I think we share a lot in common.
We both love Japan and its culture, and especially the language. We love manga, and some of you in particular share a love for BL (yaoi) that runs very deep. Sometimes it feels like we exist within a niche inside a niche hidden in another niche market, so knowing that other people are out there who share our passion is kinda cool.
In a way, we are like family. But like family, some siblings get along quite well while others hate each other.
I feel like scanlation groups who treat artists with respect and stop working on titles that have been officially licensed or released are the siblings with principles that I can at least understand and appreciate. We get along just fine. It’d be nice to have you helping to do things the legal way, but at least I know you’re not releasing anything out of spite or rage. You do it out of love.
However… I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the rationale of certain groups who talk badly about Renta! and insist on continuing to scanlate manga that has already been licensed and released in English through our services.
I feel like there is a genuine misunderstanding of the facts, so I felt inspired to reach out today and correct some of the misinformation that these groups must genuinely believe to cause them to feel that way.
I would not call anyone out specifically (at least not today) because I’m not here to make enemies, but I would like to address certain statements directly here on our staff blog where anyone can access it.
FACT CHECK TIME:
I received the following comments from a certain scanlation group who continues to release a particular manga that has been on our site legally since 2015:
“Regarding our working on other “licensed” titles… We continue to work on titles picked up by Renta. Renta is a Japanese company with no English licenses in the U.S., Europe, etc. They are also, in our opinion, a parasite on the industry.
“The way Renta works: They pay outsourced people to give them what are essentially mediocre scanlations of various titles, and they pay the parent publisher a fee for the rights to produce digital versions of those titles in English. Then they charge the unsuspecting and/or desperate reader exorbitant amounts of money to look at their outsourced mediocre scanlations. The original artists get paid royalties for the digital copies – but those royalties amount to peanuts, basically. The artists are getting screwed, the consumers are getting screwed, and Renta is raking in money for doing virtually nothing.”
I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll just go in order.
“Renta is a Japanese company with no English licenses in the U.S., Europe, etc.”
Fact Check: FALSE
Renta’s company address is in San Francisco and we are officially an American company. Hello.
Although the Japanese Renta! has been around for over 20 years, and we originally worked as a department in that company, the English Renta! has officially split from our Japanese partner, and all our digital translation licenses are for the English language rights globally. That would be true regardless of whether or not we’re based in Tokyo, so accusing us of not having rights in America or Europe for that reasoning is just a very narrow, misinformed interpretation of copyright laws that are not on your side.
It’s true though that we grew up in Japan and I still work here in the Tokyo office as a full-time employee and editor. It’s convenient at this time to walk over and ask our Japanese support staff to contact the publisher or the artists’ agents and get legal permission directly for each and every image or graphic we share, complete with a copyright mark notating the artist and publisher, which is perhaps not something a scanlation group would be used to doing, I imagine.
“The way Renta works: They pay outsourced people to give them what are essentially mediocre scanlations of various titles…
Fact Check: FALSE
On the English Renta! team in this company, we currently have five full-time editors including myself. When I was hired late last year, there were only two. That’s one reason we’ve been growing so fast recently, putting out more titles each week. The five are responsible for quality control of everything translated for us and by us.
Renta! is the official translator, and nothing goes on the site without multiple careful reviews. It’s really time-consuming, actually, but this is currently the best way to ensure quality work. Everyone who works with us gets paid for their work, but the only name that gets printed in the end is “Renta!” because that’s just how the system works, unfortunately. I don’t even get to put my name on it. I work for Renta! so it’s not mine. Get it?
Otherwise you would see my name signed all over the damn place because I need constant validation, reassurance, and approval. We do offer our freelance translators a place on the website to comment and take credit for their hard work.
It is true, however, that we have lots of partners we work with to get things translated and lettered. Some of those partners are freelance translators, translation checkers, or letterers, and some of them are companies. However, we have yet to find any company we trust enough to just release manga in the state that they send it to us. That would be… *shivers*
If you expect the five of us to put out 15 full volumes and a million ongoing chapter updates per month doing each translation, lettering, and final check ourselves, you are insane. That’s what scanlation groups do. But if we tried to do that as a company, we wouldn’t be able to bring you a fraction of the full amount we currently release now twice a week.
That’s why I am an editor, not a translator. (Although ultimately I do have to thoroughly check things as if I were looking at it for the first time, comparing the Japanese original to the English to make sure it says exactly what the original language intended it to say, in the very same art style or as close as we can get, in a visually appealing way. It’s…….. a fun job.)
Yes. Part of our jobs as editors is to go through all that with a comb, making changes in both the language and art layout where necessary, to make sure everything looks as good as possible with an eye for perfection. A mistake or typo will OCCASIONALLY slip through because we are human, but to prevent myself from wanting to tear my own hair out and stab myself to death, I try my hardest to get things right before it is released. That’s just what it means to be professional. I couldn’t forgive myself for putting anything out into the world as a product of someone else’s art that was anything less than my best.*
*Sidenote: Perfectionism is a disease, not something to be proud of. Don’t try this at home, kids. It’s very unhealthy.
I kind of understand why the scanlation group in question called that particular title mediocre, though. I took a look today at the manga they insist on continuing to scanlate, years after its release. The official manga was translated and lettered by two different companies who we no longer work with at all (for a reason, clearly), and the font choices alone hurt my eyes and heart.
Four or five years ago, we were still basically a start-up company on the English side, growing very quickly but not having quite the standards of quality we have today. That is around the time when this particular manga was first published that this particular scanlation group used to judge Renta as a whole.
I would ask, however, that you judge us based on how we work today, and not how things were in the beginning. Our quality standards are so tight now that Renta!’s nsfw translated manga is of higher quality than huge companies that do big name series. Again, I’m not here to point fingers or make enemies, but I’m sure you could name a few titles yourself.
Try out something we’ve done in the last few years and then call me again. Preferably something done by me personally. I will stand by it. If you need recommendations, I have a ton!
“and they pay the parent publisher a fee for the rights to produce digital versions of those titles in English.”
Fact Check: FALSE
We pay the publisher of each artist a percentage of the sales for each specific manga according to individual contracts for each title. Occasionally we have contracts for “all the titles that come out from this artist under this publisher” but the money flows directly to them all the same.
We do not pay a margin (“MG”) for the rights to produce digital versions of those titles in English. That’s what all the other companies do, so maybe they just assumed this was true of us, too.
Artists get paid when people buy their work from us. End of story.
“Then they charge the unsuspecting and/or desperate reader exorbitant amounts of money to look at their outsourced mediocre scanlations.”
Fact Check: FALSE and FALSE
There are two points I’d like to address here.
The first is that we set a high price. Actually, with the way publishing works in Japan, we have little to no say in the price at all.
The PUBLISHER sets the price. You know… those people who, without which, the artists would not be able to get their books into book stores or sell physical OR digital copies without their support and cooperation. Yes them. They are sometimes a pain to work with because there are humans in those buildings and you know how that can be, but without them your artists would not get paid and you wouldn’t even know about their work because it wouldn’t exist, at least not in the format or reach it has today.
These are not self-published works or doujinshi. The manga industry would not exist without them.
If you wanted to do things legally instead of scanlating, you could actually contact the publishers and ask them directly for permission to get the rights to translate and sell an artist’s manga on your own site with your own translations and English lettering.
They will probably say no, because they have no trust in your ability to sell the manga or honor the contract so that artists would be compensated because of your history of giving their products away for free with no compensation. There’s also no guarantee on the quality. This is not a slam, it is just how the publishers would see an unknown group with no track record to prove you could make the artist (and of course the publisher) money by selling their works to a larger audience.
Do you understand where they’re coming from?
They were once a small group of people who wanted to get manga (and other books/publications obviously) out there into the world. That’s why there are so MANY of them, actually!
Another option would be to start your own publishing group, finding and nurturing your own artists until they get famous enough to sell to fans around the world. You could do things digitally or in print, but I dare you to imagine how it would feel to have YOUR hard work taken and distributed by free by individuals who think they’re doing you a favor.
If you can’t imagine how the publisher would feel, I’m sure you could imagine how it would feel as the artist.
Also, we literally have nothing to do with scanlating. Nothing we do is scanned by us, and therefore doesn’t need adjusting for quality. The publishers and artists give us their work directly. They send us the files from the original.
Do you know how amazing it feels to get a file where everything is zoomable down to the pixel, and every layer is separate so that with a click of the button you can make all the Japanese disappear?
We got a few covers this week like that, and I thought my senpai was going to pass out from joy. Removing the editing from the cover actually revealed art that wasn’t even VISIBLE on the Japanese original.
Just try to imagine and savor that feeling. It is… orgasmic.
Many times they will just send us a file that has already been combined and we do have to clean it. But when they send us those layer separated files… it’s just the best feeling you’ve ever had.
“The original artists get paid royalties for the digital copies – but those royalties amount to peanuts, basically. The artists are getting screwed, the consumers are getting screwed, and Renta is raking in money for doing virtually nothing.”
Fact Check: FALSE
As I said before, the artists get paid a percentage of the sales. The artists ARE getting screwed, but not by us.
And trust me, Renta is not raking in money for the work we do. If it were, we would be demanding raises. Every single one of us works here out of love. We are broke. Sad tear. I tell you that not so you will pity me, but so you will understand the absurdity of what you said in that quote.
If you want to support a starving artist, you can make direct deposits to my paypal account. Just lemme know.
This turned into a long post so I’ll pause here, although there is one more group who was talking badly about us out of sheer misinformation, and I will address that in a future blog.
Let me wrap up this blog by saying something very important:
Manga artists hate it when people scanlate their work. However, they love Renta! for what we do, because we are not some terrible company. We are a legitimate bookstore run by otaku trying to make a difference and do things the right way. Did you see the exclusive illustrations that Ikuyasu, Wacoco Waco, Kyohei Azumi, and Tsutako Tsurusawa drew for us?
They drew… exclusive illustrations of their hot af characters… just for Renta! users. They made announcements on their own official twitter accounts about it. They responded to my public comments that I was able to make directly where I shared links to their work. They retweeted MY announcements and commented on them. The publisher retweeted me, too. I get to communicate with all our artists frequently on twitter and they constantly tell me how happy they are that we translated their titles with care.
No scanlation group in their right mind would announce directly to the artist that you’re releasing their work insisting they should be grateful to you. And I think you know why.
That is the difference.
Please stop spreading misinformation. If you have genuine questions, ask me! I will try to respond. If I don’t know the answer, I will ask people in the business who do. But to continue releasing manga that we’ve already got for sale that actually supports the artists, that’s just mean, entitled, unjustified, and hurtful to the artist, to the publisher, and everyone else involved. In fact I think it gives a bad name to scanlator groups who try to do the right thing and remove the licensed work of artists they claim to love.
Please don’t be the black sheep of this family.
For more information about why piracy hurts artists and how Renta actually works, please read this post by Chase, another full-time editor here in our office who knows what he’s talking about.
Or read this blog by an actual published author in English-language novels/fiction whose explanation was very easy to understand.