If you’ve been wanting manga continually delayed as Japanese cultural references are vetted through the filter of some gender-confused blue-hair, you’ve just been handed another L.
That’s because manga publishing company Kadokawa has just announced a similpub, releasing English versions of manga alongside the Japanese releases, effectively translating manga in-house, bypassing western localization companies with a direct-to-consumer model.
That’s a win. A huge, massive, epic win. Not only does this mean that manga is no longer being passed through the industry equivalent of a Twitter puritan with an interest in making it more “safe” for the trigger-sensitive, it also means we no longer have to wait months for a translation. What’s more, it also means no more need for “scanslations” by the fans as we wait for some super-slow American localization company to translate from Japanese to English, which should be all there is to it.
What Kadokawa is doing is the equivalent of “If you’re going to take so long doing something so simple, we’ll just go ahead and do it ourselves.”
I remember that this has long been a problem with video games, until game companies such as Nintendo adopted a similar similpub approach. That was great for people like me, who considered importing copies of Pokémon in the time it takes for an American company to localize the titles, which typically took around half a year, potentially longer, in the event that Nintendo wanted to release the games in the November window, for obvious reasons.
All that waiting for what should have been translating Japanese text to English. If interpreters can translate speakers in real time, reading text and providing translations shouldn’t be hard. Sadly, much of the game industry is still slow in this regard, with Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea being delayed by months as the translation is done by localization company NISA.
Kadokawa’s announcement is excellent news for those who want to read manga in their own language, but at the same time, want the manga to be unfiltered, direct translations of the Japanese originals. An argument can be made by the localization companies that translating is an art form, and sometimes, a direct translation with intended nuance can be difficult to do. It might sound like they have a point, but then, who better to translate than the publishers who have a direct line of contact with the authors, and could therefore more directly determine what was intended?
When manga is translated by a localization company with their own agenda, the result can be information lost that makes the artistic expression less resemble what the artist intended. This has been a problem for a long time, but in times past, it has been easy for localization companies to get away with it. In the nineties, there weren’t fan communities that were as well-developed as they are today. Today, it’s trivially easy to find fans that know the Japanese language, and could quickly point out differences between translations and the originals, often very quickly.
It was just last week that the team of Digimon Tamers did a reunion where they faced an enemy named “Political Correctness”, which had an attack called “Cancel Culture”, in a setting where misinformation was presented unashamedly by corrupt media outlets peddling fake news. This clearly shows that the Japanese don’t have the same values as western media companies, and that they clearly view the likes of cancel culture as an enemy to overcome. Which it is.
And it was the week before that the president of Kadokawa inadvisably suggested that manga writers started self-censoring to make manga more palatable to the likes of Google and Apple. This resulted in huge backlash against the Kadokawa president, and Kadokawa itself demanded that the president take a 20% pay cut, on the reasoning that his remarks would cost the company money.
If Kadokawa had gone through with it, Kadokawa would have been the manga example of Get Woke, Go Broke, showing once-and-for-all that embracing the likes of political correctness would make a manga company less successful. But that didn’t get very far, as Kadokawa as a whole was not as enthusiastic about giving up money just to virtue signal.
And it was earlier this year that localization company Seven Seas Entertainment came under fire for publishing a light novel that was hugely different from the Japanese original, and they eventually caved and re-released the same light novel, bringing it more in line with the Japanese original. The same Seven Seas Entertainment is usually more enthusiastic about releasing manga that has the potential to be controversial, such as when they acquired the rights to publish a particular one about a decade back, but backed down when retailers threatened to stop stocking Seven Seas products.
But with a direct-to-consumer, similpub model, there wouldn’t be any need to drag manga through the localization process, or through stodgy retailers, meaning the only ones that would censor a translation of Kadokawa’s manga would be Kadokawa themselves, and Kadokawa has already demonstrated a lack of interest in self-censorship.
What’s more, a direct-to-consumer, similpub localization model would eliminate expensive middle-men from the localization process, resulting in higher profits for Kadokawa, and faster. Not only that, English-language consumers would get translations much sooner, and more in-line with the Japanese originals. Everyone wins! Except for lazy localization companies.
I know that some in the political correctness crowd might not be happy with this development, and might respond with a boycott of some kind. But what are they doing reading manga to begin with? Weren’t they aware that they were reading censored versions of media produced by writers that don’t have their values? There are better ways of coping with the fact that not everyone has the same ideas as they do, such as getting over themselves, accepting the reality of the matter that different people are allowed to express different viewpoints, and develop thicker skin. Perhaps then, they’ll come to comprehend this development as a win for them, too.
MyAnimeList has provided a list of titles that will be the first to be included in the program, some of which will be available for free for a limited time. This might be a great opportunity, so why not check it out?