Corona and Manga Translation

As we touched upon briefly in the seminar the other day (the seminar is this blog here ), people say the game industry is doing all right despite the ongoing pandemic. Yet, we’re starting to hear that the seemingly never-ending influence of the coronavirus have caused delays in game development and release postponements, so it seems that even the game industry is not immune to the virus’s effects.

Throughout all this, inquiries are increasing about translation, localization, and DTP for, apart from games, manga. In the last thirty years, there have been several waves of manga being released overseas, and each time Japanese publishing companies rose to the challenge. Yet, it never quite went as desired, and it was a cycle of attack and retreat. With everything shifting towards digital media, in recent years a new wave of manga on the international scene has started.

Why Releasing Manga Internationally Has Been Unsuccessful

There are various reasons, but I believe the main cause is pirated copies. Manga outside of Japan is more expensive than in it, making buying more difficult. But if you can read pirated versions for free, obviously people will. On top of being free, the translation quality isn’t terrible. Readers appreciate pirated versions, but Japanese publishing companies and companies that want to translate or localize these manga, of course, do not. Even worse, what really makes translation companies cry are fan translations. There are fans who will do the work for pennies, or even free, which threatens the value of a company like Active Gaming Media.

No matter how hard they’ve tried to crack down, these pirated versions keep popping up, and companies can’t sit idly by. Amutus and Paples established a joint company to promote the eradication of pirated manga, so hopefully more and more Japanese manga will be released abroad.

Now, I said that the number of inquiries about manga translation and DTP work have increased during the pandemic, but those aren’t just from Japan. Japanese companies request translation from Japanese to English, plus DTP work, but these days there have been requests from other countries asking for English to Japanese, or from Chinese and Korean to Japanese.

The Difficulties of Manga Translation

The most difficult part of translating manga is onomatopoeia. Often when talking about sound differences between English and Japanese people will mention a dog’s bark. In Japanese it’s “wan wan,” but in English it’s “bow wow.” Sounds are represented differently from place to place, and they need to be localized to fit each country. An example often used of localizing onomatopoeia in manga would be “DON” from One piece. In the English version, it changes to  “BOOM” or “DOOM.”

Another example from a project I was in charge of recently, the manga takes place in the Edo period. As the tools and other items are very old, it was difficult to translate them.

What Countries Read Japanese Manga?

As mentioned above, companies have been trying and failing to release Japanese manga overseas. And it seems that the market is still small compared to other Japanese content (games, anime), even from a global perspective. The countries where they seem to be in demand include North America, France, South Korea, Germany, and China. In line with this, there are lots of staff at our company from North America and France that enjoy Japanese content (anime, games, manga).

What Kind of Manga is Popular?

Every day there’s news here in Japan about the hit movie “Kimetsu no Yaiba.” If you look at what’s popular in other countries, you see things like “Dragon Ball,” “Naruto,” “Detective Conan,” Doraemon,” “One Piece,” “Attack on Titan”… and of course “Demon Slayer, Kimetsu no Yaiba.”  Obviously these are also super big in Japan, but surprisingly there are many translation requests for games targeting women, like BL (Boy’s Love) and TL (Teen’s Love).

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