The FANBOX team and the pixivision editorial team
Before the service's official launch on FANBOX, we asked mangaka Natsu Tadano to help us test Mantra Engine's AI translation with one of their manga. We asked them about their impressions, what they liked about it, and what still has space for improvement.
Sekino from Mantra Inc. and some members of the FANBOX team also joined the interview and told us all about the hardships involved in developing the tool and about some special features exclusively available on FANBOX.
- Mantra Inc.
- With the goal to deliver manga across language barriers, the company is engaged in the research and development of machine translation technology for manga. Joining us this time is Mantra's business manager Sekino.
A tool that doesn't even need a tutorial
── Thank you for providing one of your manga for this test! What were your impressions after using Mantra Engine?
── You handled it by just looking at the screen.
── It's nice when a tool is so intuitive.
── What are some of these features?
── I understand that the "reverse translation" function was developed especially for FANBOX creators.
── And when you correct the English, the reverse translation reflects the corrections in the Japanese text in real time, doesn't it?
── A wonderful effort by the people at Mantra Inc. Tadano, what feature was your favorite?
Without any major corrections, all you need is one or two minutes per page.
── Did you have any setbacks?
Also, in one of the lines, I used the word masayume (正夢, a "prophetic dream"), which the AI just couldn't get right. I tried looking the translation up myself, but I'm not good at English so it was a bit of a headscratcher.
Sekino: I guess there's no English word that perfectly corresponds to the Japanese masayume. You have to rephrase it to something like, "a dream come true."
── I see. Things can get challenging when the translation heavily relies on the context.
── Translation engines are not perfect, so proofreading is a must. What was the hardest part of the translation process?
── How long did it take to get the work done?
── That's quite a time saver compared to the time it'd take to get the translation done yourself. Is there any feature that you would like to see added to the tool?
Tadano: Yes, I think so.
Sekino: That's good to know. Thanks for the feedback!
Will the AI ever be able to translate handwritten text?
── Would you like to keep using Mantra Engine in the future?
Sekino: Unfortunately not... Mantra Engine's AI can only translate text that's recognized as Japanese. For character recognition, we have the AI learn existing Japanese fonts, but handwritten text is a different ball game.
Tadano: I see. Maybe if I use very neat handwriting, the AI will recognize it... (laughs) I guess I'd better use regular fonts whenever I plan to use machine translation. By the way, how many years do you think it'll take until machines can translate people's handwriting?
Sekino: Well, that's a tough question. (laughs) You see, Mantra Engine increases the accuracy of character recognition and translation by training its AI on a large amount of Japanese and English manga data. The problem is that there are not enough manga with handwritten dialogue, and since AI becomes more accurate the more data it learns, the scarcity of handwritten dialogue in circulation complicates things.
── You're talking about the so-called training data, right? AI accuracy can't be improved without huge amounts of training data.
Tadano: For us Japanese people it's the same with western comics, isn't it? Even if we don't get what the sound effects mean, they help us visualize the overall atmosphere of the scene. Sometimes creators use different types of lettering to match the nuances of the sound, so maybe the SFX should be left untouched.
── What should someone do if they want to translate handwritten text or SFX?
Need to translate a few pages right away? No problem!
── Besides reverse translation, are there any other special features available only on FANBOX?
── Not to see the glass half empty, but does the account come with sturdy security features?
── So you can have your collaborators help out with the translation without handing over the entire project.
FANBOX: Works translated in Mantra Engine can be freely used and sold outside of FANBOX, for example on social media like pixiv and Twitter, as well as made available for paid download. Of course, we'd appreciate it if you posted your translated work to FANBOX! (laughs)
── Let's talk about price. How much does the service cost?
Tadano: It really depends on how many English-speaking fans you have, but the price sounds reasonable for someone with a decent international following.
FANBOX: In April 2022, the first month of the service, we're offering a cashback campaign that lets creators take advantage of the 16-page plan for only 800 JPY (approx. 8 USD). After purchasing the monthly plan for 3,000 JPY, FANBOX will refund you 2,200 JPY the following month. It's a good deal to test the waters with your international public!
Tadano: I see. If creators find out that people are interested in their translated work, they might want to keep using the service.
FANBOX: If you outsource the job to a professional translation company, in addition to paying a translation fee you may also be charged for the typesetting. We don’t mean to brag, but considering the final price per page, Mantra Engine (which also offers typesetting features) is quite convenient...
Also, translation agencies often have a minimum number of pages required to take on the job, and delivery times can be quite drawn-out.
Tadano: Yeah, you can't really ask a translation agency to work on a short manga you wrote on a whim to publish on FANBOX, pixiv, or Twitter.
Sekino: With Mantra Engine, you don't have to worry about the number of pages. If our service succeeds in creating new demand, we'll be very happy developers.
── Thank you for your valuable insights!
Limited cash-back campaign for April 2022!
To access the campaign, pre-register between March 18th, 2022 (Fri) at 12:00 a.m. JST, until March 31st, 2022 (Thu) at 11:59 p.m. JST. Don't miss the valuable chance to try out Mantra Engine for only 800 yen for 16 pages of translation!
From April 1st, 2022 (Fri) 11:00 a.m JST. until April 30th, 2022 (Sat).
* Sign up in advance between March 18th, 2022 (Fri) at 12:00 a.m. JST, until March 31st, 2022 (Thu) at 11:59 p.m. JST.
* To apply for the promotion you must create a plan on FANBOX beforehand.
* The promotion is available to 500 eligible users, on a first-come-first-served basis.
Three features of the FANBOX✖️Mantra Engine collaboration
① Translate one page in as little as 30 seconds! Simply upload an image and get the English translation you need.Mantra Engine is super easy to use. Simply upload two versions of your manga: one with the Japanese text and one without. The AI automatically detects the Japanese in the speech bubbles and translates the dialogues in as little as 30 seconds per page! The tool comes with a variety of fonts, text sizes, and colors. And everything can be done in your browser!
② Host up to two collaborators. Get your friends and fans to help with the translation work!You can designate up to two collaborators (in addition to the creator themselves) and grant them account privileges. They will not be able to upload and download the image data, so you don't have to worry about security!
③ If you're not confident in your English skills, the "reverse translation" feature is there for you.
A special reverse translation feature is available exclusively on FANBOX! It translates lines from Japanese to English and back again to Japanese, pointing out any mistranslations and lending a helping hand to all those creators whose English is a little rusty. How convenient is that?