A Short Look Back, Part 1

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With our fifth year anniversary coming to a close, we decided to take a moment to showcase some of the thoughts and feelings of the staff that have been a part of MangaGamer over the years. The first being from me, Kouryuu.

It’s funny to think about how little time five years can be, but when I look back over the past five years, I can’t help but be impressed.

Where was I five years ago? I was desperately cramming for the JLPT1 as I tried to finish final reports for my next to last semester of college, a year behind my graduating class because I’d chosen to study abroad. The US economy had tanked, taking a nosedive so hard nearly everyone I knew was unemployed and struggling to find a job–any job–that would support them.

I nearly failed the test too. An accident on my way to the testing center had left me panicked as I rushed into the exam with only a few seconds to spare before the first part began. But I did make it. And somehow, I managed to earn my certification despite all that. I knew I wanted to get into translation when I graduated 5 months later, but with the job market tanking at the time no place was hiring. Let alone anyone who didn’t already have 2-5 years of experience in the field.

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I spent months desperately looking for a job, before one day I happened to stumble upon MangaGamer’s request for help at Otakon 2009 while looking though some visual novel sites. At the time, I didn’t even know what to think of the company. The English on the website needed improvement, the pricing was expensive, but dammit if they didn’t have some big name brands and titles, including Navel, and just after I’d been testing myself by translating Soul Link while studying abroad in Japan.

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It was certainly a most interesting, and fortuitous meeting that Otakon. I was the only person who chose to respond to their advertisement, which meant I was going to be the only English speaker working the booth that year. That… was a fun thought. But it really was a lot of fun, and I’d at least read up on the games beforehand so I could try and promote them at the booth. It wasn’t until the convention was halfway over, when I finally decided to ask about Soul Link during a lull at the booth, that I realized I’d been working directly with the boss the entire time. My job search was finally over! (Talk about surprise job interviews!)

As I actually started working on touching up Soul Link for MangaGamer, I was growing steadily aware of how much they were lacking in certain areas, like communicating with their audience (that language barrier is a bitch!) For better or worse (better for the company in the long run, worse on me in the short run), my reaction to the state of affairs was “Well, if no one else is going to do what needs to be done, then I will!”

Those early years were such a mess… I’m not the only staff member that now speaks of them as our “dark years” with a smile tainted by horror. Few of us thought we’d be able to last more than a couple years, and I can’t even begin to describe the stress I was going through. So many arguments were had while I tried to get the company to change its ways, and I’m honestly surprised I didn’t get fired for some of the things I said even as I kept blowing a lifetime’s worth of deadlines while trying to fix Koihime Musou into something presentable (But it was worth it, Sousou, my Queen!)Sousou_wallpaper_800x600

When I compare the sentiments of those years to now, it’s incredible. Back then we were all worried about whether or not we’d make it to the next release. Whether or not we could hold out long enough for things to change before everything dried out. And now? Now we have over 65 different titles in our current and upcoming catalog of announced titles, more than any other visual novel publisher has ever managed to release in English. If you asked us in those first two years where we saw ourselves five years from now, all of us would’ve said something like “I just hope we’re still operating in five years!” But five years later, here we are, having single-handedly doubled the number of visual novels and eroge on the English market. It’s really, truly, impressive. And it’s all thanks to the support you guys have shown us over the years.

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So thank you. To everyone who buys our games and supports our releases, thank you. It’s thanks to you all that me and the rest of our staff are able to make a living doing what we love.

–Kouryuu, now Head Translator & Marketing Manager

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22 Comments

  1. Congratulations on making it to five years and on releasing more titles than any other translation company. Both are huge accomplishments. Now that you have a way to do shipping, if you ever make merchandise with images on it like the top one with both mascots, I would buy it.

  2. Oh Kouryuu, this was such a great post. Even from the early days I’ve always thought of you as the bro of MangaGamer. Congrats on making it this far. :3

  3. Happy Anniversary you guys (sure are alot of anniversaries this year that are multiples of 5)!! Really is surprising how time flies and how much can happen in five years. Here’s hoping for many more years and many more releases. 🙂

  4. Congrats for making it so far. I hope MG continues growing so we someday see stuff like SKM.

  5. I can’t believe it’s only been five years. Surely you mean at least ten! 😛

  6. A long couple of years it’s been. I don’t feel like it’s been four years since I commented on the first blog post you put up here, but no matter how many times I check the date it stays the same! Life may not have changed much since the Great Recession started, but at least I got to enjoy some sweet VNs along the way.

    Congrats to all, and thanks for your hard work!

  7. Humanity year 2008…..very fond memories for me. Was the year I purchased the psp and started doing all those cfw stuff which resulted in me coming across the yarudora series that became the foundation for my love of visual novels.

    The game’s presentation really intrigued me since it made me feel like I was the protagonist inside an anime. Of course I was just randomly advancing text and making random choices but it was…fun…so much more fun than Crisis Core I had thought at the time. There were even several soundtracks from the games that I wish I would have a copy of right now to listen to.

    What solidified my love for visual novels was the 5pb psp re-release of Kid’s Memories Off 2nd game. The tracks composed by Takeshi Abo blew me away with the CG visuals drawn by Sasaki Mutsumi.

    I found MangaGamer’s webpage one year later but it’s sloppy layout scared me off, SCAM! I thought lol. I didn’t look into the company much till another year later in 2010 when I really took a good look at MG and bought my first title from you guys in the month of December. Be glad Kouryuu the game was Soul Link.

  8. Happy 5th Anniversary, and wishes for many more to come!

  9. Congratulations on the 5 years! It really doesn’t seem that long, but I suppose it should.

    I’ve been collecting VNs since Pia Carrot e Youkoso, to the point where I have far too many binders of original disks and far too few translations. I’d picked up random english releases where I could find them, few and far between, until I found an article on Mangagamer on a website. (which shall remain nameless)

    It was the early days then, back where there were only a couple of announced projects. What sold me, and has made me a devoted follower since, was Overdrive. Already a fan of the company, having their titles in English got me hook line and sinker. Baseson and Navel meant I was never going to look back.

    Still fingers crossed for more of their releases (SKM! I have far too many Comiket and other release items of Sonken) and getting more companies on board (I dream of Type-Moon and Unison-Shift joining up)

    All the best for another 5 years and many many more.

  10. To everyone at Mangagamer, Congratulations on celebrating your 5th Year Anniversary! You had me since my first VN (Hinatabokko) back in 2010. Your dedication and hard work are truly appreciated and have made all the difference in improving the quality of English-translated VNs… so here’s to the next 15 years and the next 150 releases! Kanpai!

  11. Good stuff guys, hope things only get better from here on out.

  12. Nice read, I am interested to read the rest of the mangagamer staff thoughts and feelings.

    As for me, I didnt even know that mangagamer already had released and will release in english a number of titles that amount to 65 (probably because I am interested in only a very few of them, most of which have yet to be released).

    I first heard about mangagamer as soon as a new company that would translate PC games from Japan was formed, visited a little bit but nothing caught my interest, never went back nor hear anything again from mangagamer until I watched all of Higurashi anime in a week or so back in winter 2009, I looked up a bit of information and it turned out that Higurashi was based on a japanese PC game called a “visual novel”, the game had a retail release in french and was about to get released by THAT company called “mangagamer”, took a look at the art of the game and was turned off and became uninterested, after that never heard of mangagamer again except for once or twice when siliconera made an article about Kara no Shojo and such.

    A couple years after that the amount of anime that I watched and enjoyed that turned out to be based off these “visual novels” was piling up (Kanon, Clannad, Air, ef, H2O ~Footprints in the Sand~, Rumbling Hearts, Umineko) and my interest in researching about these “visual novels” soared greatly (obviously that included researching releases and ways to play them in a language that I can understand) which was when I began researching about ef and its state in the West and stumbled on the whole minori “crusade” incident. Unlike back in 2009 with the case of Higurashi, by that time (2012), a lot of english translation patches had been released and alot more where in the process of being released since then (2009) and a couple of official english release from both Jast and Mangagamer have been released also as well (though not too many interested me except for very few exceptions such as Demonbane from JAST and Kara no Shojo from mangagamer.) There was a talk on forums of someone with a blog called “Aeru” that wanted VN to be free… or something like that, I also found vndb, which was like how anidb is to anime (which I have beenn using for many years).

    Obviously from there I started researching more and more what titles were available in english on vndb, at that time not too much interested me (my standards were quite high and so I obviously wanted to play the newest and best looking titles, which back in 2012 none of that was available neither as patch nor official releases). So I stopped checking about VNs for some time again (8 months or so), again in January 2013 my interest got renewed again, with the release of Rewrite, the announcement of Mahoyo getting a good and proper english fan-translation patch from Commie Subs, Grisaia showing very good progress etc. And the realization that I had to lower my standards if I was to ever be able play VNs and comming to terms that because of the language barriers I just couldnt have access to the best looking (newest) VNs (save exceptions, such as Rewrite), so I settled with that and started to make a list of the most interested titles that I should pick up, which I did and am still doing now.

    The almost complete majority of interesting VNs available in english are still the fan-translated ones and I dont see that changing anytime soon (for a variety of reasons), but from time to time JAST and Mangagamer manage to release a jewel in the rough and whenever that happens I am happy to buy them upon release.

  13. That was a wonderful read.

    I actually found you through an illegally downloaded copy of Deardrop. I liked the game so much that I decided to buy it. Funny thing is that couldn’t get the downloaded game to run and therefore I still have the cracked copy on my PC 😀

    I have only bought a couple of your games (and haven’t finished any of them completely so far), but I’m looking forward to every blog update, because I love visual novels for their lack of gameplay and focus on story.
    And although I think you shouldn’t translate such horribly sexist and disgusting games as for example Warrior Princess Asuka or Slave Witch April, I applaud you for bringing story VNs such as Higurashi or Deardrop to the Western market.

    I hope we will see a lot more entries in this retrospective series and cheers for 5 more years (with hopefully less rape nukiges).

  14. Thank you Kouryuu for making Mangagamer what it is today: a sustainable and slowly growing localization business with respectable translations. I might not agree with every decision you’ve made, but I do appreciate the effort you’ve put into making Mangagamer succeed. Now if only there was a means to get more than just the nukige fans to cough up some money…

  15. MG is the employee who makes the huge grown up on the VN market on overseas,I’m so glad and thankful for it ^^

  16. Congratulations to your 5th year anniversary.
    Sounds like it’s been a long ride that has only just begun, to another five and more,
    Hope MangaGamer continue to grow and expand into the future through new acquisitions, exclusives, hard copy releases and that animation brand.
    Thank You for your hard work into making it a success.

  17. As for the Soul Link, one of the best achievements was managing to release an uncensored version. Too bad similar success wasn’t achieved with If My Heart Had Wings by the infamous Moenovel.

  18. Happy 5th Anniversary, i’m really glad you have been here all this time and i hope from the bottom of my heart that this company will never disapear.

  19. Woah, 5 years. I been buying games from you guys for the past two now. Well, Happy 5th Anniversary and a Happy New Year. This is a wonderful read, I’ll make sure read the other look backs.

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