Manga, Ties and Bonds

©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan

Hei no naka no biyoshitsu
(The Depth of the Sky)

Original Story by SAKURAI Mina

24th Japan Media Arts Festival Manga Division Excellence Award
Publisher: Shogakukan Inc.
Publication year: 2020
Volumes: 1 (finished)
Copyright: ©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan

Director’s comment

One day, journalist ASHIHARA Shiho receives the assignment to go to a women’s prison and find a good story for the tabloid magazine she works for. She is to visit the beauty salon in the prison where one of the inmates, KOMATSUBARA Haru, is learning a trade as part of the reintegration program, and to talk to the prisoner while getting a haircut.

The Aozora (Blue Sky) Hair Salon is open to anyone outside the prison to give the inmates, under the supervision of a guard, an opportunity to learn a job for when they return back to society. The Depth of the Sky, a delicate manga adaptation by KOHINATA Marco based on the novel with the same name by SAKURAI Mina, is a heart-warming story that stirs the reader while analyzing the difficult emotions not only of the reserved and cool inmate Haru, but also the feelings of other characters. These include her family – who are deeply ashamed of her being in prison – the reporter Shiho – who soon discovers the human tragedies behind bars – and the grumpy widow SUZUKI Kimiko – who goes to the hair salon on a whim but ends up finding some company in her lonely life. Other memorable characters, like the guard in charge of the hair salon and the warden, are also essential part of this soulful manga.

At the moment of writing these texts, The Depth of the Sky (1 volume, finished) is unpublished in English.

About the author


Born in Osaka. KOHINATA made her debut in 2017 with Artists do not Tread on Flowers, which was part of the Jury Selection for the 23rd Japan Media Arts Festival Prize.


Lives in Niigata. Debuted in 2013 with Garden of Asparagus Fern, which won the 19th Dengeki Novel Prize. Other works include The Murdered Husband Returns (Shogakukan, 2021).

Exhibition of selected artworks

©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
Spread Page 2 and 3

The decoration in the prison’s hair salon mimics the blue sky to give a sense of freedom to the inmates working there.

©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
Spread Page 6 and 7

Reporter ASHIHARA Shiho is very nervous as she is about to get a haircut from condemned criminal KOMATSUBARA Haru.

1. Chapter 1 - ASHIHARA Shiho 2. A prisoner cutting my hair— 3. In a beauty salon inside a prison.

©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
Pages 44 and 45

In this sequence, the English title is explained through this widely known Japanese proverb. The original title of this work, by the way, is directly translated as The Beauty Salon Inside Walls.

1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it 2. Umm…why is the beauty salon painted like the sky inside? 3. The women in here are like frogs in that old saying, 4. “The Frog in the Well.” 5. “Knows Not the Wide Ocean.” 6. I feel if you chose one thing, 7. And put your heart into it, everything else will… 8. … I think you mean… 9. “Even a Frog in the Well,” 10. “Knows the Blue of the Sky?” 11. FX Heh

©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
Page 58

Here the reader has the opportunity to get to know the protagonist through the eyes of her guard.

1 This woman is a prisoner. KOMATSUBARA Haru. 2 She is the sole hairdresser at the beauty salon. 3. I spend much of my time with her. 4. Thank you. 5. Alright! Time to get started!!!

©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
Page 78

From time to time, the prison’s beauty salon welcomes some clients with touching stories.

1. I don’t think we ever truly lose those things that are important to us.

©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
©︎ Marco Kohinata / Mina Sakurai / Shogakukan
Pages 143 and 144

When they were children, the KOMATSUBARA sisters used to style each other’s hair. Despite all that has happened, they now have the opportunity to do it again.