When Japanese law goes pop

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Book Chapter

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Wolff, L., (2015). When Japanese law goes pop. In L. Wolff, L. Nottage, & K. Anderson (Eds.), Who rules Japan? Popular participation in the Japanese legal process (pp. 185-206). Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar Publishing.

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2015 HERDC submission

© Copyright, The Editors and Contributors Severally, 2015




Japanese law is going ‘pop’. Since the turn of the century, Japanese popular culture, especially prime-time television, has dedicated more time to legal themes, characters and settings. Lawyers, overwhelmingly women, are the heroes in both dramatic and comedic television series (Nakamura, 2007). Courtroom battles are the scene for plot developments (Ishikawa, 2004). Practicing lawyers are the new celebrities, joining actors and singers on the lights entertainment talk show circuit. To be sure, law is not a new thematic preoccupation on Japanese network television. Nor is it one that has become so dominant that it overshadows more traditional genres such as workplace romantic comedies, coming-of-age dramas or family soap operas (eg, Dissanayake, 2012, p. 194). But, its growing presence on the silver screen in twenty-first-century Japan is a trend that merits analysis. The purpose of this chapter is to explore that socio-legal significance. This presents theoretical and empirical challenges. Theoretically, is there explanatory potential in the link between law and popular culture in Japan? Empirically, does the greater embrace of law-related characters, plots and scenes in prime-time television series since 2001 provide compelling evidence of changing popular attitudes to law and legal process among Japanese viewers?

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