Doing Time Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A/F
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Fanfare
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Pages: 240
  • ISBN: 84-933409-0-1
  • Size: 4x6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Doing Time Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     April 17, 2006
Release Date: March 15, 2006

Doing Time Vol.#01
© Fanfare

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kazuichi Hanawa
Translated by:Shizuka Shimoyama and Elizabeth Tierman
Adapted by:

What They Say
Up to now Kazuichi Hanawa expressed himself through works of fiction. The fantastic world of tales from the Middle Ages were his favorite setting. A twist of fate caused him to be locked away for three years in jail, which is a very real place. There too this genius conjured his amusement and loneliness through his works. And that is how this exceptional record of life in prison was achieved.

I asked them, "Are you going to arrest me today?" and they answered, "No, not yet".

The Review
If I ever make it to Japan one day, I'm going to have to go to prison as the food served there, as illustrated by Hanawa, looks might tasty!!

The larger trim size here really helps do Hanawa's artwork justice, as well as the excellent print reproduction. The paper is fairly heavy and thick, with that yellow tinted coloring that makes it very easy on the eyes. The cover has a very minimalist appeal and it includes some nicely done dust flaps. Extras include an interview with Hanawa conducted by close friends Yukihiro Abe (manga critic and psychiatrist) and Kyoko Abe (playwright), as well as an afterword from critic Tomofusa Kure.

The one main issue I wanted to touch on is with the binding. Now, it might be my copy only, but the cover completely became unglued from the spine binding about halfway through my reading. Not sure if it was a batch of bad glue or what, but it's the one sore spot in this entire release.

Wow! This is really some fabulous looking material! What makes me appreciate Hanawa's excellent pen-work and fantastic cross-hatching even more is that he created all of these images from memory, as he was not allowed to draw these scenes while imprisoned. The artwork is extremely detailed, from the rooms to accessories to lunch items; everything is put together with a lot of attention and effort. If you have any interest in seeing what life inside of a Japanese prison looks like without actually going yourself, Hanawa puts the readers about as close as they can get. His character artwork is not quite as detailed as everything else, but the way he caricaturizes himself and the inmates adds a nice humorous touch.

SFX are translated with overlays. With the high quality of Hanawa's artwork, I would have liked to have seen the panels remained untouched, but the overlay job is quite good. The translation reads quite well, although the opening interview reads a little awkward. I did notice a few issues towards the end of the book where the first letter from a few sentences was missing.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
While there are a decent amount of prison stories out there, none are quite as intimate as Kazuichi Hanawa's own personal accounts of life in the big pen. In 1994, Hanawa's quirky habit of collecting model firearms got the best of him when he was arrested for illegal firearm possession in Hokkaido. Due to an increase in weapons smuggling at the time, Hanawa got an unexpected harsh sentence of three years in prison without probation. Doing Time contains a non-sequential account of Hanawa's memories and quirky amusements of a Japanese prison, a side of Japanese culture that Western readers have most likely never experience before.

What really stands out about this title is that Hanawa has no personal grudge or political agenda here about firearm laws or the strict authoritative Japanese prisons. He's not looking for sympathy or judgment and there are no excuses to be made about his actions. What Hanawa illustrates here is just a view into life inside of a prison from his own personal, easily amused viewpoint. Hanawa spends a lot of the time illustrating a huge menu of food items that were served to the inmates, always shocked at how well they ate and how happy it made him to eat the well prepared meals. A full stomach makes a happy prisoner, right? He gets frustrated at the horribly put together bathroom facilities and shares the inconsequential and repeated conversations between his cellmates of the shared room, who seem to only want to talk about their release dates and, of course, food. One of the more interesting sequences takes place at the box engraving factory inside of the prison that is run like a highly efficient machine, where prisoners must ask permission for everything and must adhere to very strict policies.

This book is Hanawa's memoirs, put together in non-linear chapters, not concerned with telling the reader any sort of story. For some, this might be an issue. There really is no narrative, with only a few little subtle jokes to tie a couple chapters together. The book reads more like an answer to the question "What were the 12 most memorable things about prison life?", with the answers all put together by Hanawa after he was released (as you cannot draw inside of the prison). There may be no sequential story that most manga readers are used to, but the personal aspect and glance into an unknown side of Japanese culture is well worth the price.

Kazuichi Hanawa's Doing Time is one of the more personal manga that I have ever had the pleasure to read. He takes his unfortunately circumstance of being imprisoned and puts together a glimpse into a side of Japanese culture that most Western readers are completely clueless about. He tells his quirky memoirs without all the personal baggage and regret as well, with no hidden agenda or political strike. In fact, most of the time Hanawa seems to be enjoying his highly fulfilling meals and solitary life!

For those looking for something way outside of the normal spectrum of English translated manga, do not hesitate to pick this title up. Fanfare is becoming my favorite eclectic manga publisher, and this is just another title of theirs that I would definitely recommend.


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