Japan Association of Translators expresses concern over use of AI for mass manga translation

Applications of AI

The Japan Association of Translators released a statement on the use of AI in “mass translation and export of manga,” in which they expressed concern about the impact the technology will have on manga quality and the possibility that “excessive reliance” on it could turn human translators “from a valuable resource into a disposable commodity.”

The JAT statement noted that the quality of AI translations remains insufficient and has “not yet demonstrated the level of quality required to adequately express the nuances, cultural background, and character traits that are so important to works of fiction.” The group also warned that while AI speeds up the translation process, “using machines to mass-produce large volumes of translated works in a short period of time (officially 50,000 works over five years, with the shortest delivery time being two days per work) could significantly diminish the value of the works themselves.”

He added: “Poor translations erode consumer trust and lead to rampant piracy. Given that manga is an important aspect of Japanese culture and one of the many ways people first discover Japan, it becomes even more important that the words we use to tell these stories are not undervalued.”

Regarding the impact of AI on professional manga translators who have “supported the industry for many years,” JAT said it was “deeply concerned that their accumulated experience and skills are being disregarded in the interest of cost-cutting.”

JAT's statement comes as AI efforts in the manga industry are on the rise. Specifically for AI translation, these efforts include:

• English version released simultaneously The Ancient Magus' Bride The announcement came weeks after it was announced in December last year that the manga would be returning from a hiatus. A subsequent statement said the translation would be edited and proofread by professional translators.

• On April 1, 2024 (Japan time), the issuer TO Books has announced the launch of CORONA EX, an English language website that combines professionally translated manga with manga from Google Translate.

• Manga Localization Technology Co., Ltd. announced the results of its pre-series A financing in a press release in early May 2024.” to start Orange Co., Ltd. The company said it will use the funds to “develop localization products based on deep learning models and launch a digital manga store in the summer of 2024.”

Orange also stated that “since our founding, we have developed a localization system specifically for manga” to make up for the lack of titles translated into English, attributing this to “the difficult and lengthy translation process and the limited number of translators.” The company claimed that its unique system would enable it to “translate up to 500 manga volumes per month…five times the current production capacity of the entire localization market.”

*Shogakukan I'm one of the donors.

While various organizations are adopting AI, JAT stated that the technology is “completely unsuitable for translating context-rich, story-driven texts” and that it is “deeply concerned that public and private efforts to use AI for mass translation and export of manga will undermine Japan's soft power.”

JAT concluded, “We strongly suggest that the time has come for a careful and constructive dialogue between manga artists, companies (publishers), governments, translators, translation organizations, readers, and all stakeholders about the appropriate use of AI and machine translation.”

You can read the full statement here.

sauce: press release

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