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Title: Scanlation  
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Subject: WikiProject Comics/Cleanup, Anime and Manga, Fan translation, Dōjinshi, Fansub
Collection: Anime and Manga Terminology, Fan Translation
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Scanlation (also scanslation) is the scanning, translation, and editing of comics from a language into another language. Scanlation is done as an amateur work and is nearly always done without express permission from the copyright holder. The word "scanlation" is a portmanteau of the words scan and translation. The term is mainly used for Japanese comics (manga), although it also exists for other national traditions on a lesser scale. Scanlations may be viewed at websites or as sets of image files downloaded via the Internet.


  • History 1
  • Process 2
  • Motivations and ethics 3
  • Legal action 4
  • Reception 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


  • Donovan, Hope (2010), "Gift Versus Capitalist Economies", in Levi, Antonia; McHarry, Mark; Pagliassotti, Dru,  
  • Hye-Kyung Lee's list of published papers
  • Inside Scanlation for history and interviews

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Sands, Ryan. "TALKING WITH THE MASTER OF MANGA: Author Frederik Schodt on translation, Tezuka, and life as a Tokyo teenager". Electric Ant Zine (Youth in Decline) 1. 
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Doria, Shawn. "Foreign Scanlation". Doria Shawn a.k.a Gum. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  4. ^ Doria, Shawn. "The Land Before Time". Doria Shawn a.k.a Gum. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  5. ^ Doria, Shawn. "The First Modern Scanlation Group". Doria Shawn a.k.a Gum. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Macias, Patrick (2006-09-06). "Fans lift J-culture over language barrier".  
  7. ^ Doria, Shawn (2009). "Early Scanlation Dramalamacon". Doria Shawn a.k.a Gum. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  8. ^ Doria, Shawn (June 2009). "Ookla The Mok". Doria Shawn a.k.a Gum. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  9. ^ a b Deppey, Dirk (13 July 2005). "Scanlation Nation: Amateur Manga Translators Tell".  
  10. ^ a b c d "'Scanlators' freely translating 'manga,' 'anime'".  
  11. ^ Vaelis (25 July 2011). "Typesetting Introduction". Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Deppey, Dirk (13 October 2006). "A Comics Reader's Guide to Manga Scanlations".  
  13. ^ a b Aoki, Deb (11 Aug 2010). "From Manga Scanlations to Comics on the iPad: Online Piracy Panel at Comic-Con".  
  14. ^ James Rampant (2010). "The Manga Polysystem: What Fans Want, Fans Get". In Johnson-Woods, Toni. Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. Continuum. pp. 221–232.  
  15. ^ Douglass, Jeremy; Huber, William; Manovich, Lev (2011). "Understanding scanlation: how to read one million fan-translated manga pages" (PDF). Image & Narrative 12 (1). Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  16. ^ a b Donovan, Hope (2010), "Gift Versus Capitalist Economies", in Levi, Antonia; McHarry, Mark; Pagliassotti, Dru,  
  17. ^ Pagliassotti, Dru (November 2008) 'Reading Boys' Love in the West' Particip@tions Volume 5, Issue 2 Special Edition
  18. ^ Wood, Andrea. (Spring 2006). "Straight" Women, Queer Texts: Boy-Love Manga and the Rise of a Global Counterpublic. WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly, 34 (1/2), pp. 394-414.
  19. ^ .O'Reilly, D & Kerrigan, F. Marketing the Arts: A Fresh Approach. Routledge, 2010. p. 221
  20. ^ a b c Jeff Yang (14 June 2004). ."apuru pai"No longer an obscure cult art form, Japanese comics are becoming as American as . SFGate. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  21. ^ "Legal Issues and C&D Letters". Inside Scanlation. 
  22. ^ Reid, Calvin (8 June 2010). "Japanese, U.S. Manga Publishers Unite To Fight Scanlations".  
  23. ^ a b Watson, Elizabeth (29 March 2012). "Whose Digital Manga is it Anyway? Publishers vs. Scanlation". Market Partners International. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  24. ^ Melrose, Kevin (28 May 2010). "One Manga among world’s 1,000 most-visited websites". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  25. ^ Melrose, Kevin. "Breaking: Scanlation giant One Manga is shutting down". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  26. ^ "Manga Pirated, Put Online." The Japan News Apr 20 2014. ProQuest. Web. 29 May 2015 .
  27. ^ "Publishers, Govt Take on Pirated Manga Online." The Japan News Apr 21 2014. ProQuest. Web. 29 May 2015 .
  28. ^ "Shot Fired Across Manga Pirates' Bow." The Japan NewsJul 31 2014. ProQuest. Web. 29 May 2015 .
  29. ^ a b c Forbes, Jake (2010-03-26). "Guest editorial: Dear Manga, You Are Broken". MangaBlog. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  30. ^ Toren Smith (27 February 2006). """Comment on "The Bard is right again. LiveJournal. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  31. ^ Carlson, Johanna Draper (2010-03-22). "Legal Doesn’t Matter: More on Scanlation Sites". Manga Worth Reading. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 


During a panel on digital piracy in Comic-Con 2010, the comic and music critic and writer for Techland, Douglas Wolk, expressed concern in response to the actions of Manga Multi-national Anti-Piracy Coalition stating that he had seen the music industry "destroy" itself by "alienating its most enthusiastic customer base" in attempts to fight piracy. Forbes, also a panelist, agreed criticizing publishers for this direct retaliation; Forbes stated that publishers were not realizing that consumers wanted large amount of content so they could browse rather than picking and choosing individual items. Deb Aoki, planist and Manga editor for, stated that this was exactly what scanlation aggregator sites provided consumers. Forbes highlighted that until recently scanlations were not problematic; however aggregator sites having been appearing that put scanlations much more readily and easily accessible that run like business function off of ad revenue while the artist and scanlation groups received nothing.[13]

Forbes urged the scanlation community to instead of directing their energies towards providing original, creative content as oppose to infringing on copyright laws. He addressed the fandom's criticism of the lack of quality in official stating that it should manifest as discussion. In regards to bridging the gap between cultures, he mentioned translating what Japanese bloggers have to say. Finally he addressed the desire for fame side of the scanlation community by stating that they should try their hand in creating fanart instead of placing their name on an unofficial translation of copyrighted material.[29]

Johanna Draper Carlson says that some readers of scanlations do not wish to spend money, or that they have limited mobility or funds, or that they are choosy about which series they wish to follow. Carlson feels that the readers of scanlations "do not care" that scanlations are illegal.[31] Forbes describes the cost of keeping up with new manga as "astronmical", stating that "fans expecting to read any manga they want for free isn’t reasonable, but neither is it reasonable to expect your audience to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to stay up to date with content that their Japanese kindred spirits can get for a quarter the cost."[29]

Jason Thompson, a freelance editor with deep involvement in the manga industry, stated that although manga companies never mention them, they have placed paying increasing amounts of attention towards scanlations as a means of gauging a title's popularity and the presence of a fanbase. [6] Some licensing companies, such as Del Rey Manga, Tokyopop, and Viz Media, have used the response to various scanlations as a factor in deciding which manga to license for translation and commercial release.[20] Steve Kleckner, former VP of sales for Tokyopop, stated that "hey, if you get 2,000 fans saying they want a book you've never heard of, well, you gotta go out and get it."[20] Toren Smith, a translator, feels differently stating that, "I know from talking to many folks in the industry that scanlations DO have a negative effect. Many books that are on the tipping point will never be legally published because of scanlations."[30]

Jake T. Forbes, an editor and columnist, criticized the work that scanlation groups in that they in no way are in "legal grey area" and are blatant copyright infringement. He further criticized the community for lacking the right and qualifications to know whether or not scanlation is positive or negative for the industry and the harm it caused, emphasizing the simple truth that the scanlation community is "not" the industry. He describes the current fandom as taking "unfettered" access to copyrighted works "for granted" due to advent of torrents and scanlations.[29]

Patrick Macias wrote for The Japan Times that there seems to be an unspoken agreement between scanlators and publishers; once a series obtains an English-language license, English-language scanlators are expected to police themselves.[6] Most groups view the act of scanlation as treading upon a 'gray area' of legality. Johnathan, owner of the now defunct scanlation sharing site Ignition-One, acknowledged that scanlations are illegal no matter what scanlation groups might say, however unlike the manner in which the advent of the MP3 format marked the age of sharing music that harmed the music industry, he believed that scanlating manga in contrast encouraged domestic publishers to license manga.[6]


Some scanlations leak before the manga is even published in the Japanese weekly magazines.[26] As of April 2014, the Japanese government was looking into amending copyright law to more effectively target translated scans.[27] A 2014 estimate was that lost revenue from scanlations amounted to "560 billion yen per year in only four major cities in China".[28]

Due to manga's popularity steadily increasing in the overseas market, copyright holders felt that scanlators were intruding on their sales and in 2010, a group of 36 Japanese publishers and a number of US publishers banded together to form the Manga Multi-national Anti-Piracy Coalition to "combat" illegal scanlations, especially mentioning scanlation aggregator websites. They have threatened to take legal action against at least thirty, unnamed websites.[22][23] The coalition has achieved some degree of success. The scanlation aggregator site OneManga, ranked 935 in the entire internet on May 2010 according to a Google listing and top 300 in the United States,[24][23] announced its closure on July 2010 due to their respect towards the displeasure expressed by the publishers, while OneManga officially shut down its online reader in August, 2010.[25]

Historically, copyright holders have not requested scanlators to stop distribution before a work is licensed in the translated language. Thus, scanlators usually feel it is relatively 'safe' to scanlate series which have not been commercially released in their country. Steve Kleckner, a former VP of sales for Tokyopop, stated that "Frankly, I find it kind of flattering, not threatening... To be honest, I believe that if the music industry had used downloading and file sharing properly, it would have increased their business, not eaten into it."[20] However, this view is not necessarily shared among the industry, as some Japanese publishers have threatened scanlation groups with legal action. Since the 1990s, publishers have sent cease and desist letters to various scanlation groups and websites.[21]

According to a 2009 study conducted by Lee Hye-Kyung of the University of London, Japanese publishers felt that scanlation was "an overseas phenomenon", and no "coordinated action" had taken place against scanlation. Lee stated that a possible explanation for some of the lack of legal action is that scanlation groups always make sure to buy an original copy of the work and generally stop scanlating should the work become licensed.[10]

Scanlations are often viewed by fans as the only way to read comics that have not been licensed for release in their area.[10] However, according to international copyright law, such as the Berne Convention, scanlations are illegal.[19]

Legal action

A more recent phenomenon amongst scanlation readers is the emergence of Ereaders. Software such as Mangle allows users to more easily read scanlations on their Amazon Kindle. Since most scanlations are distributed as a series of images, many e-book readers already have the capability to read scanlations without additional software. Most, if not all, manga is not released in a digital format that is compatible with e-book readers, so downloading scanlations is the only way to do this.

The cost and speed of commercial releases remains an issue with some fans. Imported comics from the original countries' markets sometimes cost less than the commercially released version, despite the high cost of shipping. Despite weekly or monthly serialized releases in the country of origin, translated editions often take longer to release due to the necessity of translating and repackaging the product before release.

The quality of commercial offerings is a common complaint.[16] Localization is also a common complaint among supporters of scanlations. Commercial releases often have titles, names, puns, and cultural references changed to make more sense to their target audience. The act of horizontally 'flipping' the pages of commercial releases has also received criticism from fans of manga. The reason for this change is that manga panels are arranged from right to left, while the panels in Western comics are arranged from left to right. However, due to large-scale fan complaints that this 'flipping' has changed the finished product from the original (e.g. A flipped manga image will keep the speech translations legible, while any graphics such as the wording on clothes or buildings will be reversed and confusing), this practice has largely diminished.

In other cases, scanlation groups are formed to get around perceived or actual censorship in the official translation or in the decision to obtain the series license. "Caterpillar" of former Caterpillar's Nest scanlation group, in reference to erotic content that his group released, stated that "I started doing scanlations because I wanted to read certain manga and I knew they didn't stand a snowflake's chance in hell of ever getting an official English translation."[6] In the yaoi fandom, commercially published explicit titles are often restricted to readers aged 18 or above, and there is a tendency for booksellers to stock BL, but also insist that more of it is shrink-wrapped and labeled for adult readers.[17] Andrea Wood has suggested that teenage yaoi fans seek out more explicit titles using scanlations.[18]

As many titles do not get licensed in most countries, or licensed in any foreign country and scanlation groups allow a much wider audience access to the content. The owner of the now defunct Manga hosting site Ignition-One, Johnathan, stated that "The entire reason I joined the scanlations community is to promote manga that I was interested in and, coincidentally, that no one else would translate."[6] Also this practice is common for some manga discontinued due to lack of popularity or sales in the target area.

Fans are often quite unhappy with the translation industry for various reasons. Patrick Macias, a columnist for The Japan Times Weekly described fans, "addicted to page-turning narratives", as impatient with "agonizingly" slow pace at which official translations are released.[6] Douglass, Huber and Manovich say that enthusiasm by fans about a particular series, coupled with delays in official translations lead to the formation of scanlation groups.[15] Scanlators say that they scanlate to promote the series or the author in their own language, but Hope Donovan suggests that the scanlator's goal is more along the lines of "self-promotion", and argues that it is prestigious for a scanlator to have many fans.[16]

While early official translations of manga focused on localizing the manga to an Anglophone culture, scanlations retained the cultural differences, for example, leaving in forms of address, romanizing sound effects and onomatopoeia instead of translating them, and providing the manga unflipped.[14]

Motivations and ethics

Scanlation groups primarily make their releases available through IRC. However nearly all scanlations on offer are available through BitTorrent links or direct HTTP download links. The vast amount of manga released and multitude of scanlation groups, each with their own individual sites and methods of distribution, sometimes even competing scanlations of the same manga, gave rise to sites such as Manganews that specialize in tracking and linking these releases.[12] These downloadable files sometimes are formatted as cbz or cbr files. Jake T. Forbes, a manga editor and columnist, stated at a Comic-Con 2010 panel that recently scanlation aggregator sites that offer many different titles all in one place have recently become part of the distribution process.[13]

Much like their earlier predecessors, the anime [10][9] The typesetter then takes the translated text and places it into the 'cleaned' raw, making the translated texts fits in the dialogue boxes and selecting appropriate fonts for effect such as emphasis.[11] Finally the translated, typeset manga is sent to the scanlation group's quality controller who copyedits the final product before releasing it to the websites that it will be viewed or downloaded from.[10]

Scanlation is usually done by a group of fans who collaborate through the internet. Many scanlators actively communicate with each other, even with those of other groups, some even belonging to several groups at once; others choose to avoid communication completely. One former scanlator, by the pseudonym Stephen, noted that scanlators often fall into three types of cliques: those who belong to prestigious 'old guard' groups that have been active for several years, to newer groups that established themselves through hard work, and to fringe groups that attempt to undercut other groups attempting to best them via larger download count. Much stigma exists between the old and new. Stephen stated that Old Guard consider newer groups as "trend- or fame-whores" and thus choose to work on series that have more cultural or artistic significance whereas newer groups consider the Old Guard bitter losers who are no longer popular and tend to work on the more popular titles.[9] Many groups have their own webpage as well as an IRC channel. IRC is an important part of the community aspect, as they allow for real-time interaction between the group staff and the target audience. IRC also allows the groups to recruit new staff.


[8][7], Viz Media partnered with several scanlation groups including Toriyama's World to promote the magazine and subsequently received a cut of the revenue through Viz's affiliate program. Shounen Jump To help kickstart the initial publication of [6] The majority of scanlation groups seemed to uphold an unspoken agreement between them and manga publishers; that when a series is officially licensed, scanlators are expected to police themselves. For instance, when Viz licensed three of the most popular series that Toriyama’s World was scanlating, the website took their scanlations offline.[5] By 1998, many free hosting services such as [4] Parallel to the increasing growth of the Internet in the late 1990s, people increasingly began to translate manga scripts, soon after which groups began editing those translated scripts onto manga scans. Initially scanlations were distributed using mail, CDs, and emails within anime clubs.


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