‘The Journalist’ is a 2022 Japanese drama that tells the story of a system that is tainted with corruption. The series has been directed by Michihito Fujii, and it makes us privy to various intriguing characters. These are the people whom we have seen around us. They have been our colleagues at work. They have been our friends. They have been our bosses. The series explores their consciences. We see them standing at a crossroads. Sometimes they want to clear their conscience, and sometimes they are ready to bear the guilt because the stakes are too high. ‘The Journalist’ is an intricate web where the conflict arises from the moral scruple that determines the actions taken by the characters.
So without much ado, let’s plunge into the world of moral dilemmas and predicaments and try to understand the motivations of the various characters in ‘The Journalist.’
Anna Matsuda – A Voice for the Voiceless
Why did Anna Matsuda want to fight against the system? Was it because her brother, Kohei Matsuda, had been a victim of dirty politics, or was there a sense of justice so unshakable that she was ready to put her life at stake? If one adjective could describe Anna Matsuda, then it would be “resilience.” When you want to go against the whole system, then the path is not easy. There are times you doubt yourself, and there are times where you analyze the very fact that it is all worth the effort.
The institutionally orchestrated corruption in the Eshin Academy case was a classic example of a regime using its powers unlawfully for its benefit. You have to understand that scandals like this are not the doing of one or two individuals. It is the doing of the whole collective. There are people who find themselves a part of this collective. Everybody has some vested interests, and everybody has a role to play.
Anna Matsuda, covering the case for Touto News, had become a part of the grind. But this was not it. Her involvement had another facet. Her brother, Kohei Matsuda, was the whistleblower, the first person who tried to bring the corruption of the system to light. A convenient assumption could be made that Anna Matsuda’s motivations were derived from her brother’s tragedy. But I strongly believe that though it might be something that would be in the back of her mind, it was not the only thing. Ryo asked her what drives her and how she could keep moving forward after so much criticism and hate. She replied that her work gives voice to the voiceless and is the biggest driving force that urges her to keep moving forward even when the world goes against her. It’s not an easy thing to do. And if you see, there is no materialistic gain that you incur by doing such things. In fact, you spoil your terms with the big guns of the capitalist setup, the power brokers who actually drive the nation.
These minor mutinies and acts of revolt within a system are of the utmost importance. It might be inconsequential for many if a newspaper publishes an article against the ruling party. Still, it makes a great statement and subconsciously impacts people’s mindsets. It informs citizens that criticism is an essential component of any democracy. One should not mistake loyalty to the government as synonymous with loyalty to one’s country. Also, people like Anna Matsuda reinstate the faith of the people in the fourth pillar of democracy, i.e., the media. In the process, they not only give voice to the downtrodden but also act as a necessary resistance to the autocratic path of unchecked power.
Shinichi Murakami- The Reluctant Rebel
Shinichi Murakami was one such character who had gotten so deep into the scheme of things that retracing his steps back was the hardest thing he had ever done. Shinichi was working as the assistant to the first lady, and before that, he was working in the Ministry of Economics. He had worked with Kohei Matsuda and had seen that phase where Kohei refused to just blindly follow the instructions of the people in power.
Murakami was somebody who was subdued by the system. He was not like Anna Matsuda. He did not have the luxury of voicing his unbiased opinion. He was scared that everything that he had created would be taken away from him. But deep down, he was never that person. Yes, he did become a part of the dirty politics. He was a key participant when it came to the Eshin Academy case or the subsidies that were given to Mr. Toyoda’s company by the government. He was scared for his family and for himself. He was a classic example of a middle-class person who has created a world for himself with a lot of hard work and effort and every day wakes up with the fear of it getting destroyed.
Shinichi Murakami takes the decision to go against the system only when Ryo and Anna Matsuda incite him by reminding him of what he had become. Often, we don’t realize it until somebody shows us the mirror. The system has the power to change a person’s sensibilities and that too, without the person consciously realizing that. Shinichi Murakami was not a bad person. He always knew that what he was doing was not right, but he was meek against a roaring and self-absorbed shadow created by greed for more.
Ryo Kinoshita – An Apolitical Youth
Ryo was somebody who believed that if he closed his eyes, then the world would not see him. Being apolitical in today’s time is a luxury. The youth of today, Gen Z, often think that they do not have to do anything with politics or the decisions that are made on the top level do not affect their lives. It is a misconception that is highly hazardous to any democracy.
The youth not actively participating in the governance gives a free hand to all those in positions of power. A democracy ceases to be one without the active participation of the masses. In Ryo’s case, it was a personal tragedy, when his uncle, Kazuya Suzuki, fell prey to the system, which made him realize that no one is untouched by politics and bureaucracy. Had the tragedy not happened, maybe Ryo would have lived in the bubble where he didn’t give two hoots about anything that was happening in the society? A behavioral change happens. He has not just started paying attention to what’s happening in society but also understands why it is important to speak up against what is wrong. It’s in a situation where you are desperate for help that you understand why it is necessary to go out and help without having a vested interest in the scheme of things or expecting a return from it. Had Anna Matsuda not gone out of her way, the story of her uncle would have gone unheard and unnoticed.
The story made national headlines and held people accountable for their wrongdoings. It was all possible because somebody was not apolitical, somebody didn’t shrug off their responsibilities, and somebody didn’t just sit and hope that the mess would get cleared by itself.
Shinjiro Toyoda- The King Maker
Shinjiro Toyoda was an intriguing man who, even though he did not hold any formal position of power, yielded a great amount of it. He was the mastermind who had a heavy influence over any decision that was made by the cabinet. He knew things about the PM, and the agreement between them was that of a barter. He was granted subsidies for an AI development program that never existed in reality. He was the faceless power broker who governed the country based on his whims and fancies.
Mr. Toyoda believed in performance within politics. For him, it was all about a good show. He played the central character of a social worker who cared for his employees, who cared for his country, and who had given hundreds of people an opportunity to earn their living. Still, off the stage, he was just a ruthless and self-centered businessman who only worked for his benefit. He was the king-maker that nobody knew about. He did not sit on the throne but made the throne work for his benefit. He was a man of intellect, but he forgot that the conscience of some cannot be bought.
In Toyoda’s world, such people are unnecessary barriers that come in the way of growth and development. A person with this much power is unlikely to be afraid of anyone. They know they can pay the cost and get out of it. But they frequently forget that there are some irrational people who determine their wealth not by looking at the numbers in their bank account, but by an intangible virtue that even the richest man cannot afford.
The Journalist, streaming on Netflix, gives us a plethora of intriguing characters who have conflicting ideologies, which becomes the foundation of the narrative and gives us a taste of a familiar bureaucratic system that we are all privy to no matter which nation we belong to.