Infornography August 2009
Infornography has worked for a variety of groups throughout his scanlation career. Since 2002, Infornagraphy has been a staff member of MangaArt, a founding member and later temporary leaders of Manga-Daisuki. In late 2002, Infornography, together with Zion|no|Rave, formed to group that later came to be known as Solaris-SVU. In 2009, although Infornagraphy no longer actively participates in Solaris-SVU and most of the other groups' operations, he still hangs out on IRC, helping the needy when the opportunity arises.
Infornography: My handle is Infornography. I'm a long-time scanslator who has been in the scene for far too long. I've helped run a string of groups and done minor work for many more. Currently I hang around #mangaart and #solaris-svu as a lurker, recruiter and emergency editor. I'm a Capricorn, born in January, and I'm still single. I really do like Jazz and walks on the beach at night. I live in California. Again, I'm single and moderately successful. Oh, I'm still a young man at 23.....Kya.
Infornography: I'm talking from just what I've seen and can remember about the scene back then. The scene today is vastly different than how it was before. Vastly. Back then, the quality of your scanslation AND translation was something small to consider. Is it in English? Check. Is it READABLE? Check. Does it make sense? Half-a-check. Great! Put it out! That's as much quality assurance as you could've hoped for sometimes. And one of the reasons for that are the scans themselves. Today, you can find raws of just about every manga title and genre you can think of, if you know where to look. Before, that wasn't so readily available. The reality way back in the day was so much simpler. Today, The Raw Provider is the Scanner, the translator translates from said scans, gives the scans to the editor, editor does it, proofreader hopefully reads it, and then it gets put to a coordinator who times the release and boom it's out. However in those days not many people who were into our "hobby" had access to scanners like we see everywhere today. So we had a raw-provider, they in turn would either have to find a scanner, or mail it to a "scanner" who then scans it. I mean, there were some good stories I used to hear about in other channels about the "adventures-in-scanning" where people would have to try and use their work equipment or their parents stuff to scan. It was all fun. But a lot of the times things were simpler than that. The Raw provider was the scanner, the editor and the translator all in one.
Popular Trends are a soft-topic. They come quick, and change even quicker. Harem and racy anime have always been crowd pleasers and back then, everyone loved them, and then came the romance, then the ultra violence. And now it's just a weird mix of everything. The Big Groups I guess back then would have to be Dual-Translations, MangaProject and ShoujoMagic. That big three were there for awhile. Of course, you had the mega-website type groups or very popular translation sites, but I can't really put them in the same category. The lurkers and people who contributed to the projects in the big three were really animated. The best way to put it was to get one of the super-channels that you have today like #Lurk and just split it up into 3 groups, chaos and all, and you would get those 3 big channels. The jokes and fun were all there.
The thing that was most problematic back then was drama. There was a lot of drama between groups, and not just with the Big 3, but even slightly after. D-T and M-P liked to publicly mess with each other, and after the fall of D-T and M-P, the smaller groups really pushed each other's buttons from time to time. A lot of it was copied work, translations, duplicate projects and again, raws. The only other fun part to point out is that change in generations in the scanslation community always seems to come with a great IRC server change. It seems whenever everyone moves from one IRC server to another, things get left behind and groups with more clout usually end up leading the way while smaller groups suffer. At one point, we were all on Dal.net with the big groups. Then, when #hawks and #omanga came about and stealing thunder we were on mIRC-X and so on and so forth. It's just funny to see, but where the big groups go, the little groups follow.
Infornography: #M-D was a group that was made in the same intentions that I made #Solaris-Svu. Basically, how it got started was, in late January of 2002, Ichitaka wanted to do a couple of projects of his own. He had an idea on how to do it, but no people. So what did he do? Easy, he went to EVERY anime and manga-related channel he could think of on Dal.net and started asking people randomly if they can help out by either fserving/translating/editing in his channel. He would say it as soon as he got in the channel, and waited even after he got kick/banned for a PM. I was one of the unlucky few to take him up on his offer as an fserver. The group was small but was really laid back. We got along pretty well. I started off as an fserver, but I hung around so often that I became an op and a co-ordinator. I wasn't that well liked by the lurkers because I wielded the banhammer pretty viciously, but the staff was cool about it.
Later on, Ichitaka, pressured by a constantly changing staff and pressure from work and school, retired from the scanslation scene, which happened not too long after our One Piece [Null] fiasco. I headed the group temporarily, but I wasn't there enough to do a respectable job at it. Our hobby grew a little too big for us, and we hurt a lot through our growing pains. Jyo took the helm real quick and did the best he could squeezing a lot of releases out, but it wasn't enough. The group is still alive and kicking, but just barely. It's headed up by someone who started off as one of its lurkers, WarDrake, and I have to say, it's one of those things that make you feel good to see. To me, and I can speak for the rest of the old staffers in #M-D, it's a great feeling to see someone like WarDrake still investing so much of his time to keeping #M-D alive. He liked the projects for sure, but what he liked was the atmosphere, the people he met, the memories he made, and that's why he's still there. And I'm sure that in a small way, that's why scanslators still meet on IRC and do what they do.
Infornography: Take this with a grain of salt, but I remember Ichitaka talking about why he named the group #Manga_Daisuki. Apparently there was a channel or group called #Anime_Daisuki, and he wanted it to be a sister channel even though he didn't really have any say there. And well, from what I heard #anime_daisuki didn't do too well. That's from what I can remember from my conversations with him, never even researched the place, but I think Ichitaka hung out there way back.
Infornography: That's tough. It's hard even to acknowledge the fact that there are "unwritten rules." Before, when scans were new, the unwritten rules were simpler and more childish. Many of them basically revolved around the "Don't do this project because I'm doing it!" or the "You took my scans!" etc. Now, the unwritten rules are hazier and even more mortifying with money on the line. With assholes like Tazmo taking scanslations and raking up profit and even sites like Crunchyroll considering to posting scanslations at one point. While scanslators really don't mind our scanslations being seen for free, we also don't enjoy seeing people profit off of our work or the work of the creator without giving them some fair dues.
Regarding the #MangaScreener vs. #Manga-Daisuki feud, it was so long ago that I've really forgotten most of the petty details. A lot of the problem really was brought on not by the translations in question, but the attitude brought forth by #MD. A lot of it was incited in the heat of passion by both sides, but #MD had the ball to clear it up and we failed to multiple times. Again, Ichitaka was having a lot of problems privately and he even began losing trust in his staff so he took a lot of it out on #M-S. If you look at his post on the website, he was really inciting it. After my conversation with Izumi, I talked to Ichitaka and he was pissed that I apologized. He knew we were in the wrong, I knew we were in the wrong, and Starmatrix was also the most honest gentleman we had so we also had a good hunch he was in the wrong too. But Ichitaka calmed down and we three talked after and it was all settled. We were basically affiliated with #MangaScreener afterwards. But it really tested our mettle. I think it's after that that Ichitaka considered leaving #MD and it wasn't too long until he did either.
Infornography: We were a hit! To be honest, I don't think any of us was expecting Minto No Bokura to be the one that brought us such good reception. I mean, personally, I just didn't like the shoujo genre all that much. I have a few that stand out, but as a whole I didn't care for it much. It's funny considering I've helped out and hanged around a bunch of 'em. But Minto No Bokura really put us on the map. We had a few people everyday coming in and just letting us know that they were thankful we were doing the release. It wasn't much, sure, but knowing that they took the time to learn to use IRC to come in and thank us, was a good feeling. And when you're investing so much time into this "hobby," that little feeling is pretty much what keeps you going sometimes.
The things that make you want to stop though are pretty numerous. We didn't have that many problems at first. We were small, niche and we had a pretty good order. Ichitaka really learned to streamline how we did things and we ended up doing them well. But as time progressed and we got older, things got difficult. Much of it was inter-staff issues, and issues dealing with other groups. Ichitaka's private life also seemed to be putting a lot of pressure on him, and he frequently took it out on the channel. The sudden community change from "as long as we can read it" to "WE NEED HQ SCANS" didn't help the situation and made Ichitaka more anal about the small details. Ichitaka went into the scanslation scene as a great, level-headed guy, who would rather just talk it out and laugh about it afterwards. But he was now at a point where it was difficult for him to enjoy it, and that's when you know you have to leave the scene. And that's what he did.
Infornography: Day-to-day operation was again, thanks to Ichitaka's planning, pretty streamlined. It started with our co-ordinator. He had the raws, the translations, the fonts, everything. First off, rough scans and its copy would be given to the editor and translator. The editor would begin to clean the scans, leaving dialogue intact while the translator translated page-by-page. If they were lurkers, we could simply ask them to send us updates page-by-page when they're done. If not, then we wanted their emails so people just couldn't disappear and we would wait the waiting game. As soon as we received a cleaned and translated page, coordinator would review the cleaned page for imperfections and the translations would be reviewed for grammatical errors. When we had all of them done, the editors would receive the translations and begin to typeset them in following a simple font-sheet we had for dialogue and narration. As soon as all of it's done, it would be saved as a .PSD file and the co-ordinator would review it. If there were any mistakes via fonts or dialogue, co-ordinator would fix them at that point. If there was a translation snafu, or if something did not make sense according to the picture, that translated picture would be brought back to the translator for clarification and it would be fixed by the co-ordinator. Co-ordinator would then package the release complete with credits and our logo, and we would prep it for a release when we felt the time was right.
Infornography: As much as I would love to give a big and honorable explanation as to why #solaris-svu was created and needed, there really was no good reason. The bottom line is, me and zion|no|rave (now known as kippei) were helping out at #mangaart, a primarily shoujo scanslation group which that small and new at the time. I liked to jump from group to group. I especially liked the small ones since they remind me of how fun being in a small group is and zion basically pitched the idea of starting a group that dealt with seinen and shounen-type manga. And that's basically how it started off. We talked about it for I wanna say like 3 days and just did it. Ha. But now, it's become one of the best groups I've ever seen. And that's not because of zion and I, but IN SPITE OF. Zion and I had an idea of what we wanted with Solaris-Svu, but Gari had a clear vision and ran with it. He's the best thing to happen not just to #solaris-svu, but the scanslation community as a whole. I can't define what kind of group it is, the people are different, the atmosphere changes at a whim, but it's a group that has the most dedication to its fans and its hobby.
Infornography: Tough. Really tough. To be honest, getting noticed by the community at first was the difficult part, and we brainstormed and argued over it. We took the vulture approach in the end. We scavenged for raws where we could and looked for good projects that other groups dropped. We picked out Saikano when one of the other groups dropped it, and went on a mad rush to release the next chapter. I think no one in our group slept comfortable that night. When all was said and done I believe it was the wee hours of the morning. Things got hairy when another group contacted us, saying that we can't do it because they were starting it first, because they asked the group that dropped it and blah. Yea, again, drama between the small groups was so heated and bitter since there really were no set "rules." But we cleared things up quick and ventured on our merry way. We struggled finding an identity at first. Again, this was a problem that arose simply because zion and I didn't really have a clear idea of what we wanted to do. If you look at our dropped projects page, I pretty much can guarantee a good number of them were started and dropped by zion and I in a pretty short period of time. The only other roadblocks we encountered were the ones that all new groups encounter—the struggle for dedicated editors and translators. Notice I left out good, or experienced. We started off as a speed scanslator and anything that looked bad at the end, we could clean up. But we needed to start. And soon. That was the mentality.
Infornography: The group itself operated on a level of harassment. It's true, but all groups essentially do. We chased away A LOT of people in the beginning. We would literally cajole people into helping us out sometime in the morning, and by the afternoon, they were gone. They couldn't do it. They either got bored, or thought it was too time consuming after a while, but we had to get on people's asses, because when we left people alone and just contacted them periodically, nothing got done. There were a few good people, but if that good person was a translator and your editor was gone for a month, then that release is screwed. Even worse, if the editor is talented but nothing is going anywhere and there's no release, then this time the translator gets fed up. It was tough. Running it in the beginning, was always a challenge. But being with good friends and people like zion, BigVinny, p00k, keppim and everyone made it worthwhile, if only just so I can meet those characters. Some releases, I don't know how it got put together. You think it's not going to happen, but then boom! Gari says he can translate it quick, and then me, zion and keppim say we can squeeze time and edit a few pages each and BigVinny says he'll proofread, and stuff popped out. A lot of the time, it's that kind of team effort that really got our readers the releases in the end.
Infornography: #Mangaart was a scanslation group of young women. I don't know if that can summarize my time with them or why I still hang out there, but it's one of the best ones I got. I liked the smaller groups because they always still had the charm of doing something new, and for them it was fun. That's what a lot of groups as they grow start to lack. The scanslation effort itself becomes a chore after awhile. But for the new groups, it's still entertaining. And when you're part of something new, a startup, it was a fun thing. I helped them out at first as a consultant and an editor. I wielded the ban-hammer like the fist of an angry drunken god of pain. This group didn't really operate differently.
By the time #MA came into the picture, the way of doing a scanslation was pretty much standardized. It's how they got each other to do it that was interesting. I sometimes didn't know what was going on or who was doing what or when or how because they had this certain way of interacting and talking with each other. They knew who had what, when and how far along it was. It was a funny thing to see as a guy because it felt like they were using their women's intuition in overdrive. It was even funnier when that telepathic communication broke down because when it did, there were two responses: panic or shrug. It was great. One thing I need to add in though, is that when immi took over as the leader of #mangaart....WHEW. I've never seen someone so dedicated to the quality of their scans. It was a great thing to see, because she was and is deeply proud of the time and effort she put in EVERY PAGE.
Infornography: I've been involved with a lot of groups over the years, many of them small. A few of the big ones though, like #kodocha, #mangasync, #mangascreener and #omanga, I still don't like to think of them as groups. Because to me, I knew those groups more through the individuals in them. #Kodocha introduced me in a way to editing. Their editor gave me tips and tricks when he showed me how to edit the extra chapter of Kodocha after it got licensed in the U.S. by Tokyopop. #MangaSync was an inspiration because of the maturity of their staff, especially Luchs, who knew what they wanted and how far they wanted to go with it. #mangascreener taught me a lot because they showed me how passionate you can be about this hobby and how dedicated sometimes you have to be to continue doing what you love. And #omanga and Zyph showed me how easily a great group can fall apart, no matter how great their projects are.
I couldn't tell you how much differently they operated from each other. IMO, they all operated around the same lines. What I could tell you is the characteristics they all shared. They all had the deepest pride for what they did. That's one thing that really separated them from the smaller groups. They had a lot of pride in their work, both past and present. And all groups have pride to a certain extent, but these groups you could literally feel it. #MangaSync really impressed me with their projects because many of them were older classics. And with title like Naruto taking up most of the limelight, the classics usually took backseat. But whenever you talked to Luchs about the projects she was doing, you could literally feel the grin on her. It was great.
Infornography: Barely. I still randomly hang out at my old channels, most of the time I'm in #solaris-svu and #mangaart, but I like to look for new groups and recruit. I still try and recruit for #mangaart and other groups to keep 'em going. I've done this gig so long that I guess I'm not able to stop just yet. What I've learned over the years is that if you find yourself not having fun anymore in the scanslation scene, then it's time to stop. And I'm still having too much fun to stop.
Infornography: Jesus, that's tough. I started in this scene as a freshman in high school. Like, I think the first month in high school I was already trying out to edit the last volume of Kodocha. My computer at home sucked, bad. The best example I could give you is that on some pages, it would've been MUCH QUICKER for me to edit them if I had hand drawn and inked them myself. So I frequently had to break into my high school's library computer, log in and try and edit via that. I used to do that a lot during class, and also during lunch and after school. My school's locks were one of those high-tech ones that you can open by putting a credit card or library card between the lock and handle at the right angle, so I frequently did it a lot. After that, though, and even currently, I find it hard to make time. Professionally I do very well for myself right now, I'm somehow still in college, but I've worked myself up a corporate ladder and have a pretty comfy office job, but still have a corporate laptop and a couple of cell phones so I can always be on IRC. I'm also half-assed tied to the anime industry, so I frequent a lot of the U.S. Anime Conventions. This year I've been to Anime Expo, Otakon, Comic-Con, and I'll be going to Anime Vegas, MikomiCon and Pacific Media Expo, and next year I'll have to go to a lot more, so I guess the scanslation world never fully leaves me.
Infornography: Jeez. I can make this question 7 pages long just by itself. Well, one tidbit is that I edited A LOT of the manga on a crap computer. It was a 112MHz Pentium processor that was made from salvaged parts that I found in the back of a salvation army with a whopping 64MB of RAM and a built-in graphics card. There was also no CPU fan, so I left the case off and had a fan cooling it. I edited using Photoshop 6 and it took nearly 45 mins per page to do a SIMPLE typeset job. Just adding text and leveling. Doesn't include warped or background text. Just text bubbles. If I had to do background or fancy text, I could be there for hours. I also got into scanslations precisely because how shitty my computer was. It couldn't play videos. I couldn't watch sound clips. But I can see images! And with that mentality, scanslations were the waves of the future. Or to be precise, my only outlet.
Another fun thing to reminisce about regarding the scanslators back then was to remember that at one point #MangaProject tried selling alcohol or beverages on their site. The thought of drunken scanlators made me laugh. I also am guilty of some heinously bad edits. I believe in one page of Kirara I randomly put in sprites of Ruri-chan all over the border of the page. If someone still sees it there, I'm so sorry.
Now, about the community in general? For the readers, give the scanslators breaks and always let them know you appreciate their work. Visit their IRC channels! Seeing people just appreciate your work does wonders.
Infornography: That's tough to say. The scanslation community will continue but probably not in its current form. Super Channels like #lurk are effectively killing off the groups that we've seen. Groups grow and stay alive because of the lurkers that come in to download, stop and chat, and stay. We recruit from those few lurkers we can get to stop and chat with, and thus the group grows and stays. But with the super channels growing and staying, we see less and less lurkers now, and it's becoming harder and harder to recruit even as the Internet grows and grows and allows us to connect even faster.
The future of manga scanslation is probably going to be seen in outlets like mangahelpers.com and onemanga.com We'll see forum type translation efforts continue to increase where raws get put out anonymously day one, today three when groups of translators translate them and random editors doing it and releasing it with no set standard and a release of varying qualities on sites like OneManga. Of course, the best quality ones will be the ones to usually find themselves on the big sites like OneManga, but this way of doing it, although fast and efficient, will also kill off a lot of the niche manga series. Before, you could find some really good series just because there were a wide variety of groups looking for and doing them. Now, with such a concentrated effort on single horde sites, we'll get even faster releases and slowly improving quality, but the cost might be the variation of manga we see. It's not something that will happen soon, but it may be inevitability. I also see manhwa continuing to become a bigger focus as time goes by. The stories, and artwork continue to improve and the interest is getting bigger and better every year.
Infornography: This is difficult.
Salad Days was great simply because the stories were good and most of it was done simply by one guy.
Kimagure Orange Road was another project that really got to me because #MP put a lot of effort into doing a complete release of it up to and including their extra chapters.
Luchs and everyone from MangaSync have my deepest respect. They are a group who collectively did what they had to and wanted to and never looked back.
Dual Translations helped bring the scanslation scene to the limelight for many people and helped our community grow thanks to their scanslation of Love Hina and Devil and Devil. Although much has been said about them, and although they are vastly forgotten now, their contribution to the scene is still felt.
Gari is one of the most talented people on IRC today. A very adept translator, editor, co-ordinator he is what any scanslator should aspire to be.
keppim is one of the most good natured guys on IRC as well as being the most proficient person I've ever met at using Photoshop through the scanslation scene.
There are many people who I look up to in this scanslation hobby. But the people that I'm most thankful for are the lurkers who still come into the channels even now and just say "thanks for the release!" Because even if they don't hear a reply back, they help the smallest channels grow and stay alive.
Infornography: Every page that we translated, edited, proofread and released was released for everyone's entertainment, but they also contain our memories. We made friends and enemies with each page. We learned from every mistaken level, and laughed when we released a chapter while totally messing up the spelling for easy words. So when you read a chapter from any scanlator, realize that it's more than just pictures and text, they contained the time, dedication and most of all, memories of fans just like yourself, hoping to meet and make friends with people who share the same likes, dislikes and hobbies.