Japanese companies tap AI start-up to translate 50,000 manga into English

Japanese companies tap AI start-up to translate 50,000 manga into EnglishJapanese companies tap AI start-up to translate 50,000 manga into English
via Marek Ślusarczyk (CC BY 3.0)
Japanese companies are investing in artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize the translation of Japanese manga into English, aiming for efficiency and rapid expansion.
Key points:
  • Tokyo-based startup Orange announced on Tuesday a 2.92 billion yen ($18.9 million) investment from public and private investors, including Shueisha founder Shogakukan and Japan Investment Corp., to publish 50,000 new English-language manga titles in five years, according to Nikkei Asia.
  • Only about 2% of Japan‘s annual output of 700,000 manga volumes are released in English due to the difficulty and length of the translation process. Orange’s AI technology aims to increase this capacity significantly, targeting a wide range of titles for translation
The details:
  • Orange’s process involves AI image analysis and character recognition to translate Japanese manga into English, Chinese and other languages. Its technology also has the capability to handle wordplay and other difficult-to-translate phrases. The company then utilizes human translators for corrections and adjustments as part of the later process.
  • The company’s AI-assisted technology aims to translate manga five times faster and 90% cheaper than traditional methods, with the ability to process 500 translations monthly and deliver a manga translation in as little as two days.
  • Orange is looking to distribute the translated manga overseas, starting with the U.S. this summer through the Emaqi app, with plans for expansion to Spanish-speaking countries and India.
  • The investment in Orange serves a dual purpose. In addition to its efficiency, it aims to combat piracy in the manga industry by providing faster and official translations that discourage reliance on pirated versions.
  • This move could save the Japanese manga publishing industry from significant financial losses, which were estimated to range between 395.2 to 831.1 billion yen ($2.55 to $5.37 billion) in 2022.
  • Several Japanese users on X voiced their dissatisfaction with the latest move to AI, with one user pointing out, “If they simply raised the compensation of translators, they would attract more talented people and the quantity and quality of translations would increase.”
  • Meanwhile, another user expressed frustration over the use of tax money, writing, “Why should I have to pay taxes on the money I’ve earned through hard work and then use that money to help someone else’s business? If you’re a private company, you should raise investments fairly and honestly, not with the public’s money.”
  • One X user seemed doubtful at the accuracy of AI translation, commenting, “Even in industrial documents, there have been cases where machine translation and AI processing have led to mistranslations, sometimes resulting in the output of the exact opposite translation, causing major problems.”
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