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).