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Synonyms: scanslation, fanscan, fansub
See also: fansub, manga, fan translation
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A scanlation is a fan-translated and fan-edited version of a manga (either professional or doujinshi), manhwa, manhua, or other comic.

Scanlations are usually shared digitally online as image files; if the original is not already digital then it is scanned, and the image is edited into the new language. Scanlations are mostly unauthorized by the people or companies who hold the rights to the source material, though some scanlators do get permission from foreign fans to scanlate their work, and there have been some licensed scanlation efforts like MangaNovel or the Digital Manga Guild.

Fans usually scanlate to share their favorite comic with other fans who cannot read it in its original language.


The term scanlation is a word smoosh of scan and translation. It has also been spelled scanslation, though this is much less common.[1] Fan-done translations of this type have also been called fanscans or even fansubs.[2] Many non-English scanlation groups refer to scanlations as "fansubs," though this is generally considered incorrect usage by most English fans today. In English, a fansub refers to a fan-subtitled show or movie, most commonly anime.

Scanlating, sometimes spelled scanslating, is the process undertaken to create a scanlation.

A scanlator is a fan who takes part in creating a scanlation. The translator, while technically a scanlator as well, is more commonly distinguished as such.

A scanlation group or scanlation team is a group of scanlators working together. Scanlation projects can be undertaken by individuals, but due to the amount of time and effort needed to produce clean, high-quality, and well-edited files, most scanlators work together with other fans.

Speedscanning is a form of scanlating in which the goal is to release as quickly as possible, sometimes with no more editing than just putting the text crudely on the raw page. At first, speedscans were typically considered to be of low quality because quality is usually sacrificed for speed in these releases. However, with increased access to higher quality editing programs, with scanlators becoming more tech-savvy, and with a large group of scanlators working together quickly, speedscans can actually be of quite good quality.

History of Scanlation

Inside Scanlation divides the history of scanlation thus far into three periods: The classic era, the golden age, and the "new world". These roughly correspond to the 1970s through 2003, 2003-2007, and 2007 to the present. They characterize these three periods as follows:

  • 1970s-1990s: The scanlation community is centered around a few large groups. Early groups distribute offline. Later groups are organized through IRC or usenet.
  • Mid 2000s: The community is centered around release announcing sites that track many groups.
  • 2007-present: Groups "speedscan" popular titles and distribute through aggregation and online reading sites.

For more detail, see: History of Scanlation

The Scanlating Process

As its name suggests, scanlating mainly involves scanning printed manga/comics into digitized files, then translating them. The exact process can vary greatly between scanlation groups, depending on the size and complexity of the group. Here is a simple list of stages to the process:

  1. A raw provider scans the original manga/comic to make digital image files.
  2. Cleaner(s) improve the image quality for viewing online.
  3. A translator translates the dialogue and text.
  4. A typesetter takes the cleaned image files and edits the translation onto them.

For more, see: Scanlation Process.


Scanlators release in various ways depending on the preferences of the group. Traditionally, most groups distributed via IRC. As bandwidth and the availability of file hosting sites such as Megaupload and Sendspace have increased, it has become common to distribute by direct download instead of or in addition to IRC. Other standard forms of distribution such as BitTorrent or linking to files from locked Livejournal communities, forums, and scanlation groups' own websites are also common. More recently, large aggregation sites have arisen that provide links to many groups' scanlations or that even host the files themselves. In 2010, the high profile of these sites has led to a crackdown by publishers and rights holders, which may force scanlators back to IRC and other lower profile venues.

Like fansubbers, some scanlation groups allow their releases to be redistributed in different places/with different means than the scanlation group originally used, but others strongly frown on any redistribution of their releases. Reasons for this vary. The group may want users to obtain scanlations from them personally rather than from a general manga download site. Sometimes a series will be licensed (at which time the group may or may not decide to pull its releases from all public distribution), or widespread releases may be considered troubling for other reasons, so scanlators may want to limit public exposure.

Holiday Releases

One interesting feature of scanlation culture is that many groups plan themed or extra large releases for holidays, particularly Christmas. SnoopyCool was one of the first groups to do this.

Scanlation Ethics

Many scanlation groups only scanlate titles that have not been licensed or that would not otherwise be available. Scanlators' views differ on whether scanlating the following types of series is ethical:

  • Series that have been licensed but not translated
  • Series that were dropped (only a partial official translation exists)
  • Series with heavily censored or localized official translations
  • Series whose official translation will take many years to catch up to the original language version

See also: Scanlation Ethics

Official Scanlations

Some rights holders have experimented with officially sanctioned scanlations. MangaNovel was one such experiment. As of 2011, Digital Manga Publishing is attempting to revolutionize the English language manga market with a major legal scanlation effort they are calling the Digital Manga Guild.

What Gets Scanned

Inside Scanlation estimates that in 2002, there were about 15-20 chapters of scanlated manga released every day. In 2006, the rate was closer to 50 chapters a day. In 2009, it was closer to 100. However, while releases used to show a roughly 50/40 split between shounen and shoujo/BL, shounen now makes up as much as 70-75% of releases.[3][4]

Some fans have complained that niche genres like yuri are rarely scanlated while genres that have lots of official translations (like mainstream shounen) also make up most scanlations. Scanlation groups have also been criticized for choosing faddish series rather than ones with significant artistic merit. On the flip side, many groups say they are just responding to demand and that there are few readers for older shoujo, yuri, or slice of life series, even in free scanlation form.

Non J→E Scanlation, non US markets

Groups translating Japanese language manga into English account for a large portion of the scanlation community, but scanlation groups also translate into many other languages. There are also scanlation groups that translate manhwa, manhua, and other types of comics.

Many scanlation teams that translate into languages such as Russian, Portuguese or Spanish translate from English rather than Japanese. This makes them reliant on the existence, availability, and quality of English-language scanlations. It also complicates issues of ethics since a series that is licensed or widely available in the United States may be impossible to get in many countries these teams reside in.

The same issues of ethics also apply to English-language markets. A series that is cheaply available in the US may need to be imported at great expense to Australia or New Zealand or vice versa.

France has a significant scanlation community. The website DailyManga was originally started to track French releases (though it had many English-speaking users as well). Iscariote is a major French scanlation group.[5]

China has an especially large scanlation community that often operates quite differently from the English-speaking one.[6]

Other Traditions of Fan Translation

Most J→E manga translations done by fans are part of the historical tradition described in the history section above. The same is true of most fan translations of Asian comics in general. However, the idea of amateur translation is something that has no doubt occurred to many fans independently. One example of a fan translation that was not closely tied to the mainstream "scanlation community" is the From Eroica with Love translation that circulated in media fandom in zine form.


Inside Scanlation documents the history of scanlation including overviews of important groups, interviews with scanlators, links to scanlation how-tos, and other information.

See Also


  1. ^ Google yields more than 5 million search results for "scanlation" and just 85,500 for "scanslation." Search retrieved 2010 July 28.
  2. ^ Inside Scanlation, The Land Before Time; accessed July 28th, 2010. About the late 1990s, they say: "Some called it 'fanscanning.' A few even called it 'fan-lettering.' The term 'scanlation' was not coined until sometime around 2000."
  3. ^ Inside Scanlation, "Rise of the Release Trackers"; accessed July 29, 2010.
  4. ^ Inside Scanlation, "Generation Jump"; accessed July 29, 2010.
  5. ^ Inside Scanlation, "Foreign Scanlation"; Accessed August 4, 2010.
  6. ^ For more, see Inside Scanlation, "Foreign Scanlation"
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