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.
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.
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!)
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.
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