Molokidan August 2010

Molokidan is a translator from MangaHelpers who has been translating manga since 2005. Molokidan has worked with many different groups and helped introduced many unknown series to the scanlation world. By 2010, Molokidan, already an accomplished and well-known translator, has translated over 1,100 chapters of manga. Molokidan is also one of the founders of the scanlation group Maximum7.

How did you get into the translator business? What was the community like when you first entered the scanlation scene?

Molokidan: I started translating in mid-2005, after coming home from a year in Japan and wanting to both improve and keep up my Japanese. I also read a ton of Toriyama's World's works before I had a real grasp on Japanese, so I felt I had a duty to give back something to the community for all the hours of enjoyment I received. My initial purpose for starting was to get the English versions of Trigun Maximum out, a manga very near and dear to my heart. This was before Dark Horse licensed it (or at least before they officially announced it).

At this time, I started the group MaximumT with a man named Flipster. Once we got some TM stuff out, we started broadening our horizons and took up a joint project, Bleach, with the website Bleach7. This is when the group changed its name to Maximum7, and it still exists today. Flipster left due to real-life issues, and then I eventually left when I got tired of dealing with "group issues" and orchestrating members. It really isn't my thing. I'm a translator, and so I translate. That's enough for me.

The things I remember about the community were... well, it seemed a lot more IRC-based to me. Now that I think about it, 2005 was a long time ago... MangaHelpers was fairly unknown, (my user ID shows that I was within one of the first 2000 people to register for the site) and Baka-Updates' manga version had just started out. There was the Tazmo fiasco going on, and I think things were generally more chaotic. This was also before the mass advent of speed groups, or maybe it was the beginning. Either way, I think 2005 was the beginning of the end of the murky, medieval time of scanlations, and I really enjoyed that in the beginning. People mostly hosted things on their own sites, and there wasn't stuff like Mediafire or LinkBucks around yet. And no OneManga or anything like that. Publishers were still aggressive back then, or maybe they were just starting to become so. I remember us getting a cease and desist when we started translating the series World Embryo, only a few chapters, which Dark Horse claimed to have licensed. I'm not even sure they have even the first volume out now. But we stopped doing it. Although I still translate the monthly chapters to this day. Anyway, things got really insane in the scanlation world starting in 2006, but your site explains that better than I could.

Do you belong to any groups in particular or do you translate freelance?

Molokidan: I really translate freelance, but I've worked with a ton of groups in the past: Illuminati-Manga, Evil-Genius, Nexgear, Kotonoha, MangaDownloads, and even Toriyama's World. I-M is the group I'm most familiar with, as I believe their quality and efficiency is exemplary, and we've done tons of projects together.

Have you ever been offered or considered a job in the manga industry?

Molokidan: No, I really have yet to pursue a career in the manga industry. I have, however, translated a short manga for a Japanese tales anthology that is available on Amazon. I also translate DVD subtitles and translate novels professionally.

What were some of the biggest roadblocks you faced as a translator?

Molokidan: Finding time to do everything. Even translating from morning to night, with very few breaks, it's really hard to take care of all the projects I'd ideally want to do. Especially now, where I'm working on a dissertation and have to do actual work so that I can eat three meals a day. It's tough. Also, I suppose a big roadblock would be finding groups who actually want to scanlate what I've translated. People really come and go in the scanlation world, and someone will pop up saying "I'll do this," bust out a few chapters, and then literally disappear. I hate dealing with that kind of stuff, so I try not to do it, but I really try hard to push unknown series into scanlations just so they can be read. A good example is Umezu Kazuo's Fourteen, a bizarre sci-fi opus that is virtually unknown and will most likely never be released in the English language, but is a manga I consider a grotesque masterpiece.

How do you usually go about translating a chapter of manga? Tell us about your workflow. Are there any specific tools or software you like to use?

Molokidan: Well, first, I sit down and read the chapter (or volume). I take my time, admiring the art, reading the words carefully, basically enjoying the piece like it should be. I also mark down any notes about things if some idea pops into my head about how to translate something. Then, I open up Notepad and get to work. Yes, Notepad... sadly, I'm a bit of a caveman when it comes to software, but Notepad works great for me, and I don't see any reason to change. When I finish, I copy & paste the text into Word to do spellcheck and revisions. Depending on what I'm working on, this may take two hours, or if it's a relatively short, action-based 20-pager, then I can get it done in half an hour.

In your opinion what are your most popular or influential translation projects?

Molokidan: Well, I couldn't really tell you whether any of my projects have been influential or not, that's up to the readers. But I can take a guess. Riki-Oh, a complete manga I did with I-M, was relatively popular, probably based on the fact that it was the source text of the famous over-the-top Chinese action movie of the same name. That got a lot of feedback. I'm also working on a HQ edition of the Dragonball Perfect Edition books that feature color chapters with Hao Scans, and that's gotten lots of praise. This is a hard question, because most of the projects that I really enjoy doing usually fall under the radar (like Hirata Hiroshi's samurai epics, that Evil-Genius puts out, or the complete manga version of the famous Sexy Commando, which features two volumes' worth of content that was cut out of the anime). In early 2010, however, I struck up a deal with the notorious MangaStream to do One Piece, Bleach, and Hunter X Hunter weekly for them, so I suppose this unholy alliance has had some kind of effect on the scanlation world.

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

Molokidan: Stephen Paul and Toriyama's World would be at the top of each respective list, I suppose. Neither entities are flawless or god-like, (after all, they're human), but they were both pioneers in their own regard, and I respect them for that. As for other people in the scanlation world I respect: GGpX, miyagiCE, and StrangerAtaru. They're all hard-working people and usually work off the beaten path, and they certainly don't do it for ego or recognition. Also, I'm good friends with nihonjintaylor, the creator of MangaHelpers, and he's a good guy. As for groups, I'm not really sure, as I stopped reading scanlations years ago, and I can't even remember the names of most groups I followed back then. Sorry!

What's your view on the recent public backlash against online readers, and the subsequent closedown of large readers like OneManga and the OpenManga announcement by MangaHelpers?

Molokidan: Well, I'm working on OpenManga a bit with nihonjintaylor, so I think it's a good thing. It's taking all the power away from the big publishers, and sort of mediating it between fans and pros, with a legal structure behind it. If it ever gets started up, it should herald a new age for online manga.

As for the closedown of large readers, I think it's amusing. The publishers have all the right to do what they're doing, and manga is not supposed to be "free," as it's a commercial product that people produce for the sake of selling and making a profit. Everyone who reads or downloads manga online is doing something illegal, plain and simple. You can go on arguing about how it helps spread the word about titles and is overall beneficial, but that's not the point. It's illegal and it's stealing.

But this is the age of piracy, it's not just manga, every normal person who uses a computer has committed some kind of felony on their time. That's what I think makes this so interesting. The RIAA couldn't stop filesharing despite their attempts, so how is a coalition of publishers going to stop such a widespread habit? I think translators are in an interesting position, too, (at least in the traditional sense) as they translate texts and put them up on the internet, but they have no hand in actually applying text to the pages or uploading the files for public viewing. And personally, I don't host any files myself or anything like that. Yet translators are crucial for this cycle to continue. Without people to decode the Japanese, scanlations would be dead. Will the coalition come after them in the end? I doubt it, but it's an interesting theory to think about.

What do you feel is the future for scanlation?

Molokidan: Interesting question. You see, scanlation is a new phenomenon, but in its base form, it isn't really much different from what's already been happening. In Japan, normal people buy weekly comic magazines by the truckload. And the ones who don't just stand in convenience stores and read through the comic, then leave without buying the actual thing itself. Then, the ones who want to read entire series but don't want to shell out all the cash go to internet cafes and blaze through them, or go to used bookstores and simply stand there for hours on end reading for free. Are they pirates? No, because they aren't making the comics available to free for the mass public. Okay then, but then what about the used bookstores? They have shelves lined with manga available for free reading as long as they're open. They don't tell the customers to leave or to not read the books. And then they also make a small bit of profit off all this. Are they pirates?

Obviously the scope between scanlation and used book stores (despite the large number of them in Japan) is different. However, this is the age of the internet, so the scope of EVERYTHING is growing larger and wider. It's only natural. I think the real people who suffer from scanlations, however, are the publishers in foreign countries. For their readers, going on the internet and searching for scans is the only way to read manga in their language for free, so they have a reason to become more savvy and learned in the art of internet piracy, unlike the Japanese. This makes scans and the like more rampant there. And this means less profit for the publishers, and less quality overall. I think we're seeing a media-wide phenomenon of this sort, in video games, anime, manga, even movies. The more rampant piracy gets, the less profit these media conglomerates make, and so the less quality they're able to put into their products as a result. That's what is really scary, I think. So if you ask me, the future of scanlations is that we're going to have an even more available, wide array of comics, but the overall quality of these products is going to be far worse, due to a lack of cash flow to the publishers.

What are some websites you like to visit every day?

Molokidan: Manga Underground: I'm always interested to see what manga they showcase, and it's also a good news ticker (with pictures) for unusual or interesting series. Game news and podcasts.

SomethingAwful Forums (ADTRW): The threads and comments these guys make about manga (and the unbelievable elitism and anal retentiveness of some regarding popular titles) always makes me laugh.

SAME HAT!: Great coverage of weird, underground manga.

And that's about it. I really hate the Internet, to be honest.

Thank you for your time! Any last words?

Molokidan: Thank you for putting together such a great site.