Interview: Arijan Clark

Interview: Arijan Clark

Welcome to a new feature here at SKJAM! Reviews, interviews with the people behind the media.

Today, we’re talking to Arijan Clark, the translator of Volume Three of “Anesthesiologist Hana“, previously reviewed on this blog.


S. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A. My name is Arijan Clark, and I’m a full-time freelance translator living and working in the Seattle area. I was raised in the Camano Island area (in other words, knee-deep in mud, seawater, snow geese, Viking helmets, and tulips), along with two younger brothers who taught me to love cheesy kung-fu flicks and early-Nineties video games.

I jot down scraps of sci-fi and fantasy when time permits, although I can’t really call myself a “writer” until something gets published, and I read omnivorously and vociferously. My husband David and I tied the knot last August after three years together, spent a lovely honeymoon in Yosemite National Park, and are now happily settled in an apartment near his job at Microsoft.

S. Where did you study Japanese?

A. Japanese was one of four languages offered at my high school, and my interest in the country had been piqued by a Japanese exchange student who stayed with my family when I was in middle school. The arrival of the Pokemon franchise on American shores fanned the flames of attraction, and I was madly in love with the language within a month of starting classes. It was so wildly different from English, and my teenaged fascination with those differences sparked a lifelong interest in grammar and linguistics. It also eventually led me to the JET Programme, where I met several of my closest friends and the love of my life. Go figure, right?

S. How did you get the job of translating Anesthesiologist Hana?

A. In the summer of 2011, between semesters of graduate school, I interned with a game translation company in Osaka to build up my professional experience. We mainly worked with iPhone apps and arcade games, but the occasional manga job came down the pike as well. They’ve continued to send me freelance work, and Anesthesiologist Hana was among those jobs.

S. Anesthesiologist Hana uses quite a few specialized medical terms. Tell us about the research process you used to deal with this.

A. Although I studied medical translation in graduate school and did quite a bit of online research, my main resource was my parents, who are both M Ds. I was working on Anesthesiologist Hana during the interim weeks between my graduation from grad school (and move-out from my California apartment) and my marriage (and move-in with my husband in Washington). My parents not only reopened their home to me for those weeks, but patiently let me borrow their resources and pick their brains for as much casual hospital-staff slang as I could possibly need. Their help was invaluable, and I can’t thank them enough for putting up with my (often apparently random) questions.

S. Which character from the manga do you like best? Why?

A. Honestly, my favorite character was Hana herself. A lot of the supporting characters in Anesthesiologist Hana are self-absorbed, grouchy, hostile, flaky, or outright perverted. (Good god, someone needs to punch that Minami guy in the throat.) And Hana in her narrative role as The Watson / Ms. Exposition does suffer from a bit of Naive Newcomer behavior that doesn’t make sense for a trained doctor, even in the third volume. But with basic writing fumbles like that, I prefer to fault the author and try to appreciate the character on their own merits, and Hana measures up very well. Regardless of her thankless job and gormless coworkers, she manages to maintain a sweet and optimistic outlook on life, genuinely wants to give her patients the best possible treatment, and finds real meaning in her daily work. I think that’s really admirable, and inspiring to anyone slogging through a not-so-hot job.

S. Did anything particularly interesting happen during your translation of this volume?

A. In the middle of working on the Hana translation, I had to fly back to California to attend my then-fiance’s graduation from Stanford. We packed his things into our hatchback and road-tripped back up the coast to Washington, but I still had to get the job done. Consequently, I spent the drive busily translating away on my laptop and phone-texting occasional medical-slang questions to my mother when my memory and dictionary failed me, then emailing my deliverables to Osaka over the wi-fi at whatever hotel we found for the night. It was an adventure, but I definitely prefer working from my own desk.

S. I am aware that the standard non-disclosure agreement prevents you from revealing the titles of projects that haven’t been published yet, but are you working on any further translations for Jmanga?

A. I haven’t received any further translation work from Jmanga at this time, but my experience with them was a good one and I’d be delighted to work with them again. Unfortunately, since the job was assigned through a translation agency, they almost certainly have neither my name, nor my contact information. C’est la vie.

S. Thanks for your cooperation!


Let’s have a round of applause for our special guest, and be sure to leave comments if you’d like to see more interviews!

Comic Strip Review: Dick Tracy

Comic Strip Review: Dick Tracy by Joe Staton and Mike Curtis.

The Dick Tracy comic strip was started way back in 1931 by Chester Gould, who saw criminals constantly in the headlines of Chicago newspapers and imagined a brave and clever police officer fighting back against them.The thrilling stories and colorful villains made it a long-runner.


So long-running, in fact, that it’s still around today!  Recently, long-time strip artist/writer Dick Locher retired.  The new creative team are Mike Curtis, a former deputy sheriff, and Joe Staton, a well-known comic book artist.  In my opinion they’ve revitalized Dick Tracy.

Staton’s art is clear and evokes Gould’s style, and Martin’s writing has restored coherence to the plotlines.  They’re clearly well-versed in the strip’s continuity without being slavishly shackled to it.  Early on, the syndicate stuck the team with a mandatory time limit for storylines, so some of the stories ended abruptly or had inadequate development, but that restriction has eased now.

The most recently completed storyline brought back a villain from the 1930s named Broadway Bates (the strip has long since entered “comic book time”.)  Bates strongly resembles the later Batman character the Penguin, so the creative team ran with that.  After getting out of jail, Bates had spent “the last few years” in “another city” (clearly Gotham City) infested with costumed crimefighters.

Broadway and his girlfriend/partner Belle returned to Dick Tracy’s city only to find that costumed characters Cinnamon Knight and Black Piranha had suddenly appeared.  The strip followed the parallel plotlines of Broadway’s plan to kill the “costumes” to prevent them from taking root, CK and BP’s own journey from playacting to seriously considering crimefighting and Dick Tracy’s attempts to make sense of what was going on.

The story ended remarkably happily for a Dick Tracy plot, with no actual deaths.

Currently, the strip is featuring a guest appearance by George Takei as George Tawara, a character strongly based on Takei’s real life.  George and his husband Brad are called in to help Dick Tracy solve a cold case involving Camp Freedom, the internment camp Tawara was imprisoned in as a child.  (Again, this is based on George Takei’s real life.)  There are some touchy subject matter here, but the creative team is handling it well so far.

A running subplot in the new stories has been the apparent return of Moon Maid.  In the 1960s, Chester Gould took the strip from techno-thriller (Tracy has had the best law enforcement gadgets since 1946) into outright science fiction with the introduction of Moon People.  One of them, Mysta the Moon Maid, became a huge part of the strip, even marrying Junior Tracy and having a daughter named Honeymoon with him.

Moon Maid was killed off in the 1970s as part of excising the more fantastic elements of the strip, and her people cut off all communication with Earth.  But now, after all these years, someone who looks like Moon Maid and seemingly has her powers has popped up. Although most of the characters are convinced that Mysta is really dead, Honeymoon is investigating the apparent return of her mother.

A secret trip to the Moon has found the Moon People vanished, their homeland airless and in ruins.  So no answers were forthcoming from there.  But the creative team has promised that the mystery will be cleared up in a full plotline later this year.

While few newspapers still cover the Dick Tracy comic strip, it can be found online, and it is well worth searching out.

Book Review: Brandwashed

Book Review: Brandwashed: How Marketers and Advertisers Obscure the Truth, Manipulate Our Minds, and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom.

Disclaimer: I got this book through the Goodreads giveaway program on the expectation I would write a review. My copy is an uncorrected proof, and minor changes (possibly major changes to the final chapter) are likely to occur in the final product.


The first thing I noticed reading the introduction is that apparently Martin Lindstrom does not have a library card. Also, it’s pretty clear that he has never had to look for a discarded newspaper to get the help wanted ads–let alone consider getting breakfast that way. From the introduction, Mr. Lindstrom lives a life of incredible privilege, in both the scholarly and layman’s senses of the word. A glimpse into a very different world than my own.

The subtitle does a good job of summing up what “Brandwashed” is about. Like the 1957 Vance Packard classic “The Hidden Persuaders”, this book looks at the various means advertisers and marketers use to manipulate consumers into buying things. Fifty years of technological and psychological innovation have vastly improved their ability to do so, of course, so you will want both books.

Mr. Lindstrom is a very successful marketing consultant, so many of the examples in Brandwashed are from his own experience. (On the other hand, most of the organizing of the book and connecting paragraphs are by his ghost writer.) I was fascinated by what he claims to have learned about how Russians *actually* feel towards vodka.

One thing I would have liked to have seen is more on how to fight “brandwashing”, to prevent this manipulation from turning you into a shopping addict or spending money you don’t have on crap you don’t need. There’s almost nothing in this line in the book, though Mr. Lindstrom does seem in favor of tighter regulations of health claims on non-drug products.

Overall, much interesting and possibly useful information. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in advertising and marketing.

Webtoon Review: Mari-Kari

Webtoon Review: Mari-Kari

Mari and Kari (both voiced by Shannon Doherty) are twins who attend Gilles de Rais Elementary School.  Mari is a chipper young blonde who’s well, a little air-headed.  Kari is a rather creepy young lady who is violently protective of Mari and is undead.  Mari wants to be friends with all her classmates, none of whom can stand her.  They are mean to Mari, Kari sees this and mass murder ensues.


This is a series of short cartoons on the Fearnet site, perhaps five minutes each.  This is a horror-themed website, and the show is definitely not for children the same age as the protagonists.  They are extremely violent in a cartoony way; if you had to websearch M. de Rais to get the reference,  this cartoon is probably not for you.

While Mari-Kari is often funny, the over the topness of the series is frequently pushed too far for my tastes and ceases to amuse.  Knowing when to pull back and use some subtlety will aid the creators in their future endeavors.  but hey, it’s short.


Book Review: Universal Station

Book Review: Universal Station by Beth Brown.

This volume is by the Beth Brown who also wrote “All Dogs Go To Heaven”. Like that book, it’s a light fantasy about the afterlife. (Indeed, one of the main characters is a dog.)


Broadway musician Johnny dies in a plane crash during World War Two, and is met on “the other side” by his psychopomp, who happens to also be his beloved grandfather.  Grand escorts Johnny to the eponymous station, a transit hub for spirits to rest and recover while they get ready to move on to their final destination.

Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of dead Nazis just now, and they launch a coup to take over the Universal Station and run it their way.  Johnny and his now-talking dog must flee this onslaught.

Sadly, the charm of a talking dog is overwhelmed by the repetitive, preachy dialogue about the nature of the afterlife and how right Johnny’s grandfather, Grand, is about everything.

There’s a romance in the backstory, but if anything the dialogue in it is even more nauseating in its preciousness.

There’s a different book going on in the background that would be arguably more interesting, and whose midpoint would be about the end of this book. In it are all the actual action scenes, and the adventures of Johnny’s love interest trying to escape the Nazis.

This is an interesting curio, but it’s easy to see why it’s fallen into the memory hole.

Manga Review: HeroMan Volume 1

Manga Review: HeroMan Volume 1 by Tamon Ohta and BONES, from a concept by Stan Lee.

Joey Jones is a young orphan living with his grandmother in Center City, California.  He’s a sweet kid in a bad situation, who has to hold down a part-time job to help with the bills and can’t afford nice things.  When he finds the latest hot toy robot broken and discarded by a spoiled rich boy, Joey takes it home and fixes it up.


Much to everyone’s surprise, when danger threatens, the toy transforms into a powerful mecha named HeroMan.  Joey and HeroMan quickly become Earth’s only defense against attacking aliens.

So, Stan Lee has been around a long time. Over the years, he’s come up with a lot of ideas. Some were great, many were pretty good, some needed a bit more work to be viable, and a handful were truly awful.  So by now, Stan has a briefcase full of ideas of varying quality and every time he runs a bit short of lunch money, he opens up the briefcase and sells one of his spare ideas.

A couple of years back, Stan Lee sold a couple of ideas to the folks over in Japan. This is one of them.

HeroMan was an animated series, and this is a tie-in comic for fans of the show. Fans will quickly spot the usual Stan Lee touches: underdog teen hero, bullying jock, elderly relative who must be protected, Stan Lee cameo…plus the manga staples like an enormous robot controlled by a hot-blooded teenager, and a romantic interest who wears a tiny skirt even in the most inappropriate circumstances.

The combination works pretty well, but long-time fans will find much of the material very familiar. I’d recommend it mostly to junior high kids who will strongly identify with Joey and HeroMan.

Manga Review: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service

Manga Review: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki.

Five students at a Buddhist college discover that each of them has a talent or skill relating to death.  The corpse that brings about this revelation is restless, and they help it find peace.  In exchange it wills them just enough money to start their own business helping the dead fulfill their last wishes.

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service

This is a quirky horror manga with some fun characters, chilling storylines and excellent art.  Many of the stories involve either twisted versions of Japanese urban legends, or real-life unusual aspects of modern Japanese culture.  For example, in Volume Thirteen, Sasaki (the team’s business manager and hacker) is drafted as a “lay judge” in a murder case, following changes in Japan’s trial system in 2009.

The series is put out in America by Dark Horse Manga, with the first thirteen volumes available in English.  There’s extensive footnotes in each volume, covering various subjects of interest and explaining references.  The cover designs are fairly distinctive as well.

There is frequent nudity in this series, both male and female, usually of corpses drawn with realistic injuries and in various stages of decay.  There’s also some disturbing violence and sexual situations; There’s relatively little of the usual fanservice, though.  The nudity serves plot purposes.  I would recommend this only for older teens and up.

Unfortunately, I am told that sales are poor, so this series may not continue in the U.S.  This is one series I would ask you to consider buying new if you can.


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