"Until justice is blind to color until education is unaware of race, and until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins (statues), emancipation will be a proclamation, but not a fact" ~ Lyndon B. Johnson.
I typically do not do Jdrama reviews, despite watching a few brilliantly done dramas, such as Coffee & Vanilla, Koi Suru Hong Kong, Nemureru Mori no Jukujo, Second Virgin, Soredemo, Ikite Yuku, among others, with Second Virgin and Ichiekei, no Karasu being my favorite to date. There is something exact about Japanese dramas. Nothing is rushed, yet at the same time, nothing is taken lightly either. Ichikei no Karasu is the closest drama I've seen, perfecting the essence of an excellent TV drama. At least the dramas I've watched so far have had a strong enough sense of character, drama, and story to sustain my engagement. Appealing characters are at the heart of all authentic dramas, no matter how mainstream or unusual the idea of the drama may be. The characters need to be believable, even if they are in an incredible situation. I've found that well represented the Japanese dramas I've watched.
All of that said brings me to Ichikei no Karasu. Its main character, Iruma Michios (Takenouchi Yutaka), a lawyer disheartened by the law, turns criminal judge to prevent future miscarriages of justice that happened to his client. So in that sense, he becomes a devil-may-care, unorthodox criminal judge who exercises his authority to inspect crime scenes when in doubt of the evidence to ensure the law is applied justly and fairly to all. Not everyone that works with Iruma Michios approves of his methods, but they respect him nonetheless for his no-nonsense attitude. Other than a newly appointed junior judge, Sakama Chizuru (Kuroki Haru), a graduate of Tokyo University’s Faculty of Law, is an elite among elites. She has been transferred to the first criminal court to reform it due to its case backlog. As someone who takes great pride in maintaining public order by handling cases accurately and promptly, Chizuru cannot understand nor approve of Iruma’s style, which frustrates her to no end. However, as she gets to work with him more and more, she questions her own style and wonders if she has been applying it to the fullest letter of the law.
As unconventional as Iruma's methods may appear to those around him, it's what reveres him to those around him, and it makes me wish the world were full of Iruma Michios. I started this drama as it came to its end, and I loved how simple yet deep it is in how it presented each criminal case and the stories behind them, including the dialogues and the execution. For example, when Iruma Michio told Nagaoka Makoto, it was up to him to decide how he accepts the truth about his father and his death in episode one. It was probably one of the most explosive episodes along with episode six. The only thing I could think was how powerful that sentence was -- brilliant drama, and that was only at the first episode. At the time, I could only imagine how much better the drama would get, and it did. It not only tackled the law and the injustices it commits, but also touches on how the elite view the law and the twisted perceptions they impose on it to benefit themselves.
As I continued to watch this drama, I was reminded of Frederick Douglass' quote when he said, "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." Ichikei no Karasu is one uniquely done courtroom/law drama presenting the heart of the law while applying the rule of law with a gifted cast in the marvelous Takenouchi Yutaka as the very humanistic judge Iruma Michio aiming to render the "correct" judgment, not simply the politically acceptable one. The talented Kuroki Haru, as Sakama Chizuru considered efficient, quickly learns that fairness beats efficiency time and time again. I also like that the drama has some cases that touched the team personally, be it Veteran Judge Komazawa Yoshio (Kohinata Fumiyo), Law Clerk Ishikura Bunta (Mackenyu), and Iruma Michios himself.
I admired that the drama takes the time to come full circle to the one case that deeply shook him as a lawyer when an innocent client he represented was wrongly convicted. Having not been afforded due process by the court, he commits suicide. Not many are ever given a second chance to prove themselves, but this time as a judge. I loved the matter of fact way, Iruma went about his business as a judge, not letting past prejudices affect him despite the pain of it all, but even more that he was able to expose a well-known truth of coverups by higher-ups in the justice system, including the well-respected and revered Judge Hidaka Aki (Kusakari Tamiyo), now a supreme court judge and mentor to Sakama Chizuru. She also was the presiding criminal judge on the case 12 years ago. And despite having maintained through the years that the higher-ups never influenced her ruling in the case, her confession when called upon as a witness on the re-opened case was the affirmation to Iruma that he was right to believe in his client's innocence, despite the guilt of not being able to save him. His closing words to Judge Hidaka touched me beyond anything.
I am a sucker for a drama with a message, and Ichikei no Karasu's was clear that true freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the denial of rights to others does not secure the rights of some. And that judges should not only interpret the letter of the law, but also understand it and apply it fairly and justly. Undoubtedly, the drama and Iruma Michios wouldn't have been as accomplished without the support of its wondrous cast in Judge Komazawa Yoshio, who makes it possible for Iruma and the rest of his team to be who they are - true to themselves and the judgments they consciously render; Nakamura Baijaku as Chief Secretary Kawazoe Hiroshi, and law clerks aIshikura Bunta, Sakurai Yuki (Sakurai Yuki), and prosecutors Ide Iori (Yamazaki Ikusaburo) and Ichinose Itoko (Mizutani Kaho), and Ichinose Itoko (Mizutani Kaho), and Ichinose Itoko (Masu Takeshi). A Highly recommended watch. Watch all episodes here.