The Usual Suspects

(This article first appeared in NEO #33, 2007, and was subsequently reprinted in the book Schoolgirl Milky Crisis)

An attractive English teacher, apparently strangled by a student stalker, Lindsay Hawker was front-page news. As I write, Hawker’s murderer is still at large, and her grief-stricken father proclaimed that the death had “shamed” Japan. Hawker’s murder is heartbreaking and horrifying, but if Japan should feel ashamed, it is at the fact that a fugitive, barefoot homicide suspect can elude trained police. Somebody knows where he is, and I don’t know how they sleep at night.

The Hawker case has other elements to occupy pundits. She worked at a language school that discourages its teachers from ‘fraternizing’ with students after hours — a controversial policy that led a disgruntled employee to seek legal action in 2005, but which could have saved her life. The school’s motives revolved around its simple desire to control the purse-strings for the lessons and to avoid classroom romances that might turn sour through misunderstandings, but such things are easy to say on paper. When I lived in the Far East, I often went to teach at strangers’ houses — back then it seemed innocent and everyday, now it seems silly and sinister. I was just as trusting as Lindsay Hawker, but not so unlucky.

What does this have to do with manga? If you’re lucky, nothing at all. But there are already whispers that Hawker’s alleged killer fancied himself as something of an artist. Supposedly, he had a collection of ‘manga’, although reporting has been so vague and full of insinuation that it has been unclear so far if journalists are referring to hentai games or pornography or, you know, comics.

None of which automatically turns anyone into a killer. The usual tabloid suspects have been quick to dust off their anti-manga tirades, going so far as to suggest that the killer may have been inspired by a comic, without a shred of evidence.

By the time you read these words, maybe he’ll be in custody. If he says “manga made me do it”, get ready for the backlash. If they haven’t caught him, yes, shame on Japan.

(Tatsuya Ichihashi was apprehended by the Japanese police in November 2009. Press coverage immediately began circling his apparently dangerous love of One Piece and Bleach, which is sure to turn anyone into a killer).

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8 thoughts on “The Usual Suspects

  1. My knowledge of Bleach is that it’s slightly similar to Naruto in it’s storytelling, right down to copious amounts of filler. One I know even less about since it’s not been available in the UK, its about pirates and is on it’s 400+ episode from what I saw on my internet travels.

    If Tetsua had watched that, surely he’d be sailing the high seas of Somalia kidnapping assumed aristocrat yachting couples.

  2. “The mangas made me do it”
    I doubt it would wash in Japan if that turned out to be his excuse, besides it was reported he had a “large library of hentai manga”. Last time I saw One Piece, or Bleach they weren’t hentai. However having said that, you can bet your mortgage that the western press will jump on this like lions in a hurd of sheep.

  3. This is no different from any other form of sensationalist media, if it’s not “evil” manga, it’s violent videogames or evil horror films, or even the other day where children “copied” an incident off of a TV show.

    Bah.

  4. Ian, the funny thing with that imitable incident (in Waterloo Road) was that it was being shown to deter children from doing it, they didn’t glamorise it and showed the repercussions. It’d be like holding a firework after watching a bonfire night safety video, while still thinking it’d only result in a blackened face a`la Tom & Jerry.

  5. The media just like to demonise everything and certain national newspapers that will remain nameless like to attack anything that’s just not “British” especially if it’s foreign or from the BBC>

  6. The narrow scope of interests shown in his choice of reading would suggest someone of a compulsive obsessive nature- never a good sign – but not unexpected in a young man. His choice of anime (Bleach & One Piece ) is almost the opposite of his reading material, so a bit of a dichotomy there methinks. I think we’ve all met people who shown a singular fixation with something, and don’t they always make you nervous? But not everyone turns out to be a mentally unbalanced killer, mostly they are just over enthusiastic. If Ichihashi had the complete Disney collection on his shelf would they have mentioned that I wonder? Yea, Bambi made me do it. His continued attempts at changing his appearance, plus the original ruse to get Ms Hawker to his apartment, suggests he knew what he was doing (of sound mind) all along- put simply he’s a bad lot. At the end of the day Ichihashi killed Ms Hawker, and deliberately continued to evade justice, so no need to look for scapegoats.

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