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Japanese startup will use AI to translate manga

A Japanese startup said Tuesday it wants to use artificial intelligence to translate manga comics into English five times faster and 90% cheaper than today.

Manga series such as “One Piece” and “Dragon Ball” are a huge success story for Japan, with the market expected to reach $42.2 billion by 2030, according to startup Orange.

But only about 2% of Japan’s annual output of 700,000 manga volumes is 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 manga per month, five times more than the industry’s current capacity, and 50,000 volumes in five years. Other languages ​​will come later.

“Compared to translating a book, translating the 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’s also difficult to figure out whether a particular quote was actually said at a scene, or whether the phrase was a murmur in the heart describing a mental landscape,” Sato said.

Other challenges include that the original text is often written vertically and finding equivalents for the many onomatopoeic words in Japan.

The company announced it had raised ¥2.92 billion ($19 million) in funding from major publishing house Shogakukan and nine venture capital groups, including government-backed JIC Venture Growth Investments.

It said the tool will also help the industry combat piracy in the industry, which is worth an estimated $5.5 billion annually, according to the Content Overseas Distribution Association.

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