The Journalist is a Japanese-language Netflix Original Series based on the 2019 film of the same name directed by Michihito Fujii, who also returns to direct and write the series. Both projects drew inspiration from the 2017 novel of the same name written by Isoko Mochizuki. Anna Matsuda (Ryoko Yonekura) is a journalist renowned for her maverick tendencies; she soon learns that a story she was pulled off of has major ramifications. The Japanese government used funds to sell land to a private school at well beyond the market rate and, to avoid scandal have covered it up. However, Matsuda investigates the coverup and becomes determined to get the truth out at any cost.
International content on Netflix tends to be a mixed bag of success. Sometimes, there will be a runaway hit like Squid Game. Other times, you get duds like Christmas Flow. The Journalist lands somewhere in the middle; while its premise is very compelling, it feels as though all of the episodes could have been ten to fifteen minutes shorter. The danger with adapting a film to television is that sometimes the TV series will stretch subplots out to fill time or only flesh out a few characters. The latter is especially true; apart from Matsuda, most of the characters are reduced to stock archetypes; the scheming politician, the dutiful wife, etc.
However, two characters escape that fate. The first, Suzuki (Kazuya Suzuki), sets the plot into motion when he is wracked with guilt over altering the incriminating documents. Though he eventually does as he’s told, he can barely look his wife and children in the face, and his story takes a tragic turn by the end of the second episode. The scenes with Suzuki tend to be some of the most compelling in the show, as the sound around him lowers in pitch, giving off the sense that the world is closing in on him and, by extension, the audience. The other character who ends up playing a significant role in the plot is college student Ryo (Ryusei Yokohama). Ryo, at first, comes off like a typical college student, and he’s more concerned with trying to impress girls and pass his classes than paying attention to the news. However, he turns out to have a surprising connection to the case, which ends up turning the tide in Matsuda’s favor.
This is probably the best element of The Journalist; over time, it’s revealed that characters or elements that couldn’t be more different have a connection that’s slowly revealed over time. This helps keep viewers hooked and provides a bit of rewatch value for those who want to see the pieces come together. This kind of intricate storytelling is rare, but Fujii makes it work; he’s clearly thought about how much to reveal in each episode and how to keep the audience enthralled.
And a large part of what makes this work is Yonekura’s performance as Matsuda. Though the reason for Matsuda’s dogged determination to her job is somewhat predictable, the show actually takes a realistic approach to a reporter’s job. Being a reporter is largely proactive; you can’t sit around and wait for a story to find you; you have to track it down. You have to make those connections. And Matsuda does the work; she continues with the story even when her editor advises her to drop it, and she tracks down various sources. This level of attention to detail helps sell the series’ premise, and it also helps that Yonekura is dedicated to fleshing out Matsuda as a character while the series progresses.
The Journalist is a political thriller that grabs its audience from the very first episode and doesn’t let them go, though it sometimes struggles to adapt to a television format. If you enjoy political thrillers like All The President’s Men, this is definitely worth a watch.
The Journalist is currently available to stream on Netflix.
The Journalist is a political thriller that grabs its audience from the very first episode and doesn’t let them go, though it sometimes struggles to adapt to a television format.
Born and raised in Texas, Collier “CJ” Jennings was introduced to geekdom at an early age by his father, who showed him Ultraman and Star Trek: The Next Generation. On his thirteenth birthday, he received a copy of Giant Size X-Men #1 and dove head first into the realm of pop culture, never looking back. His hobbies include: writing screenplays and essays, watching movies and television, card games/RPG’s, and cooking. He currently resides in Seattle.