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The Hollywood Insider The Journalist Review

Photo: ‘The Journalist’

Watching a foreign film can be exciting and daunting all at once – the possibilities of a whole other world, whole other experience one swipe away. The right foreign film will make you dream of living in that country, interacting with the people or embracing the unique environment of a place that is so different than what you call home. Even so, watching ‘The Journalist’ it is easy to find all the parallels between Japan and the United States, namely in the role our government entities possess. 

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The Japanese drama focuses on the government’s siphoning of public money and the lives of those trying to stop the embezzlement. A chunk of land around a school campus had been sold off for cheap to the prime minister and his wife, a sketchy sale that is tied to another politician’s role in a startup with a strange amount of unsubsidized money from the government. 

Directed by Michihito Fuji, prominent cast and crew include our protagonist, played by Ryoko Yonekura and an amazing supporting crew made up of  Ren Hanami, Keisuke Hoashi, Johanna Yukiko and Go Ayano. 

Anna Matsuda Is The Cunning Protagonist We Need

Our hero, Anna Matsuda, is the first to discover the complexities of these scandals. Her fierce and quippy broadsheet reporter persona makes her not just perfect for this case but also famous for berating government spokesmen during press conferences, meetings, and news sessions. Ryoko Yonekura plays her beautifully, capturing the innocent curiosity and yet unyielding determination that Matsuda has when faced with the conflict of what to do with this illegal information and activity. 

Sometimes Matsuda’s interrogations and style of journalism are jaded and a tad showy, big words and editorialized tirades that are more for theatrics than anything else. In means that the audience is pleased and characters have interesting dialogue but it doesn’t forward the plot in any way. Her character still shines through, even others on the screen idolize her with one young fan of her detective work saying, “She’s incredible!” after seeing an internet clip of Matsuda at a cafe. 

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Is ‘The Journalist’ Fantasy or Reality? 

In some ways the premise of ‘The Journalist’ is fantastical, feeding on our fear of fake news, a fake political culture. In fact, it shows what the world would be like if every report told the honest truth, if opinion did not cloud fact and it serves as a great commentary of our world and lack of such integrity. 

Episode one features immature opinions on newspaper journalism, advocating that news is always true and honest, especially newspaper journalism, when in reality all information is being tainted in our corrupt society. Later we see this motif in the government’s ill will towards their citizens and the junior civil servants being forced to expose incriminating documents, edit out the illegal information and then save and publish it. The news and media are far from being untainted. 

The political aspect of the show is mostly basic, with the typical juxtaposition of capitalism and socialism. They argue that the former is the reason for the miserable existence of many of the characters, but it’s more of a peripheral motif. It would have been worth exploring in greater depth because it rings true even in our present-day society and lives. 

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There is also the idea that capitalistic endeavors are not meant to be selfish corporations that only take, media organizations are trying to fight against the death grip corrupt government ordinances have on them. There is also a call to the role of police – with ‘The Journalist’ showing examples of their ineptitude in following through with important investigations and instead chasing money and clout. Apparently, this is something that rings true not just for American politics but for Japanese too. 

‘The Journalist’ Packs An Unexpected Emotional Punch

It is easily expected for a show like ‘The Journalist’ to just be another series on power dynamics and the will of the government, but the tragic happenings of episode two prove that this show is much more than that. There is an open-hearted nature and susceptibility to loss and pain that is unique to ‘The Journalist.’ 

We see good, ordinary people being overwhelmed and overtaken by the injustice dished out by the world and government, something so potently relatable and raw that it need not matter what country or government you belong to. The show goes on to show that the loss of money is also not the biggest issue, what is more important to explore is the moral implications of the actions of the characters – can they truly live with themselves and live in the grey area their immoral actions created? 

Rich Characters With Real-World Dilemmas 

Most beautifully, we see a show that is about characters who break down this humanity and try to understand it. Some come to terms with the blurred lines their life has taken and others crack under the pressure – both very true and real things that happen in our day-to-day. 

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Matsuda especially keeps this inner controversy burning, as she loses her professional face and cover, overwhelmed by the dark work she is doing. She breaks down and as the series progresses constantly repeats the term, “I am truly sorry.” This serves as a reflection of her inner dialogue, the shame and sadness that can overcome a person when they experience the world’s unforgiving hand for the first time. 

The psychological aspect of the show is also explored masterfully. We see the idea of “wish fulfilment” the question of whether the people who have committed such heinous crimes, been a part of such immoral actions can really sleep at night, can really come to terms with who they are. It’s the perfect show to explore this question and see the different answers to it. Some of the characters are able to understand themselves apart from their corruption and others are completely lost in the fire. 

The production team imbues this psychological vein very carefully and effectively, with simple stories that pack an emotional punch and force you to think in ways you never expected. Shinobu Terajima shows the power of such a theme, with a strong, heartbreaking performance about determination and friendship, two of the purest emotions, amidst politics and lying, two of the most impure parts of life. 

‘The Journalist’ is dramatic and emotional in all the right ways. Whether it ends with an “I love you” or an “I’m sorry” or an “I had to do this, I have no choice,” we love to see the different perspectives of the characters and Matsuda’s analyses of them all. There is also a commentary on Japan and its dishonesty towards its citizens, the betrayal they have felt at the hands of their government. It reminds of America and its betrayal to its people, but more than that it encourages you to have a voice. Maybe ‘The Journalist’ is a naive take on this all but it is not wrong to push you to speak up, rely on courage and truth to act as your compass.

By Mireille Karadanaian

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “The Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard.

Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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