Spamdini August 2009

Spamdini's Tales of the Swirly-Eyed Samurai was one of the few sites that has been online since 2000 serving scanlated chapters of Rurouni Kenshin. At its prime, Tales of the Swirly-Eyed Samurai was one of the most popular Kenshin projects around, with Spamdini's site being the number one ranked site on Google for the search term "Rurouni Kenshin." Tales of the Swirly-Eyed Samurai stopped operation in teh mid 2000s, since then Spamdini has been helping out with miscellaneous projects such as the Wild Fang Project.

Please introduce yourself!

Spamdini: My name is Spamdini and I live in Montreal, QC, Canada. I used to translate, scan and edit Dragonball, Rurouni Kenshin and Fist of the North Star and have provided some translation and editing for the Wild Fang Project.

Why the name Spamdini?

Spamdini: To be honest, I can't recall. I originally used it as my handle when playing PC games like Warcraft 2 back in the heydays. When I opened my first Hotmail account, I used that as my e-mail. After that it just kinda stuck.

How did you get into the translation/fanscan business?

Spamdini: I was a big fan of the Dragonball manga through the French translated books that were available here in Quebec by way of France. However, in 1998 they were only at about book 32 of 42 and so, in order to get through the series faster, I sought out translations online. I came across one site that had fanscans called the Daily Dragonball Chapters (DDBC) run by a fellow named Eric Phan. I was able to read what was not available to me, but many of the early chapters were not translated on the site yet. And so I began contributing to the site as a way to get involved in what I thought was an interesting endeavor.

Tell us a bit about your Tales of the Swirly-Eyed Samurai site. What was the community like when you first entered the scene?

Spamdini: I originally started translating Rurouni Kenshin for someone I knew through the message board on DDBC. However, we had a falling out and so I stopped contributing to his site. Rurouni Kenshin was the hot new series on the net at the time (think what Naruto was a year or two ago), but other than scattered fansubs there wasn't a ton of material available at the time.

Being a man of few talents, I had a friend on the net, Space Coyote, design the site (which was later redesigned by another friend Ace Kendo) and was able to score some web space. Initially, I started with GeoCities (which will soon be defunct I hear), but was offered web space on Anxious-Anime and Something Anime. This was before the glory days of BitTorrent, so most manga was distributed via IRC. I absolutely loathed IRC, so I always had direct links to my chapters. Of course, direct links were also incredibly costly, so I thank my lucky stars because I had guys like Alpha who were able to fund my obscene amounts of files.

I'm also proud to say there was a time when Tales of the Swirly-Eyed Samurai was the top Google result for the search term "Rurouni Kenshin" (heh heh).

Was your site one of the first of its kind to put translations on top of manga scans? How was the site received by others?

Spamdini: Nah, there were plenty that did that before mine (DDBC being one such example). Rurouni Kenshin just happened to be one of the most popular series at a time when manga and anime were still pretty fringe, so I guess I benefited from that exposure. I can't claim to have had any real influence though. Hell, I wasn't even the first to translate Rurouni Kenshin as I had found some fanscans on other sites.

What were some of the biggest roadblocks you faced? Did you ever get into trouble with manga publishers?

Spamdini: Never heard a peep from either the original publishers or American companies like Viz. I took down all the Kenshin chapters by choice when Viz bought the rights to the series. Compared to their translations, mine are garbage anyways.

The biggest roadblock was definitely just having enough bandwidth to support the downloads. A lot of the time I'd have the chapters available on three mirrors and two would go over the cap by lunchtime. Broken link e-mails were quite regular.

What are some of the other projects you've worked on aside from Rurouni Kenshin?

Spamdini: Aside from the original Dragonball, I also worked on what I consider my favorite project: Fist of the North Star. This was the series that ended up replacing Rurouni Kenshin and though I personally adored it, I received much flak for switching series. This is also in part because I never finished Rurouni Kenshin. I also translated a few books of Baki for the Wild Fang Project.

How did you manage your workflow? Any specific tools or software you preferred to use? What was a regular day like for Spamdini?

Spamdini: I used the French versions of the manga (though later with Fist of the North Star I used some Japanese raw scans I found online). This was the reason behind the giant obtrusive onomatopoeia in my scans. Originally I scanned in simple B&W line art because it yielded such small file sizes, but later scanned in grayscale since it made for much better pictures. I slowly increased the quality of the scans as time went on and modem speeds and bandwidth increased. Keep in mind that when I started scanlating, the 56k modem was the standard for most people. Later on, I would scan an entire book at a time.

Once scanned, I used Corel Photo Paint to edit the scans. I translated them on the spot from French and placed the edited text in. I would often use translations from as a reference when I didn't think the French version did proper justice. However, I tried to make the translations my own and avoided just copying and pasting text. After the chapter was done, I'd upload it or send it to my webmaster so he could upload it.

Is there anything about translating or scanlating you'd like to talk about that's commonly not well-known or misunderstood by the general public?

Spamdini: Translating is by far the most difficult part. Particularly if you dont have a 2nd hand source like I did with the French version of the manga. I had (and arguably still don't have) no skill when it came to graphic editing, so anyone can do that stuff to some degree. It's fairly unglamorous and tedious work overall.

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

Spamdini: Never been offered. And given that I would have to relocate in order to be near the companies in the industry, I never really considered it either.

When and why did you close down Tales of the Swirly-Eyed Samurai?

Spamdini: As I mentioned earlier, I took the chapters down when Viz acquired the rights to the series. I don't recall the year, but I think it was around 2003. I used the site for hosting my Fist of the North Star chapters up until last year when Anxious Anime was shut down.

You were around at a time when the scene was dominated by manga translations. How do you think the community from back then compared to the scanlation comunity that came a few years later?

Spamdini: I didn't really know much about the community aside from a few of my peers. I suppose because the early days of scanlations such as mine were much cruder and more along the lines of one-man projects that the final products weren't quite as nice as they could be. It was also taxing on the individuals since one person doing everything can end up being burned out easily. That's the reason why I would take breaks for months at a time without an update. You see the groups nowadays and their scanlations are not only higher quality but are churned out at a much faster and more consistent rate. Once manga and scanlations became popular enough, you saw more people doing it and more specialization in terms of jobs was possible as a result. I guess that makes today more advanced and efficient.

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

Spamdini: I remember SnoopyCool (Hajime no Ippo, Flame of Recca) being the first scanlator that was particularly impressive with his editing skills (if a tad obnoxious with the comments from time to time). This was at a time where most scanlations were still on IRC and the projects were still crude, so his crystal clear scans and edits were remarkable to me in their professional quality. Space Coyote, a friend of mine from the days when we both ran Simpsons sites, always made me jealous with the quality of her scans as well. She was also a fluent Japanese speaker so her translations were much better and accurate as well.

What do you feel is the future for fanscan/scanlation?

Spamdini: I think that scanlation will probably begin to plateau soon given that there's so much product out there right now. New series will always emerge and become popular and there will always be old gems yet to be uncovered. However, I find it hard to believe that people will be able to keep up with so much to read out there. Then again, the beauty of a free product is that you're only limited by your spare time and interest in it.

Speaking of free, I also think that the companies who own the official and legal rights to many series will start taking a harder line against scanlations. I'm extremely surprised they haven't sooner, with top-selling manga like Naruto being displayed flagrantly on the net in spite of the potential lost revenue to Viz. I have a feeling the free lunch will be over soon.

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

Spamdini: Used to love Berserk, but my interest has waned in recent years. I've been very big on Hajime no Ippo and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, and more recently Kinnikuman and the various Baki series have been my must haves.

What are some websites you like to visit every day?

Spamdini: I absolutely love Achewood, the most brilliant comic on the web from any nation. I'm also a sports addict so I'm constantly on, especially when it's NFL season. I tend to peruse looking for updates to my favorite series every few days or so.

Thank you for your time! Any last words?

Spamdini: I would like to thank everyone who has helped me over the years by providing web space, helping to edit chapters or just supporting my site by visiting. It made the hours in front of my scanner and screen worthwhile!

I'm glad I was able to have an effect on some people and help them enjoy manga that aren't necessarily readily available to them. Most often, I get e-mails from people in countries such as South-East Asia or Latin America where they would be exposed to certain series for the first time. I'm glad I have been able to provide some entertainment to people so far away.

I do hope that the variety in manga series being translated these days changes as I'd like to see a lot more 80's classics such as City Hunter become popular. They're underappreciated because they have a certain American look and feel, which does not necessarily fit into the manga and anime culture of English-speaking fans (or Japanese-speaking ones lately, for that matter).

I'd be interested to know if the Japanese have the same type of community as us, translating different independent American comics that aren't necessarily exported over there. A scanlation cultural exchange perhaps?