Beginning with GGANG-E’s declaration against illegal uploads, we have embarked on a project to open discussions about how scanlation impacts the lives of fans, scanlators, and artists. Without a doubt, scanlations of manga, manhwa, and manhua are controversial, and in a digital age, nearly ever-present. However, though scans are easy to find, what goes into the production of this work is perhaps less known.
“We are in no way doing this to earn money from other people’s work”
Manga Planet: Could you please introduce who you are and what you do in the scanlation scene?
Hatigarm: My name is Hatigarm, I’m the leader of Hatigarm Scans. We scanlate manhua, manhwa, and manga. Some of our more popular series are: “Tales of Demons and Gods,” “Maou-Sama Retry,” and “The Scholar’s Reincarnation.”
I would like to stress the fact that we are in no way doing this to earn money from other people’s work, but instead for the benefit of the community and because we enjoy doing it.
Manga Planet: How long have you been involved with scanlation?
Hatigarm: I started getting into scanlation around February in 2017 and have been active ever since.
Manga Planet: Was it difficult to jump into scanlation and start your own group?
Hatigarm: It was fairly difficult to jump right into the scanlation environment and make myself relevant. It first started with just me, my friends, our horrible skills, and no funds. With horrible work comes massive amounts of feedback, we got people commenting on how bad the fonts were and how sloppy the work was. I took some time and thought about how we can improve from the reader input and where to go from there. After some serious thought, I had to find a better way to release series.
I then started trying to recruit experienced people or those I could use to boost our popularity. During my search, I met Ron. Ron did “Hammer Session,” a series which I also liked, but he had no idea where and how to release it. So I released his work for him in the hope that it would garner us more attention, but there were still no requests to join our group. So I tried to find other opportunities to grow my group.
That is when I decided to pick up “Tales of Demons and Gods,” a fairly popular series.
After our first chapter released, I got about six new recruits, two of which still remain in the group to this day. This popular series skyrocketed our reputation, and after releasing a consistent stream of good quality chapters, we had finally become one of the bigger groups out there.
It’s rather difficult to try and make a group without a popular series, since you may need to wait a while before anyone takes notice of you. So, the best thing you can do is keep trying until something catches on.
The Cost of Scanlating
Manga Planet: You mentioned a source of funds. Would it be possible to know what you mean by that and the start-up costs involved in creating a scanlation group?
Hatigarm: When making a group, there is no defined startup cost. It really depends on what you want to work on, how big you want to go, and how you want to go about it. You can even work as a scanlator without spending any money if you want to. In our case, our funds are primarily from donations. They are used to buy raws and support our website.
At first, we didn’t have any funds. I just worked with what I had. After the group got more staff and we released more chapters though, we started to get funds from Patreon, about $20 a month. It wasn’t much, but it was more than enough to buy raws. Skipping 7-8 months forward into the future, after gaining a bit of a following, we got enough funding for about 8 series and some web developers for a website. The whole thing cost somewhere around $400-600 and about $100-200 a month for raws. Thanks to our followers and Patreon, we barely managed to get by paying for everything.
Keep in mind, that the funds are not a wallet you depend on to pay for you. It’s a relationship you build with your followers. We release the series they want to read, and they help pay the costs for it. In addition to helping with funding, followers that enjoy reading the work we do aid the group in many more ways, like encouraging us with kind words and feedback, giving us an indication to our series’ popularity, and generally giving us a desire to work.
On Readers of Scanlation
Manga Planet: How do you decide which series to do? You mentioned that you release series that the following wants to read. Do you take requests from them?
Hatigarm: We do series we find interesting. Most of the time it’s a series that I found or one that my group enjoys reading. If we get a request, we will consider working on it depending on how much the person requesting can contribute to it.
For example, let’s say it’s a series they want to work on. They would need to provide help as either a cleaner, typesetter, redrawer, translator or raw provider. Although, if it’s a series we like, we might take it without any contribution.
Manga Planet: Since you mention a “following” a lot, I take it that reader response is important to you?
Hatigarm: Very much so. Without them, it’s harder to improve and there’d be no one to cheer us on. As you may know, this is mostly thankless work, with some readers feeling entitled to it, or even criticizing or hating our work, while disregarding the effort we put into it. That’s why we’re always happy to see some positive or constructive feedback. It means a lot to us.
Manga Planet: I’m glad there are readers that are supportive. The issue of “entitled readers” seems to be a hot topic. Where do you think this entitlement comes from?
Hatigarm: Entitlement is a rather hard thing to narrow down. But I think it’s a simple case of people receiving the work we do for free and becoming used to it They tend to forget that it takes a lot of time and effort for us to do this.
Many other scanlators have already stated this, but I’ll say it again. We are just normal people who take time out of our own lives to bring these scanlations to the people.
It’s true that it’s our own choice to do this, so we can’t complain about how much time and effort we spend on it, but we can at least ask for people’s understanding when they are dissatisfied.
Don’t get angry at us because we don’t meet your expectations or because we can’t do the series you want. We’re doing our best.
Although it is still necessary to say all this, I can happily say that the number of readers who appreciate us and are nice to us far outnumber the amount of “entitled readers”
Manga Planet: Thank you for this thorough response! I’m amazed at how much work and time goes into it.
Hatigarm: Whatever amount of time you are thinking will never be enough to be honest. We spend more time than we should working on scanlation. But I feel it’s only right to spend at least this much effort, because the author and artist, who spend much more effort into making the series in the first place, deserve it. Although they do get paid for it at least.
Though that’s just my opinion.
On Scanlation and the Manga Industry
Manga Planet: Do you think you would like to go into the manga industry with the skills you learned through scanlation?
Hatigarm: Yes, I certainly do, but through my own terms. I want to make my own business someday so I can release the series that I feel deserve to be localized.
Manga Planet: How do you feel about how the manga industry is handling licensed series now.
Hatigarm: I can’t really give an unbiased opinion since the way manhua is dealt with in the industry is more lenient than manga is.
But I will give my experience with manhua and then my opinion towards manga.
We have been scouted by four companies to work on manhua for them. For one of them, we scanlated chapters in return for little pay. Each chapter was only $2 per page, and that was okay because we just wanted the rights to do the series we love. As for the rest, we were contracted to do obscure series that we had no motivation for, so we also charged them $2, but this time it was per page translated, keep in mind this is still low in comparison to the Manga industry.
But the thing that I like about it is that they were flexible with where we released and the time needed, they went out of their way to contact and work with us instead of outright DMCA’ing us. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, we give them cheap work, and in return, they provide us with HQ raws and the rights to translate.
The manga industry, on the other hand, is flawed in many ways, and in my opinion, geared too much towards money. That seems to be all that matters now.
I think Japan will, most of the time, DMCA those who scanlate a series that they want to localize. But series that are not popular enough to be considered by them will be ignored and scanlators will just keep going about their way. I can’t say that this is a comment on all publishers. Some are nice enough to discuss or at least give a simple warning, as shown with the Chinese publishers we encountered, but from what I have heard, this is not the case for Japan.
If it’s being done for free and released for free, it should be read on the site it’s being published on, like Webtoon for example. They earn revenue on their site, and that’s used to pay the authors, which I wholly respect and abide by.
The Japanese publishers have to think more about the authors and the readers regardless of location. I wish they would also think about the readers just as much as they do profit since they both coincide with each other.
Manga Planet: By thinking of readers, do you mean officially releasing more series? Or a different method of distribution?
Hatigarm: What I am trying to get at is that publishers should take the readers into consideration more, since that’s where the profit comes from. They should find a way to release more series and a better method of distribution that satisfies everyone, regardless of location.
Manga Planet: What do think about the author when you scanlate?
Hatigarm: The work and feelings he pours into them. When I see an amazing page with well-drawn art, I can’t help but feel emotional and pumped.
Manga Planet: So when you consider the author, you focus on the art?
Hatigarm: I focus on both the author and the artist. What runs through my head is how impressed I am, how amazing it looks and how well thought out the story is, it really shows me how much love and effort is put into every single little detail they do.
I feel bad knowing that most series will never be localized, but I want people to enjoy them just as much as I do, for them to really appreciate it the same way I do, or even more. If I like a series enough I will buy the manga, not to read it, but to support the creators and remember it. While I don’t want to pressure them, I hope that the readers do the same.
Manga Planet: In our survey, you mentioned that you scanlate licensed series until it is caught up. Do you have a policy of not scanlating licensed series?
Hatigarm: Yes and no. For “Hardcore Leveling Warrior”, we loved that series and paid money for the translations, so we did not want them to go to waste, but at the same time, we didn’t want to deprive the author from earning money. So we decided to compromise. For the chapters we had already done, we kept on releasing them, and when the official translations caught up, we dropped it. In doing so, fans could still read their favorite series without any delays and the author got the readers and their revenue when they caught up.
Manga Planet: You had asked in our survey if there is any way publishers and scanlators to work together to cut costs. How would working with scanlators cut costs in your view? What kind of consensus do you envision?
Hatigarm: As I have previously stated, fans already enjoy the unofficial translations released by the scanlators, so why not capitalize on the scanlation work already being put out for free, and hire the scanlators so that they become the official translators?
Sometimes the work scanlators do is better than the official translators because they love and dedicate themselves to the series. You can tell the difference in quality, especially if it drops.
For the publishers, the most they’re risking is having to pay scanlators less than normal for them to work on a manga that the fans are already used to and enjoy.
As stated, we usually charge very little for doing what we enjoy, as long as they allow us to work on it. Even if it’s a series we don’t enjoy that much, we’ll still usually charge less normal
Manga Planet: So you are suggesting a system for scanlators to work for low compensation or for free? This could impact translators, typesetters, and editors who work in the manga industry full-time.
Hatigarm: Jobs like full-time translators, typesetters, and editors are definitely necessary for the industry, but then again, there are thousands of untranslated series in circulation. There are enough possible series to work on that the impact towards the industry would be insignificant if scanlators where to start localizing some of those. And with more series comes more profit, which would even be beneficial to full-time workers. Because right now, only the lucky few manga get translated. “Gintama” is still being worked on by the scanlators for free, even though it’s been dropped by the official translators. These people don’t work for money, they work because they want to. So why not capitalize on this?
Only a few series get done in English officially if there aren’t enough people to work on the series or not enough revenue earned if you were to pay full-time workers, why not hire scanlators for cheap and release the series with less costs. That way, less money gets spent on localization and more can go to the respective authors and publishers.
A shoujo manga called “Last Game” is still ranked 24th on mangarock for most popular mangas and has been there for about 1-2 years. This manga started in 2011 and ended in 2016. “Black Panther and Sweet 16” is currently not on the top 100’s and was released in 2015 and currently ongoing. (At the time of the interview.
Series which are obscure and unpopular, like “Black Panther and Sweet 16,” are being done officially, not many people pay to read these or even enjoy things like these. Series which are popular, though, like “Last Game,” are being done unofficially since the publishers aren’t doing them. I can positively say that if you brought up “Black Panther and Sweet 16”, no one would know about it. “Last Game” has a wiki, a fanbase and is currently ranked #179 on baka-updates,. “Black Panther and Sweet 16” has none of those and is currently ranked #569. I have asked some groups about these two series and most responded knowing about “Last Game” and only about two-three people in all those groups knew about “Black Panther and Sweet 16”. (At the time of the interview.)
Manga Planet: What can manga publishers learn from scanlators in your opinion?
Hatigarm: A lot. Most of all, they could learn how to utilize social media more effectively, talk with their community, and find solutions to problems that are easily fixable if they opened up their horizons. Korea and China have already found some middle ground when working with scanlators, I don’t see why Japan would still have this problem.
(Interview proofread by Kuka and Fooooooood, top proofreaders of Hatigarm Scans)