Alternative titles: Isharyo Bengoshi
Manga adaptation by Nippon Television
Watch on Crunchyroll (US Only)
Aspiring manga artist Kurasawa Kanae has noticed her husband becoming increasingly distant, and soon discovers that he’s cheating on her. Furious, she starts to look into options for a divorce, but quickly realises she doesn’t have the money to pay for an attorney. The stress causes her manga to suffer, and all hope seems lost until a chance meeting with Hakamada Yukio, a divorce lawyer who claims Kurosawa can win millions from her husband, and with no up-front fees.
Euri’s verdict: Justice For All
With Netflix Japan’s new drama not releasing until next year (which will be about Jimmy Onishi, and I’m very excited about that), we’re going to dive into a 2014 series on Crunchyroll in the interim. This particular show also features Tanaka Naoki, one half of the comedy group Cocorico, and one of the five comedians in the Gaki no Tsukai TV show. I’m a huge fan of Gaki, and while that ultimately cemented my decision to watch this show in the first place, I was also very curious to see what Tanaka could do in a role that doesn’t rely on comedy. It’s not the first drama he’s been involved with, but it’s certainly in the small percentage of those with English subtitles.
Tanaka plays Hakamada Yukio, the titular alimony lawyer; a rather quiet and outspoken man that only seems to come out of his shell while he’s working on a divorce case. It’s apparent that he has a reason for specialising as a divorce lawyer, and it’s his low opinion of people that cheat on their married partners that is driving him forward. He’s an interesting character, and certainly a curious one to see performed by a very famous comedian. Tanaka’s portrayal of Hakamada is faultless in the two episodes I’ve seen thus far, though there’s a lot more I’d like to know about him, especially his motivations. Character development has been sparse, but hopefully there’s more to come in later episodes.
While the show does focus on Hakamada, the real protagonist of Alimony Lawyer is Kurasawa Kanae, performed by popular drama actor Yada Akiko. She’s the focus of Hakamada’s case in the opening episode, and remains the main character when she joins the law firm as its newest employee. We learn a lot more about Kurasawa due to observing her divorce process from the get-go, but it’s her fondness of helping out people that are being cheated on that makes her fun to watch. Her exploits working with Hakamada also serve as inspiration for her manga, and while something like that would be incredibly irresponsible and illegal to do in the real world, it’s a good way to gauge how far she’s come since the split with her ex-husband.
There’s also several supporting characters, many of which are also employed by Hakamada’s law firm. The stand-out here is Naomi Watanabe, another famous comedian who, when she’s not being made into plush toys, adds some much-needed comic relief to the show. She plays the role of a private investigator that, at least up to episode two, doesn’t do that much private investigating. She is very enthusiastic though, and while her appearances are short in comparison to the two lead characters, it’s hard not to crack a smile when she shows up.
The small moments of comedy are stark in contrast to the majority of the show due to the subject matter, but I think it’s important for them to be there to break up the heavier moments and prevent the show from becoming a bit of a slog. There are some serious topics in the two episodes I’ve seen and I fully expect them to ramp up in episodes to come, which makes me concerned that Alimony Lawyer may find itself treading a fine line between entertainment and treating delicate scenarios with proper respect.
Hopefully that’s not the case (and I’ll be sticking around to find out), but so far this show firmly has its hooks in me. It can do with some more character development for Hakamada and a few of the side characters, but aside from that it’s a fascinating look at divorce in Japan, and the baggage that accompanies it. Just don’t tell me that this show is exaggerated as I won’t know what to think!