The sphere’s abuzz with news of the impending closure of One Manga, one of the more prominent English-language manga scan sites, and my personal favorite. But of course the sphere never buzzes at a single pitch.
The reactions of those I’m following on Twitter have thus far proven predictably varied:
OneManga’s shuttering up too. Not sure if there’s any big sites left. I wonder what’ll happen. (canon_chan/CCY)
I don’t read scanlated Manga on the web but this made me sad T_T (UntoldHero)
Whoa, One Manga capitulates… damn (Kabitzin)
So Onemanga is dying…Mangafox/Toshokan then? (seinime)
Here’s hoping you come back legal One Manga, cheers. (chrisbzay)
Hahahhahaha YeS ! no more OneManga ! hahahaha Fuck yeah ! Fuck you onemanga, Fuck you ! Greatest way to start the day ! :D And now to hope that all the motherf*king online readers all fucking die and Never come back ! Learn 2 irc (Kurotsuki)
As for me — well, I’m with those who feel a little upset at how things have turned out. And not just because I have only a few more days now to catch up on some of my manga-reading, inconvenient as that is.
Yes, I resort to illicit fan-translated manga from time to time. I also put money into the industry, when I can…
…so, please, try to resist the urge to denounce me as a pirate or cancer or something.
Recently SDS offered an account relevant to the kind of fan I am:
I once told someone that I pretty much only buy DVDs of things with which I’m already familiar, to which he simply responded, “Why would you buy something you’ve already seen?”
Whereas I saw my ownership of DVDs as a testament of sorts to the shows I felt were good and enjoyable enough for me to have them in my collection, the other person saw DVDs simply as a way to try new things out. In the end, we agreed to disagree. [SDS, “Enter Animefan”]
A purchase of anime or manga means something more to me than the acquisition of story data — it’s a modification of my physical collection, a statement about the kinds of things I like and would want to lend out to friends. And, besides that, money is hard to come by when you’re a graduate student, and with none of my anime-viewing friends nearby, how am I supposed to expose myself to things that I may later buy? And, hell, that’s not to mention that some things just aren’t available in the United States, nor will they ever be.
This is why the online piracy trade is so critical to that thing we do — and, I’d say, to the industry itself. I’m not going to say that online presentation and distribution represent the future of anime and manga, much as that seems a logical outcome, but I will speculate that legal and illegal distribution channels have achieved a kind of balance with one another, and things like the closure of a manga scan site represent shifts in this balance that could affect both sides.
Simply put, a decrease in the number of channels through which budding fans can, easily and at no cost, acquire the fix required of early fandom probably results in a loss of potential consumers somewhere later on. Where would the industry be without those who entered into the fandom, as I did, thanks to the illicit availability of Evangelion, Trigun, Love Hina, and (yes, even) Naruto — a body of fans who aren’t teenagers anymore, who can now afford to pour money into their hobbies? (For me this extends into related industries. My HDTV, Blu-Ray player, and external hard drive all owe their places on my desks and shelves to my having happened upon fansubs on Kazaa and Limewire, back in the day.)
I’m referring here to the process of a fan-via-piracy going legit, so to speak, which of course won’t always happen. But we’ll always have piracy, and I wonder whether, ultimately, the profit doesn’t outweigh the cost. Perhaps filesharing hasn’t been around long enough for us to know.
Mind you, none of this should be construed as an excuse. Watching or reading a licensed franchise illegally deprives the U.S. industry of needed money (assuming, of course, that you’re a U.S. consumer). But my point is that this in itself renders illegal viewing neither morally contemptible nor harmful to the industry in the long run. An illegal download now may mean a fan with a day job five years from now, a fan who may remember that show of five years prior with the kind of fondness that empties bank accounts.
Consider me and Aria, for example.
While not my single favorite franchise, the Aria anime is easily my favorite 52 episodes of animation. I’ve bought all of Aria that’s available in the U.S. — that’s four DVD box sets and seven volumes of manga. I’ve recommended and re-recommended the show. And I’ve blogged about it — here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
But would I have done all that if not for CrystalNova’s fan subtitles? Absolutely not — in fact, it’s Aria that made me a slice of life fan to begin with; it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I’d ever enjoy the thing if I hadn’t seen it for myself.
Maybe the fan translation business acts in some ways similar to how TV broadcasting of anime works in Japan — it’s our basic way of sampling things without having to pay for them — but I won’t go that far. All I mean to say here is that the closure of One Manga could, in fact, be a big deal relative to the U.S. industry as a whole, particularly if similar closures follow. We can only hope that, when the balance of power rights itself, neither the industry nor its consumers suffer terribly for it.
Of course, I’ve handily taken advantage of the situation to express the kinds of views I usually withhold, and so perhaps I’ve misrepresented the scale of things. There remain plenty of other means by which to acquire fan-translated manga. But when things happen as in the case of One Manga, one has to wonder.