njt May 2009
njt is the founder of MangaHelpers, one of the most successful scanlation download and listing sites. Prior to founding MangaHelpers in 2006, njt was in charge of [UR]Dan, an IRC bot on the Lurk network (and one of the only places at the time) that served complete volumes of raw manga.
njt: My name is njt, I've been in the manga scene for about as long as I've been in Japan. That is, around 6 or so years. I first started out watching the Naruto anime after a friend recommended it to me. I was hooked and decided to give the manga a try. Having read all the chapters and knowing (I thought) at the time enough Japanese to translate, I began translating.
It was the first thing I had ever translated, and it was a lot harder than I expected, taking around 4 hours to translate one chapter. The chapter was around the Rescue Sasuke arc, I believe chapter 210 was the first one I translated >.> I could be wrong though. :p
I originally posted the chapters up on my website (udanstraight.com) where I helped tutor people in Japanese. Around that time I also opened another site (udanraws.com) to help people get access to raws, since at that time, raws where VERY hard to come by. I was also urged to set up an IRC channel to help with distribution of the files, so I started #udanraws on IRCHighway. From there I became friends with VicariousLurker (original owner of #lurk) and he got me the first raw bot that is still in use today. [UR]Dan, "UR" from "your" and "dan" from the udanstraight/udanraws sites :3.
I got more and more involved with translating and various manga-related things and Naruto having been what inspired me I spent a lot of time on the NarutoFan forums, though on "raw" days the forum tends to go down a lot, so I opted to create a site to help balance things out so people can get their fix of manga. At the time I had a site in the making named MangaHelpers and decided at the time that it would be the perfect time to release it to the public. From there the site has become known to the masses as the place to go to for the latest manga and now for international translations too ^^.
I constantly try and make various new features to help people in the community out more and hope to continue to serve everyone out there for years to come.
njt: The scene was pretty new to me. Having no experience with scanlation or anything, it was all very thrilling. I had no idea how groups were run, why raws were held privately, why groups did what they did and why. But some of my fonder memories were the thrill of releasing a translation and a scanlation as fast as I could. It was a time where I believe speed scanlations were just starting to happen.
njt: Inane and Orange Tangerine. Both aren't around anymore, and hmmm I guess it's the same now. You have groups that release superior quality (Japflap) and then those that... speed it :p
njt: I never was one to read scanlations. Based on how bad the English tends to be or not even able to trust the accuracy of it, I always wanted to have a raw nearby to check if something didn't sound right. But seeing as groups were always very protective of their raws, I found some P2P programs like WinMX and Winny then later Share and Perfect Dark and started to get as many as I could fort those who wanted to either check translations, or have the original for learning Japanese (since I always encouraged that kind of thing when teaching). I created the channel hoping to support that movement. Thus in the channel the rule is "Don't use these raws for scanlations." I feel that if you want to scanlate something, you should buy the manga (At least support it yourself if you enjoy it). The reason they are there are really for learning / helping others via translation checking and I hope it'll stay that way.
njt: Mainly the format was a problem. I once added (udanraws) to the name of the file since someone suggested I do so, but a member didn't like that and created his own IRC release channel because of it. I told him I didn't mind how the names were, and if there was a problem he should have discussed it with me, but *sigh* it happens. Other than that, yeah^^ it's been accepted quite well.
njt: The biggest difficulty was design lol. I have no talent in that and so getting it to look well was important but something I really wasn't good at doing. Other than that, it grew at a rate that was relatively easy to handle.
As for knowing when it was going to become big and well known, I still have no idea :p. I just knew that with hard work, diligence and consistency there was bound to be something good that would happen.
The most difficult thing as of late is dealing with politics between groups and the sites. Do something that someone doesn't like and find them creating a site to rival yours ><. An example of this is when a group wanted to put a page in their release that talked bad about another site, or at least, had quite the negative tone. When I created MH I wanted all those wars to be taken elsewhere and thus created the "No bashing rule." So I told them they wouldn't be able to release their work unless they took out the image or changed the wording... and as such they decided that it was best they made their own site, and they did. So yeah, unless you're very careful in the way you talk to people you can find them doing something like that.
njt: That's because I'm a fan of Dan :) It's pretty much the underdog of Street Fighter :3 Win with Ryu, Ken or Akuma, it's been done before. Win with Dan and you have bragging rights :D Anyways, Dan was part of uDanstraight and uDanraws (Lurk raw bot), so... kinda my love to keep it around :3
njt: No. We haven't. Not from a Japanese company.
njt: Yes, unfortunately in our more early years.
njt: Ehhh, we're quite far behind OneManga in terms of viewers... But our goal was never to be the top. Our goal is to help make everyone's job easier. We realize that doing this kind of work isn't easy with fans spending hours upon hours of their own time... so we're trying to innovate the scene with features that they'd find useful. As long as we have fans that are finding the site useful in one way or another, we're happy :).
njt: We started out with SMF. With it being free and all, as well as the portal and other various free themes we could find. Then the forum would crash continuously due to people using the search function so we decided to switch to vB as it was supposed to be able to handle it. The move was... hell, to put it lightly >>. Lots of links and everything required manual updating »«. But we survived.
Hosting wasn't that much of a problem. For the first few years we were hosted by a friend and then later moved to Dedicated Hosting. So yeah, nothing too bad.
njt: Well currently we have two full time programmers working on the site and thus have some very, very nice new features. We're continuing to work on them, but yes we hope to make the site easier to use and extremely useful to both members and those that work in various groups. We have 8 admins, 5 techs, 9 global moderators, and 24 moderators. Not to mention various staff that have stepped down but are still around to help give advice.
Traffic, we are currently seeing 6 million people per month and it shows no sign of decreasing.
njt: Well, I don't really use them so I don't really have any comment for them ._. I'm only interested in raws and they don't cater to that.
njt: I wish they'd upload to somewhere where the downloads *won't* be deleted... it's annoying to find a stream of MegaUpload links and any other file hoster to have all downloads expired / deleted.
njt: Increase features mainly. There are still lots of things that need to be done to increase the usability of the site. Many problems to yet address :s.
Additional Questions from September 2009
njt: We got a simple email from Kodansha stating:
"We, KODANSHA is publishing and holding a copyright of many comics.
But you are uploading your web site WITHOUT these comics.
This act is relevant to an invasion of Japanese Copyright Law §20,§21,§23,§27 and also come under an invasion of U.S. Copyright Law§106(2) and §106A.
We require you to delete all this comic's contents by September 10th in 2009.
When you didn't delete these all this comic's contents by this fixed date, we deal with legally promptly ASAP.
In addition, I notify you of that Japan and U.S. Copyright Law have a penalty of criminal punishment.
We tried speaking with them but no emails were returned. We were given a date, and instead of just letting it pass we decided it'd be best to take action. So we did. As for long-term effects, well, there could always be the domino effect, so we decided it was probably a good time to try and take action before that happened.
njt: It's not solely aimed at Viz, it's more of a goal to unite fans with publishers. If we can show them the importance of the community that supports them, then chances are that good things will happen.
njt: Unfortunately, things were leaked in its very, very rough form (as complete as the document looked), it was truly far from being done. Lots of discussion and planning was still needed, but it didn't get that attention before being leaked to the masses. Our plans are only to unite the community with the publishers. But due to it being released as it was, that wasn't clear. So I guess I can't help but understand why they would think that way, and hopefully when everything is said and done and things work out for the better, they can see we really did intend for the community to benefit from this.
njt: Seeing as the files were spread EVERYWHERE it would have been hard for anyone not to get it.
njt: I've wanted the site to be recognized for the wonderful community it is for a long time. Getting the blessing from the publishers to do what we enjoy while it also benefits them would certainly be one step closer to bridging the gap between fans and publishers, and ultimately creating more opportunities and better relationships and thus making everyone happy. The future of MH is trying to make it one where scanlations aren't frowned upon, and where the publishers can openly work with fans to make a better (manga)reading experience for everyone.