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.

Hana3

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!
SKJAM!

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.

HeroMan

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.

 

Manga Review: Anesthesiologist Hana

Manga Review: Anesthesiologist Hana by Hakua Nakao and Kappei Matsumoto

One of the manga genres that doesn’t get a lot of press in the US is “work manga”.  These are more realistic looks at an unusual career, showing the day-to-day life and challenges, as well as what it takes to get and keep the job.  Firefighter, forest ranger and in this case, anesthesiologist.

Hana

Hanako Hanaoka is a young anesthesiologist at a small hospital connected to a major university hospital, which is being upgraded to a tertiary care (the most drastic emergencies and operations) facility.  Her specialty is relatively rare (and there don’t seem to be nurse anesthesiologists at that facility) so she’s constantly overworked and underappreciated.  Worse, sexism and sexual harassment from her fellow doctors are everyday hassles.

However, the job does have its own rewards, so Hana perseveres.

There’s a lot of interesting medical tidbits about a specialty you might not have been informed about before (not exactly a TV-friendly set of procedures, after all.)  Excitement is kept up with the introduction of more difficult cases and the hidden background of a couple of Hana’s colleagues.

However, the fanservice gets out of hand; and in a couple of cases is awkwardly shoved into stories that don’t really need it.  There are some really painful cases of “male gaze” as well, and the sexual harassers never seem to face any actual consequences for their actions.  And then there’s Hana herself.  To allow the audience to be filled in, she is often shown as being dense and uninformed about her own job; she’s a grown woman, a medical doctor, heck, she’s not even an intern anymore, how is she such an immature novice?

Worth looking at for the medical information, but the ecchi elements may turn off some readers.  This manga is out of print in North America as of 2014.

 

Manga Review: Ninja Papa

Manga Review: Ninja Papa by Yasuhito Yamamoto.

papa

Nobuo Matsuri is a typical Japanese salaryman (office worker.)  At thirty-two, he’s got a low-paying dead-end job at a second-rate food company, an incompetent boss who treats him like dirt, a heavily-mortgaged home and a nagging mother-in-law who never hesitates to point out all the many ways in which he’s a disappointment.  But he also has a lovely wife, two adorable children, and happiness.

Also, Nobuo Matsuri has a dark secret.  Up until age 21, he was a top assassin for the Nakuru ninja clan.  When he fell in love with Aya, he left the clan, violating their rule forbidding meaningful contact with outsiders (and experiencing actual love.)  As a result, Nakuru Clan ninja often attack Nobuo, and he must kill them to survive.  More troublingly for this man of peace and reason, he often runs across people who cannot be reasoned or negotiated with and who threaten those he cares for with mortal danger.  Then he must reluctantly use his ninja skills to kill those people.

This manga is very much a wish-fulfillment fantasy for salarymen.  A ordinary working schlub who is meek, mild and bumbling at the office, but has great sex at home and kicks the ass of those who thoroughly deserve it.  As such, it goes over the top sometimes.  Nobuo’s manager is incompetent and cartoonishly sexist in a way that would get him fired at any real company, even in Japan.  And it never occurs to the Nakuru clan assassins to just look Nobuo up in the phonebook–he hasn’t even changed his name!

But as an office worker, I can well identify with many of the situations Nobuo finds himself in.

This is an 18+ manga for bloody violence and sex scenes. It is not currently in print in the U.S.

Overall, a fun book, but not very deep, and has elements that may not appeal to many readers.

 

 

 

Manga Review: Shonen Jump Alpha

Manga Review: Shonen Jump Alpha

Shonen

Let’s start with something hefty, shall we?  Shounen Jump is the #1 manga anthology magazine in Japan, selling in the millions of copies.  Its emphasis on the themes of “friendship, struggle, victory: have made it a favorite of both its primary demographic of teenage boys (“shounen”) and the general public.  The series featured inside often get animated adaptations, which feed back to the popularity of the magazine.

Thus it was that Viz comics, , which imports manga to the North American audience, had a magazine called “Shonen Jump” which brought monthly installments of some of the most popular series to Western readers.  But the print magazine market is such that that approach wasn’t working as well as the company would like, so they’ve switched to an online magazine format instead, “Shonen Jump Alpha.”

Alpha comes out weekly at http:shonenjump.viz.com with chapters two weeks later than the Japanese print edition.  As of January 21st, they’ll be speeding it up to same-day release.  There are at present six weekly features licensed, and several monthly offerings; depending on the scheduling and if one of the regulars is having a skip week, this can make for a thin issue or a very large one.

Weekly Features

One Piece: In many ways the flagship title of SJA.  A boy named Luffy decides he’s going to become the pirate king.  He sets off on his adventure and gains a crew of wacky characters to assist him while fighting evil pirates, monsters, and the corrupt government. Cartoony art, engaging characters and a good variety of emotional tones have made this a standout series.  At present, the crew has answered a distress call from the supposedly deserted island of Punk Hazard, site of a chemical weapons disaster some years before.  The island is of course not nearly as deserted as it would appear.

Naruto: Orphaned ninja Naruto, despised and mistreated by his fellow villagers, decides that he’s going to become the Hokage, the chief of his village.  He is both aided and hampered in this quest by the fact that his body is the prison for the legendary Nine-Tailed Fox, a powerful spirit that attacked the village long ago.  The characters are more superhero than ninja per se, but this series can be a lot of fun  Presently, it looks like the Great Ninja War is finally winding down, with Naruto and his allies confronting the real (for sure this time!) mastermind behind everything.

Bleach: Ichigo Kurosaki, a boy who sees ghosts, suddenly finds himself thrust into the battles of the Shinigami (“reapers”) whose job is to assist the flow of spirits to the afterlife, and battle spirits that have lost their way and become “Hollows.”  As time goes by, more and more factions are introduced, and Ichigo unlocks more and more ultimate potential, in addition to learning things about his rather unusual heritage.  Not as good as the above two.  The current arc is supposedly the last, with a group called the Vandenreich attempting to destroy the Soul Society (the primary afterlife) altogether.  Naturally, it turns out that Ichigo has a surprising connection to them…

Toriko:  The adventures of a superhuman gourmand named Toriko on a world where the more dangerous/difficult to get a food ingredient is, the more tasty it is.  He partners with an aspiring chef named Komatsu to track down the rarest and most delicious of creatures.  This is an audience participation manga, with readers sending in their ideas for cool new foodstuffs.  It can be fun, though I am not as affected by the munchies as some other readers by it.  Presently, the characters are involved with a cooking tournament, which with any luck will be interrupted by an evil food company invasion.

Nisekoi: “False love” is the name of the game, as Raku and Chitoge, scions of feuding gangster clans, are pressured into pretending to date to calm the squabbles.  Only problem is that they can’t stand each other!  Meanwhile, Raku made a childhood marriage promise to a girl whose name and face he doesn’t remember.  At least three girls turn out to carry keys that could fit his lock (Freudian!)  This series is generic romantic comedy done right.  Yes, all the elements are out of the standard playbook, but the writer does them so well!  Currently, Chitoge has finally realized that she’s beginning to have genuine affection for Raku…but what does that mean for their fake relationship?

Cross Manage:  Former soccer star Sakurai is adrift in life after leg injuries sideline him.  That is until he meets the ditzy but very earnest Toyoguchi, whose struggling lacrosse team desperately needs a good manager.  This is a gender flip of the usual Shounen Jump sports story, in which a boy’s team has a cute female manager.  Unfortunately, the story so far has spent less time developing the team’s personalities and play styles than on Sakurai’s deep manpain.  This may explain why the series has been struggling in the ratings in the parent magazine, and looks ripe for an early cancellation.  Which is a pity, because there’s a lot of potential here.  Currently, the team is trying to get up to minimum competency to enter a spring tournament.

 

Monthlies

Blue Exorcist:  Rin Okumura discovers that his father is Satan, making him part demon and a danger to everyone around him.  Turns out Rin has inherited his father’s rebellious nature, and chooses to join exorcist school so he can learn to battle against his father’s evil plans and save humanity.  But his heritage also makes him a target, so there’s always trouble brewing.  Despite the subject matter, this series often comes off as more juvenile than scary.  Right now, someone or something is opening multiple Hellgates that can’t be closed by normal exorcists.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan:  Rikuo Nura is one-quarter yokai, (Japanese spirit monsters) so can access his superhuman abilities only for a limited amount of time each day.  Which is a real problem when he’s the heir to the yokai clan leader.This series was in Shonen Jump until earlier this year, but doing very poorly.  Since it was on its final battle arc already, the series was moved to a monthly magazine so the creator could really cut loose and do it up properly without having to worry about the ratings poll.

Rurouni Kenshin -Restoration-:  A distillation of the popular series about an assassin turned technical pacifist during the Meiji Restoration period.  It’s kind of a tie-in to the recnt live-action adaptation.  Think of it like a “Best HIts collection, or an alternate universe retelling.  You can tell that Watsuki is having a ball drawing these characters again, but Kaoru comes across as even more useless in this version.  Currently they’re building up to a fight with the hypnotic gaze fighter.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal:  In the far future, Yuma Tsukuno is a huge fan of the Duel Monsters children’s card game…in the abstract, but has no idea how to actually play it.  when he gains a not-so-imaginary friend named Astral, Yuma starts improving, and soon finds himself battling evil plots to misuse the cards.  Yeah.  This latest installment of the Yu-Gi-OH! franchise continues most of the trends that have annoyed non-fans in the past, including substituting expensive overpowered cards for actual skill as the sign of a strong player.  (And despite our hero being supposedly a huge fan of the game, not recognizing half the cards or basic strategies he’s up against.)  How I miss plotlines that have almost nothing to do with the game.  Just at the moment, the good guys are trying to collect all the Numbers cards, a goal shared by the villains but for opposite reasons.

 

Overall:

An excellent value for money, provided that you are a big fan of the general shounen manga style of storytelling.  There are some lesser parts, but the variety is overall strong.  More new series are scheduled to start soon, so keep an eye out if the current titles aren’t enough to excite you.

 

SKJAM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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