DNP helping corporations improve brand power abroad with manga

After presenting a manga comic book at State Elementary School Menteng 01 – former U.S. President Barack Obama’s alma mater in Jakarta, Indonesia – in September 2018, Tomoyuki Ito felt a sense of accomplishment unlike any he had before.

  • Exporting “corporate manga” abroad
  • MOES matches the needs of today
  • DNP to beef up manga translation projects

“The pupils were smiling from ear to ear, and they were thrilled to see the manga book we presented,” recalled Ito of Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.’s Content Communication Business Division. Ito visited the school to attend a ceremony to present a copy of the book and a soccer ball, an event that several local media organizations covered. The book, titled “Great Research! Cellulose Tapes Connecting Memories,” is about cellulose adhesive tapes made by Nichiban Co., Ltd., which donated the gifts to about 800 elementary schools in Indonesia, including Menteng 01.

Ito had a special reason for feeling so pleased. DNP spent about one year making the Indonesian-language version of the book using DNP’s Manga Online Editorial System (MOES), a one-of-a-kind system that streamlines the time-consuming procedure to translate and typeset the content of speech balloons. The manga book was translated in Indonesia using MOES, which allows translators and proofreaders to type their translations or make changes directly in the balloons. The translation and typesetting work was divided between Japan and Indonesia, and the book was printed in Indonesia.

“Indonesian customs authorities often take considerable time to examine printed materials from abroad, so we decided to print the book at our partner company in Indonesia because of the possibility we might not make the deadline,” Ito said. “This also was much better cost-wise than printing the book in Japan and shipping copies to Indonesia.”

Exporting “corporate manga” abroad

Commemorative photo at State Elementary School Menteng 01

In recent years, manga has become a sure-fire option for the Japanese publishing industry. A variety of fields now use manga even for serious and dry content to make information easier to understand. Japanese companies are no exception. They use so-called corporate manga to publicize products or themselves and include these projects in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

DNP won the order to make the Japanese and Indonesian versions of Nichiban’s manga, which is the 13th volume of “Manga Shakai Kengaku (Field Trip) Series,” published by Kodansha BC Ltd. Nichiban, which marked the 100th anniversary of its foundation and 70th year of making cellulose adhesive tapes in 2018, hopes to increase its Cellotape™ tape’s share of the Asian market by stressing the eco-friendly traits of the product, which is made almost entirely of natural ingredients, mostly plants. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by Cellotape™ when incinerated is offset by CO2 absorbed by plants under the “carbon neutral” concept, unlike cheaper, more popular alternative OPP (oriented polypropylene) tapes that are made of petrochemical materials. The manga book aims to familiarize children with Nichiban’s products and encourage more people to work for the company or use the product in the future.

Indeed, Nichiban’s market strategy matched neatly with what DNP can offer. DNP has a tie-up with Tokyo Gets Co., Ltd., an entertainment-related company that has an extensive network in Asia, including connections to 1,800 elementary schools in Indonesia and thousands more in Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia. The Nichiban manga tapped into this distribution network.

The day after the book presentation ceremony at State Elementary School Menteng 01, DNP organized an event at three elementary schools, at which children were interviewed after using Nichiban’s adhesive tape first-hand. DNP plans to organize more events promoting the tape to children in Indonesia. DNP does business in a surprisingly wide range of fields and also helps other companies conduct market research, organize events and promote products. It even plans to handle matters related to manga intellectual property when preparations are ready. The goal is improve the brand power of Japanese corporations abroad with manga, which are easy to understand and can reach a wider audience, especially children. DNP hopes to expand this type of business to Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia for Japanese firms under the concept of “Asia Kids Market.”

“Our undertakings will help solve social challenges mentioned in Goal 4 ‘Quality Education’ and Goal 8 ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations in 2015,” Ito said.

In another instance of translating, editing and typesetting manga with MOES, DNP produced a book outlining the history of a globally known food maker. Two Chinese (simplified and traditional characters) and English versions of the book have been made in addition to the Japanese one. Spanish and Portuguese versions are also planned for publication.

“When translating corporate manga, we must infuse corporate sentiment or vision into the manga,” said Tamotsu Miyamori of DNP’s Content Communication Business Division. “That is sometimes very difficult to do.” Miyamori added that the original manga content has often been altered after words and descriptions in the original were found to be offensive or taboo to some cultures. When translating, DNP picks up such descriptions for each country and changes the content in consultation with the publisher or company involved. DNP harnesses worldwide resources to ensure the translated books fit the norms of each country.

MOES matches the needs of today

DNP started developing MOES around 10 years ago at the request of DNP America, LLC. The DNP subsidiary found that one of its clients was experiencing difficulty in efficiently managing progress made on many translation projects because translators, translation checkers and native checkers, typesetters and other parties involved were located in different time zones.

After opening the MOES system on the internet, translators type their translations in balloons and other sections displayed on the left side of the screen, while looking at the original Japanese version on the right side. They can put each translated word or sentence in the speech balloon and adjust the length to fit the space available. Later, translation checkers, native checkers and proofreaders make changes if necessary. When a person finishes their part of this process, an email is automatically sent in English to the person in charge of the project.

The system uses DNP’s extremely secure cloud server in Japan, and PDFs made during production have electronic watermarks to prevent them from being pirated. Additional functions such as the formation of e-book data were added to MOES before obtaining the patent for MOES-related technologies in 2014.

“Before introducing this system, there were concerns that typesetters might put content in the wrong speech balloon because they didn’t understand the language,” Miyamori said. “MOES can eliminate such errors because the translator puts the translated script in the balloon.”

Manga sample being compiled by MOES

Miyamori said MOES meets the modern-day needs of publishers, which are increasingly opting to translate manga titles by themselves rather than selling their copyrights to overseas publishers at a time when foreign audiences are increasingly finding manga content attractive.

The change was spurred by the Japanese government’s drive to promote sales of manga and other Japanese content abroad under the subsidy program called “Japan Localization and Promotion,” which started in 2013 as part of the Cool Japan initiative to export pop culture. “We hope our way of translating and editing will set the benchmark for translating and typesetting manga through the increased use of MOES,” Miyamori said.

DNP to beef up manga translation projects

During his visit to Indonesia in September, Ito rediscovered that manga of any genre is powerful content that Japan can export. Ito interviewed several Indonesian cosplayers who are fans of Japanese manga. “They told me they are used to reading manga, which start from the right side, as opposed to American comics, which start from the left,” Ito said, adding that the Japanese style of comics is widely accepted in Indonesia.

DNP is also trying to introduce a new technology to boost manga exports. Most manga titles in Japan are printed in black and white, but color is the norm for comic books abroad. Using deep learning technology based on artificial intelligence, DNP is developing a system to automatically colorize manga. Although still in the demonstration stage, the system could be a powerful tool, along with MOES, to share Japanese manga with wider audiences around the world.

Ito hopes using MOES to make overseas versions of manga titles that have not reached overseas markets will open up a new business horizon for DNP.

“We can offer our clients a total solution that involves multilingual translation, editing, typesetting with MOES, printing and distribution in Japan and abroad, in addition to public relations, advertisements and sales promotion services,” Ito said. “We can build up new business models for our clients and do virtually everything for them. That’s our strength.”

  • * Publication date:  March. 29, 2019
  • * DNP department names, product specifications and other details are correct only at the time of writing. They are subject to change without prior notice.