GGpX July 2009

GGpX is currently the leader of Illuminati-Manga, a scanlation group created in 2005 by members of the StopTazmo forum:

Illuminati-Manga was founded in fall 2005 for the purpose of bringing manga that has been dropped to the fans. We began on the Gantz forum of and quickly grew from there. Our primary project has always been Gantz, though we have many others. We're always open to suggestions for new projects and are always looking for new staff members.

Although originally more of a speedscan group, Illuminati-Manga evolved into a seinen-oriented group with an emphasis on offbeat and stylish series, much like Omanga and MangaScreener.

Please introduce yourself!

GGpX: Hi. I'm GGpX from the group Illuminati-Manga. I'm the leader of the group. I've been with the group since its first week of existence, essentially. I didn't found the group, though. I'm a "do-everything" type of guy. I translate (French -> English), I typeset, I QC, and I scan. I occasionally edit. I say occasionally because I am not really a very good editor, just ask any of the main Editors in my group, and they'll agree whole-heartedly... jerks.

Tell us a bit about Illuminati-Manga, what kind of group is it? How and why was it created?

GGpX: Illuminati-Manga is a group that is aimed more towards adult series, more on the violent side. That being said, if we find a series that's aimed at teenagers that we'd enjoy scanlating, we'll do it. We're not restricting ourselves to certain perimeters. The important thing is, we do series that we enjoy.

We're a group that has always worked from IRC with an FTP and a forum to post translations.

We also scanlate series in good quality by our own standards. We do not rate or scale our releases based on a silly system. People throw out the terms "low quality (LQ)," "medium quality (MQ)," "high quality (HQ)" around like confetti at a wedding, to the point that people in general seem to not know what LQ/MQ/HQ really is. I want to be able to read chapters I've released and say "This looks good, I like this." Sure, our early releases weren't all that good, but that's the price of making a new group filled with clueless people who know just as much as the next...

Illuminati-Manga was born from the StopTazmo (ST) forums in early November 2005. The co-founders were coolerimmortal and Seal_Broken. We had some old(er) ST members join like sueil, BakaOne, Deus_Gear, Volvogga, martyr3810, coolpuprocks, and some others. We were created for the purpose of scanlating the Gantz Manual. As time goes on, we're drifting further and further away from the initial goal of this group. But who knows, maybe one day we'll get to it.

Our first release was on November 11th, 2005. Every year we have our anniversary to celebrate the fact that we actually made it through another year. We usually try to have a few releases for the leechers.

A little bit of history. We started out like a lot of modern small and shitty groups. We'd start by scanlating the most popular stuff. We started to recruit staff by working on the weekly Gantz chapters in the magazines. Someone approached us and offered us a site to host our releases if we'd scanlate Naruto exclusively for his site to host. We figured, sure, why not, we've got time to kill in-between chapters, and we can try to recruit more cleaners to increase the release speed and eventually pick up more projects. So we agreed. Funny thing is, we never received the server to host our releases, but at the same time someone offered us hosting, but we still picked up Naruto and scanlated it. Something got lost in translation, but oh well.

Another thing that got lost in translation... in-between weeks while waiting for the latest chapter, the lead Cleaner, sueil, decided to get people to clean the previous week's chapter of One Piece as practice. So eventually... somewhere along the line, someone translated it, someone typeset & someone released it. So that was our one and only One Piece chapter.

So it was decided that for newer projects, we'd pick up series that were inactive with the group that was scanlating it for at least 6 months OR they had announced they had dropped the project. That's how we picked up series like Elfen Lied, Shonan Jun'ai Gumi and Full Metal Panic.

Once we got some more stable staff, we let the more active staff choose projects themselves as long as they could find the staff for it. At this point, at the beginning of January 2006, I had taken a break from scanlating so I could focus on school. About two months into school, I found myself bored as hell during the night, so I came back. I saw people picking up projects left and right, without any real standards to anything. Seriously, if some of you saw our Neon Genesis Evangelion releases, you would puke. Literally. They would make JanimeS's releases look like something blessed by God.

So I took control, in a way. coolerimmortal wasn't really putting that much time into the group, and Seal_Broken was MIA. A lot of the staff that had previously joined had left. Probably due to the fact that we hadn't been releasing Naruto all that much, we had a staff shortage for the amount of projects we had.

We progressively recruited some staff and pumped out releases. Eventually cooler retired officially from the group and left me as the official leader. The group got steady and well for a few months. My own personal policy was I'll never force anyone to do anything. We are doing this for free, on our free time, for our own enjoyment. But if you agree to do something for me, I'll expect it done by the date I gave you unless you warn me ahead of time. I still use this policy to this day.

Come February 2007, my parents cut the Internet because there were money problems. I wasn't warned. So for 3 months, I was MIA without anyone knowing about it. Worst, somewhere in the middle my computer's HDD died and I had to get it replaced. So all of the PSD files I had, all of the work I had done and work I had kept from people that wasn't on the FTP were gone. I come back early May and the group is at its low point. All of the staff minus 3–4 active people is gone. Some of them left to start their own group (which has since become defunct) and some just quit altogether. I think illiteracy, one of my best friends in scanlations, was the only remaining Editor in the group at the time. We did what we could with what we had. Somehow, we got an influx of staff over time and the group started stabilizing and some people started coming back and being active again.

As time went on, I started to change my attitude towards running a group. Instead of being more of a "Releasing is important" type of guy, I became more of a "The work environment is more important than releasing" type of guy. In the sense that I was more interested in making a good, friendly environment where the staff members could take it easy and not think about scanlating all the time. Where you could just have fun for a whole night without thinking in the back of your mind about that chapter you had to clean or typeset.

I started to kick and force out some of the people who had bad attitudes. In general, they all had this in common: their attitudes sucked, they didn't seem to be interested in scanlating and they always seem to have a reason for being moody and not wanting to scanlate. I didn't care if this might make the scanlations come out at a slower pace; it was a necessary sacrifice.

So for the last two years, the group has been running well. We never have enough staff, but even when we're lacking staff, we find a way to get things done. As I'm writing this, Illuminati-Manga has slightly over 800 chapters (not including Omakes, v2's and v3's like some groups do) released, and we're aiming to have 1,000 total chapters released by the end of 2009.

Why the name Illuminati-Manga?

GGpX: Hehe, honestly, I'm not sure. I think that at the time they (coolerimmortal, Seal_Broken, sueil) were picking out a name, they had this sort of obsession with Dan Brown's Angels & Demons novel, and the name Illuminati came from there.

When Illuminati-Manga was first formed, it scanlated manga like Gantz...would you consider Illuminati-Manga to be one of the many speed groups from back then?

GGpX: Probably, yeah. The group itself had a different idea for what it wanted to be from what I had. It was more of a "Get it out as soon as possible" mentality whereas I was more toward trying to get quality releases out. But, like I said before... This is pretty much what you get when you put together a bunch of clueless people. If you check our releases, we didn't have any Quality Checkers until mid-2006.

So, what was it like being a speedscan group and later a quality-oriented non-speed group? What was the transition like? Also, is there anything about a speedscan group that outsiders don't normally know about or understand?

GGpX: Well, back when we were a speedscan group, a lot of things were rushed (especially the magazine cleans), everybody takes their time and makes sure to do it properly to the best of their abilities.

The transformation was mostly from a change of mindset, mixed with doing less magazine chapters.

Something people don't know... Well, it depends. In some cases, groups are speedscanners and that's all they ever want to be. They're happy with something that looks bad (somehow) just so they can get download numbers. In other cases, like ours, we wanted to be fast and be quality scans as well. Although, only the former worked.

Tell us a bit about the scene when you first joined Illuminati-Manga, what was it like?

GGpX: The scanlation scene when I originally joined Illuminati-Manga was a thousand times better than it is now. Right now, it's horrible. Really, really horrible. Back then, you had groups like MangaScreener, Kotonoha, Hawks, Omanga, YAnime, Manga-Daisuki, MangaProject and so many other great groups still working and respecting each other. You didn't see these groups picking up projects actively being done by another group. You didn't see people shitting all over other groups.

Scanlators respected each other. Now? Sure, there are some groups that still do, but for the most part, the Scanlation Community has become a Mickey Mouse community about comparing download totals. People attribute a series' worth by how many downloads it has. Scanlators pick up projects left and right without any regard to the scanlators doing it previously.

I find it to be repulsive.

How was Illuminati-Manga received by others from around the community?

GGpX: Well, I hope. I mean, when we started out, some groups were mad with us (rightfully so). By now, I'd like to think that we're a respected group. But this really isn't for me to answer.

What were some of the biggest roadblocks Illuminati-Manga had encountered? Did you guys have any run-ins with publishers or the likes?

GGpX: The biggest road blocks have always been staff shortages, especially in May 2007. We've never had any run-ins with publishers or anything of the like.

How was Illuminati-Manga organized? What was it like running Illuminati-Manga? Tell us about your day-to-day operation!

GGpX: Well, we're not really that organized. I guess it's one of the benefits of not having tons and tons of staff. Just about everybody knows each other.

What happens most of the time is that projects have "leaders." I lead a lot of projects for Illuminati-Manga. Another person who does is Nitouryu. What we do is we have a bot in our staff channel where we type certain triggers. Example:

!read fmpsigma 2

«@Sinbot» Sigma( 5 ): clean( Nitouryu ) tl( avatar ) proof( Digital Eon ) ts( GGpX ) qc( Open )
«@Sinbot» Sigma( 5 ): status( Typesetting ) note( Open )

If something had changed, we would change the value to whatever it was.

Anyway—the project leaders are the ones who check up on the chapters, seeing if chapter x is cleaned, or if chapter y is typeset, and if chapter y is typeset if it's been given to a QCer, and so on.

What do you feel is Illuminati-Manga's most popular or influential project?
Any Illuminati-Manga staff not currently present that you'd like to mention or talk about? Any memorable stories you would like to share with the readers about Illuminati-Manga?

GGpX: Ex-members, well, I was always fond of BakaOne. Most of the older people I'm fond of are still around. The current members in particular: Deus_Gear, antifon, illiteracy, Nitouryu, Zenquibo. I really, really like all of those five. A big reason as to why the group is still alive is thanks to them, because I never would have been able to do it alone. They always say "Well, it's your group." and I always reply with "No, it's our group, you're just as much a part of it as I am." I'd also like to thank them for putting up with my shit, from picking up too many projects (bad habit of mine) to my dusty scans, receiving the nickname from Zenquibo "dustypX."

Honorable mention goes to njt, Molokidan and Digital_Eon.

What's your view on the different methods used to distribute new scanlation releases (i.e. IRC, HTTP, BT, and online reading sites)? It seems Illuminati-Manga likes to release its manga on IRC first. Do you feel IRC will remain a viable distribution method in the future?

GGpX: The only distribution method that bothers me is if people upload their chapters to MegaUpload or EasyShare only to make profit from it. People who have barely any scanlation bills but who make a good amount of money from scanlations. Using it to pay your site, your bot, the tankobons you buy, etc, doesn't bother me.

We like IRC because we sometimes get to chat with people we normally wouldn't, and it's easier for the older, more knowledgeable scanlators to download from.

IRC is probably already drifting away in terms of one of the more used distribution methods. Uploading to sites like MegaUpload, Easy-Share & the such is becoming very popular, especially with online manga reading sites that destroy the scan quality.

Could you expand on that last part? In what way are the online manga reading sites affecting the scanlation scene? What do you feel are their advantages and disadvantages?

GGpX: The majority of online sites take the pages that the scanlators have done, compress them & resize them into smaller size, usually to save bandwidth on their site, which leads to lower quality scans.

The advantages are that it's idiot-friendly, so unsurprisingly those sites are usually filled by, well, idiots. It's also easier to just randomly start a new series; you can start right away instead of having to wait for the download to finish. The disadvantages, like I said, most sites compress & resize the page to save bandwidth, resulting in loss in quality, but also in a diminishing amount of people visiting said group's site/IRC channel. There are people thanking the online sites like they did all of the work instead of actually going to the scanlators themselves and thanking them.

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

GGpX: Most of the groups I've looked up to are dead, unfortunately. I mentioned them earlier; MangaScreener, Kotonoha, Hawks, Omanga. These were my four favorite groups. All but Kotonoha are dead.

One particular individual I always looked up to was stephenpaul / flyingrobots. Recently, he unfortunately retired from translating manga. He had been translating manga for fun for ten years. Ten years. Think about it, he's translated over 3,000 chapters by himself. He translated all of the One Piece chapters (until ch545, when he retired) including a re-translation for the tankobons that went on sale. He translated all of 20th Centruy Boys, 22 volumes, and the two 21st Century Boys volumes. He translated all 18 volumes of Monster. All of H2, all of I''s, and then some. And on top of that, he's probably the best translator around. His full resume is here.

My only regret as a scanlator is that I never got to work with any of those groups. One of my "dreams" as a scanlator was to do a project with MangaScreener, probably my favorite group of all. Unfortunately, that dream doesn't seem like it'll ever be fulfilled.

There are some "unspoken rules" in the community, for example: "stealing someone else's work without permission is bad." Could you talk about what some of these rules are and their history and effects on the community?

GGpX: There are two major unspoken/unwritten rules that seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur in recent years. The first one is for the leechers. You don't ask the scanlators when the next release is going to be. It's rude and disrespectful.

The second one is one in-between scanlators, the rule where you don't pick up a project actively being done by another group. There are literally thousands of series that don't have a single chapter scanlated.

I could go on for paragraphs about this, but I'll just end it with this: I said it before, but scanlators these days are more interested in getting download totals. Why? Because scanlators do not respect each other, they do not respect the work done between each group, they respect themselves and only themselves.

What is Illuminati-Manga's current status? What does the future hold for the group?

GGpX: Illuminati-Manga is still alive and well. We're trying to finish up a few projects that we've been getting lazy on for the last few months. As for the future, well, for starters we need more staff (hint hint) and we'll hopefully get to 1,000 chapters scanlated by the end of this year. That's our goal.

You have experience with most tasks involved in making scanlation...Any tips for new scanlators who are just starting out? Are there any tricks or techniques commonly misunderstood by people new to the trade?

GGpX: My first tip would be, understand what you want to do. Do you want to be in a group that is detail-oriented and aims for good releases? Or do you want to be in a speed group that releases fast? If it's the former, you'll need long-term commitment and the willingness to learn and accept criticism. A lot of the people in HQ groups are people who have long-term commitments with that group, and are people who have put a lot of time into scanlations. If you chose the latter, then this requires no actual commitment (people like you come and go every day, literally), no actual desire to improve (you're doing scans as fast as you can, why would you want to improve? To slow yourself down?).

What do you feel is the future for scanlation?

GGpX: Honestly, I don't know... I mean, every time I think that this shitty community can't get any worse, I get proven wrong and it lowers itself to a new low. So, I'll just hope it gets better.

Thank you for your time! Any last words?

GGpX: I'd like to thank everyone who ever helped in scanlating a chapter for Illuminati-Manga, where ever you may be. I hope you're doing well in whatever you may be doing.