rp July 2009

rp is the founder and sole member of Random Manga Translations, a scanlation group that, according to SnoopyCool's Snoopy, was one of "the two single people in the community that had a following that could match up to the normal groups" (The other one being Studio Robb). Throughout the years rp helped translate for many other groups, including MangaProject, MangaScreener, Aku Tenshi, and SnoopyCool. After closing RMT in 2006, rp went on to work as a translator for SnoopyCool.

rmt2003 rmt2009
Please introduce yourself!

rp: I'm rp, I started scanlating in late 2000 with my own group, RMT. I scanlated Detective Conan, Rurouni Kenshin, Hellsing, Yume-Iro Fanta, Knighting+Knight, Hamster Research Report, and DNAngel. I skipped around other groups as a translator over the years (Trigun for MangaProject, Milk Crown Lovers for MangaScreener, DNAngel, Lagoon Engine, and Kingdom Hearts for Aku Tenshi, Yakitate!! Japan, Fire Candy, and Saijou no Meii for SnoopyCool, among others) and also was the sole translator for a fansub group (shounen-ai). I took a hiatus and closed RMT in 2006, and recently came back to just translating for SC!

IRL I'm 23 and looking for a job, so hire me! :D

What do you feel are some of the big differences between each group you've been involved with? For example do they operate differently?

rp: To be fair, I've only been really involved with SC, so take this with a grain of salt, but...

SnoopyCool and Aku Tenshi seem to me to be the least elitist and most friendly. At SC we do all our communication via the forum, whereas the other groups did more emailing. AT was also significantly forum and IRC based. At SC we kinda all operate on the same level; even tho Snoops is the boss dog, if he disappears or we want to move something along, we can definitely push our own agenda. The other groups, to me at least, were a little harder to be so casual with, altho AT again was pretty easygoing.

SC is also unique in that we usually have translations ready but editing takes longer. Probably mostly just because Snoops pumps them out so fast! Most other groups are scrabbling for TLs. (SC too but it's not such a huge issue I feel.) Then again we like having large and frequent releases, so it makes sense; that doesn't seem to be such a priority for others. At Screener, I was only in contact with them when I emailed them the translations and they told me when raws were ready. MangaProject also. Ummm's about it I suppose :)

Tell us a bit more about Random Manga Translations, why did you create it, what was your goal?

rp: I found Space Coyote's Nameless Manga Translations site through a friend, and was blown away with the possibility of sharing manga I loved with people who couldn't speak Japanese. It was my first year of high school, and I'd been into manga and HTML for a couple years, so I jumped right in!

I started out using a digital camera and Adobe PhotoDeluxe. I didn't have a scanner, so I would (carefully) tape down each page and photograph them. I was hardcore yo. I used Andy instead of Wild Words, and it wasn't even anti-aliased!

Yeah, it was pretty bad.

My online buddy Don also piggybacked on Suou Jima to scanlate Rurouni Kenshin, which was his favorite series, but we were totally separate projects. He used translations from another site and just did editing. Later on Don broke off, but I kept translating Kenshin by request, once I got into it (and we're still friends).

Anyway RMT was always just a way for me to share what I loved with people, so it started out as a request site—you'd request the chapters you want, and I'd scanlate them! This wouldn't work for most series, but Conan arcs are largely standalone and Kenshin was already well-known, so it worked pretty well until I decided to start doing things in order.

My goal was just to keep it up as long as possible, and I'm quite proud that I kept it going for 6 years. :)

The RMT website is very simple, how did you make it, was it all HTML?

rp: RMT's always been all HTML. I started out with simple tables, moved on to nested tables, played around with using iframes for a while but decided not to, then back to simple tables! I got into CSS a couple years ago (after I stopped) and decided to rehaul RMT to make it all CSS instead of HTML, but that's the only time it's been anything but tables.

RMT was originally called Suou Jima, why did you choose that name? Why did you later change it to Random Manga Translation?

rp: Suou Jima is the island that the Elite Four use as their base in the manga Pocket Monsters Special (better known as Pokemon Adventure in English), which was my very favorite manga at the time (and still holds a special place for me). Originally I wanted to scanlate that manga, since I was appalled at Viz's treatment of it, so that's where the name came from.

I stopped PokeSpe after chapter 3 I believe, but kept Suou Jima... to be honest I can't remember exactly when or why I decided to change the name, since it was almost a year after I started SJ. The reason behind RMT though, is that my SN has been "random person" for a long time, so randomness fit, and I did chapters out of order, so that made more sense as well.

Tell us a bit about the scene back when you first started RMT, what was it like?

rp: Dial-up was still pretty normal, so we uploaded page by page instead of with ZIPs. There weren't a ton of other sites scanlating so it was pretty chill... I was truthfully more into the Pokemon community at the time, and since RMT was a pretty minor group, I didn't know a lot about the manga scene. I followed TW and MangaProject mostly, later got into Omanga and Screener and SC.

Do you recall any prominent individuals or groups from around 1998–1999 that worked on translation/scanlation?

rp: The ones I knew of were Space Coyote's Nameless Manga Translations Site!, Sengoku-o-Togi-Zoushi (Inuyasha text translations), Yuu Yuu Hakusho Doujinshi in English, Project Ranma Scan, Swirly-Eyed Samurai, and Tomoe's text RuroKen translations. TW and SC have been around for a while too.

How was RMT perceived by fans and others from the community?

rp: I had a guestbook and got a lot of positive feedback. I got virtually no negative comments or emails, which was awesome; I know bigger groups sometimes get a lot of flak for stupid stuff. I didn't get a lot of email either, which was great. I did have an IRC channel though, and I made a few friends there. RMT was always pretty low-key, only getting about 100 hits a day in its prime, so I'm not really sure what others thought. I did get recruited to other groups through it, although I don't know what most people thought/think of RMT... I like to think I've got a Reputation for Awesome though. ;)

What were some of the biggest roadblocks you've faced? Did you get in trouble with any publishers or encounter copyright issues?

rp: My biggest problems were always finding hosting. I started off on GeoCities and stayed there for the longest time, but it started having bandwidth issues, so the site was down a lot and I had to take the files off. Since that was my only way to distribute, that was a problem... I always depended on fans who offered me webspace to both host the actual site and mirror files. Once I got into collegeļ¼Œ I finally had my own webspace to host RMT on, and IRC made it possible to not depend on the web. Until then though... I even had to shut down RMT for a while since I had nowhere to put it!

I never had issues with copyright, thankfully.

Another big problem was that my computer was super slow and it took forever sometimes to edit.

You ran RMT as a one-man operation, how did you manage it? Tell us about your day-to-day operations! Did you ever consider expanding the group?

rp: It wasn't too exciting -- I would check the polls for what people wanted, and update the queue of chapters to do. I alternated series, so I'd pick the next chapter from the next series, scan one chapter, run it through a Photoshop action to adjust brightness and resize it (didn't even know what levels were for the longest time), and then translate it as I edited. I didn't do a lot of rewriting or checking. Then I'd zip it all up, upload, send it off to mirrors, update the HTML, and set it freeeeee!

Several people offered to edit for me, but since I edited as I translated, it wouldn't have made that much difference time-wise, since I didn't spend a lot of time cleaning pages. One chapter would take 2 or 3 hours, although I got faster as time went on to the point I could do it in an hour or so.

I was lazy though, so sometimes there'd be weeks between updates...

What do you feel was RMT's most popular or influential project?

rp: Hellsing definitely brought the most hits, but Conan and RK were pretty big as well. Hellsing is for sure the one I worked the hardest on; I even started editing out gutter shadow, which I'd never done before, and took a lot of time to edit sound effects and written text.

Knighting+Knight was also surprisingly popular; I got a lot of requests from non-English scanlators asking permission to use my scans.

Looking back, if you could change one thing about RMT or what you did for RMT, what would it be?

rp: I would have done way more releases. I never got to catch up on Conan or Hamster, and I could easily have done so much more.

Also I would have kept better backups... I'm missing several old updates and old chapters. I'm pretty happy otherwise with how it went.

Any memorable stories you would like to share with the readers about RMT?

rp: Not a story per se, but the site usually had images and themes totally unrelated to the manga I actually did. First of all Suou Jima is from a manga I only did three chapters from. I used Puyo Puyo (a puzzle game) characters as banner and link images for SJ. I used Revenger (a cat character from a super obscure kid's manga I don't even have) as a background image for a long time. I kept using Dark Mousy (from DNAngel) as a link banner AFTER I stopped doing DNAngel... it was pretty much anything goes!

Why did you decide to close shop in 2006?

rp: I wanted to try finding actual translation work, plus I was losing motivation. I mostly kept RMT going to prove to myself that I could, and I figured I'd done enough proving so I closed up. :)

Tell us about some of the other groups you've helped out, what did you mostly do?

rp: I've done translations for MangaProject, MangaScreener, SnoopyCool, Juppon Gatana, Aku Tenshi, Manga-Koekje, as well as a couple fansub groups. I only translate and occasionally proofread; no editing or scanning for me! I'm still working with SnoopyCool, altho I've been pretty lazy lately. Read Saijou no Meii!!

Until I got over it I was also the resident asshole op on the IRC chans. :D

Since you did everything yourself, it's safe to assume you have a good knowledge on all aspects of the scanlation process, anything about scanlation you'd like to talk about that's not well-known or misunderstood by most?

rp: We're very possessive about our projects. If another group starts doing a cherished project, things can get very bitter. I remember at one point another group started doing Conan, and that ramped up my production to a chapter a day... ah if only I could be as productive for other things!

Scanlators do manga because we love them and want to share; we take it very personally when people steal projects just to make it go faster. Granted, it's frustrating if another group is going way slow... I know I've been tempted to steal projects a few times *coughHime-chan'sRibboncough* but still... at least ask first!

Even within groups we get pretty grouchy if other staff touch our precioussss.

Were there any groups or individuals you particularly looked up to or liked throughout the years?

rp: I was always very impressed with Stephen (flyingrobots) from MangaScreener as a translator. Snoopy impresses me also, if only cuz of the sheer number of chapters and volumes he's translated AND edited. I also liked MangaProject's attitude of just doing things their own way, regardless of what the fans say. Mostly though I just look up to myself.

From what you remember, what was the scanlation scene in general like back then? Do you feel things changed a lot as years went by?

rp: I remember mostly how quickly new groups appeared on the scene. One day there were just a few groups, and the next there were groups for every series out there! Manga Jouhou was established, and it got easier and easier to find almost anything.

I remember it used to be very difficult to find releases sometimes, as links were often broken and IRC could be finicky if a group didn't have a bot. Now there are crazy huge bots and archive sites, and even torrents to find anything you want. It's incredible!

Tell us a bit more about what the group dynamics were like back then.

rp: Umm they were pretty cool I guess? I didn't follow ShoujoMagic at all since I was more into shounen. I checked Omanga every day, although I stopped since they got steadily creepier and MPD Psycho was caught up. SC as you know I eventually joined, then a while later Snoopy went MIA... and then came back. TW sold out (kidding, kidding...). Honestly I don't remember too much since politics bored me. I feel like the big old groups have lost a lot of steam to real life and the smaller, younger groups are flourishing more now because of it.

The scanlation community seems to have changed over the years, what's your view on the "old" versus "new" debate that came up around the mid 2000s.

rp: I was always in my own little corner quietly doing my own thing, so I never really got into the fight. As long as people were doing what made them happy, that was good by me.

HOWever, I have always preferred speed over quality (image quality, anyway... translation gaffes have always annoyed me), and think big groups have the resources to do this better than small ones, which also have a tendency to get abandoned. I don't think it's the scanlator's job to create the best possible product; that's what actual publishers are for. Scanlations to me is just a way to share a story you love, and for that, the translation is what really counts.

What do you foresee is the future for scanlation?

rp: As long as there are students with too much time, and as long as Japan doesn't suddenly become the most uncoolest country ever, and the publishing companies continue gray-areaing it, I figure it'll be around for a long time to come.

Alright, let's wrap this up, what are some of your favorite scanlation groups or projects you have followed over the years?

rp: The project I've followed the longest is MangaProject (now ShoujoMagic)'s Parfait Tic, although they've since dropped it. I also religiously followed all the Urasawa manga from MangaScreener, and MPD Psycho from Omanga. Until I started translating it myself, Yakitate!! Japan from SC was also a fave. I haven't really read scanlations for a few years now though, since finding raws is so much easier these days.

What are some websites you like to visit every day?

rp: I check A List Apart, job sites, LiveJournal, daily t-shirt sites, Dealnews, Woot!, a bunch of comics (Sinfest, Lackadaisy, U.F.O., Dinosaur Comics, Digger, XKCD, Three Panel Soul), MangaHelpers, deviantART, and of course my email. I also check Yomiuri News and NY Times, but I don't actually read them most of the time...

Thank you for your time! Any last words?

rp: It constantly amazes me how bad my memory is... I had to dig through a lot of old files to remember this stuff!

Thanks for the nostalgia! :D