Imagine you were told you could enjoy something for free and have newer versions of it before the people who pay for it. In the name of supporting the creators, would you actually pay for a dated product? Most would not, and that is the problem with the manga industry today.
As with music these days, there is a lot of bootlegging of manga. Essentially, a completed manga chapter will be leaked days or even weeks before it was meant to be released. In Japan, this may not be a big deal since it is the source for the material. The real issue is trying to get those chapters to the UK or America. Because of the time it takes to translate, license and distribute, Western countries are typically a month or so behind the Eastern readers. What some people have resorted to is getting the original Japanese mangas or “raws,” translating the text themselves then releasing them online for free. The turnaround from the Japanese market to the various websites who host these free scans is far faster than companies like Viz Media can keep up with.
This bootlegging process creates several issues. First and foremost, manga creators and distributors lose money, and when people lose money, they become less likely to do work. This leads to some of the less popular, but critically acclaimed, mangas getting cancelled or never making it to animation. Even more popular franchises like Naruto and Dragonball Z do not receive the same level of exposure here as they do in Japan because sales numbers cannot truly reflect the fan base. There have been groundbreaking box office sales for both franchises and their movies are shown in theaters in the East just like any other movie. Money makes the world go ‘round; however, if the Western owners of those franchise licenses do not see the opportunity for similar numbers, they will never spend the time or money to get advertisement for these films and get them into.
As fans and consumers of anime and manga, we are put in an odd situation. In order to see this genre grow and have the same level of mainstream media exposure that Japan enjoys, we would have to wait and pay for episodes and manga chapters we have already seen months ago. Honestly, it would be easier for the major Western companies to just hire the scanners who are currently translating for free. The scanners already have a following and with paychecks and official tools at their disposal, they could do better work. It comes down to the same issue we see in every form of creative media: money vs love. Those who love the mangas and animes do what they do for free and stay on top of it for the love of it. The major corporations and companies that hold the licenses here are focused on dollars and look more at how they can milk the love fans have as opposed to just giving them what they want.
It should definitely be noted that there are those who have risen to the occasion. Companies like Crunchyroll and Yen Press are working double time to save the industry from piracy and providing an almost immediate turn around on translations for the Western world. They can be sited as helping bring a balance between not only getting the latest and greatest of anime and manga, but also finding reasonable prices for the content they provide. Crunchyroll, for instance, has a service that allows unlimited viewing of up-to-date anime releases for $6.95/month. Consumers can use anything from a laptop to a tablet or even the Playstaion 3 to enjoy Naruto Shippuden, Bleach or newer shows like Attack on Titan.
In the end, we are left with two options: play the game within the system and pay companies who are slowly bringing us content, or continue guerrilla tactics such as scanning raws and possibly tank the entire market in Western countries. With the rise of sites like Crunchyroll, we are provided with a third option as far as anime is concerned, but there is still not as strong a turnaround for manga.Though, in the grand scheme of things, this is such a minor issue, and the odds of some type of major change in how things operate is slim to none. With this knowledge, however, I hope that those who love manga and anime can make more informed decisions as to how to get more of what they love.
~the Ace of Spades