The Journalist: Reporter unveils corruption in this Japanese political thriller

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Ryoko Yonekura as Anna Matsuda, Go Ayano as Shinichi Murakami, and Ryusei Yokohama as Ryo Kinoshita in The Journalist. (Screenshots: Netflix)
Ryoko Yonekura as Anna Matsuda, Go Ayano as Shinichi Murakami, and Ryusei Yokohama as Ryo Kinoshita in The Journalist. (Screenshots: Netflix)

The Journalist is the latest Netflix original Japanese series adapted from the 2019 award-winning film of the same name, which in turn is based on the 2017 book by Isoko Mochizuki.

Ryoko Yonekura from Doctor X and Legal V plays the protagonist Anna Matsuda in The Journalist. Matsuda is known as the “maverick of news media,” a reporter who strives to expose issues in modern Japanese society, particularly those related to the political scene.

All six episodes of the series are now available for streaming on Netflix. After finishing the drama, here’s our take on how The Journalist is thought-provoking and meaningful:

1. It is weaved together through the different stories of the three main characters.

Rather than exploring multiple political crimes and scandals, The Journalist focuses on just one major issue that is formed by pieces of crucial information from three characters. Matsuda takes on a more pro-active role in researching the facts behind a suspected fraud in the government.

The other two-thirds are filled by Go Ayano as Shinichi Murakami, and Ryusei Yokohama as Ryo Kinoshita.

Murakami works as one of the First Lady’s attendants, who gets entangled in the political scandal for negotiating a deal with the Ministry of Finance.

Kinoshita is a soon-to-be university graduate, whose government official uncle is unwillingly part of the fraud.

Although their individual stories start off at different points in the drama, they eventually merge into one to complete the picture. All three sides are necessary to deliver justice and uncover the truth that keeps getting buried.

2. It employs a dark tone throughout, which turns warmer at the end.

Most of the scenes in The Journalist have been given a bluish dark tone that reminds you of a horror film.

Especially when it comes to the scenes related to the government, the seemingly lack of lighting exudes an air of callousness that speaks volumes.

However, this play in tone may have gone overboard at times, making some of the scenes look absurd with the low lighting.

The dark tone also presents the doom and gloom surrounding the expectations of Japan’s future, be it about the government or the pandemic (more on this later).

As the story comes to an end, the tone switches to a slightly warmer orange, that seems to signify a ray of hope. The Journalist may be an intense drama, but it does not forget to remind its audience that the sun will shine after the storm.

In The Journalist, political issues are tackled: how people are pressured by the authorities, either into doing something against their will, or against doing something that does not serve the government’s interests.

3. It is set in a period at the beginning of COVID-19, and shows the pandemic’s lesser known impacts.

To make the drama more relatable, it is set in a period that we are all so familiar with — the era of COVID-19.

Although the pandemic is on the back burner, it is still significant in creating the depressive feeling in the drama.

It also forms part of the theme on giving “a voice to the voiceless” by featuring the story of a fresh graduate, who loses a promised job position due to COVID-19. In some sense, the character represents the group of people who fall through the cracks in the pandemic mitigation measures.

4. It reflects the issue of how people are oppressed and being silenced by the higher-ups.

One of the charms of Japanese dramas is how they throw light on important issues that deserve attention.

In The Journalist, political issues are tackled: how people are pressured by the authorities, either into doing something against their will, or against doing something that does not serve the government’s interests.

Even though the incidents in the drama are fictitious, they're not inconceivable in our current society. In fact, we have already seen cases of how some governments influenced the media, or even engaged in media censorship.

The Journalist also reveals a spine-chilling side to how the facts can be twisted by the higher-ups, who definitely have the power to do so, to place the blame on a scapegoat.

Directed by Michihito Fujii, who also directed the 2019 film of the same name, The Journalist may be a little dry at times, but it still serves as a good reflection on issues related to politics and the media.

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