Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview with the mistress of manga Debaoki~

My Personal Drawing~

Having run across many fun people on twitter, one person I have chatted with countless times is Deb Aoki. Among all of all the people I've talked to on manga, graphic novels and other kinds of comics, licensing issues and bootleg issues is far beyond my own expertise. So I decided to send her some interview questions based on the digital shift in the western market for manga, graphic novels, manga, comics or the state of illegal apps on Ios. I hope you enjoy reading these and give her shout out on twitter some time as a thank you.

1. How do you think the digital transition of manga in the west is
being handled by online sites and tablet devices?
A: I think it's going pretty well. After years of being at a virtual
standstill, a lot is happening in the digital publishing space for manga
nowadays. This is largely thanks to 1) the arrival of a lot of reasonably
priced devices on the market, 

2) the fact that more and more people own
them and 

3) many have discovered that it's fun to read comics on them.
We're seeing a lot more manga becoming available in English legally,
digitally than ever before.

Granted, I only have an iPad, and iPhone, and a laptop computer, so I
can't say how good or poor the experience is on other devices like Kindle,
Nook, or Android tablets/phones, but I'm pretty satisfied with what we
have available today. VIZ Manga, Dark Horse Digital, Yen Press, Kodansha
Comics, Digital Manga, Manga University, plus JManga, and various indies
like GEN Manga, ComicLoud, Manga Magazine, and several comics sites and
applications like ComiXology,, Panelfly, etc. are all offering
manga online, in various ways. The selection is still relatively small
compared to all the manga that was published in print in Japan and North
America over the past few decades – but keep in mind that the shift toward
digital publishing is

The only downside is that buying digital manga means having to use digital
payment systems, which require a credit card. The downside to this is that
a lot of younger readers who enjoy manga simply don't have credit cards –
so it's not as easy for a teen or tween to buy some of these digital-only
titles / magazine subscriptions, whereas before, you could just go to the
bookstore or comic shop and buy what you like. Now, if you don't have a
credit or debit card, you have to ask your parents to buy online comics,
which I'd imagine must be a hassle.

But I think the manga publishers are aware of this, and I think they are
looking for some kind of solution. I feel like they have been pretty
responsive to fans' requests, so I see continual, steady improvement day
by day.
.but keep in mind that the shift toward digital publishing is a relatively new development

2. Do you think it's possible to create a free, yet legal site
dedicated to reading manga or doujinshi online??

To be honest, no. Not unless artists and publishers were willing to do it
just for giggles / be willing to forgo getting paid. I don't think people
realize the expenses involved with publishing manga, and how few people
(in US book-buying market) actually read / buy manga. Yes, there's a lot
of people who read manga, but it's but a fraction of the amount of people
who read manga in Japan. Manga is a niche within a niche of a niche – far
fewer people read manga online than say, read the NY Times online. While
the NY Times makes some content available for free, they do rely on
subscribers too, not just ad venue.

Online advertising only brings in so much revenue, and I don't see how
just ads would generate enough money to pay for expenses like translators,
graphic designers, editors, artists, and stuff like server/bandwidth
expenses, R&D to continually improve the websites/apps. If huge newspapers
and large mainstream online magazines are struggling to find ways to make
digital publishing as profitable as print was, then I don't think it's any
easier for manga publishers to do it either.

Besides needing to pay the people who translate, edit and do graphic
design on the manga you like to read, any online publisher also needs to
get agreement from the Japanese licensors: the publishers and comic
creators. Without OK from these people, nothing will happen – or at least
nothing legit.

There are doujinshi websites – in fact, Digital Manga is working with DL
Site to make translated doujinshi available online. But I don't think it
will be free.

There are free, all you can read webcomic sites out there too. But if
they're free, are the comics on there as consistently good as the manga
you buy from VIZ, Dark Horse, Yen Press, etc.? A website can offer all the
free manga/webcomics for free they like, but if it's not any good, then
that's no bargain for fans, now is it?

JManga is trying to offer a new strategy with JManga 7 where they'll offer
serialized chapters of new manga online to read for free, with the hope
that you'll pay for the complete volume later. This is promising, so we'll
see how it goes. But make no mistake – if the vast majority of the JManga
7 readers only read the free content / don't subscribe/pay for the premium
content/early preview privileges, and don't buy more JManga manga, then I
don't think this experiment will last very long.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, manga publishing is a business, not a
charity. Manga publishers and artists deserve to make money for bringing
us great manga. There are too many reasons why "free, all-you-can-eat"
manga websites aren't financially feasible in the current business climate
for book publishers, not just manga publishers.

3. What are your thoughts on scanlations and the amount of sites or
apps dedicated to hosting said illegal material?
I think scanlation is something that started out with good intentions (I
love this manga, I want other people to love it too) that has just gotten
way out of hand.

It's created this perception with some fans that manga has no value, that
you should never have to pay to read manga, that it should always be free
to read/consume and that anyone who draws, writes, translates manga should
do it simply for love, not money.  That's bullshit.

It aggravates me that the people who make money off scanlations and those
bullshit apps are not the original artists, or even the people who do the
translations. These websites DON'T pay the artists/translators who create
the content on their websites, but they profit from hosting content that
they didn't create by selling ads. Sure, it's profitable to run this kind
of website. They don't have to pay those inconvenient expenses like paying
licensing fees, or paying translators or graphic designers a living wage.

I have a lot of friends who are comics creators – heck, I'm a half-baked
cartoonist myself. I don't know if you can ever understand how it feels
until someone you created is stolen, and is used to make someone else (not
you) money; money that you will never get a share of. Worst of all, it's a
situation that you'll likely never be able to stop.

For me the bottom line is, did you get the artists' permission to post
that work? Are you sharing whatever revenue you're making from your with
the comics creators/artists and the editors, translators, etc. who drew,
wrote, edited, translated, scanned, cleaned up, etc. those pages that
you're posting on your website? If the answer is no to both of those
questions, then you're not doing the creators of the manga you love so
much any favors at all.

4. Do you think that people should be careful importing risqué
manga such as kodomo no jikan or comic lo given recent issues lately?
Let's just say I wouldn't do it.

Ryan Matheson spoke at Comic-Con, and the manga/artwork that got him
searched, arrested and thrown in jail for in Canada was relatively mild. I
think the political climate is such that it doesn't make sense to take
risks with importing potentially problematic material.

The problem is that manga has a visual style that often depicts characters
as younger than they really are. And for people who aren't familiar with
manga/anime art styles, if they see a comic character with large sparkly
eyes and small build, it looks like a child. And if that said character is
seen doing 'grown-up' stuff – then well… you see where this is going?

And come on. Is Kodomo no Jikan really that good of a manga? I haven't
read it myself, but I can think of tons more interesting manga that I'd
rather read, rather import from Japan. It's not like there isn't smut to
be had via US publishers (Digital Manga'sProject H Hentai imprint comes
to mind). It's not worth it.

5. This goes back to question three do you think that it would be
okay to import a manga from Japan then download the scanlations for your
personal use?

By visiting a scanlation site, you're still supporting them, financially.
Your presence on their websites = traffic, and the more traffic a given
website gets = they make more money from the online ads posted on their

So even if you buy one copy of the manga, when you visit a scanlation
site, you're creating traffic to the site, which = money for that website,
and therefore, you're encouraging these sites to continue. By allowing
these sites to continue to make money, you're facilitating making an
unauthorized copy of said manga available online, and making it available
to many, many thousands of people who will never buy a legal (Japanese or
English) edition of that same manga.

Yes, some people will discover this manga via reading it on a scanlation
site, and may become a big fan that will buy the manga through legal
channels when it's available. But honestly, the vast majority won't spend
a dime on it. And that's more lost potential sales that your purchasing of
a single legal copy can't quite compensate for.

In the end, you're still causing a net negative effect to the artist /
comic creator. Your math may differ from mine, but that's how I see it.

6. To wrap this up what are some of your favorite manga
series/genres and why?
Hm. I love all kinds of manga. My first love is shojo manga, and that's
probably my favorite. But I also enjoy seinen, shonen, and josei manga.  I
like romances, comedies, action manga, slice of life manga… literally, all

I like manga that teaches me something new while entertaining me. I also
love manga that shows a real mastery of the art. I like manga that makes
me laugh. And I'm a sucker for sports manga, because I don't actually
enjoy watching sports on TV, but I like the drama and real-life action in
these series that make me appreciate a sport I'd otherwise never get into.

Some of my current faves include Blue Exorcist, Kekkaishi, Ooku, Eyeshield
21, Cross Game, Slam Dunk, Drops of God, Chi's Sweet Home, Yotsuba,
Dorohedoro, A Drunken Dream, GoGo Monster, Children of the Sea, Summit of
the Gods, and Skip Beat.

Hope that helps. Sorry to take so long to reply. Let me know if you have
any follow-up questions or need anything else.

Deb Aoki
Guide to Manga | Need. Know. Accomplish is part of The New York Times Company

I did have a quick chat with Deb on twitter on Kodomo No Jikan and explained to her what kind of series it was. I think that she understands that it's not completely just smut or baseless sex acts/lolicon but she did help point out the usual truths on the matter. This is the said quote below from our conversation on Aug 30th 

there are just some titles that are too hot to handle in the US, and that's just how it goes. it's another reason to learn JP.

-Cecil The Dark Knight~


  1. Freedom of expression, if you draw cute characters get thrown in jail, even if you have no intention of looking at children because gentials are evil,God created them as ...fack that I can't fathom civilized humanity at all!

    Nice interview though.

    1. It's better to be safe than sorry. I do legally own some KNJ manga thanks to J-List but this is still a hard issue to tackle. More pressing is on the issue of the amount of illegal apps that the app store keeps approving.

    2. Yeah I know. I can't really comment on apps much since I don't own an iphone or android. However illegal materials will always be able to find a loophole no matter what, and the legal buyer pays for it always, that is how capitalism works hehe

  2. wait a second, I thought the blog was closed down? anyways its going to be a long while before people completely stop going to scanlators or manga hosting sites and start paying up for what they want to read. though I don't think you'll find something like a little girl getting attacked by a tentacled monster then saved by a dude with a large little man then he proceeds to start where the monster leaves off, legally provided in the US.

    1. Well the first step is to stop allowing illegal apps on the itunes market that get approved. This will show that people don't want the apps up in the first place. However this will not stop jail broken or 3rd party apps from cyida being made for IOS devices. The other issue is android, since that is an open source OS like windows it's near impossible to get rid of them.

      No the blog isn't going anywhere, I'm going to grow a damn pair already and stick to my guns by talking to people I know that can help me. I'm not innocent here of using scanlations don't get me wrong but when issues pop up on things I like to read such as KNJ is the risk importing of said material worth the risk over a copyright infringement?

  3. it seems like part of her answer to the first question was cut out. (maybe it's just me)
    good interview, though.

    as for the canadian arrested, he was crossing the border. i have a friend who was told to throw out a piece of scrap metal because it happened to come off a weapon, and if he brought it across and they found it later, he would have served jail time. my step-dad made a joke to a border guard about the vietcong and our whole car was surrounded by guards armed to the teeth. you don't know fear till you've stared down the barrel of a loaded gun. fuck the police, just not the ones at the border.

    as for buying legit manga, i have a large collection. (i'll admit, i'm no legal saint for the companies, but i've spent a fair ammount of mullah on manga. and that's nothing compared to what i've spent on anime. my parents don't even use the internet and they told me that drugs would be cheaper.)

  4. First up, I think this is quite a good interview, nicely done. I am glad to hear the manga business is decent and even improving. Being more of an anime fan myself I know all too well the dark future ahead of anime dubbing and the end of the so-called 'Golden Years'.

    (My two internets) I don't own much manga (its probably more expensive here than other places) and I will admit that I have used scanlations simply for the sheer convenience they provide. However I find that reading a bood is MUCH better than reading a screen and I will always enjoy books more. This is at least one thing the industry will always have going for them.

    One final thing, over the past few years there's been lots of big hollywood movies about American comics and this is driving an increase in sales of DC and Marvel comics. Is the American comic industry pushing out the manga industry? Is the cancellation of the Akira film an indication of things to come?