Mantra Inc., an AI translation technology research and development company specializing in manga, has started to provide translation support to the editorial department of Japanese publisher Shogakukan's "Manga One" app (「マンガワン」) using their multilingual translation system "Mantra Engine."

As a first step, Mantra produced English versions of the popular martial arts manga Kengan Omega, the sequel to Kengan Ashura, and other titles. A number of pirate sites agreed to cease updating and remove existing content for said works as a result.

The deleterious impact of manga piracy

Translated versions of manga produced unofficially by manga fans around the world have the potential to damage sales opportunities for legitimate manga overseas and have become a major issue in the overseas expansion of Japanese manga. In a survey on overseas pirate sites conducted by Mantra in 2021, it was found that there were about five times as many Shogakukan manga distributed in pirated versions outside of Japan than there were officially translated versions!

The damage to Manga One's Kengan Ashura and Kengan Omega series was particularly harsh, with in excess of 100 million views on non-Japanese pirate sites alone. In another survey conducted by Mantra, "the fact that the manga I want to recommend to others is not officially translated" was cited as the biggest motivation for piracy (selected by 67.7% of respondents). This suggests that enthusiastic manga fans are pirating to make their favorite works known.

Leveraging the power of fan translations for authorized versions

Mantra and Manga One have launched an initiative to produce officially translated versions of works such as Kengan Omega which leverages the power of fan translations.

In this initiative, Mantra has realized high-speed translation and simultaneous distribution of the Japanese and English versions by utilizing their manga multilingual translation system "Mantra Engine" which boasts the following features:

  • 1. Secure data exchange: Manga fans can engage in translation and typesetting work on a browser without directly sending and receiving manuscript data to and from publishers.
  • 2. High work efficiency: By using AI technology to support translation and typesetting work and a system that streamlines the exchange between workers, production time can be reduced by approximately 50%

Mantra lets fans* produce translated versions of their favorite manga based on the images automatically translated and transcribed by the "Mantra Engine."

* Fans who have been individually interviewed and requested to cooperate by Mantra.

The produced English version are published simultaneously with the Japanese version on the English-language manga distribution service Comikey.

(Translated version production screen using the Mantra Engine). Fans perform editing work based on Mantra Engine's automatic translation and transcription. Based on the translated version, staff at Comikey redraws and quality-checks some of the text (such as names of fighting techniques, in this case) before distributing the translated version.

Kengan Omega success story

Following the distribution of the officially translated versions of Kengan Ashura and Kengan Omega through this initiative, a group outside of Japan producing pirated versions of these works announced that they would stop doing so and remove the episodes that had already been released. This case suggests that the simultaneous distribution of authorized versions in multiple languages may help to reduce the damage caused by piracy outside of Japanese borders. Mantra hopes that fan translation can become an effective method of combating such piracy in the future, along with legal measures such as site blocking.

About Mantra Engine

Manga translation using "Mantra Engine" has already been introduced by manga distribution companies, translation companies, and publishers in Japan and overseas, and is being used to translate approximately 10,000 pages per month (equivalent to 50 books) into multiple languages. Mantra will continue to expand its functions so that more and more businesses can use the service.

A one-month free trial period is available, so if you are interested in expanding your manga business overseas, please feel free to contact them.

(This initiative is a joint project between Mantra and Shogakukan under the Shogakukan Accelerator Program.)

About the Shogakukan Accelerator program

The Shogakukan Accelerator program is based on the theme of "innovation sowing seeds for children's future" co-hosted by Shogakukan Inc. and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions Inc. from November 2020 to April 2021. The program received 140 applications, mainly from kids education, but also from a variety of other genres, and 10 companies were selected, including Mantra.

About Mantra Inc.

Mantra Inc. is engaged in the research and development of AI technology specific to manga, with the aim of "delivering manga in the languages of the world." The company also provides services that help expand manga beyond language barriers, such as the "Mantra Engine" translation tool for high-speed manga translation and the "Langaku" application for learning foreign languages through manga. For these achievements, Mantra has received the HONGO AI Award (2019), Weekly Toyo Keizai's "100 Amazing Ventures" (2020), and the AAMT's "Nagao Award" (2021).

Company Profile

  • Company name: Mantra Inc.
  • CEO: Shonosuke Ishiwatari, Ph.D.
  • Office location: 7-chōme-3−6 Minamiaoyama, Minamiaoyama HY bldg. 7F (Arai Club), Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan
  • Founded: January 28, 2020
  • Capital: 1 million JPY
  • Business overview: Research and development of machine translation technology for manga
  • Official Website
  • Official Blog (Note)

By - Ben K.