There are many freelancers involved in bringing manga to America, including a number of translators and letterers. But these freelancers have concerns, including the fact that they often don’t get paid much, even when the manga they’re working on is raking in a lot of money. And there are concerns that publishers will replace them with AI.
As an example of low pay, sometimes letterers get paid $1 to $1.15 for each page they work on.
An anonymous translator told Deb Aoki at Publishers Weekly, that “some manga series move a few hundred copies. Others, millions. But I get paid the same for both.”
Seven Seas Entertainment has recognized the publishing union United Workers of Seven Seas, and according to reports VIZ Media and Yen Press have begun paying their freelancers more.
AI is still a concern for freelancers, though. Beth Kawasaki of Media Do has said that “human editorial expertise is still needed, but advances in tech may make (AI-assisted) localization more cost effective in the future.”
“I understand why there’s a lot of interest in machine translation as the technology progresses…but I think we’d all agree it’s got a long way to go,” marketing lead at TOKYOPOP Kae Winters said. “If you’ve ever run a Japanese book description through Google Translate, it’s a coin toss whether it’ll even be understandable.”
The anonymous translator also doesn’t like the idea of their work being replace by AI, saying that manga is “filled with puns, jokes, cultural references, allusions, context-sensitive SFX (sound effects), callbacks, call-forwards, and unspoken nuance that all requires the deft touch of a fully bilingual human brain to parse, contextualize, reimagine, localize, and write.”
Fans want to read good translations, as seen by their disapproval when they found The Rankings of Kings poorly translated.
Mark Gabriel de Vera of Yen Press also weighed in, saying, “We do whatever we can to publish the highest-quality translations that stay true to their original versions. Seeing how mainstream and casual AI use has already become, it would be foolish for me to say that it will not become a bigger part of the creation of art and storytelling.”
Source: Publishers Weekly
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.