23 Jan / Doing Time by Kazuichi Hanawa, translated by Shizuka Shimoyama and Elizabeth Tiernan
What does a manga artist do when he lands in jail as severe punishment for a minor offense? For Kazuichi Hanawa, an established artist known for his fantasy volumes set in the Middle Ages, reality shockingly became a tiny cell for three years in the mid-1990s. His crime was a firearms violation, the result of a growing interest in collecting model guns. His reaction was to create a stark account of his incarcerated experience.
In a three-way interview at the book’s beginning, manga reviewer Yukihiro Abe remarks to Hanawa, “The way this book has turned out it looks like he went to do some research for three years.” Hanawa’s reaction is agreeably analytical: “For a long time I’d been interested in knowing what the world behind bars was like … And since I was there, I was able to experience life in the big cage for myself.”
With the exception of a few short panels that vividly (and not without humor) capture his suffering over nicotine withdrawal, the majority of Doing Time remains surprisingly detached. Hanawa matter-of-factly notes the abundance of tasty food, grumbles at the uncomfortable design of the cell’s toilet, smiles over a moment of natural sunlight … but for a man who has suddenly lost his basic freedom, he remains mostly muted. He records his daily routine with memorable detail, always marked by regular meals and necessary bathroom breaks. He shrewdly captures the expressions and habits of some of his inmates, sharing the conversations that keep them all sane (enough) to get through their monotonous days.
For such a life-changing, shocking event as landing in jail, Hanawa presents a controlled study on all aspects of incarcerated life, from scheduled baths to number of allowed books “for study,” to differing side dishes, and even television viewing allowances. For us who hope to always stay on the outside, to glean such information secondhand is certainly always the better alternative!
Published: 2005 (United Kingdom, United States)