Editor’s note: While my own DMG experience has been stalled due to the disintegration of my localizing group (soon to be restarted, more on this soon!), the active group BoysLoveBangBang has agreed to share with us their Guild experience! Thanks, BLBangBang! – MJ
When I’m excited, my thoughts bubble up, suddenly exploding en masse. The result? Reader confusion. Today, not only am I excited about Digital Manga Publishing’s (DMP) unprecedented business model, the Digital Manga Guild (DMG), but I also want to share my personal experience so far with my localizing team, BoysLoveBangBang, and DMG. So, I’m gonna strap on the leather restraints and divide this journey into four categories: group formation; DMG interaction; the working process; and group interaction and beliefs.
BoysLoveBangBang, or the shortened version BLBangBang, was not without its set up discouragements, both from DMG itself and from within our group.
After announcing their—somewhat vague—comic guild idea, DMG needed time to define both their potential and procedures before attempting to clear the air for everyone interested in joining the guild. Understandable, but incredibly frustrating! Here was a brave and exciting promise: one that demonstrated awareness and appreciation of fan motivation and wanted to work with the long proven power of active enthusiasts!
Our original group members were all part of the experimental first wave of people applying to DMG. After submitting our qualifying tests, we had a considerable wait. I reread my grammar and style books and went through three shelves of my favourite manga before our individual approvals were completed and our members were linked. Finally, we were sent our contracts; BLBangBang put on its serious hat for contract discussions and group planning.
Next queue: DMG requires each member to send in their contract as a hard copy. Combined, our contracts flew over waving whitecaps, trucked down dusty roads, and weaved through rocky escarpment forests. DMG staff had to reunite all these lonely contracts into the BLBangBang family before any project assignments. Yup. Tick tock. We were ready for any genre, any mangaka–we just wanted to help with quality English manga availability.
We had trouble firming up our group roles. For a spell, we even had no translator. (Sounds kinda dismal so far, no?) We were saddened, but in comparison to setting up even the most conventional of new businesses, BLBangBang’s formation and partnership with DMG was bliss–full of eager people from both parties and reasonably smooth transitions. Oh yes, and a bit of luck…
This autumn, Apricotsushi, our translator, landed in our laps with a deliciously alluring squeal, and we gelled into who we are today: a fun-spirited, supportive, working team of: Alexandra Gunawan (Al), our group leader and letterer from the United States; Kimberly Lammens (Dutchie), our editor from Canada; and Anne Whittingham (Apricotsushi), our translator from Australia.
During our period sans translator, Al didn’t bow to Lady Luck; rather, she kept vigilant herself. When DMG offered a special project–a single title, already translated–she swiftly thrust herself up, and, over the sound of her chair clattering to the floor, she screeched happily: “PICK US! PICK US!” This project was Healing Music by Kaiya Tatsumi; it proved positively perfect for us. Not only did it breath fire back into our dampened spirits, but it also allowed us to learn the pitch and tone for our unique BLBangBang procedure.
Healing Music gave us clarity toward: our roles as editor and letterer; our needs regarding our new translator; and finally, our expectations of DMG. With the arrival of our first full package of three titles–Tweeting Love Birds volumes one and two by Yamamoto Kotetsuko and Want to Depend on You by Kinoshita Keiko–we’re now go-go-go, like a wild seme on an unsuspecting uke. Rawr! We’re approaching our three new titles with confidence, but we’re open to strengthening our fresh procedure with the addition of Apricotsushi!
Interaction with DMG holds two components: direct emails between BLBangBang and DMG; and the bimonthly teleconferences between DMG and the localizing group collective.
Al, our go-between for DMG and BLBangBang, gathers any questions or concerns, such as security issues, or technical and procedural problems, and sends them off pronto. At first, DMG’s responses, although still professional and friendly, retained a “slow and vague” modus operandi. Thankfully, that was short-lived. DMG administrators are now excellent, in both efficiency and clarity; they respond with reasonable promptness and satisfactory, respectful answers.
Al says: Group leaders must stay proactive in communication and follow up with DMG. If an email is sent that requires DMG response, I make sure I get it. It’s easy to get lost in DMG’s shuffle, so finding ways to politely assert and reassert our team’s agenda has been paramount. As group leader, it’s also been important to anticipate the paperwork DMG sends us. For example, the bundle of Schedule As we expected to receive following Healing Music was lost in a computer glitch on DMG’s end. If I hadn’t followed up immediately with our DMG contact when that email went astray, BLBangBang would have looked rather negligent!
When DMG decided to maintain a regular time allotment for a live exchange with their localizers, I was pleased. We took turns listening in, working around our personal needs. At the conclusion of each meeting, the minutes would be shared with the rest of the group. Teleconferences were a useful channel at the beginning—it was a forum for DMG to share business information and status updates, and for localizers to raise concerns and questions. Perhaps because we started with DMG from the beginning, the teleconferences dwindled from useful to irritating repetition.
Encouragingly, DMG recently announced that they are holding themed teleconferences now. What a relief! With this focusing agenda and DMG’s growing activity, we’re returning to the live meetings with renewed interest.
The Working Process
The general procedures provided by DMG, although comprehensive, are somewhat tedious and disorganized from my perspective. “Wah!” I thought, rubbing my bleeding eyes and saying, “Calm down; type up your own version. You can own this monster!” And voila–a checklist that includes all of DMG’s fairly exacting requirements but now reshaped into my eye-friendly standards!
Onward to the project itself!
Apricotsushi is transforming Tweeting Love Birds from Japanese to English as I type! I’m willing myself to patience. I don’t want to be that child who whines: “Are we there yet?” Well done translations are not rushed translations–please ignore this brat, Apricotsushi!
I whip the script into shape and then fine tune it some more: a semi colon added here, a conversion to active tense there, and… would an em-dash clarify this dialogue, make it more expressive…? Add insightful team discussions on image-word flow choices and various translations we wish to grasp better in order to deliver smoother, and we finally arrive at the polished version of the script.
Al has enormous image and font files to juggle and manipulate. She does marvelously, with nary a complaint (that isn’t slathered in funny). Each project is going to be different: she informed me with a happy tinkle in her voice that the Japanese files for Healing Music were wonderfully sharp and mostly clean, but then she harrumphed, stating that the files for Tweeting Love Birds must be coaxed into submission with a lot of patience. I feel technical skills are not the only part of her lettering work; she’s also handles many aesthetic judgments.
After several quality checks for each chapter, the whole team is happy with the comic’s English flow and look.
Each localizing group has varying technological resources—hardware, operating systems, software–and varying ways they utilize their resources. For me, an agonizing death would await me without my two monitor set up: I read the translated script while looking at the Japanese images, making sure nothing is missing and all the image-word choices jive effectively; later, I view the cleaned and edited images at the same time as I type up quality control comments. As for my hardware, at first, my computer blew up when I tried to shove too much at it (those beautiful but beleaguering image files!). I may be old, but I can recognize the sound of a computer’s processor weeping: “Please stop. It hurts.” Being an anger management graduate, I stopped. My operation is now well-oiled: I only open one or two programs with one or two files displayed at a time.
Al: Uploads of updated files are done!
Dutchie: And they’ve begun their race to download into my computer! (“Race” may be the wrong word.” -_-)
Downloads and uploads on DMG’s FTP server are often s-l-o-w, but with our “rolling” procedure, all of us are constantly productive.
Finding Our Look
More than half way through Healing Music, we realized–after taking a look at how the manga files displayed on a variety of portable devices–that the font we were using was too small. We wisely talked it over, keeping our sailor curses to a minimum. With what I imagine was a charmingly profane gesture, Al finally huffed, “No problem—I’m fixing the files NAO.” (She later clarified: “It was less profane gestures and more irritated mouse smashing.”) I did my quality checks once again, and there you have it! Trés dramatic improvement! Trouble to worth ratio? Immeasurable!
Before we sent the final project in, we both read it from beginning to end once more. I tweaked style and grammar flow and made sure nothing was amiss. Al decided to stun me at the last minute: she took some of the artful Japanese sound effects and made her English subtitles into striking mimics!
As soon as the last page of Healing Music transferred into DMG’s final submissions folder, nervousness assailed me. My focus has long been researching and writing about the comic form and comic history–I’ve never actually helped a comic come to life! We had made quite a few independent choices and, although I firmly believed in the quality of our final work, I also hoped that our seniors in the comic industry would look on it with approval. We didn’t wait long for a response: production sent us a couple critiques to consider for next time; and both DMP and DMG representatives sent us encouraging words on the professionalism of our work and our ability to meet DMG’s high standards. After this fantastic feedback, I’m inspired and reinvigorated for our next project!
Less than two weeks after we finished our English version of Kaiya Tatsumi’s Healing Music, it’s a wonderful feeling to see it flashed about on DMP’s websites, and especially on emanga.com itself. (Kindle and Nook versions will be available mid to late November.)
Group Beliefs and Interaction
Al: . . . idk we could use “pervert” –is that less powerful of a word to you than “slut”?
Dutchie: . . . I dunno, but it’s just so RANDOM in the scene. No lead up and BLAM! Especially shocking word choice for this cute set of innocent lovers…
Dutchie: Uke’s eyes would be more like @_@ or T_T
Al: >_< yeah. It's pretty bad.
Dutchie: I’m sure the smexy times would be flat lined. LOL
Al: LOL poor limp dick
The above conversation regarding an extra story at the end of Healing Music may seem like an inessential, crass conversation, but it’s not. For all titles, as we absorb the characters, wishing to reflect the mangaka’s intent, we figure out what sort of flow is required. From the smallest “haa” to the biggest “smash,” we try to consider the impact of all the available choices. (I’ll let you know how that particular conversation turned out!)
All three of us have careers and/or are pursuing academic studies in addition to our DMG activities. We also have families that include long term partners. My partner, although not fully initiated in the esoteric world of self lubricating… erm… manga, is supportive of my passion and also technologically savvy, so that’s a boon for me! Al’s partner is… wondering how the hell she spent over $3,000 on manga so far this year. (Just wait until Yaoi Con…) Apricotsushi’s partner has her back, too!
We’re treating BoysLoveBangBang as if we’ve formed a small business together—as indeed we have from one perspective. It’s hard to find the right terms to use with DMG’s new business model. It’s a liminal place, for sure, but out of scary change often comes enrichment.
Everything we do we take seriously: from maintaining the comic’s artistic integrity, accuracy, tone and aesthetics to respecting one another. Each of us feels we are part of a whole; although we have individual roles to perform, we don’t “own” any one part of the process. This results in a solid piece! From the book blurb to the emotional impact of the polished final pages, we’re in it together.
Groups operate best with tight communication between members, including awareness of each member’s personal life commitments. What else is involved in communicating? A heck of a lot of fortifying affirmation, constructive criticism, honesty, and humour.
Because we are not within a tangible distance of one another, and operate entirely over the internet, we’ve shared our personal contact information and set up a back-up emergency procedure. We use regular emails, Twitters, and scheduled Skype meetings (sometimes even with an agenda!) to connect.
Al has tackled the social networking and promotion for BLBangBang like a football star, utilizing both Twitter and Tumblr to add pretty colour and important information to our lives on a daily basis. Apricotsushi efficiently set BLBangBang up with a new Facebook page. What does Dutchie do? Blabs. Excessively and explosively.
We want to know what you’re thinking and talking about too! After all, this is a community effort, so why not chat with us! We can support one another, either as fellow localizers or simply as comic appreciators. In celebration of our first DMG release, we just had a manga giveaway. We’re planning more giveaways and other fun events! Please follow us at any of these sites!
And here’s the condensed conclusion to our completely practical, somewhat sensational, dirty talk discussion:
Al: “Dirty slut” may brain the readers. . . basically the Japanese literally says “[uke name] really erotic” and then “[seme name] is more erotic.”
Dutchie: So, they’re playfully arguing about who is more “ero.” “Dirty slut” replacement: “No, you’re the erotic/passionate/sensual one.”
Dutchie: Hmm. The seme is like an eager puppy… Passionate? Wait. Let me just go check the dictionary…
Dutchie: Passionate: “easily aroused or ruled by intense emotions.” We done step right, boy.
Al: ha ha –with a brofist!
Al: We’re done! Now I can start cleaning up the next one,Tweeting Love Birds! It’s been deadly! lol kiss kiss
Now, lifting my glass of sake, I make two toasts: first, to all localizers and DMG — may we continue striving for accomplished titles and effective guild dynamics, never forgetting our enjoyment that puts sparkle into everything; and second, to my fellow comic enthusiasts – may you all find comics that connect with your hearts and minds, regardless if you read them via traditional formats or this new, exciting electronic format!