In the wake of last week's announcement of an anti-piracy coalition that includes over 40 Japan and U.S.-based manga publishers, reaction from fans and websites that host unauthorized scanned and translated comics (a.k.a. "scanlations") has been blowing up online forums and the manga blogosphere.
And now the latest change on the this front: Scanlation site MangaFox announced via its forums that it has pulled over 230 manga titles that are currently licensed in North America by VIZ Media. The list of pulled titles is pretty much the entire VIZ Media catalog past and present, including popular titles such as Naruto, Bleach, Skip Beat and One Piece.
In a topic thread entitled "Disappeared Manga," MangaFox administrator firefly-lynn made this announcement:
"Dear Mangafox members,
We feel so sorry to inform all of you that we close some of the manga temporary due to copyright issue, such as Naruto, Bleach and etc."
"Our boss is trying to negotiate with them, any updated news, we will let you know. Sorry for the inconvenience and your understanding would be highly appreciated."
The post then goes on to provide a list of over 230 manga series that were pulled from the MangaFox databases. I read through the list, and it was, for most practical purposes, almost all of the manga titles published by VIZ Media, from its earliest titles like Ranma 1/2 and Battle Angel Alita to some of its most current and popular series, like Reborn!, Vampire Knight and Rin-Ne.
A forum post dated June 16, 2010 by "manga.dreamer," a MangaFox forum administrator, also had this to say to readers:
"sorry for the inconvenience, but we have no choice to keep those manga now. Our site is being targetted to clean up those licensed manga due to recent news published at http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/43437-japanese-u-s-manga-publishers-unite-to-fight-scanlations.html"
"anyway, meanwhile all licensed manga being removed. we are still having over 5000 license-free titles available."
Then in another interesting development, another site admin MangaFox community member "Miista MangaFox" posted an update that added more titles to the "pulled" list -- namely titles that were included in requests from scanlation groups who wrote in to MangaFox asking them to pull down the titles that they had worked on and had posted on MangaFox's website.
This list of over 130 additional titles, includes series currently licensed to Del Rey Manga (ES: Eternal Sabbath), TokyoPop (Gakuen Alice) and Digital Manga Publishing (Princess Princess), and several series not yet picked up for the North American market.
This is notable because it shines a light on two trends:
- Scanlation groups, not just publishers, are actively reaching out to MangaFox to remove series hosted on their site.
- MangaFox admins are acting quickly upon these requests for removal. Anecdotes from representatives from Vertical and Yaoi Press have confirmed that in the past, it often required multiple requests to get series removed from the MangaFox site.
Clearly, this confirms that news of the publishers' anti-piracy coalition has gotten around, and is being taken very seriously by scanlation groups and sites that host scanlated manga.
Reaction from Mangafox readers was almost immediate. A few were confused, some were emotionally anguished, more than a couple were angry and proposed a boycott of VIZ Media products. However, there were many forum participants who saw this change as justified and inevitable.
You can experience the reactions for yourself at these two threads: "Disappeared Manga" and "Why Were Some Series Removed?" They offer a fascinating glimpse into the discussions and debates that fans are having with each other over this hot-button topic.
UPDATE: FORMER MANGAFOX SENIOR STAFFER TALKS
After I posted this article, I got a note from Zeff via Twitter. He tweeted a clarification to me that "Miista MangaFox," was a staff member, but not MangaFox administrator. When I mentioned to him that it wasn't very apparent that this MF member wasn't a site admin because he/she was the one posting all the lists of pulled series, Zeff replied, and through our conversation, I found out why this Germany-based fan knew so much about MangaFox: Until recently, he was one of the senior staff members who helped to manage the site.
In our online conversation, Zeff made several references to Noez, the China-based company that is the owner of MangaFox, and other anime/manga-related websites including ZOMGanimi.com, Anime-Eden.com and OtakuZone.com.
I also found out through Zeff that the removal of the VIZ Media-licensed manga titles wasn't the only big shake-up at MangaFox. As he explained it, a lot of the senior staff at MangaFox have recently decided to retire, partly in reaction to the U.S. / Japan publishers' anti-piracy coalition announcement. Here's the rest of our conversation:
Zeff: I know, all senior staff retired a few days ago that's why there is no one left but NOEZ admins and a few others.
Deb Aoki: Really? "All senior staff at MangaFox retired a few days ago?" Was there an announcement to that effect?
Zeff: No, I doubt they realized it. That's another point I hate about the administration. ^^ I could write about the mischief all day.
We were unsatisfied with the way the site was managed for a while now, and I guess (this announcement) just gave us a kick. Noez administration is lazy, unless money is involved, they do nothing but promises.
Deb Aoki: So for example, what would they promise you, but not deliver on?
Zeff: Try to imagine you have to take care of a site with restricted access and no backup from your superiors, while you work for free :X (Noez would promise) mostly bug fixes. You can't really lock chapters or series if scanlators demand it. They are still accessible even now.
Deb Aoki: Oh, interesting. I've heard from several publishers and scan groups that it often would take many requests to get series pulled.
Zeff: That's not true, at least (from) what I know. I had to deal with a lot of those requests and usually the people were nice and patient. It's not easy to pull the strings if you have to deal with system glitches. :(
Deb Aoki: (I can see how) working for free under circumstances like that sucks. How long did you work on MangaFox?
Zeff: 1- 1/2 years, and half a year as a regular member.
Deb Aoki: So (with all of the aggravations and being asked to do the work for free), why do it for so long? What made it worthwhile?
Zeff: I guess I just enjoyed reading manga. I started as a contributor. It's not easy to get the 'good stuff' here in Germany. You do wanna support the things you love.
Deb Aoki: That's fair. I do see that a lot of the people who read these titles online are not from North America. So another question: how many "senior staff" are you talking about, when you say that several "retired" recently?
Zeff: 2 Smods ("super" moderators), at least 3 mods and a bunch of others a few weeks before including 1 admin (we also have 'non-noez' admins). The list of retired staff is huge. They already promoted a new smod though.
But let's just say it like this: the ones doing the most work retired, and so for me, MangaFox is dead land now. (I'm) looking forward to see OpenManga opening it's doors and hopefully doing a better job.
So what do you think about this new development on the manga biz front? Share your thoughts below.
Image credits: © Tite Kubo / Shueisha, © MangaFox.com, © Tachibana Higuchi, © Digital Manga Publishing