MANGA.CLUB, a new service from Tokyo based manga distributor TORICO, is a web-based project that allows people to read manga for free, legally. Although many of the translators and typesetters working for the website have backgrounds in scanlation, all of the content on MANGA.CLUB is officially licensed. Since its 2017 launch, the website has been working to support mangaka through ad revenue and bring more manga into English.
The editors here at Manga Planet enjoy many of MANGA.CLUB’s series and are eager to see how they grow. We spoke to Kou Oushirou, a member of the MANGA.CLUB team, to learn more about what goes behind the scenes.
Manga Planet (MP): So starting off, could you introduce yourself and your role in MANGA.CLUB?
Kou Oushirou (KO): Well, as you know, I’m Kou, and my role with MANGA.CLUB is a bit multi-faceted. I originally came on as a consultant, and, while I still consult, I’ve been largely working in translation and typesetting.
MP: How did you become involved with MANGA.CLUB?
KO: I was in a Discord group where I met Dan, who is Head of Global Development with TORICO and heads the project. I introduced myself as someone who did a lot of research in the area of manga. I had some ideas on how to expand the project when it was in development, so I flew to Japan and met with Dan in person and the other members of his company.
That was probably 9 months ago, so I’ve been with them ever since.
MP: Wow! That’s pretty amazing. Did you have experience with industry prior to MANGA.CLUB?
KO: Only on the research side. I’d given talks twice in Japan and was an invited speaker at Kyoto Seika University.
MP: From what I understand about MANGA.CLUB, many of the translators, typesetters, etc. were involved in the scanlation scene. What is your perspective on MANGA.CLUB’s position within the scanlation/official publishing environment for manga publishing.
KO: It’s not unheard of for a manga publishing company to hire scanlators, and I think a lot of the companies are of the mindset that “if you can’t beat ’em, hire them,” but I see TORICO and MANGA.CLUB’s attempt as more than just an attempt at curbing scanlation, though many companies think that by hiring scanlators they’re doing that, where I can say TORICO is different is that our Head recognizes talent and is invested in developing people who are interested in working in the industry on official titles.
MP: So it can be said that MANGA.CLUB/TORICO is handling things better than Digital Manga Guild?
KO: I think that’s a fair assessment.
MP: Is it possible to ask MANGA.CLUB’s reception/acceptance by scanlation communities as well as manga fans?
KO: I think scanlation communities simply see us as another publisher.
MP: Going back to what you said about MANGA.CLUB/TORICO’s attempt as more than an attempt at curbing scanlation, what would you said the effort is?
KO: TORICO is more interested in working with individuals, regardless of what they do as a hobby, who are interested in developing themselves in areas of manga production and localization. The emphasis is on development of talent, and less on curbing scanlation, as compared to other companies.
MP: Thank you for the clarification. Is MANGA.CLUB also trying to change the culture around manga consumption outside of Japan? The official website tells readers to “enjoy free reading and support the culture!”
KO: Yes, very much so. With the fall of Borders in the US, manga consumption and community has largely moved online, with the exception of Barnes and Noble, but there are few places where official manga is so centralized that readers can enjoy official manga and commune with other reads. Hence the name “mangaclub,” an online version of what you’d expect at a bookstore.
MP: Ahh this makes sense. Over the course of the 9 months, you have been part of MANGA.CLUB, what has been your favorite experience so far?
KO: Honestly? I’m a major fudanshi. So, it has been the ability to work with BL titles.
MP: I can relate. Is it possible to ask about the most difficult aspect of this project?
KO: The most difficult aspect I think is one that’s difficult for any project. That is, publicizing new, official releases, but we are working on it daily and developing the projection of our voice.
MP: Manga Planet looks forward to seeing what MANGA.CLUB will be offering! Thank you for your time, Kou! Before ending the interview, do you have a final message you would like to say to those aspiring to enter the manga industry?
KO: Don’t give up. There’s a meaningful place for you in this industry.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.