Fans lift J-culture over language barrier
Special to The Japan Times
Global interest in Japanese entertainment continues to heat up. Quite literally.
A scanlator who goes by the name of DDRtatsujin is part of a community of fans whose love of Japanese manga drives them to take each page, scan it into their computer, then translate the material from Japanese into English and upload it to the Internet for a wider audience.
Hardcore manga fans around the world are taking their Japanese comics off the shelf and putting them into the microwave.
"They do that so the glue melts, which allows them to take apart the volume page by page so they can be scanned easily," explains Jonathan, 21, a journalism student at West Virginia University who did not want his last name published.
Why would folks do that to their precious and costly imported comic books? Because they are "scanlators," a growing community of fans whose love of Japanese manga drives them to take each page, scan it into their computer, then translate the material from Japanese into English and upload it to the Internet for a wider audience to enjoy for free.
But it is not just Japanese comics that have proven ripe for amateur translations. Homemade English versions of anime shows and Japanese television series (such as "Densha Otoko [Train Man]"), along with plenty of clips featuring comedian Razor Ramon HG -- Hard Gay as he styles himself, are increasingly popping up on the Internet via blogs (www.tvinjapan.com to name one), file-sharing programs known as torrents and especially the phenomenally popular YouTube site.
A little Net surfing is all it takes to suddenly find translations of everything from feature films -- like last year's hit "NANA" -- to annotated versions of ancient Shinto myths (found at www.sacred-texts.com ) readily available.
There are also subbed music videos by girl-group Morning Musume and boy bands like SMAP. U.S. followers of these acts often use the Internet to trade clips and communicate with like-minded fans in Asia in places like Taiwan and South Korea, resulting in translations that are truly international affairs.
Japanese-to-English translations of both professional and amateur varieties are nothing new. But the Net allows publishing, archiving, copying and distribution on an unprecedented scale. As a result, more Japanese pop culture is spread across the globe than ever before.
Even though suburban shopping malls in Middle America are filled with officially licensed J-culture items (manga and anime, especially), Japanese companies that own these products are not keeping up with increasing global demand. Followers want the latest thing from Japan now! The fan translation phenomenon not only fills the gaps, it also shortens the time it takes for Japanese pop culture to journey around the world.