“We’re not drawing manga as volunteers.”

To say that the relationship between anime/manga fans and piracy is a complicated one is an understatement. In the modern, digitally connected age, you’d be hard-pressed to find an otaku who’s never read a single chapter or watched a single episode that was illegally posted online.

It likely has something to do with the hobby being overwhelmingly youth-oriented, and many teen or young adult otaku’s desire for content far outstripping their earning power and ability to pay for it. Further complicating the situation is that unlike stealing physical media, pirating anime/manga doesn’t inflict immediate direct harm on the rightful owner, and the accounting gets even murkier when enthusiastic pirates boast that their actions are increasing interest in the medium, and thus boosting demand for future content.

Recently manga creator Gino808, author/artist of Yukionna to Kani wo Kurau (“Devouring a Snow Woman and Crab”) and Doteibanashi (“Virgin Story”), took to Twitter to add a few of their thoughts on the subject.

“I want pirated manga to disappear. Even if they keep getting posted, if people would just not read them, that’d be fine,” a frustrated Gino808 pleads.

A common justification for reading pirated manga is that it’s something the reader wasn’t going to buy anyway, so there’s no harm done, but Gino808 has something to say on that front too. “If you don’t think you want to read my manga badly enough to spend money on it, that’s a sign that I, and my manga, aren’t good enough, and that decision is yours to make. If you only think it’s good enough to read pirated, though, I don’t want you to read it.”

But wait, don’t all artists want people to enjoy their work? Maybe so, but a key distinction here is that Gino808 is a professional, putting in professional-grade effort and time on their manga, and needs financial security in order to continue doing so.

We’re not drawing manga as volunteers. It’s a valuable product. I often hear people say that they pirate manga because they want to spread recognition of it, but that’s tatemae” Gino808 says, referring to the custom of saying one thing while actually thinking another.

It’s not just the individual author whose livelihood can be adversely affected by piracy, as Gino808 points out elsewhere in the threads. “Do pirates think manga is made by a person with talent who just has an idea pop into their head, then draws it up with no effort at all?…Manga is a result of the creators using years of their lives and taking on the risk of going into the red so that they can pay their assistants.”

The mention of assistants is particularly thought-provoking. The logic behind the “piracy increases the number of manga fans” justification is that pirated manga makes it easier for a new fan to get into the hobby, and once their fandom takes root they’ll start supporting the industry by buying legitimate releases and merchandise. To be fair, that is sometimes (though not always) how things shake out. However, if reading a pirated version of Manga A from Author B published by Company C turns you into an otaku who later goes out and buys Manga D from Author E published by Company F, that’s not doing anything for the parties on the victim side of the piracy. Even if you’re of the mindset that any monetary contribution to the industry as a whole will eventually somehow cycle back towards Author B and Company C, Author B’s assistants, whose jobs are less lucrative, probably need to get paid now, not at some unspecified point in the future when some sort of financial karma visits them.

So while pirating manga may not make you a monster, it’s probably too much to expect a professional creator to be OK with it, especially when there are free chapters of Gino808’s manga available online legally here through Kodansha’s Comic Days app.

Source: Twitter/@0808gino via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso 
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