Web Translation Projects/Localization of online comics and manga

Online comics and manga localization - project informationEdit

The aim of this project is to show and present a technical side of online comics and manga localization, which differs from traditional forms of localization. In current times there is a lot of online artists who draw original or non-original characters or comics to make a living by selling them online or during conventions. This type of work is especially popular in countries eastern countries like China and Japan. However, many comics or mangas is rarely translated into languages different from the authors. That is why on the internet exists many translation groups that translate those comics or mangas, usually for free. From time to time, groups or indiviuals will accept commision to localize certain comics or manga but it is not that common occurance. Usually translation is made by translation groups, rarely by single individual, because such task requires knowledge from different fields of expertise, that will be mentioned later on. This project will be separated into two sections.

The first section will briefly talk about online comics and manga and what they are.

The second section will be focused on certain, but not all, steps that need to be done in order to localize comics or mangas. This section will not cover all the steps in order to allow others in the future to expand information about already existing steps or add new ones.

Online comics and mangas - what are they?Edit

In order to answer the question in the heading, we first need to separate comics and manga definitions.


What are comics? Federico Zanettin[1] says in one of his works that the term comics are sometimes used as a synonym for visual storytelling, thus categorising as ‘comics’ all forms of graphic narrative, to begin with ancient cave painting, Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions, European medieval tapestries, early Chinese woodprints, Japanese Buddhist scrolls, and so on. Comics rely on a specific set of conventions and symbols due to their specific history and evolution, and in a way cultural exchange through translation. At the cultural level, comics are prototypically characterised by their being a form of popular mass fiction, marked by serialisation within distinct genres and with recurring characters.

Comics is an artistic medium that combines words and pictures.

The comics medium takes many forms.  A comic book might be one story from cover to cover or it might include a series of shorter stories.  There might not be any story at all.  It might be a web comic, a poster, a series of trading cards, or a fire exit sign.  It might be a comic strip in a newspaper, or it might be a single-panel political cartoon.  It might be a do-it-yourself zine, or it might be a multi-bazillion dollar industry. It might or might not be funny[2].


Due to US influence and the end of Japan internal isolation in 1856, Western comics started to appear in Japan. However, they weren't called manga yet, because the style of comics back then was heavily influenced by the West. As Federico Zanetting states, the birth of the manga can be attributed to Osamu Tezuka's 1947 Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island). It revolutionised comics conventions in Japan by increasing the number of panels used to narrate the story and presenting a new way of representing characters by making their faces flat with large round eyes, small noses and tiny mouths. Since then, the Japanese comics industry has grown exponentially, distanced itself from Western comics, and is currently one of the biggest in the world. Right now term manga loosely refers to a style of cartoons originating in Japan. They usually are published in installments, and depending on their form, can be up to several hundred pages long[3]. Manga often is published in magazines, which usually are no more than 40 pages long. Comic books usually are around 150 - 200 pages.

Localization - what is it?Edit

According to the book The Guide to Translation and Localization: Preparing Products for the Global Market[4] localization is a process of customizing a product for consumers in a target market so that when they use it, they form the impression that it was designed by a native of their own country. It means that if we were to translate an American comics into polish, translated comics need to give an impression that they were made in Poland. Such task, of course, is impossible because comics with characters like Batman would be recognize instantly as foreign, no matter how hard localization team is going to try. In case of manga, artstyle alone reveals the foreign origin. Of course, there will exceptions, such as very simple comics and basic artstyle that can be drawn by anyone, but exceptions like this are hard to find online. That's why when it comes to online comics and manga localization, translation team needs to focus purely on preserving the meaning of the text and visuals.

Localization - technical steps and informationEdit

This section is the main focus of this project. It will not contain and provide information on all the possible steps that can be done while localizing online comics and manga, but it will focus on just a few the most important.

Obtaining raw / high quality filesEdit

This step is important because the visual aspect. No matter the program or the skills of the group/individual, localization will always lose a bit of visual quality because of all the editing, file conversions, etc. Many artists who posts their work online for free, usually will have a higher quality version of their work available to be bought on their patreon/fanbox sites. However, some artists post their work online for free and have clean files/high quality work saved and ready, and if asked can provide it to the translators. In some cases translation groups can be commissioned to localize certain comics or manga and in such situations, commissioner may provide the team with original product in high quality.

Making scriptEdit

Before any editing is done, translator should write down comics/manga dialogues and any relevant onomatopoeic words/symbols to ensure that nothing will be lost or changed unnecessarily during the editing process.

Cleaning up / Clean up processEdit

Cleaning up in this context means removing text from speech bubbles, removing onomatopoeic words and/or symbols and if necessary, restore parts of speech bubbles or character details that were removed/lost in this process. It needs to be done in order to improve picture quality, clarity, and readability of the digital screen. Most manga running in magazines is printed in monochrome, but usually on low-quality paper similar to newsprint, which may be greyish or pastel-colored; this is converted into true black and white[5].

Original and clean version of the comics

Picture above presents two panels of the same comics, however the left one is the original published by the author version while the right is the cleaned version. In this example, not only the text from speech bubbles got removed, but also during the clean up process part of the character's hair had to be restored. It is necessary in order for editors, typesetters and translators have easier time during later steps. What is more, in order to preserve the high quality after the clean up, this step can be done by using only advanced programs such as photoshop or firealpaca that offer many advanced and helpful options, and tools, for the editors.


The translator works on translating all dialogue and other text from a source language into their target language. It is done usually at the same time as cleaning process, and cleaners, do their work. Simultaneous works make both translating and cleaning process easier and much more effective. Translation is generally compiled into a text file and subsequently distributed to the typesetter. Translating can be done by one person, or in cases of bigger projects or to speed translation process, by more than one.


Proofreading and the role of the proof-reader is a very important and difficult task. Proof-reader will examine the draft translation and will catch, and fix translation mistakes or style issues. Any major edits and changes are usually made by the typesetter.


Typesetter is the person who collects translated and proofread script, and cleaned pages in order to combine them both into a digitalized version. Typesetting also involves setting proper font, its size and position on the panel. Depending if it is comic or a manga, the font used will vary. In comics type of font usually won't matter. In the manga, however, usage of traditional fonts won't do. If one uses traditional one, it will clash with the art style and will be pointed out. However, there are many websites that allow download of various manga fonts for free.

Translated and edited by me, Okitan, portion of the manga by the artist tofumentalzbut published on twitter.

As seen in the picture above, typical font calibri won't work in a manga format. Edited portion on the right is using font manga temple downloaded for free from this website and is not causing any clash between it and the art style. Of course, depending on the manga and its art style, different types of font might be used.

Officiality of online comics and manga translationEdit

Usually, translation of online comics and manga are done by fans and followers of certain artists. Sometimes even one group may stumble upon a comic or manga they like and decide to translate it. Many treat it as a hobby and do it for free not expecting to be payed for it, unless someone commissioned certain work to be translated. Matteo Fabretti in his article The Use of Translation Notes in Manga Scanlation from the online journal TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies states that the translation is considered a hobby: translators volunteer because they consider these activities fun and fulfilling (rather than as a means to economic reward). In light of this fact, the presence of T/N foregrounds the cultural and linguistic alterity of manga, and therefore the important work of mediation that translators carry out when translating from Japanese. [..] Translators spend a great deal of time and effort researching cultural references, and it makes sense for them to want to share their hobby with others[6].

Bonus and additional informations - Original / Clean / Translated versions side by sideEdit

All the comics and manga on this project page include characters from the mobile game Arknights, developed by Chinese company HyperGryph and published by Yostar. All the rights goes to those characters goes to HyperGryph and Yostar.

Link to the original by tofumentalzbut
Original comics by nhimzy. Source.


  1. Zanettin, F. (2018). Translating comics and graphic novels. In S.-A. Harding & O. Carbonell i Cortés (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of translation and culture (pp. 445–460). London & New York: Routledge
  2. "What's a comic?". Applied Comics Etc. 2014-10-04. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  3. "What is Manga? (with pictures)". Info Bloom. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  4. Watkins, John. "Learn about Translation and Localization. Learning the Lingo." The Guide to Translation and Localization Preparing Products for the Global Marketplace. Lingo Systems. 2002.
  5. "Scanlation Process - Fanlore". fanlore.org. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  6. Fabbretti, Matteo (2016-11-22). "The Use of Translation Notes in Manga Scanlation". TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies 8 (2): 86–104. doi:10.21992/T9SS57. ISSN 1920-0323. https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/tc/index.php/TC/article/view/28489.