Kuwa-Jiji July 2009

Kuwa-Jiji has been in the scanlation scene since 2002 as a member of the group Manga-Daisuki. In 2004, Kuwa-Jiji went and created his own scanlation group, Tama-Chan Scans. Although Tama-Chan Scans's website went down a few years later due to hosting issues, the group continued to exist and managed to release scanlation from time to time.

Please introduce yourself!

Kuwa-Jiji: I'm Kuwa-Jiji, though I've gone under many names during my long career. I started scanslating back in 2002 for a group called Manga-Daisuki. When I joined, we had a staff of around 30 people. Most of our projects were Indonesian text on Japanese manga, and our scanner had a really crappy scanner, so I got very good at editing very fast. On my off time from Manga-Daisuki (MD) I helped out other groups with various projects including SnoopyCool, Dragon Voice, Inane, Bisquettes and various other groups, but never joined full-time. After MD, myself and a few others from the group formed our own group, Tama-chan Scans, and started working on different projects. Though we did keep one or two projects from MD that they wanted to finish. That was back in 2004, and I've been mainly running this group ever since. I have still helped groups every now and then depending on who needed it, and my group does go on hiatus from time to time, and a lot of our members have left... but we're still around. Over the years, I've learned how to scan, edit, proof, and even do some translation, so I have a lot of experience to help other people with, or even run my group with.

Tell us a bit more about Tamascans, what kind of group was it? Why did you create the group? How did things go in the beginning?

Kuwa-Jiji: Tamascans has always been a small group. When we first started there were 5 of us from MD, and I think at our largest there were around 15 members. When we first started, most of us had already been doing scanslation for a couple years, so we wanted to make a group where we could work on what we wanted and not have to worry about deadlines, because in a lot of groups deadlines were a big deal, and we didn't like that pressure.

I didn't have a preference to what manga we would work on, so some people wanted to keep doing some MD projects, and some people wanted to start some new ones, which is why our project list has always been a little weird. We don't have a set genre we like to work on.

At first, we were very productive; I believe we got 3 volumes of our manga Yawara out within a year. But members started going to college, or got busy with work, and started dropping off. So, for the last couple of years it's really only been my partner GP and I. We've had different translators jump in and out during this time, but I really can't talk about my group without mentioning GP. He basically co-founded it with me, and we've been working on projects together since the beginning. Even when I've put the group into hiatus a few times (or talked about shutting it down), GP stayed, so I really owe a lot to him for the group still being (semi) active today.

How was Tamachan managed? How did the group go about creating a chapter of scanlation? Tell us your (maybe) unique way of getting things done!

Kuwa-Jiji: As the leader of the group, I was basically in charge of making sure everything that needed to happen happened. I made sure translators got the raws they need, the editors got the scripts they needed, and I proofed almost everything. I had a forums system set up where translators could post their translations and where editors would post that they finished editing. Editors would download raws from an FTP I managed and upload the finished result back to the FTP, where I would QC it. After a while I let GP run one or two of the projects since it could get very taxing at times. Nowadays, I still do everything; though even more so, since there are only 2 regular staff members.

Aside from Tamascans, you've also worked at a variety of other groups... can you tell us a bit about the difference between those groups?

Kuwa-Jiji: As I mentioned earlier, many groups I've worked in are very deadline based. Having timelines and whatnot for how long something should take to get done. I was never a fan of this. Especially since this is a hobby and not an enterprise, I think things like this should take as long as they need to to get done. Many groups have a problem with this.

Another popular thing that goes on in groups is something I call perfection placement. So many groups are concerned about how good the edits look, that they need to be perfect, that they forget how much time someone has already put into a chapter. They want re-edits, or have someone else re-do someone's edit.

I'm all for edits looking good, but once again, it's a hobby. People forget that everyone is doing this in their spare time. Sometimes you just don't have 6 hours to commit to a double-page. I remember one time I edited a whole volume of a manga for a group that will remain nameless. One of the people in charge went through it, and had a small list of complaints about a few sections of it, and tossed out the whole thing, and had someone else re-edit it. The whole volume. Now, that's an extreme case, but things like this happen in groups all the time. And it really sets a negative tone for something you want to ENJOY doing, which is a big reason why I only helped those other groups, and didn't come on full-time.

As for how things were ran, I'd have to say SnoopyCool had the best setup for getting things done, which is why I basically copied their system. (:P) The whole forums thing was taken from SnoopyCool, so how I ran my group was how Snoopy ran his. Other groups were less organized. People didn't know who was doing what; sometimes two or three different editors would edit a single chapter, because they didn't know someone else was working on it. 4–5 years ago was a confusing time for a lot of groups. It was when everyone and their grandmother was starting up a scanslation group, and a lot of people who were running them shouldn't have been running them. But I digress.

Did Tamascans encounter any roadblocks along the way, for example run-ins with publishers? What do you feel are some common obstacles newer scanlation groups face that generally come as a surprise to them?

Kuwa-Jiji: I've never had a publisher ask me to stop working on a project, but then again Tamascans doesn't work on licensed projects. I think the biggest roadblock for a new group is finding staff, and then keeping them. A lot of people that get into the scanslation community are really just fans of reading manga. They think they want to help, so they go out and find a group, usually a group that is working on a project they like, and volunteer to help. Unfortunately, the project they like is already being worked on, so they have to work on other projects.

People like this generally get bored and stop after a while. 6 months to a year I give them. Some don't even last that long. So, scanslation always has had a high drop-out rate, and a low enrollment rate. It's very hard to find people who are committed to finishing a whole project, or even sticking around for 2 or 3 years.

What kind of technical advice would you give to new scanlators?

Kuwa-Jiji: Hmm... Not really. I say just do your own thing. The best way to find out how to do something is to do it yourself. I think starting off in an already established group is best for getting experience, before you decide to make your own group. Learn how things work from them, and then if you want to do your own thing, decide what's good and what's bad from that last group, and change it, to fit your own style. I think the best scanslations come from people who are comfortable with how things are set up and like what they do.

Give us a brief summary of what the scene was like when Tamascan was first formed. How did Tamascans fit into the community? Were the group and its projects well-received?

Kuwa-Jiji: When Tamascans formed was when the big scanslation boom was happening. There were so many groups being created, it was hard to get any sort of buzz going for Tamascans. Though, that really didn't matter to us. Also at that time, speed groups started showing up on the scene. These groups were people that basically wanted to only work on one project, usually stolen from another group that had been working on it (and gotten it popular) and just released many, many chapters of it in a small timeframe. Leechers loved it, but a lot of groups did not. A lot of hatred started brewing between scanslation groups and these speed groups.

So when Tamascans was formed, we basically had the mindset of releasing chapters whenever we liked, however many we liked, with no certain timeframe. This really helped to keep the true fans, people who appreciated our work, in our IRC channel, and the leechers who do nothing but complain about when the next release is coming out, out of our channel. Tamascans didn't really get much popularity until we started working on an ecchi project called School of Water Business, which was actually being done by another group at the time, but I didn't know. They had it listed under another title, so by the time we had 5 chapters out, I finally realized it. But at the time manga like Ichigo 100% were popular, so if you had something ecchi, it attracted a lot of people. We had a pretty good relationship with a couple of big groups where I had made some friends at. SnoopyCool and Jinmen-Juushin (god rest its soul) were very accepting of us, and we even did some joints with these groups.

Tell us about Junmen-Juushin, what kind of group was it? And why are there no traces of it nowadays?

Kuwa-Jiji: JJ was an... odd group. It was led by HCross, who was an entertaining character. Actually, a lot of the staff was pretty entertaining, and I think you can see that through what kind of projects they would do, a lot of which were very random. I think their most popular series was Rookies, which is being done by some other group now.

Unfortunately, HCross would lose interest from time to time, and disappear for a while. When the leader of a group isn't around for long periods of time, it's hard to keep motivation up. I don't know the real reason why JJ isn't around anymore, but I assume it's because of people losing interest and moving on, and HCross not being around to keep everyone together. A big part of leading a group is keeping the team together and working.

You mentioned earlier that when Tamascans began scanlating School of Water Business, the group didn't realize another group was already scanlating it... how did things work out in the end? What's your view on multiple groups working on the same project?

Kuwa-Jiji: I never heard anything from the other group, actually. From what I know, they stopped working on it. A leecher had actually told me about it, which was the only way I found out. Personally, I don't like it when other groups decide to work on another group's project. When I first started doing scanslation, there was a really great community already involved in it. There were a sort of list of unwritten rules about how things were done, and groups had respect for each other. One of these unwritten rules was to not take other group's projects.

Sadly, over the years, new groups stopped paying attention to these rules, which is why I think a lot of the bigger groups from back in the day kind of faded away. The game isn't played the same anymore. Groups put a lot of time and effort into working on projects, so when another group comes in, like the speedgroups I talked about, and takes all of the other group's popularity by working on one of their projects, it's really rude. Of course, mistakes like mine happen as well. You start working on a project and then realize it's someone else's project. But, you already have a team on it, already have chapters out, you don't want to stop. Fortunately, the other group didn't work on it anymore, nor did they release very many chapters, so we were in the clear. But if it was an active project for that group, I probably would have stopped.

What do you feel were Tamascan's most popular projects?

Kuwa-Jiji: Our most popular have always been School of Water Business and Yawara. SOWB is popular because of its ecchiness, and it's a real shame that we haven't been able to scanslate more of it, because it's really funny. Not easy to find translators. Yawara we've been working on for a while. It's an Adachi manga, and a lot of his manga are popular, which is why I think Yawara is. Not to mention, the anime for Yawara was pretty popular as well.

So what's the current status of Tamascans? Its website seems to be down, what does the future hold for the group?

Kuwa-Jiji: Actually, SOWB and Yawara were so popular that our web host cut off our website, saying that it had too much load on the server. After that, I didn't really bother looking for another webhost, knowing that the same thing would just happen again. I suppose I don't have to host HTTP releases on my site, but if I don't do that I figure there's no point in having a site.

For now Tamascans is just doing what it always has. GP and I edit when we feel like it, and when we can get a translation. Sometimes we only do 1 chapter a month, sometimes we do more. Last year in October I think we did like a 8 or 9 week stint where we released 1 or 2 chapters a week. That's just how Tamascans always has been. So, I don't think we're going to die for a long time, even though we may be slow. I think for right now, our current goal is to at least finish Yawara, Noritaka and Hells Angels. They're the only 3 projects we have that are actually finished in Japan.

So, a few years ago the trend in the scanlation scene seemed to be speed scanlation... what do you feel the current state of the scene is? What do you predict will be the next "big thing"? What do you predict is the future of scanlation?

Kuwa-Jiji: Honestly, I don't follow current scanslation groups anymore. I mainly just stick to my group. All the other people I know don't do scanslation anymore, but I still see it is very strong. Companies like Tokyopop and Viz look at scanslation groups to see what is popular, and I don't think it's a bad thing. I think the only way scanslation can go now is either dying out or maybe somehow getting absorbed by manga companies. Maybe Tokyopop or Viz will kind of freelancing out to scanslation communities. There are still a lot of talents out there; scanslation...GOOD scanslation isn't easy. And I think maybe in the future these companies will find a way to capitalize on it.

Thanks for your time! Any last words or shout-outs?

Kuwa-Jiji: No problem. I'd just like to say to anyone currently in scanslating or interested in it, that if you are/will be doing it, find something about it you like. Don't do it just because you like to read manga, because it really has nothing to do with that. Take an interest in editing or translating, you'll get bored of it very fast if all you want from it is access to manga faster. Also, don't do it for the "popularity." Leechers are fickle, so don't try catering to them. Do it for yourself, and you will find that scanslating is very enjoyable.