Doing Time

Prison! A place where the worst of the worst go! Filled with the dregs of humanity! Murderers! Rapists! Drug Pushers! Model Gun Owners! Counterfeiters!

Model gun owners.

In 1994, Kazuichi Hanawa was arrested. The crime? Owning model guns. Firearm law was strict at the time, and a harsher sentence was given to Hanawa. Three years in the big house.

So… hey, we have a convict for our review! Swell!

That’s the basis for “Doing Time,” a manga that Hanawa made after his release. So the manga is a collective of events, detailing Hanawa’s personal experiences and the various details enforced within the prison system.

Interestingly, time skips around in the manga. We never see Hanawa enter or leave prison. It starts with him there and ends with him there. Did he get out? We’ll never know; this manga is the only proof. Oh, and photographs, interviews, and a film adaptation. Poor li’l Hanawa.

Speaking of Hanawa, he’s barely the focus. In the beginning he is, and he appears in every chapter, but the focus is on this guy’s release or that guy’s distaste for winter. So we have to ask, is this the original “Orange is the New Black”? I would imagine. Well-adjusted citizen sent to prison, writes a book, focus on everyone else. Or, you know, literally every canonical prison tale. I could insert a gif, yeah? Would that sate you guys?

Well, I have none. Sorry. Because this is nothing like Orange is Blanu Nack. No, things are nice here. Uncomfortably. Not Stepford levels, just…

SO MUCH FOOD. HOW DO THEY DESERVE SO MUCH GOOD FOOD.

In contrast, Chapman spent the second episode trying to get fed. Because show.

True, the inmates are treated well. However, they do get punished. This is rare, of course, since they live in a country that arrests people for owning model guns. I wouldn’t disobey those officers.

The manga touches on obvious points of prison stories. “Can’t imagine/handle life on the outside”. “Put them in the worse prison”. “How do I poop in here”. “Crosswords get you punished”. “How does that poem go”. WHY DO THEY HAVE TELEVISONS? No, not a relaxation area for all. PER ROOM.

The art is great. It can be creepy or soft, depending on the context. Usually grotesque is the style of choice, and I’m not complaining. Not to mention Hanawa has an eye for detail, remembering every nook and/or cranny in the prison. I mean, it was three years.

There are interviews with the author, which is great since he elaborates more of his time there.

The only drawback I can think of is the price and availability. I mean, it’s from the dark ages of US manga translations. I’ve never heard of Ponent Mon. Have you? What were their dreams? Their goals? Why did they put some of the copyright information in Spanish? And I feel that 19.99 US dollars is not proportional to 12.99 UK pounds. I don’t know the rate, but seven?

I lucked out. Got my copy for 10 even at The Strand. It was glory day at the place, along with a manga about economics. Maybe we’ll get to that in a babillion years.

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Stargazing Dog

PEOPLE LOVE DOGS. DOGS MAKE PEOPLE CRY. GIVE THAT DOG A JAPANESE OSCAR.

Remember that episode of Futurama with Fry’s dog, Seymour? Why even name him; he’s “Fry’s dog.” That was based on a Japanese story, Hachiko. MOST BELOVED AND REMEMBERED EPISODE. Marley and Me? “I CRIED SO MUCH!” And if you’ve read enough manga, you may know “A Dog of Flanders.” If not, there’s that episode of Pokemon with James’s Growlithe, “Holy Matrimony,” WHICH IS MY FAVORITE EPISODE.

Cat lovers have one cat drama: Grumpy Cat. When did it air? Last night? Oh, it’s a comedy. Cat lovers have no cat dramas.

“Stargazing Dog” is another shmoopy story about a man and a dog. I will list events.

-A wrecked car is found with two corpses, a man and a dog
-Years ago, dog was adopted by a young girl
-The father walks the dog, grows bond
-Wife divorces husband, takes near all
-Man and dog travel in a car
-Find a kid, lose a kid, dog get sick, dog gets better, etc.
-Find a field to live
-Man dies in car
-Dog lives a bit longer, cruelty of humanity, dies in car
-Point story should be over continues
-Social worker is reminded of his own dog, wishes he could have been better
-Dog and man still entirely dead
-BEST SELLER IN JAPAN!

If not for the social worker aspect, I don’t know if I’d be looking at this manga. The man and dog aspect is fairly unremarkable, but the social worker addition puts an odd spin. He was raised by his grandparents. His grandmother died, so the grandfather bought a puppy. But the puppy is treated well only in the beginning, and taken for granted by the social worker. Years later, the dog dies and the social worker laments, “Why did I pull his leash so hard? I should’ve let him sniff more of the smells… of guardrails, curbs, and telephone poles. More… I shouldn’t have been afraid to love him more…”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Yeah, that line stuck with me. I’ve got a dog *twist* and I want him to feel well loved. And I try to think along these lines when I’m with him.

One thing I appreciate is the conclusion. So the daughter adopts the puppy as a young girl. As a teenager, she’s SO PUNK ROCK SCARY. Then she disappears. But in the conclusion, she’s revealed to be a roadie. The wife? Went to pursue a job. The kid the man and dog found? On a train. So hey, closure! Neato completo!

While I find adding the social worker plot to be a bizarre choice, it does work, giving the deaths a bit more meaning than “It’s just life.” Instead, we get “It’s just life, and here’s the people affected by it.” The art is a bit looser than the plot demands, but not diminishing. Overall, a good read with a nice addition to an overblown genre.

Oh, and the wife beats the dog. Like, pulls on his leash and smacks his back.

And divorces the father because of his heart condition.

She receives no repercussions.

DO NOT READ. WORST MANGA. 0/10.

Aria

We’re not getting to the rest of the Mangatober reviews this month. Or Mangaween. Irrelevant; I’m WAY  too stressed to deal with that nonsense. What, collect the most notable one-shot Ito works, reread the Ito cat manga, go through Hellsing a second time, physically touch Portus, and try to come up with fifty jokes about how Doll and Dolls are way too similar while making digs at previous doll-based reviews? Actually, that sounds kind of fun; maybe in December’s Holiday Rushviews.

That’s on top of taking, making, and subsequent panic over tests! And socialization, I have to find time for that! AND SO MUCH MANGA. SO MUCH AND I COULDN’T BREAK MY RECORD OF THREE REVIEWS THIS YEAR.

AGH. Well, obviously I’m stressed. And you know what I like to do them? Tie a manga into my personal life!

So. Aria. I bought this back in 2010, 2011. Great purchase, lemme tell ya. It’s a completely calming non sequitur. For those who didn’t buy Aqua, that is. I didn’t. I still love this.

Let’s check off what makes no sense for someone who never read Aqua:
-People live on Mars
-Gondoliers are the main transport
-The lead’s boss is a cat
-It’s not Mars anymore, but “Manhome”. Manhome. Yeah, I couldn’t give you one reason why.

But otherwise, no issue is had with the manga. So let’s just enjoy… the gondolier bobbing up and down on the water… the Martian sky above us an improbably gorgeous shade of blue… oh, there’s the Mars Rover… hello, Rover… mmm… a slice of life? Oh, thank you, I’d love some… but then, what’s that? That, there? On the horizon! It’s a Martian Wildebeest! OH MY MARTIAN GOD ROBOT, RUN! WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE’S NO LAND AROUND HERE? WHY MOVE TO A PLANET WITH 90% WATER? ISN’T THAT WHY YOU LEFT EARTH IN THE FIRST PLACE? WHAT THE HECK IS “PUTRIDWRECK”? Oh, that makes sense.

OH GOD, ROVER! ROVER, KEEP SWIMMING! WATCH OUT, IT’S A NARWHAL! HERE COMES A BIKINI WHALE! No, I’m not proud of how much I listened to “Rock Lobster” on Putridwreck.

Ha ha! Gotcha! I wasn’t really in the future on another planet! I’m just text on a blog! Sure had you going, huh?

Um… art! Art’s a thing! Honestly, even at its best, the art doesn’t stand out, for the characters that is. But the landscapes, oh! They’re fine. Look, I put down “superlative artwork,” but not in all areas. Just in one area. I really like the atmosphere of the art.

Yeah, I know that sounds a bit pretentious, but I am pretentious. Mood is everything in a manga that takes life slow. A manga with like, three characters. The lead, the mentor, the frenemy. Barely personalities, but lets the reader take in what matters.
I actually bought volume two yesterday. I’M THAT STRESSED. It’s Tokyopop, and they only released half of the series before cancellation, but I don’t care. Aria is wonderful, and I look forward to a calming weekend.