Mantra’s AI-powered translation engine wants to help Japanese manga expand global fan base

Screenshot of Mantra Engine ©️Kuchitaka Mitsuki
Image credit: Mantra

This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Mantra, the Japanese startup developing machine learning-based translation technology for manga, announced on Tuesday that it has officially launched its cloud-based translation platform called Mantra Engine.

The platform is specifically designed for translating manga content. It allows comic productions and distributors to release manga titles in foreign languages by helping them manage almost all work processes for manga translation through a single web-based interface.

Combining with corrections and proofreading by professional translators, the platform makes it possible for users to produce foreign language versions in about half the time for the traditional workflow. It supports English and Chinese at the moment, but more languages will be added in due course.

In aim to help the global expansion of the Japanese manga industry and reducing their economic loss due to piracy, the platform is intended to provide three functions to streamline producing foreign language versions: character recognition (reading Japanese characters in speech bubbles), machine translation, and replacing text in speech bubbles by script typesetting in a targeted language.

As electronic versions of manga become more widely available, the platform’s ability to publish a new episode in a foreign language even on a weekly basis is a powerful tool for the industry which is looking to increase sales through global licensing and multilingual distribution. As is common among tech companies, especially for AI firms, the more scope of automated processing expands, the greater value they can provide.

In terms of machine translation, the company added the “glossary of terminology management” function in the official version unveiled today, which is to tackle the biggest issue they found during the trial phase according to CEO Shonosuke Ishiwatari.

In manga, many proper nouns unique to a title or an artist are often used. Using Google Translate, if you find mistakes in translation for a proper noun, it may take a lot of work to correct them all. Registering each new one into the glossary as it appears is a simple idea but very effective.

Mantra raised 80 million yen (about $760,000) from Japanese AI-focused VC Deepcore, DMM Ventures, Legend Ventures, and other unnamed angel investors back in June.