Learn Japanese with Legal High

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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.

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And… he’s back!?

Actually, no.

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.

His Face

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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.

13 thoughts on “Learn Japanese with Legal High

  1. yueni says:

    I keep wanting those kinds of interesting dramas for Chinese, but I can’t stand them…

    Also, at his speed, the interpreter would only be able to summarize, alas. x.x

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Yeah I know, keeping up with Japanese is entertaining but watching Chinese dramas is near painful! I watch the TV show Feichengwurao to keep up here in the states, but even that can get old (but it’s the only mildly entertaining show on in China). You have any other recommends?

      • Marta says:

        Well that sounds entertaining, unfortunately I can’t speak a word of Japanese haha.
        Chinese tv is terribly bad. The only thing I like is 屌丝男士 😀

      • yueni says:

        Oh god. My friends have started calling 《非诚勿扰》 《非常无聊》, and I can only agree with them, lol. It’s a good encapsulation of dating life in China, but still… god. x__x I can only take so much.

        I really love 《武林外传》 but there are so many in-jokes and clever Chinese references I don’t really understand a lot of it. I have to ask my Chinese friends to explain it all to me. Another one I liked, at least in the early bits of it was 《蜗居》, just because it was a little more realistic. The last third or so of the show got pretty melodramatic, imo, but it was fine up until then.

        • rubymary says:
          Profile photo of rubymary

          Haha 非常无聊! Yeah I hear you, I can only watch it once a month.. if that.

          I remember 蜗居, I watched that back when I first started learning Chinese. It is realistic and it’s great practice for Chinese!

          I also like 冯小刚 films. The movie 非诚勿扰 was a bit strange but it was definitely better than most other Chinese stuff out there. I love 天下无贼, super depressing but one of the best Chinese films out there!

          IF you find any good Chinese dramas let me know. What do you read for Chinese practice btw?

          • yueni says:

            I’m actually a very atypical Chinese reader, I think. I read a lot of speeches because that’s what I do, and a lot of news magazines 《中国改革》is my favourite. I love reading articles about the economy, Chinese society etc. Also read a lot about Chinese industry. I tend to scan 网易新闻, just the headlines to see what is going on. I naturally read a lot of Chinese technical stuff because of my translation and interpretation work, so it’s really quick for me to understand what is going on, I think. I also read articles by 郎咸平 on the Chinese economy. And there’s an awesome book on Chinese history called 《历史是个什么玩意儿》that I recommend. It’s massive and basically contains the entirety of Chinese history, so it’s super long, but it’s a good way to read and understand Chinese history, I think. I’m not done with it myself. I just read chunks of it at a time, and skip around a bit. Lots of modern in-jokes too and clever word plays, because it’s meant to attract the modern Chinese reader, but I think it is well done and well-written. I believe the author is a Chinese historian.

            Literary Chinese gives me a headache, though I do try. I find Chinese literature to be a pain in the butt. I can’t really take a lot of it, and if I do, it has to be in tiny little chunks. I tend towards more modern authors, or really old works. My favourite author is 朱自清, and him, I still read really slowly. Of his short essays that I’ve read, I loved 荷塘月色 the most. It’s just so elegant and peaceful. I also really liked 《傅雷家书》 by 傅雷, just because it is a series of letters between father and son, and it is less literature and more fatherly advice to a son overseas. 《亲爱的安德烈》 is another one I really liked that is really easy to read, I think because the letters are between a Taiwanese mother and a German-born son. The actual correspondence itself was in English, and the mother (龙应台) translated it to Chinese. That was probably the one book I practically zipped right through. If you were to start anywhere, 《亲爱的安德烈》 is the one I’d highly recommend as a starting point.

            I actually read 《蜗居》 first, before watching the TV drama. Loved the book until the super melodramatic ending. I never finished 韩寒’s 《三重门》, though I wish I had the patience to. It’s really well-written, but there’s also a lot of inside jokes I just didn’t get. I would talk about it with my friends, and they would explain some of what I missed to me, but I know there’s a lot more references I’m not getting. I’ll probably try again at some point.

            I tried reading 春树, but I found her books very… adolescent and annoying, so I couldn’t bring myself to finish reading them. They were fairly easy reads, but I just couldn’t get into the self-absorbed, teenager-y tone. I am trying to force myself to read 莫言… perhaps one day I will pluck up the courage to do so. I tried reading 《红楼梦》, which I know, I know, it’s awesome, pearl of Chinese literature, transformative work, etc. etc. I wanted to shoot all the characters. I spent the whole first few chapters wanting all of them to die, and to be honest, I still get them all mixed up. I just didn’t have the patience for the melodramatic romance and long sighs, and “romantic” longing, and just… god.

            To really know Chinese, you’ve got to read the classics, so once I’m done with the conference I’ve been prepping for recently, I’ll probably pick up 《孙子兵法》 again, and also some of the other 古代文学 stuff like 《三字经》 and 《孔子·论语》. That’s going to be a long term project for me though, because my 古代汉语 is crap, but I’ve found that it really does help me understand Chinese a lot better, and I actually improve my Chinese when I do focus on classical Chinese.

  2. Gerry says:

    “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).”

    This is not true. It’s nothing more than a blank generalization.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      These are generalizations, it’s true, but you have to admit that almost half of Japanese (and Korean) dramas follow a similar plot line.

      But even if they are general stereotypes, some of these dramas tend to stand out. Like the drama “iryu” 医龍… it may seem like a typical hospital drama, but it’s AMAZING! I don’t think it reached the level of variation and quality that Legal High and Hanzawa Naoki did, but it was great.

      I also love Japanese dramas because they make really weird TV shows that don’t follow any kind of genre.. like Kasei no Mita or 家族ゲーム (an extremely messed up show that would never be allowed on American TV).

      Anyway, I was slightly harsh, but I think that even those who don’t like Japanese dramas would enjoy Legal High.

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