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Under Scanlation ( portmanteau word from the English terms "Scan" and "Translation") is defined as digital scans of comics , especially manga or manhwa offered translated by fans into another language, edited and to read or download online. In addition to works published by publishers, fan publications such as Dōjinshi , which are themselves an adaptation of well-known series, are distributed via scanlations. However, this distribution is regularly just as undesirable, or at least not approved, by fan authors, as is the case with scanlations by publishing houses.

Similar fan practice exists for anime and other films in the form of fansubs , fan-made and published subtitles.


With the popularization of manga in America and Europe in the early 1990s, fans ran out of material available in their market, and they were able to use the developing Internet to get direct access to Japanese publications. Groups emerged that translated Japanese series, published them without a license, and made them accessible to Western audiences for the first time. The breach of copyright law was accepted from the start in order to gain access to the series and to distribute them.

The first groups published translations in pure text form. The reader had to buy the Japanese original and could read it in English with the help of the translation. With the advent of faster internet access in the course of the 1990s, the complete pages were also published. Platforms were later created that bundle publications from many groups. Since 2004 there has also been a student scanlation group in Australia that translates niche works and Japanese webcomics and publishes them under the title Lost in Scanlation . Since it operates with the permission of the authors, concentrates on niche works and was initially supported by the Tokyo Foundation and Tokyopop , it is a special case. In 2009, the One Million Manga Pages project examined scanlations through image analysis programs to better understand the imagery of manga.

From the mid-2000s onwards, large platforms emerged, including MangaFox and OneManga , on which large quantities of scanlations from different groups were offered, together received millions of views and were also commercially exploited through advertising. OneManga was at times among the 1000 most viewed websites, in some countries in Southeast Asia it was even among the first 20. Publishers reacted to this with stronger crackdown on scanlation groups and platforms, whereupon some large platforms - including OneManga - were voluntarily closed or restricted in 2010 . In 2019 there was again increased action against scanlation groups, this time by the Japanese publishers. Scanlation website operators in Korea and the Philippines were arrested in the first half of the year, followed by lawsuits against operators of four websites in New York in September.

Working method

The tasks within a scanlation group are usually divided as follows: Scanners digitize the originals. These can be part of the group or the scans are obtained in another way. Depending on the group, magazines or the later edited volumes are scanned and some go so far as to tear out the pages, which together with the use of the edited volume leads to higher quality. Translators use the digitized pages to create a script in which all texts are translated with reference to their location in the comic. If necessary, the script is checked by others and finally the translated texts are inserted into the scanned pages by image editors; the original texts have been removed beforehand and, if necessary, any image errors that occurred during removal or scanning were retouched. Another test run can then follow. According to one scanlation community, the entire process takes a few hours per manga chapter - that's a good dozen or so pages. The group and the individual participants with a pseudonym are usually named on a page attached to the scanlation. The publication takes place via pages of the scanlation groups or large platforms dedicated to scanlations, on which the pages can be uploaded and offered for viewing or downloading. In the past, the publication of the scanlations was mainly done via IRC , these also served the communication of the groups and some of the channels have been preserved for a long time, then also via archives or BitTorrent.

The size of the scanlation scene cannot be precisely quantified as the members are almost exclusively online and anonymous. One of the largest community platforms,, had over 100,000 members in 2011. In some cases, scanlation groups work on the basis of Chinese translations of manga, since there are more translators from Chinese than Japanese translators. There is a lively exchange between the groups, some are members of several groups. There are different goals and priorities among the groups: the older ones tend to concentrate on demanding series or classics, while the younger ones translate current and popular series. The reputation within the scene is therefore different depending on the group membership and personal goals: While some people are interested in the distribution of unknown works, others are more concerned with high access figures and awareness.

When translating and editing, scanlation groups usually endeavor to stay as close to the original as possible and to preserve the cultural peculiarities of the original - in contrast to the practice sometimes used by publishers of adapting a work culturally and replacing or adding elements that may irritate the reader remove. In the case of translations of manga, this includes, for example, the reading direction, the Japanese addressing of people or onomatopoeia . In scanlations it happens that such elements are left in place and the reader is expected to be familiar with the foreign culture or these elements are explained by footnotes. James Rampant speaks of a form of "foreignization" in the translation process.

Legal and ethical issues

Since scanlations are typically unauthorized modifications and releases of works that are protected by copyright , they are copyright infringement and are illegal. You can therefore also be prosecuted. In 2015, three men were arrested in Japan for allegedly scanning and passing on a current magazine when it was delivered to the stores, which was finally shown in English on an online platform before the Japanese publication date. In addition, scanlations are held responsible for economic damage to publishers and authors, in particular through the provision of large quantities of series on platforms that also earn money on the scanlations with advertisements. Some scanning groups and platforms were closed due to pressure from rights holders.

Scanning groups are aware of the legal and ethical issues. They therefore usually end the publications when a licensed version in the respective language comes on the market and often also call for the purchase of the legal publication. They argue that they offer a service that is important for fans: offer mangas that have not yet been licensed, or that have not been licensed for a long time, or may never have been licensed, or that poorer readers cannot afford. Also that they want to make series known to a western audience in the first place or show a variety of the medium that has not yet been licensed. This creates a fan base before a licensed edition appears. Readers of Scanlations justify their consumption - usually only in anonymity online - with the fact that they cannot or do not want to afford the comic, that they do not want to wait for an official publication or that they have access to bookstores that run it. Many publishers therefore tolerate scanlations if it is purely fan activity that makes a work known for the first time. However, some groups continue to publish even after they have been officially licensed. They therefore have a bad reputation in parts of the scanlation scene.

Impact and Importance

According to a non-representative survey from 2006 and 2007, 65.5% of anime and manga fans in Europe read scanlations. Some authors argue that some series reach a much larger readership through scanlations than through official editions. The dissemination of mangas via scanlation is therefore also attributed to having made a contribution to their increasing popularity since the 1990s. Scanlations can first make works known and create a fan base before a licensed edition appears. They serve niches and can bypass the pressure of post-processing or censorship due to legal or social pressure, especially with erotic works, and are therefore often more faithful to the original than official translations. A large number of works is not attractive for commercial exploitation because they promise no income or represent too great a risk. Via scanlations, however, these are made accessible to a new audience, so that markets for these niches can arise in the first place and a low-threshold cultural exchange can take place.

At the same time, this created a generation of fans in Europe, America and Asia outside of Japan who are used to accessing free, translated digital manga and in which some mainly consume scanlations, so that publishers in Japan and in the import markets are missing out on income. Local publishers cannot live up to the expectation of being able to read manga digitally and free of charge very quickly after their publication in Japan. The decline in manga sales in the US market around 2010 is also attributed to competition from scanlations. In 2010, Japanese and American publishers joined forces to actively combat commercialized scanlations in particular. 30 groups as well as several platforms were put under pressure to stop the dissemination of scanlations. As a result, several platforms voluntarily discontinued their offer ( e.g. OneManga ) or restricted them to works not licensed in the target market ( e.g. MangaFox ). While scanlation groups and users argue that publishers would be put under pressure to also offer mangas digitally, Japanese publishers are more reluctant to issue licenses for digitized copies because they fear that this will encourage illegal copies.

The translation and editing practiced by scanlation groups, which is very faithful to the original, has become widely accepted over time, even for licensed publications of manga. The publishers have thus reacted to the success of the scanlations and the resulting wishes of the readers and recognized that this form of translation is accepted or even expected by their customers. Since the beginning of the 2000s, the mangas published in Europe and America, unlike in the past, have no longer been mirrored, references to Japanese culture are retained and explained, and in some cases Japanese salutations and onomatopoeia are retained in their original form or are only transcribed.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 'Explanation of Scanlation' . Website inside scanning. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m James Rampant: The Manga Polysystem: What Fans Want, Fans Get . In: Toni Johnson-Woods (Ed.): Manga - An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives . Continuum Publishing, New York 2010, ISBN 978-0-8264-2938-4 , pp. 221-231 .
  3. ^ Nele Noppe: Social Networking Services as Platforms . In: Jaqueline Berndt and Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (eds.): Manga's Cultural Crossroads . Routledge, New York 2013, ISBN 978-0-415-50450-8 , pp. 156 .
  4. a b c d e f Jeremy Douglass, William Huber, Lev Manovich: Understanding scanlation: how to read one million fan-translated manga pages . In: Image & Narrative . tape 12 , no. 1 , 2011, p. 190 ff .
  5. a b c d e Calvin Reid: Japanese, US Manga Publishers Unite To Fight Scanlations. In: Publishers Weekly. June 8, 2010, accessed May 31, 2019 .
  6. One Manga among world's 1,000 most-visited websites | CBR. Accessed May 31, 2019 .
  7. a b Breaking: Scanlation giant One Manga is shutting down | CBR. Accessed May 31, 2019 .
  8. Nico Lang: "Mangamura" operator arrested in the Philippines for Manga piracy. Anime2You, July 14, 2019, accessed September 21, 2019 .
  9. Nico Lang: Manga piracy: Japanese publishers file suit in the USA. In: Anime2You. September 18, 2019, accessed September 21, 2019 .
  10. What is Scanlation. In: February 20, 2005, archived from the original ; accessed on May 31, 2019 (English).
  11. a b Dirk Deppey: A Comics Reader's Guide to Manga Scanlations. In: The Comics Journal. January 13, 2006, archived from the original ; accessed on May 31, 2019 (English).
  12. a b c d Dirk Deppey: Scanlation Nation: Amateur Manga Translators Tell Their Stories. In: The Comics Journal. July 13, 2005, archived from the original ; accessed on May 31, 2019 (English).
  13. see 3 Men Arrested for Uploading One Piece Chapter to English Website (Updated) (accessed November 21, 2015)
  14. a b c d Frederik L. Schodt: The View from North America . In: Jaqueline Berndt and Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (eds.): Manga's Cultural Crossroads . Routledge, New York 2013, ISBN 978-0-415-50450-8 , pp. 22 .
  15. Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto, Nora Renka: Fanboys and “Naruto” Epics . In: Manga's Cultural Crossroads . Routledge, New York 2013, ISBN 978-0-415-50450-8 , pp. 196 .
  16. Jean-Marie Bouissou, Marco Pellitteri, Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, Ariane Beldi: Manga in Europe: A Short Study of Market and Fandom . In: Toni Johnson-Woods (Ed.): Manga - An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives . Continuum Publishing, New York 2010, ISBN 978-0-8264-2938-4 , pp. 260 .
  17. a b Elisabeth Klar: Tentacles, Lolitas, and Pencil Strokes . In: Jaqueline Berndt and Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (eds.): Manga's Cultural Crossroads . Routledge, New York 2013, ISBN 978-0-415-50450-8 , pp. 123 f .
  18. Emma Hayley: Manga Shakespeare . In: Toni Johnson-Woods (Ed.): Manga - An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives . S. 268 .
  19. Elisabeth Watson: Whose Digital Manga is it Anyway? Publishers vs. Scanlation. In: Publishing Trends. March 29, 2012, accessed May 31, 2019 .