MH Interviews: Kuu-Scans
What, what what!? An interview, how long has it been since the last one? A little over a month now. I've been really quite busy in recent weeks (you can read about it here if you want) so the rate of interview releases is going to slow down a fair bit for the next few months or so (at least until November when university finishes and I get more time again).
But enough about that, what about the actual interview. This time we've got one with the Kuu-scans group and knowing that it had been a while since the last interview I thought it might be nice to do it with several people in the group so that there is more stuff to read. Arty-chan and Hyuver answer most of the questions for the main part but Unlucky Slayer, SleepyGuy, Bokolife, and Shrapnel all pitch in as well. Give it a read.
1. Please give an introduction of yourself and your scanlation group, what series you scan, how your group got started etc.
Unlucky Slayer: I'm one of the founding members of Kuu Scans. Before there was Kuu there was Sleeping Forest. Before that there was haruhi-fansbus and Phoenix Scans. The founding members of Kuu were once apart of Sleeping Forest. When part of the leadership of SF wanted to do fansubs of Lucky Star, those of us that made Kuu did not want to be under that leadership so we decided to break into Kuu. The Original leader for Kuu was PhantomX. From the start of Kuu I had always been forum admin as I built the forums for us and all that. Then, Phantom ended up having his school life take over as he is in Med school so that took him out of the picture mostly and that's how I ended up at the helm. Unfortunately (for us, not you silly leechers.) under my supervision we had just gotten to the magazine scans and were within like 10 chapters of current when the first of the speed groups decided to jump in. After that we fast forward to Arty coming in and becoming leader after me. Arty can take it from here if she wishes.
SleepyGuy: The roots of the group started out as MangaCult doing AirGear in 2006 for a few months. MangaCult was a 5 man speed scanlation group since we felt that the AirGear releases were being released too slow. We did not underhanded steal the AirGear project since we offered to help to speed up releases, but were denied. Afterwards, Haruhi Fansubs, another 2 person speed group, started up and MangaCult decided to do a joint with Harauhi Fansubs. After a week or so, Phoenix Scans, another 2 man group, wanted to join in on the AirGear project. Thus, we decided to merge the three small groups to form Sleeping Forest under the leadership of Errorrrr (Haruhi Fansubs), SleepyGuy (MangaCult), and Vjain (Phoenix Subs). Sleeping Forest became a group releasing MQ scans at extraordinary speeds, the best we did was 6 chapters within a 7 day period, which attracted a lot of attention from AirGear fans. After about 2 years, Vjain retired and SleepyGuy retired for a while. Leadership was left to Errorrr, who decided to go fansub Lucky Star. The group splitted up into two groups, one for AirGear scanlations and one for Lucky Star fansubs, and that was how Kuu was formed during my absence. I came back from retirement after about a year to rejoin the group.
Arty-chan: I'm Arty-chan (aka LadyArtemis), one of the two current leaders of Kuu (along with Hyuver). PhantomX was the original founder of the group, but due to various real life circumstances, he eventually left the group to me. Although we started as a group that only did Air Gear, we have since expanded into doing many other projects. Our current ones are Cat's Eye, Ga-Rei, God Does Not Play Dice, Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora, Rozen Maiden II, World Destruction, and a number of joints: Bloody Cross, Ga-Rei Tsuina na Shou, Rhapsody in Heaven, and Verdant Lord. We are, however, still a fairly small group with no more than about a dozen active/working members, which means that unfortunately, we don't always get our releases out as quick as we would hope, especially since our group is committed to producing high quality releases.
2. How did you start scanlating? Was there any particular reason you started? How much easier is it now compared to when you began?
Hyuver: I started just about one year ago with Bakayarou as a cleaner, and then started to realize I was better as a TSer when I joined Kuu. After that, I also learned how to scan stuff. I can work faster than I did in my earlier days, but it's still time-consuming, especially since my workload is bigger now.
Arty-chan: Like me, I think a lot of our members started out working on Air Gear (whether in Kuu or one of the groups it was founded from). Once I started reading scanlations, I became interested in helping out. I wanted to see better quality in scans, and I wanted to contribute to the community I spent so much time leeching from. I started out as a proofreader in Kuu, but also joined a bunch of other groups, such as A Willful Muse and Minna-scan. While in Kuu, I quickly got familiar with how many of the other positions worked and started Quality Checking as well. It's a fair amount easier now than before, but then, it's easy to get overconfident in your skills and start making mistakes, which is something I remind myself of every so often.
3. What types of manga do you enjoy? Which series in particular are your favourite and you what would you recommend others to read? Are there any genres that you don't like to read?
Hyuver: As long as they are good, I am okay with reading anything. I don't mind reading shoujo and josei, but I don't read yaoi stuff. For fave series, I like Urasawa Naoki: Monster, 20th Century Boy, and also Fumiya Sato Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo. As for which series I like to work on, currently it's Yumekui Merry. I think the art and concept is really fresh, so I really like doing it.
Arty-chan: I think our group's tastes are quite varied, but although I read series from all genres, I mostly read shoujo. My favourite is definitely Full Moon wo Sagshite, since it has it all, including really nice art. I frequently like manga that mix genres, such as Rozen Maiden (Seinen but with pretty dolls) and Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora (shoujo but with mecha and some fanservice). I like a lot of CLAMP stuff as well, which I think is a good mangaka to start with since they do a lot of different genres. In particular, I'm a big fan of xxxHolic. I'm definitely not into the more extreme and/or ecchi genres, like yaoi, loli, shota, etc.
4. How do you feel about the amount of thanks and fan feedback from your series? What do you feel when you see people discussing the series that you work on?
Hyuver : I would appreciate it more if they discussed things on our site or IRC channel instead of at websites like OneManga, MangaFox etc. As for feedback, I fail to remember the last time I got feedback from a reader except for "Please get series X out soon." I don't mind getting feedback as long as they are reasonable and do it in polite way.
This is one of the most memorable feedback I ever receive
[*****]: sorry, but why dont you release xxxxx ? this yyyyy crap and all the other shit is not 5% like xxxxx ! PLeeeeeease release this instead !
[*****]: on your page this was great a long time and i cant find another
[*****]: this is all i have to say, sorry but it is a fact that xxxxx is better than the others
People like this are the types who make me feel like a fool for scanlating for free. Obviously not all the staff in a group are keen working on any group project; they have a personal interest in some series and 0 interest for the rest. We can't really force them to do things they don't like, since we don't pay them to do this. Sadly there are some people who think that it's a must that we "scanlate for them," when the reality is vice versa. The reason I am still scanlating right now aside from some personal interest on some series is because I love the scanlation community. There are many cool people out there, and most importantly, usually they are the ones who care about your work and give you support when you are in trouble, not the random leechers.
Arty-chan: I think most of the staff in our group would agree that thanks are great, but no one in our group really does it for the thanks. We have hundreds of readers, but receive maybe a dozen thanks. Of course, I really appreciate it when people do thank us as it's always nice to hear. I want to thank all our fans, especially those who have stuck with us through our hard/slow times and contribute to our forums. It's always interesting to see discussion about series since it shows that people have an interest in them.
5. Is there any other personal information or hobbies that you want to share with us?
Arty-chan: I'm generally not a very public person, even keeping to my own little corner of the scanlation world. Although I spend a lot of time scanlating, I also try to make time for everything else I enjoy including crafts, reading, anime (and reviews), a bit of gaming, and especially music. I'm still working on my piano studies even though I've grown past the age when most people stop (unless they intend to pursue a career involving music).
6. Kuu-scans has done a lot of work on Air Gear. What parts of this manga make you want to scan it?
BokoLife: As the current translator, I get bored very very very easily, so translating something fun is a plus. Now the thing about Airgear that makes it fun is that... Well, let me describe what usually happens. When I am translating and I come across a word that I don't know, and it isn't in a dictionary, the first thing I usually do is plug it google and try to get a feel for the word if I can. Most mangas that isn't airgear when this has happened to me has directed me to normal sites like blogs and etc... When I do this for airgear, it usually directs me to softcore porn sites. See fun.
Shrapnel: I only started reading the series like ... around the first week of August, and then caught up to the latest chapter in two weeks. You can see how the artwork has improved from chapter one (just compare the eyes). It's a fun story with a fun concept and a team of fun characters. That's pretty much the reason for me.
Arty-chan: I think most of the staff members working on it would agree that it has nice art work, an interesting concept, and a good story. To be honest, our group lost interest in the series because it was dragging on and Oh! Great was including all this weird stuff in it (which is initially why we picked up other projects), but the story is starting to pick up again. I'm hoping we can continue to find staff members interested in working on the project so we can continue.
7. What things have you found the most difficult during scanlation? What about the most amusing/embarrasing stuff up?
Hyuver: Managing time, because it took a long time, and managing the staff is also hard especially during summertime, when you're bound to lose few staff because of RL issues like entering university, summer holidays etc. What amuses me the most is the number of scanlators I know who almost never read manga at all, but their skill is usually above the average scanlator's.
Arty-chan: Again, I think many staff members will agree, when I say that managing staff (especially so that they get their work done) and recruiting new members are some of the most difficult. Unfortunately, scanlation eats up a lot of time, so I think a lot of people apply/join thinking they have free time, but then give up because it takes more than they expect. It's not so much embarrassing as it just sucks to have to tell our fans that we might drop a project because of the lack of staff or staff interest. I agree with Hyuver that one of the most interesting things about scanlation is that some of the best/most experienced scanlators don't read their own work, or very little manga at all.
8. Who in the scanlation scene do you have a high level of respect for? Which mangaka do you particularly appreciate?
Hyuver : gin0va, Sangaz and elcausa from Bakayarou for accepting me at Bakayarou although I was a total n00b at that time about manga scanlating and for being the first ones to teach me about it. Arty and SleepyGuy for giving me the chance to work at Kuu. [Madocchi] from Kindan no Aku and GGpX from Illuminati manga for teaching me and encourage me to scan raw manga. ikcud and Dark-san from Chibisuke and Kono-basho for helping me a lot in managing my other group, Kono-Basho. Satoshi from VI-scans and Elkin from Vagrant for always helping me when I am unsure about some translation. I also hold Vagrant staff in high esteem for their patience and dedication when doing their projects and also for always picking up series that no one wants to do, also their channel is one of my favorite place to hang out. no_comxxx from various groups and ItzRayz from OMFGG for always helping me out when I encounter editing problems. Lastly, Kushieda from Bakayarou and rashire from Kuu for always helping me out with my assignments =D. They are all wonderful guys. Remember to check out their groups to see their work, and consider applying to them if you are interested!
As for mangaka, I like Osamu Tezuka and Naoki Urasawa. I really have a high respect for Tezuka for creating awesome manga such as Tetsuwan no Atom, MW and Buddha. As for Urasawa, I actually wasn't a big fan of him when I was still reading Master Keaton, but I like every series he did since Monster. I hold in high regard the fact that I only read his work directly on the published book. I never try to read 20th Century Boy scanlations; I tried one time, but I gave up after one chapter. I just feel it's not right to read his work for "FREE." I know it's weird, considering the fact that I buy 90% of manga I read on the Internet when they are published here.
Arty-chan: I have a high level of respect for just about any of the scanlators involved in groups that scan at a good quality, who put in the time and effort to make releases happen. I especially have an appreciation for those who always try their best to help out other people on the scene, whether it's just small things, writing guides, or any number of other things. Ah CassiousOS comes to mind as I've worked with him and I've seen some of the videos he's made. All the scanlation group admins who I've worked with have all been really helpful and nice. As well, even people who don't scanlate, but still contribute to the scene, like taylor (who made mangahelpers), or those who help people improve their Japanese, whether it's in the translator's section, on IRC, or websites such as nihongoresources. As for mangaka, I'm not sure if there are two manga that I find really good from the same one, though obviously I appreciate all the ones who made my favourite series (which I've already mentioned) and many others just for giving us their work.
9. Do you like to watch anime as well? In what aspects do you consider manga to be better than anime and vice versa?
Hyuver: Yeah, I like to watch anime, though right now I rarely watch them because I am more into J-drama at the moment. Can't say that I've really thought about why one is better than the other, but I like manga more because it takes less time to read it than watching anime. One thing I can say is that I like anime that is not based from manga, usually.
Arty-chan: Like many others, I enjoy anime because there are aspects that cannot be found in manga (especially translated manga). In Japanese, tone, mood, politeness and many other things are implied in the written langauge itself, but frequently, it cannot be translated to English while keeping all these aspects. Anime, then, gives you a much better feel for all those little things that are lost because you still get a lot of that even if you only understand the subs. However, anime that are adapted from manga frequently deviate from the manga whether by stretching it, putting in fillers, or making up a different ending. In these cases, I find that the manga is better because it's the original story as the mangaka intended it to be and the anime doesn't (usually) really add much.
10. How do you determine what series should be scanned? Do you go for what will get you big download numbers or is it enough to just be getting manga out for people to read? What currently incomplete scanlation would you like to see finished?
Hyuver : Usually I need some reference about the series first, like reading through the first volume or the author's previous work. Then I ask the staff whether they want to work on it. If it's okay, then we pick up, though I can't say it's the usual procedure since I always take a project on a whim.
About the big download number and staff, I can say this: I like it when the channel is flooded with people downloading my work and enjoying it, but that's not my main purpose. As long as the staff and I are willing to do it, then I will work on it, even if it's not popular and we are a few chapters behind other groups. Personally, I do not care whether people read my work or not, because most people who read my work don't even know who works on it, and they tend to jump to follow another group when the other group is doing it faster than us. It's dumb to drop quality to compete with other groups, so I will put my and staff interest above the reader's interest on my release when I am working on my project.
For what series I want to see continued I can't really say... Since I am not reading too many scanlations, I like reading manga by buying the tanko when they come out, since they usually have regular release dates (as opposed to scanlators). I fail to remember how many of the scanlations I follow ended up getting dropped because of the project being dropped or the group disbands, etc etc, though I'd like to see SnoopyCool start releasing Saijou no Meiji and their other projects again. Also, I'd like to see series like Beelzelbub, Anedoki, and Bakuman in their tankobon version. I think it's about time that we had some group that is dedicated to doing the tanko version for a series that is usually only released in magazine scan form. One thing that made me give up on following WSJ is the number of scanlators working on it. It seems like the scanlators sometimes skip chapters, and I must follow every chapter from different scanlators. It's just inconsistent and I hate it :<. Personally, I'd do Beelzebub, Hitman Reborn (already worked on one chapter, but it's never been released xD) and Anedoki if I have time, but the problem is that I have none :<. From my personal experience doing that Reborn chapter, it's not that hard and doesn't take much time, depending on the raw. The only problem is that it's just hard to transcribe the script from existing releases; that's why I encourage translators or groups to give their script to others if there is anyone interested in doing tanko versions of the manga they did. Whenever international scanlators want to use my release, I always give them my .psd file so the work is not redundant.
Arty-chan: Series are generally chosen based on staff interest. I find that what staff are interested in is what gets done and done well. Generally, we try to avoid licensed stuff (unless the US company never bothered to release it or they're super slow), or series already done by another group (Air Gear notwithstanding). Avoiding a series done by another group, generally means avoiding really popular series, which will get really big downloads. I like to work on things other people aren't working on, not only because of the redundancy, but also, because I'm only too frequently looked up a manga that interested me and found there was no scanlation or official English release. There are a number of shoujo projects that I'd be interested in seeing done (as many shoujo projects aren't popular, if they're dropped, they're frequently never picked up again), though to be honest, I can't think of any at the moment XD
You can find Kuu-scans' releases here:
God Does Not Play Dice
Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora
Rozen Maiden II
You can ask the Kuu-scans team more questions or make comments in their Scanlator Thread.
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