ZlleH June 2009
ZlleH has been in the scanlation scene since 2000 and was a founding member and leader of MangaProject, one of the most influential groups in the early 2000s. Before creating MangaProject, ZlleH helped darkshard run Mangascans. In 2001, ZlleH, along with many former Mangascans staff, went on to form MangaProject, a group that prided itself in the quality of its work.
ZlleH: I'm ZlleH. I was an editor and group organizer of a manga scans group called MangaProject.
ZlleH: Mangascans was a website where the owner would post up manga files that he worked on; he (darkshard) would organize the scanlation effort through email. darkshard also had a channel on IRC (#mangascans) where he hung out to chat about manga.
I found the website through reading a manga release of his and found my way to #mangascans. The conversation in the channels were really light and fun, it was a small channel so it was very manageable.
ZlleH: From what I can remember (which is very vague), when I joined the conversation in #mangascans, there were three major groups at the time. All were really website based and had no IRC channel of their own. I believe the website owners would gather in #mangascans to chat about manga. #mangascans wasn't a channel specifically for one group; it was like a manga fan channel.
ZlleH: If I tried to remember, I would be guessing, but I believe MangaScreener was around back then.
ZlleH: I lurked around a bit in #mangascans and then volunteered to help edit. I talked to darkshard and was shocked to find out that he organized most of the work through email at the time. I suggested we try to recruit more people that can come to IRC to have better and faster co-ordination. I started to help out with Love Hina since I really liked it and wanted more chapters to read.
One day, while I was idling in the channel, another lurker named Ichijo started inquiring if we would be interested in working on his/her (Ichijo has never revealed his/her sex, I'll just assume male to make this interview easier) favorite manga, which were I''s, Video Girl A. I., etc. He sent me some samples of the scans he had done and they were pretty high quality (at the time). darkshard didn't want to take on more projects and just wanted to concentrate on finishing Love Hina. I had a lot of time then, and Ichijo and I started to work together on I''s and VGAI.
#mangascans started to become crowded and busy, and we didn't want to ruin the manga fan conversation with coordination stuff, so I created a new channel just for Ichijo and I to organize the releases, and that is how #MangaProject was formed.
ZlleH: #MangaProject was just a channel name to describe that the channel was for manga project coordination while #mangascans was for general manga fan talk, hence the Manga + Project. darkshard, Ichijo and I were in both #MangaProject and #mangascans.
When we started releasing the new manga, I decided to put a note in the releases about the channel #MangaProject and the website MangaProjects.com in hopes of getting more people to help out with the projects and as a place to grab the manga files. I guess technically the moment I created the website MangaProject was when MangaProject the group formed.
People's reactions were pretty great, it was surreal how fast people flocked to #MangaProject and the number of users just grew (I think the peak in the number of user was around 700). Looking back, it was an amazing experience to witness so many fans all in one place. I'm glad I could be a part of it.
ZlleH: Well, I believe I made the last designed before AnimeSuki came to be. I've always liked and made website with a minimalist design. I don't know if that caught on or not. I hate going to a website with tons of pictures loading, so I made sure there was very little anime/manga graphics on our website.
ZlleH: It was a free redirect site. All three Mangascans sites I mentioned used it, so I used it, and then you can guess the chain reaction.
ZlleH: So say you have a site like: www.thisIsALongSiteDomain.com/MikeSmith, you can sign up for mangaproject.cjb.net and it will redirect it to the site www.thisIsALongSiteDomain.com/MikeSmith, makes it easier for people to rememeber.
ZlleH: That was actually why I wanted to start helping out, I wanted to move the coordination of the projects from email to real time IRC coordination, because I figured that would speed up chapter releases.
I also wanted all editors to try to edit in the same font and style so readers can't tell the difference between edited chapters. I wanted volunteer editors to do an editor test before we accepted them as an editor. It used to be that anyone who wanted to help was accepted.
I wanted the scans to be a larger size so people didn't have to strain their eyes to read, I think we started out with 1,100 pixel heights and graduated to 1,200 pixel heights. I also wanted quality control before the edited manga was released.
I think the most memorable thing was the little small practices we came up with that still persist to this day. I remember coming up with the idea of using a grey font for thought dialogue (I later decided that all fonts should be black), groups that formed after us started using that style and some groups or individual editors still like to do that.
ZlleH: We always worked the same way throughout the life of the group, there was only going to be one coordinator and the rest were translators, editors, and scanners. Translator and Scanners were rare and pretty prized back then, and editors were mostly fans who wanted to help.
Most of the time, the releases would come out when they were finished or when I was interested in doing a run of a title because the story was starting to be interesting.
As for keeping track, it was just a simple .txt file, I didn't use any spreadsheet or anything like that. But most of all, everyone who worked with the group had to have access to IRC, no exceptions. I wanted real time coordination; I didn't want to use emails or forums to coordinate.
ZlleH: A major roadblock was the usual infighting among the editors (including some channel users). Some felt we weren't doing the manga that they wanted to do and read. In retrospect, it turned out to be a good thing because those people started to branch out and start their own groups so they could work on the manga that they were interested in.
As for trouble with publishers, we had one email that warned us to stop doing a series, but with the Internet, you can't really tell if it was authentic or just someone playing a trick, we stopped doing the series though. It was a futile move on their part, since, as you know, if one group stops doing a series or is to slow in releasing, another obscure group will pop up who doesn't care about a publisher's warnings and would just pick it.
Other than that, no other major stuff, it was sort of a magical time back then, everyone wanted to help, there were so many people and we all had a drive to work on this hobby.
ZlleH: I'm not sure where the term came from; personally, I don't like the name scanlation, but that is the term most people recognize as what fan-translated manga is nowadays. As for scanlation being used over scanslation, I think it's just more natural to say scanlation as it closely sounds like translation.
ZlleH: At first, it was all nice and peaceful, but like anything, it didn't last forever. We basically didn't interact with other groups in the beginning (we did later); we just released manga that we liked to read ourselves. But as the community grew, some groups became rivals, wanting to work on the same manga because they believe the other group's quality or speed wasn't up to par.
There was a lot of drama, but like I said back then, competition is always good. But just the same, a lot of friends were made, long life friends actually. Some groups just really liked each other and started collaborating, etc. You can still see these relationships even today.
ZlleH: Personally, I feel our most influential projects were the earlier projects which defined MangaProject's editing standards. I''s, Video Girl A.I., Touch, and Kimagure Orange Road, I have fond memories of those titles. Looking back now, they can't compare to the quality of manga releases these days, but at the time, they were pretty good.
I'll keep the inside stories of MangaProject to myself, but let's say they were all hijinks and elaborate pranks played on each other. We made a lot of friends, some we decided to visit and hang out in real life.
We lost a few friends due to real life responsibilities, group infighting, branching out to form new groups. But we also made many more friends, and we still talk and hang out on IRC and real life to this day, not in a manga group capacity (since we don't release anymore), but as a place to hang out so we don't lose touch with one another. And that's one of the best things I got out of this little hobby.
ZlleH: The easy answer is that we all grew up and started having more responsibilities in real life. We started out while in school, now we have family, careers, travels, etc. It was getting harder to convince people they should edit/translate/scan after their full day that they had. Some if not most of the staff that were younger moved on to other groups or formed their own groups.
As for me, I just wanted to take a rest and enjoy reading manga instead of coordinating a manga project; I figured it was well deserved.
ZlleH: Hah! TFT! The Furry Triangles! You got to love a group that has a name like that. At the time, #MangaProject was a pretty big channel, maybe 500–600 users at a time. We had daily private messages from fans offering to scan everything under the sun, even licensed North American titles.
We of course turned down the license titles, my theory is that one or a few of those people got together in the channel and formed the group TFT. They used the channel and other file share channels to spread their work. People just assumed it was MangaProject since they used our channel to release their stuff.
ZlleH: Well, if you ever saw one of TFT's logo files included in their releases, they always had pictures of um... people dressed up on Halloween as a huge female private area. Guessing from that, The Furry Triangle must have been another way for them to describe their favorite things in life.
ZlleH: There are so many, I like many genres unlike some who will only read a certain genre. My favorite read would have to be 7 Seeds, Basara, Cross Game, any works by Kaoru Mori (Shirley, Emma, Otoyomegatari, etc.), any works by Masamune Shirow (Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell, etc.), Great Teacher Onizuka, Katsu, Kimagure Orange Road, Lone Wolf and Cub, Maison Ikkoku, Miyuki, Mysterious Girlfriend X, Pastel, Path of the Assassin, Shounan Jun'ai Gumi, Touch, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Yume de Aetara. There are just too many to list!
I think my favorite group right now, if I had to choose, would be the ones that work on the Kaoru Mori projects (IIChan); I like their translation, scans and editing.
ZlleH: My memories are foggy about the moves, but indeed we started on Dal.net. I believe at the time, Dal.net was suffering from DDOS attacks and we decided to move to another IRC network. That trend happened again and again until IRCHighway was chosen; IRCHighway has been pretty stable so far.
But during the moves, some manga groups decided that other IRC network was more suitable for them. In the beginning, most manga groups tried to stay on the same IRC network; it was in the best interest for fans to be able to go to all their favorite channels on one network. But with the constant move, and the growing manga groups, you are bond to have differing thoughts. With the growth of BitTorrent, some fans don't even need to come to IRC anymore, which is kind of sad in a way.
ZlleH: Most of the time, I'm busy with real life. But when I am online in #MangaProject, we mostly talk about computers, video games, and post funny links from the "interweb." We still talk about anime and manga, but the conversation is more like old friends hanging out at a pub.
I think the future for manga is going to be great! I see the quality of the releases these days and I am simply amazed. I am so glad groups are taking on fringe manga stories instead of the generic ones (which are okay as well). I am very optimistic for the future of this hobby I once took part in.
ZlleH: I'm afraid there are just too many little stories to tell, I'd be here all night. Some of us have kept channel logs from all the way back to the beginning and sometimes copy and paste it to the channel for some laughs and memories.
ZlleH: I'd like to thank you for this talk we had, it made me reminisce about the past and realize how different the manga scene is today compared to what it was then. I'm happy to see there are as many if not more dedicated individuals wanting to help better the manga scene, including you.
If I have to give any last words/advice, it would be to keep the group drama to a minimum, but it's always good to have a little rivalry, it keeps the competitive edge alive.