Saturday, March 31, 2012

Digital Manga Guild - It's About the Trees, Not the Forest

Recently, there has been some talk about the Digital Manga Guild on various scanlation and blog sites regarding cease and desist letters, copyright violations, and licenses. Let me be absolutely clear that I'm not here to argue one way or another about such complicated topics. That has all been done before, and generally, people will feel the way they feel, and no amount of discourse will change that. No, what I AM here to talk about is who and what the Digital Manga Guild really is because after reading through the blog posts and comments, I've come to the realization that many people don't fully understand how the guild operates or who is involved. There are many misconceptions and generalizations, and I hope this post dispels some of them.

Since this has the potential to be lengthy, I will start with the bottom line. The Digital Manga Guild consists of over 35 active groups and over 100 active members, and these numbers are conservatively based off of the number of titles that have been published. Groups are generally composed of 3 people - translator, editor, letterer - though some groups have more and some have less. Though we all fall under the umbrella of "DMG," we operate as individual groups, and each group handles its own website, twitter account, tumblr, etc. We are also individually responsible for the quality of work that we produce. In that way, "DMG" is really just the stage for all of our small groups to display our work, and DMI (the parent company) has no more control over the everyday lives of the groups than Madison Square Gardens does over the lives of the people who perform there. DMI is a small company and cannot control who the members email or how or why. When an unanticipated problem arises, like this kerfluffle over C&Ds, the best they can do is react quickly and clearly, which is what they did by posting an official position on the matter.

The point that I want to make clearer is that when statements are made about "DMG," they encompass over 100 people - most of whom are just going about their business as usual and aren't even aware of a problem. I know it's onerous to ask since there are so many of us, but really it's more appropriate to speak about individual groups. "Boys Love Bang Bang has hilarious banter on Twitter." "Cynical Pink just posted more obsessive photos of digital readers." "Sinister Hands had some amazingly difficult redraws in their last title (and boy am I glad *I* didn't get them :P)." In none of these examples can you substitute "DMG" or "DMI" and still be accurate.

Ok, thanks for reading that. Now on to a slightly more detailed section of ranting. There has been talk about how DMG members are hired by DMI and how we become representatives of the company. We're actually not employees - just freelancers - and we definitely in no way represent DMI. DMG received over 1000 applications and tests, though obviously not everyone continued on to form a group, receive a bundle of titles, and complete the assignments. Not only can DMI not control the everyday actions of all these people, but it's impossible for them to screen or interview or even really get to know each and every person. If issues arise with individual members, you can 1) be pretty sure that DMI was not aware of it, and 2) be absolutely sure that they appreciate your feedback and would want to hear about your concerns. Send an email to

Another thing that is appalling me is this call to boycott DMG titles. Again, it gets back to my whole issue of recognizing that we are individual cells of localizers and not a conglomerate that operates with one head. Royalties on each sale are paid to the localizing group, DMI, the Japanese publisher, and the mangaka. No one gets paid until a sale is made. I'm not here to defend or criticize this business model. What I want to point out is that NOT buying a title localized by Group A has absolutely no effect whatsoever on Group B, and this is not just limited to angry emails and personal interactions. If you did not like the quality of a book by Group C, then NOT buying a title from Group D is a poor way to make your dissatisfaction known.

Hmm... I was going to limit this post to "getting to know the groups," but that last sentence is tempting me to talk about quality. Dangerous ground... Readers have commented that the quality of DMG titles can be hit or miss, and with the huge selection of titles available now, it's difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. To that, I say - PLEASE REVIEW. If one out of every 10 people who read a DMG title left a review on Amazon or B&N or even just on their own blog site (which would then show up in a Google search), then deciding what to read would be that much easier. The localizing group is listed on the credit page of each book. If you find a book you like, look for more by the same group, and vice versa if you unfortunately didn't like it.

That's about all I had to say since I don't want to go into messier topics like licenses, sales and profit models, or scanlations. Before people go and make generalizations about DMG, all I ask is that you get to know us a little better. If you have ANY questions, please please feel free to ask them here. Right now the dialogue feels very one-sided, and I would like more voices from inside DMG to be heard.

UPDATE: After reading a few more disgruntled comment threads, I thought I would make a quick note explaining how Digital Manga, Inc (DMI) differs from Digital Manga Publishing (DMP) and Digital Manga Guild (DMG). Confused yet? Here's how I see it, though I may not grasp the finer, legal details.  DMI is the parent company, and DMP is their main publishing division (801 Media is the other). DMP has many imprints (you can think of them as genres or subsections) including June, Doki Doki, and DMP Platinum. DMG is also an imprint, which consists of titles localized by DMG members.

Here is another example: You have Scholastic Inc (like DMI). Scholastic Trade Books is one of their publishing divisions (like DMP). Arthur A. Levine Books is the imprint (DMG) that published Harry Potter in the United States. The equivalent of many of the comments I've been reading on other sites would be: "I can't stand how JK Rowling is approaching fan fiction, so I'm not buying anymore books from AA Levine Books or Scholastic."


I'm in love/obsessed with BL(which is why I own books in 4 different languages when I can only clearly understand 1), so I'm really interested in seeing DMG succeed. I'm not part of DMG but I do follow most groups and interact with some of them in twitter and in their blogs. I also frequently update MU with licensing status, ratings, some reviews, and tags. I toyed with the idea of reviewing in BN and Amazon, but I'm kinda terrible with reviews. Anyway, the main point is that I'm really familiar with DMG.

I read and comment in all the posts about DMG I've come across, and I'm kinda appalled about the ignorance and sense of entitlement of some people. I try to change their assumptions, but mostly it's just a losing fight; people are going to believe what they want to believe. Plus, I think some of those people don't even buy licensed titles, and are just justifying that fact with those assumptions.

I am disappointed in DMG and how DMI has chosen to handle it but I won't boycott it completely(I'm staying clear of some groups), unless something drastic happens but then I'll just have to avoid DMI entirely. But I really hope it never comes to that.
I've steered most of my complains to DMI, and while they responded to some, they seem to have ignore others. I do get wordy and repetitive sometimes, so that might be it.

About your group, I don't really have any real complains, although I(and probably others) would appreciate some cultural and translation notes. For example, I actually didn't know what a fudanshi meant.

I love that you posted this.
Squeefinity has started including the names of the translating teams as part of our reviews of DMG titles, because, as you said, some groups are better than others and deserve recognition. Translation, etc. is hard work. Your group, Cynical Pink, does fantastic work (actually the best I've seen, and I'm not just saying this because I'm commenting on your blog here), some groups...well, they aren't as successful, but again, translation is insanely difficult, and sadly the original text has to share the blame on some titles as well (there are some manga that are bad in any language). To lump everyone in DMG in together and criticize all groups as a whole, or conglomerate, is ridiculous. I think it is absolutely necessary to indicate which groups worked on a translation and give applause, or criticism when necessary. I also think that the range of work in DMG necessitates more frequent reviews of the titles. You can't judge a book by its cover, or the publishing entity, so reviews can help spread information about good work to an audience, which will benefit the teams that do that work, and lead to more. Wins all around?!

Well said! Thank you for being brave and speaking up.

F*&kin-A. F*&kin-A. Love your metaphor; it's brilliant. *gives a wave from her little tree branches to the rest of the pretty forest*

I followed your link from Nakama's page.

What's happened this month is the result of a much larger problem: a) the lack of communication between both the parent company the guild, b) the lack of communication between the guild and its members, c) the disconnect between the guild and the yaoi community.

There will always be a disconnect between the North American distributors and the sub/scanlating community, but with DMG it is significantly larger. I brought this up with Ben last night. It was a very long email, and I hope now that DMG is in the loop, they can take action against those three points above.

I've already spent too much time this weekend on this, so I'm just going to send you to another Guild member's blog

Thanks for the support, everyone. I'm sure you were as surprised as I was to see all this angry backlash seemingly out of the blue (at least to me).

@scryen - I agree with all three of your points in regards to what sparked all this, and I think problems a and b have been addressed by Ben's post in the forum. The instructions to localizers are clear, and we're all on the same page now. The point of my post here is to hopefully begin to remedy problem c. You seem to have a very good understanding of how DMG works and who we are, but many of the commenters on your and other sites seemed less familiar. Reading things like "DMG is so rude - how dare they treat people like that" upset me because until now, I've only had pleasant experiences with fans and readers, but I felt included in those statements nonetheless.

I'm glad you're in contact with Ben and hopefully everything will be straightened out to both parties' satisfaction. Thank you for the link, and please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about DMG. As you said, there has been a disconnect between the guild and the yaoi community, and I'd like to fix that where and how I can.

Hi! Thanks for sending me your link. I thank you for some clarification in regards to the operations of the DMG, as I have not yet had much hands on experience with it (not to mention the lack of replies on their end to me, although I understand having one person in charge of all emails is insane).

I'm also happy to read that this outcry by the yaoi community has not been ignored by localizers of the DMG. It IS somewhat frustrating, on both ends really, so I do really appreciate thoughts/opinions from the DMG localizers' end too. Even as a fairly inactive DMG member, I have felt a bit of the heat from those against the DMG.

I just hope this situation gets resolved as soon as possible. The chaos of it all is a bit nerve wracking and too intense for my tastes.

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