Why You Should Watch Legal High
I know that Japanese dramas aren’t for everyone. It’s like the Home Shopping Network, or Mexican soap operas, or golf—some people love it, others hate it. Hell, even my Japanese friends refuse to watch Japanese dramas, calling them “the garbage of television.” Sometimes, I don’t blame them. The same old plotline of boy meets girl, hospital politics, or police detective nonsense starts to get old. Most Japanese dramas also tend to lack character depth, a plot, and half-decent acting (sorry, Arashi boys don’t always cut it).
So when Hanzawa Naoki (the banker drama that took Japan by storm) was released, it topped the rating charts. It blew the country away with its close-to-home plot line and message about society.
And… he’s back!?
Meet hotshot lawyer Komikado Kensuke, a renowned attorney gone solo from a famous law firm and famous for never ever losing a case.
From first glance, the drama seems typical. A famous actor playing the main character for publicity and advertisement. A pretty, young lawyer begging to be his apprentice. A legal genius that cannot be defeated.
But after one episode, you know this isn’t your typical Japanese drama.
Here are some reasons you need to watch Legal High—and now.
A Main Character You Love to Hate
After watching Hanzawa Naoki, I was a bit biased toward this actor. Masato Sakai plays a nice-guy banker in Hanzawa Naoki, a rebel fighting for the underdogs in the oppressive world of Japanese work politics. He was a good husband, a good employee, and an outstanding citizen of Japan.
That’s why the first episode of Legal High almost made me feel uncomfortable. Nice guy Hanzawaki has turned into a…
Selfish, greedy, pompous, traitorous, over-confident, douchebag (to put bluntly).
Komikado Kensuke is a jerk, and he takes cases for one purpose and one purpose alone: to make money. If the client is willing to pay enough, he would even clear the name of a crazed serial killer. He’s the living embodiment of why you don’t want to be a lawyer—he’s someone that manipulates the law and truth with wit, words, and charm.
And damn, it’s refreshing.
After watching Legal High, you almost feel bad post episode. Komikado Kensuke just caused an entire company to go bankrupt in order to make his lawyer fees. He made it legal for a chemical plant to start hazardous production in the pristine, green countryside of Japan. At times, I felt guilty for cheering him on in court.
Instead of have an idolized hero to look up to, Japan has given us a main character that has questionable motives at best—and it’s hard to say whom we should be rooting for. Either way, Komikado sensei’s over confidence and zany character keeps us hooked throughout the show.
I mean, come on, look at these expressions. I couldn’t replicate this if I tried.
Hella Hard, but Useful, Japanese Practice
I mean, it’s a court drama, so of course watching this bad boy without subtitles is going to be a challenge for any non-native.
While the court lingo alone makes this drama more advanced than most, Legal High bumps up the difficulty with Komikado sensei.
In court, Komikado sensei rambles on like an auctioneer—but in Japanese. I’ll be honest, there are some speeches where I simply shrugged my shoulders and gave up. Komikado uses difficult Japanese at 180 mph. I couldn’t copy him if I tried.
Try simultaneously interpreting that.
But like I often mention, I am usually hard pressed to find both difficult AND entertaining Japanese media for learning purposes—and when I do, I’m elated.
A Spin on Japanese Ideology
Japan is a land where everything is picture perfect. The cities and villages are spotless. Crime is almost non-existent. People smile and work with one another in perfect harmony, telling each other to “do your best” (ganbatte!). Japan, a county of smiles and manners, strives to become a world leader in peace advocacy and a role model for other nations.
In Legal High 2, Japanese society feels very much like Komikado sensei’s rival law firm Nexus, whose motto is “love and peace” and “happiness for all.” In a sense, these are the good guys—these are the lawyers that represent Japan’s high standing principles and strive to mold the country into something great.
Komikado sensei, on the other hand, just cares about the dollar value. More often than not, I found myself secretly hoping that Komikado and his evil law office would lose the case. To the average viewer, Komikado’s clients are “the bad guys” and Nexus fights for the “good guys.” At the end of most episodes, however, Komikado puts a spin on the whole case that makes you realize that right and wrong don’t matter—really, it’s about how you play the game.
Yet at the end of each case, this court drama has you thinking about the exact thing a court drama should inspire: Justice.
In a society that is all about appearances, expressed either through the ‘hard work’ of overtime or through the intricate and wasteful paper wrapping of Japanese presents, the words of Hanzawa Naoki again—erm, I mean, Komikado—deeply resonate with all citizens of Japan to a degree.
Humans are despicable. We are ugly, treacherous, selfish beings with our own desires and motives Humans are ugly creatures, Komikado says. We don’t want love and peace, nor do we want happiness for all.
Instead of hide our ‘ugliness’—the very desires that make us human—Komikado-sensei tells us to “embrace that ugliness, and learn to love your flaws.”
Stop Watching Your Pretty Boy Dramas
And crank up Legal High.