes for the PSP. After this ended due to a lack of manpower, thatbabo and glorious translator king Mankai decided they'd like to try their hand at scanlation instead, and using the Binktopia forums as a base, the first scanlations were released...

The origin of the Binktopia name is either lost in time or I simply suffer from early onset senility. Given that it seems like a placename, it fitted in with my original notion of the forum as a sort of online nation filled with largely incomprehensible (and often reprehensible) individuals. It became attached to the scanlation process simply by fluke, as people came on, got the scans and sometimes left messages along the lines of "thanks Binktopia" (or Blinktopia, or—my personal favourite—Bintopia), and over time... It just kind of stuck.

Tell us a bit about the scene back when Binktopia was first launched, what was it like?

Binky: With Bleach, there were already two excellent and fairly prompt groups in [Ju-Ni] and M7, but we released quicker, though with admittedly poorer quality. I don't believe this was a conscious decision, either to step on the toes of two pre-existing groups, or to aim at a gap in the "market" by producing a speed scanlation, it all just kind of happened. The initial members were Bleach fans, so Bleach was an obvious choice, and the lack of initial knowledge on scanlation techniques meant that releasing with vast quality was not really the logical way to start.

By the time we entered the larger pond of the manga community, we (by we, I mean thatbabo and Vitron...) had already progressed to a level of cleaning that differentiated us somewhat from the very fastest "groups," who at the time were often not groups at all, but single individuals using the first RAWs that came out, regardless of quality. My recollection of things was that Binktopia hovered in between these two sections of the community, the larger HQ groups and the smaller, but less picky LQ speed groups. Our goal was then, as it is now, to release scanlations of good and readable quality without sacrificing a huge amount of speed, and it is a goal that generally has been successfully met.

When Binktopia first got into the scanlation business, how was it received by others from the community?

Binky: The reception was generally positive. Binktopia was of course fairly unknown for quite a while, releasing on an obscure forum, without direct downloads and only really spreading the word through forums Binktopia members happened to frequent. Nevertheless, this build-up, however slow, did introduce us to some truly cool people, oppsmk and Silhouette, Moridin and First Hokage...

What were some of the biggest roadblocks Binktopia encountered throughout its life? Did it run into any trouble with publishers?

Binky: Every scanlation group has ebbs and flows, often related to the offline lives of its members and the time they are able to commit to the group. Needless to say, this is perfectly understandable, and a natural part of any online endeavour. Twice this has nearly led to the dissolution of the group; once in late 2006 and another time much more recently. Both times we were saved by the timely intervention of awesome people, and both times went from strength to strength. I suppose that's how fortune plays a part in the progress of a scanlation group, Binktopia has been lucky enough to have people who can pull things out of the fire and have done. The most recent Binktopia existence failure was staved off by the efforts of Fletcher, fxu and zidane, who deserve a ticker-tape parade in all honesty (They won't get one though, that money is going towards an ostrich farm...).

How is Binktopia organized? What is it like running the group? Tell us about your day-to-day operations!

Binky: Binktopia currently has four administrators: Fletcher, fxu, thatbabo and zidane, all of whom are in the "can do it all" category of cleaners and keep things really ticking over. Cleaners select their own pages to complete, which goes a long way towards streamlining the organisational side of things. Binktopia has a tiered school with four levels and new tutorials at each level, which has already produced loads of great new members and can hopefully be further improved so that those who come out perfectly understand how things operate and can do anything required.

In your opinion, what were Binktopia's most popular or most influential projects throughout the years and why?

Binky: Well, Bleach was the start, both for old Binktopia, and for blood-scanlations, who were one of the constituent groups (alongside bludshock, which I believe consisted solely of the eponymous and great blud himself) of the MangaShare scanlation team and in turn the current iteration of Binktopia, which I'd say is fairly important. But in overall terms, I imagine Naruto has had a more significant impact on the reputation of the group and the way it is perceived.

Any Binktopia staff not currently present that you'd like to mention or talk about?

Binky: Everyone? Sorry, sorry, I realise that's a naff cop-out way to answer a question, but we've had a great many great members, and given my own persistent irrelevance, any attempt by myself to categorise them by importance would be a bit cheeky.

What's the deal between Binktopia and MangaShare? How and why did the two merge?

Binky: The primary reason was redundancy. MangaShare at the time was the name of both the MS website, and the attached scanlation group thereof. MangaShare basically covered a very similar range of series to Binktopia, and were operating with similar expectations with regard to speed and quality. In truth, it simply made perfect sense, the new group had more personnel and resources, had less competition for shared projects and—thanks to projects that were not shared between the groups—had an increased project portfolio. Importantly for me personally, MangaShare had the capability to provide direct downloads of Binktopia releases (and now has online reading in addition to this), which was something I'd tried and largely failed to provide. It takes commitment—extreme commitment—of time, effort and yes, money, to make a site of that magnitude work, and the staff there have done an exceptional job.

Quite beside their maintenance of an excellent website, to a large degree the MangaShare and Binktopia staff are consanguineous, and people like blud, Woofcat, Asce, zidane, fxu, gin0va, damnz, Archiel, [DFX], thsv, ImotoChan and Mass Zero have done huge amounts for both Binktopia and for MangaShare... (And breathe... *gasp*)

Any memorable story about Binktopia you'd like to share with the readers?

Binky: Nothing springs to mind that wouldn't see me being hunted down and getting my arm broken by someone disgruntled at my divulging of state secrets. I'll have to pass, and while I do apologise profusely, that's preferable to the profuse bleeding I'd be doing if I did blab.

Over the years the community has changed a lot, what's your view on the "old" versus "new" and "speed" versus "quality" debate that come up every now and then?

Binky: It's up to the readers really, the nature of it is that those groups which fulfill the desires of readers will prosper, by whatever definition of the term prosper you feel is most appropriate for a scanlation group; number of website hits, number of downloads, being well known, being well considered, etc. In a sense I do feel that those groups which release consistently high-quality are often undervalued in favour of faster groups, as the reader bases of many series understandably want to know what has happened as quickly as possible. In general, I do still think that people know that the likes of M7 and JapFlap are out there, doing their glorious work and being among the premiere sources of chapters to archive (And if they didn't already know that... I've just told you, so go look them up).

In the past there have been conflicts between NarutoFan/BleachExile and Binktopia, care to give a brief summary of the incidents from your point of view?

Binky: Scanlation groups work for free as a general rule, naturally, there's going to be a degree of conflict when a scanlation group discovers that a website that charges members for the privilege of downloading material that is available for free elsewhere are making use of their scanlations to make money for the site owners. Take this, add a dash of credit page removal, then a few nonsensical accusations and you get a full blown e-drama. Following this, Binktopia applied watermarks to their scanlations for quite a while as a means of prevention.

It seems like in recent years there have been many small speedscan groups, and manga like Naruto are usually scanlated by 5+ groups at once, how do you feel about this trend of smaller speed groups?

Binky: It's simply easier to start up with a small number of people than it is to be a monolithic institution from the get-go and likewise, for those finding their feet as cleaners, it's rather difficult to dive right in releasing HQ scanlations. Ultimately, it would be a problem if the very high quality groups were being driven out or whatever, but as that isn't the case, it's simply an interesting trend rather than a problematic one. That said, I think the case of Binktopia does show that sometimes merging with groups focused on similar series (as is very often the case with groups with shounen projects) can be highly beneficial.

What do you feel is the future for scanlation?

Binky: I would guess something similar to what is currently just starting with anime, Viz now release Naruto not long after it airs and now Dattebayo no longer sub Naruto. If such a thing were to happen with manga as well, the obsolescence of scanlation may be at hand.

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

Binky: For operating in similar spheres as Binktopia, and for doing it with extreme quality (not to mention style and panache), vast props go to the likes of M7, JapFlap and [Ju-Ni]. For doing series that take my fancy, and for likewise possessing a surfeit of style and doing them well, my props go to groups like CxC Scans, Bakayarou, ryColaa, the J.A.C. Group... This is really another of those cases where the list could go on forever.

Thank you for your time! Any last words?

Binky: Er... Er... Um... Thank you...? :)