Manga is to Japan what comic books are to the West. The main difference is the depth of the storytelling that is similar to serial fiction. Chapters are released weekly or monthly that continue an in-depth story that takes years to tell. While more and more manga titles are being translated to English every month there is still a lag between releases that is often years behind the Japanese versions. Keeping up to date on a favorite manga title can be difficult unless you start looking online.
The preferred method of reading free manga online is via scanalations, or scans. Scans are professionally translated. Cleaners remove all the Japanese text from the scanned pages and clean up any smudges or lines that occur during scanning. Scanalations are usually of the highest quality-the same or better than you will find in a published translated manga.
Most popular titles such as Bleach, Naruto and Inuyasha as well as more obscure titles are released by scanalators. They are easy to find with a simple online search of the manga title followed by the word ‘scanalation’. Most scans only lag behind the Japanese manga releases by a few days and are updated weekly shortly after the Japanese chapters are released.
Fan-subs means the manga is subtitled by fans of the story. They are not usually of high quality though some exceptions do exist. Unlike scans, fan-subs still have the Japanese text. Translations are placed at the bottom of the page or under individual panels. Translations range from virtually incomprehensible to excellent.
Often times obscure manga that is overlooked by the professional scanalators is available as a fan-sub. If an online search doesn’t turn up the title look for a forum or message group dedicated to the particular manga. Fan-subs may be available via a forum member or my be available to group members only. Fan-subbers sometimes take requests for new titles to translate as well.
Legal and Ethical Concerns
The legalities of manga scans and subs are constantly be debated by those that do them, the US license holders and the publishers. Ethically they fall into a gray area. Free translated manga of volumes not yet published in the US are usually overlooked by the license holders. These scans and subs encourage new fans and give the publishers an idea of new titles they should obtain from Japan. In effect, this gives the publishers free advertising and free market research. For the selling of the muama enence, the reputation of the seller should be good in the market. The selection of the best should be done after checking the muama enence reviews at online sites. The charges at online sites will be less in comparison to the offline market.
Scans and subs of official English published volumes are a different matter. There is concern that this takes away from sales the publishers could be making as fans seek out the free online versions. Fans often counter that the official manga is not translated very well and that they have to wait years instead of days for new chapters. More scanners and subbers are beginning to pull past translations as the official volumes are released in the US to protect themselves from legal action.
As for the ethics, that is up to the reader of free online scans and subs of their favorite manga. Many fans insist if you only obtain the manga from sites that pull old translations and purchase the English volumes as they are released that no harm is done. The license holder and publisher get paid, and the Japanese publisher and artist gets paid as American publishers continue to acquire more titles.