Netflix is determined to satisfy the growing appetite for foreign-language content. The new gripping Japanese drama series ‘The Journalist’ is the latest to join the ever-growing catalog streaming on the platform from January 13.
This ten-part show has a tenacious female character at its helm and offers an insight on general themes while shining the spotlight on the components that encompass the Japanese modern culture.
The original film released back in 2019 had many critics skeptical. Still, on the contrary, it received rave reviews, was a commercial success and even snagged three Japanese Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
That box office smasher was helmed by Michichito Fujii, who returns to direct the series version. Both are adaptations loosely based on the professional adventures of Isoko Mochizuki a reporter for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper.
This series stars television bigwig Ryoko Yonekura in the lead role taking the mantle from South Korean actress Shim Eun-Kyung who headlined the movie. Other cast members include, Johanna Yukiko Haneda, Ren Hanami, Go Ayano, Ryusei Yokohama and Shinobu Terajima among many others.
Ryoko embodies a well known, daringly excellent reporter who is an absolute go-getter named Anna Matsuda who is on a mission to air all the sleaze and dirty that’s causing decay in modern Japanese society.
It is known worldwide that politics is indeed a very dirty game packed with plenty of corrupt individuals using public office to swindle money from unsuspecting taxpayers while breaking all the rules in their constitutions for their own selfish gains.
Matsuda, an avid member of the fourth estate tasked with putting those in political capacities in place while keeping the ordinary citizen involved, is determined to expose all the dirty dealings illegally conducted behind closed doors.
Since time immemorial, journalists have found themselves muzzled by the very instruments of power that should safeguard them. Stories of these information seekers being unlawfully detained or even murdered have been in the global arena for years.
However, people are more aware now of the role journalists play in information distribution; hence an institution, especially the government, would think twice before silencing an influential personality in the industry like Ana.
This is what gives this iron lady the confidence and drive to bring to the fore the awful deeds by specific individuals in power with the intention to ensure that justice is served and every citizen is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Due to the stigma and fear associated with rattling the feathers of the rich and mighty, few individuals have the guts to pursue these people; hence it’s no surprise when Ana finds herself alone in this challenging war.
But the lack of a calvary doesn’t dim her desire and pursuit for the truth as she is determined to hold those involved liable for their own actions without fear of death or intimidation.
The story penned by Fujii in collaboration with Yoshitatsu Yamada and Kazuhisa Kotera gives a detailed account of the infamous Moritimo Gakuen scandal, a shady land dealing involving the private school owner and how officials cooked up numbers and forged documents to match to conceal the siphoning of public funds.
The show is generally fast-paced, which helps build up anticipation and excitement, capturing the intention and interest of the audience and retaining it throughout the program.
This program utilizes the same heavily stylized aesthetics employed in the feature with the casting of Kyoko as the star setting up a conventional tone for the series.
The show is quite gut-wrenching to watch as the series taps into the innermost emotions of audiences by casting the insanely handsome, innocent-looking Hidetaka to embody the role of Kazuya Suzuki, a bureaucrat driven to suicide by his own guilt.
As the scandal unfolds, more and more atrocities are brought to light. It’s revealed that many employees were either coerced or forced into doing what their superiors wanted with a team of corrupt professionals busy handling the government’s dirty work.
With the help of Kazuya’s widow Mayumi, a part embodied by Shinobu Terajima, Ana is involved in a brutal face-off against Shinjiro Toyoda, a part by Yusuke Santamaria, the public relations specialist to the prime minister.
Yusuke is one of those individuals who have friends in high places, and as a result, he manages to get away with defrauding the government north of ¥10 billion.
And then there is the curious university student who moonlights as a newspaper deliveryman played by Ryusei Yokohama, whose interest in current affairs lands him amid the story.
While the movie itself was fantastic, the series improves on the title. For starters, the running time is extended as the show has ten episodes of 50 minutes each giving more time to go into the depth of the events that transpired and build more on the characters compared to the limited roughly two hours of the movie.
It also delves into the dangers and challenges media investigators go through in order to bring the truth to the masses, even though Anna is definitely on a level of her own.
With the events surrounding press freedom becoming a contentious issue across the globe, ‘The Journalist’ is indeed timely in its subject matter, and the direction, performances, and cinematographer make it as accurate as it can get.
However, the story’s details might be too narrow in terms of scope and will probably relate more to the local audience than international viewers.
The show’s start is quite solid and punchy; however, it dwindles to some extend as the program progresses, becoming monotonous and increasingly sentimental.
Like in the original title, the characters of this series retain the caricature vibe. The dialogue isn’t as meaty as one would expect for a project that should otherwise rely heavily on details, interviews, questions, and arguments.
In the end, ‘The Journalist’ knows exactly what it is that it wants to communicate to its audiences which is what becomes the biggest problem for the show.
Nevertheless, if one liked the original movie and is interested in the details of what went down in one of Japan’s biggest scandals, then this show is exactly what will quench that thirst.