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Netflix’s The Journalist, Serves As A Universal Paradigm Of Politics Crumbling Under The Burden Of Corruption

Drama series The Journalist shares the same Japanese title “Shinbun Kisha” of the 2019 movie, that in turn was loosely based on the 2017 eponymous book by Isoko Mochizuki. The film received six Japan Academy Prize nominations and won three, including Picture of the Year, Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

The series — now available on Netflix — is also set at the Toto Newspaper company and is directed by same director Michihito Fujii. In this episodic storytelling Anna Matsuda, is the highly regarded and well-respected reporter who drives the narrative. She uses her strong beliefs to get to the bottom of every story and discover the truth. In the series the justice she is pursuing concerns the scandals revolving around the Eishin Academy: there is a conflict of interest in a money transaction and the forgery of documents by Japanese government officials. The story is not primarily about the Prime Minister and his alleged corrupt ways, but rather about the internal mechanisms and system that help support him.

The six episodes, lyrically expose the juxtaposition between sensationalistic media coverage and hardcore investigative journalism, the latter having the aim to “give a voice to the voiceless.” Despite The Journalist, is well shot, performed and delivers a universal message — regarding the corruption pertaining to the high spheres that may be found in any country — it feels as if it would have been more effective in the film format rather than stretched out into a series. 

Nevertheless all episodes will keep audiences gripped as they become fond of the various characters. Anna Matsuda (Ryôko Yonekura) is the unblemished heroine: a tough woman who is psychologically serious about her work and possesses real conviction. The centennial generation is represented by Ryo (Ryûsei Yokohama), an economy graduate who delivers newspapers; he initially has no interest for the press, but eventually confronts personal circumstances that will inspire him to become a reporter. Throughout the story, many get entangled by the tentacles of power, but two characters stand out for seeking  atonement. Firstly there is Kazuya Suzuki (Hidetaka Yoshioka) who is at the Chubu Local Finance Bureau: he is ordered to tamper the documents, and will pay with his life to restore his honour. Secondly there is Shinichi Murakami (Gô Ayano), who used to work with Anna’s brother: he currently works at CIRO, the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, and will ultimately join forces with Anna to set things right.

Amidst the political crimes and the scandals of modern Japanese society, there is the outburst of the global pandemic. This shifts media attention from the local issues that Anna is investigating on, to the international health condition. Yet, her pursuit persists, and along the way she finds support by other people who join her plight. This bestows some hope in the good that can still be found in humanity.

Melodrama in portraying this story is kept at bay, despite there is a man in a coma, another one who commits suicide, and several characters who are overwhelmingly pervaded by sense of guilt. The actors interiorise the sense of dishonour. They instill great dignity in the conflict experienced by those who are subservient to their superiors for the fear of dismantling the certitudes of their lives. These characters become the emblem of those who feel overpowered by the grim deceptions and subterfuges of a corrupt and rotting political system and feel they cannot break away from it.

However, The Journalist provides the antidote to chicanery. It shows how individuals for too long have avoided taking responsibility, blaming the system for the actions they carried out. It shows with palpable realism how each is not only the creator of his or her own destiny, but of the construction of the society in which they live in.

The open-ended finale — that leaves room for the consequences and aftermath of exposing the misdeeds of the government — makes viewers wonder if there is going to be a Second Season of The Journalist.

Final Grade: B-

Check out more of Chiara’s articles.

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Chiara Spagnoli Gabardihttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Works as film critic and journalist who covers stories about culture and sustainability. With a degree in Political Sciences, a Master’s in Screenwriting & Film Production, and studies at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, Chiara has been working in the press since 2003. Italian by blood, British by upbringing, fond of Japanese culture since the age of 7, once a New Yorker always a New Yorker, and an avid traveller, Chiara collaborates with international magazines and radio-television networks. She is also a visual artist, whose eco-works connect to her use of language: the title of each painting is inspired by the materials she upcycles on canvas. Her ‘Material Puns’ have so far been exhibited in four continents, across ten countries. She is a dedicated ARTivist, donating her works to the causes and humanitarians she supports, and is Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan.


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