Japanese startup set to use AI to boost global manga translations


A mural of Japan’s late manga artist Akira Toriyama, inspired by the 'Dragon Ball' series, in Lima, Peru. Photo: AP

A Japanese startup announced recently it aims to use artificial intelligence to help translate manga comics into English five times faster and 90% cheaper than at present.

Manga titles such as One Piece and Dragon Ball are a huge success story for Japan, with the market projected to be worth US$42.2bil (approximately RM200bil) by 2030, according to the startup, Orange Inc.

But it said only about two percent of Japan’s annual output of 700,000 manga volumes are released in English, “partly due to the difficult and lengthy translation process and the limited number of translators”.

But with its technology, Orange aims to produce 500 English-language mangas per month, five times more than the industry’s current capacity, and 50,000 volumes in five years. Other languages will come later.

Overcoming manga slang

“Compared to translation of a book, translating Japanese used in manga, which uses very short sentences of conversational language often full of slang, is extremely difficult,” said Orange’s marketing vice-president Tatsuhiro Sato.

“It is also difficult to figure out if the particular quote was actually said at a scene, or the line was a murmur inside one’s heart describing a mental landscape,” Sato told AFP.

Other challenges include the original text often being written vertically and finding equivalents for Japan’s many words to convey noises.

The firm announced that it had raised 2.92 billion yen (US$19mil, RM90mil) in funding from major publisher Shogakukan and nine venture capital groups including the government-backed JIC Venture Growth Investments.

It said that its tool will also help the industry fight piracy in the industry, which is estimated to be worth US$5.5bil (RM26bil) annually according to the Content Overseas Distribution Association. – AFP

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manga , AI , japan , translation , book , industry


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