I was reading the comments on this post at Anime Vice. Most of the debate over justification for scanlations didn’t interest me, as I’ve seen them all before, but one comment did sort of bother me. Fellow Manga Village reviewer and blogger John Thomas had joined the conversation and made a simple statement. “Why not just learn to read Japanese?” It was the response to this that made me go “Huh?”
I have to confess, that is the one answer I loathe seeing in scanlation debates, and it appears every time.
He goes on to give excuses of no time, too expensive, too difficult, etc., which then steers the conversation toward learning Japanese.
Now, I can almost be sympathetic to this argument, in the same way you can be almost pregnant. 25 years ago, when I first got the notion of learning Japanese, it was difficult to find materials for learning Japanese. Bookstores had next to nothing in there reference sections, the local colleges only offered a course at the 4 year, and the only self-study courses I could ever find would be at Japanese bookstores in the ethnic parts of Los Angeles, Torrance, and Fountain Valley. And they were expensive! It was something that wasn’t a viable option, especially when I was then getting married and starting a family.
With the advent of the internet however, resources, both for a fee and for free are available in abundance! There are websites that offer courses online, podcasts to help with pronunciation, and tons of sites with vocabulary, dictionaries, practically everything one would need to start learning. There are even DS games! It’s so easy to access so many resources now, that anyone with the will can try to learn to read and speak Japanese.
If you are really serious about wanting to read “authentic” and unedited manga, then learning Japanese is the only real option you have, and complaining about someone bringing it up is just asinine. Is it going to be easy? No. Would learning in a total immersion environment be ideal? Yes, but as was pointed out, this isn’t always possible. Does that mean you should write the whole option off as nonviable? Hardly. There might not be any instant gratification in trying to learn Japanese, but the sense of accomplishment is so much greater.