I started watching this drama because I’m a fan of Ikuta Toma, he’s not one of my major J idol loves but I enjoyed him so much in Hana Kimi that I thought I would check out some of his other dramas. Also the fact that this drama was called the Witch Trial drew me in as I love my supernatural television. What I found was a different drama to what I had expected. Think Runaway Jury but Japanese. This drama focuses on a new system for judging criminals that was introduced this year in Japan. This is the first drama to tackle the issue of Japan’s new “Saiban-in” (lay judge) system. The series started about a month before the actual jury system went into effect. In trial you have the three main judges that preside over the trial in court but to help them make the final choice of “guilty” or “not guilty” 6 lay judges and 2 reserves are brought in to help make the final decision. The lay judges sit in the court much like our jury system and based on the evidence in the trial must cast a vote, the votes are counted up and the winning number of votes by lay judges and main judges will decide the final verdict. The lay judges like our jury are people picked at random from our society and must vote based on what they have heard in court not their personal opinions or opinions clouded by what the public and media are saying.
This Drama is about a certain high profile case about a women who has killed her husband, because she was younger than him most seem to think it’s a simple case of trying to get the inheritance but the pieces are not fitting together well and because of her demeanour and strange events surrounding the case she has been dubbed “The Witch” and thus this case is known as The Witch Trial. Here enters our lay judges one of which is played by Ikuta Toma, Touru. He doesn’t really care about social issues see’s this as a bit of fun maybe some publicity for him and his t-shirt range “think twice” (by the end of the series you’ll also want one of his Think Twice T-shirts).
But this soon all changes as it becomes apparent there is more to the trial and things are going on in the background. The truth of the matter is someone is trying to fix the trial and that each of the lay judges in turn is getting threatened to make sure their vote is the same as the mysterious Kurokawa’s. Kurokawa is using every underhanded tactic to bully, threaten and manipulate the lay judges to do what he says and vote what he says they should vote (Kurokawa also happens to look really cool and has a lot of style one of those bad guys you just love). Our hero of the piece Touru discovers this and tries his best to help his fellow judges stand up to the black mail and get an honest vote. All is not helped by the fact that the Witch herself may be also manipulating things; she is very good with words and reading people and is playing a more psychological battle.
This series is one that has as many twists and turns as a roller coaster really. Characters change their votes and alliances each episode you never know who is working for who and right to the end you are not sure of the final outcome. I was so certain at one point but by the end there was only one character who could tell me if she was guilty or not. I do enjoy a good thriller after expecting a supernatural drama I was a little disappointed but soon got caught up in the drama of this cat and mouse who did it story. The characters all have their failings, which is why they can be manipulated, but they also have reasons to be praised. You never really know who has the upper hand and who is really in control you have to watch to find out the truth. The characters get so twisted you don’t have time to feel relief for them because someone behind the scene is ready for the next game and when things look up they soon crash down. I enjoyed this series because it was different to many things I’ve seen before as well as being relevant to contemporary social issues in Japan such as their changed court procedure. It’s interesting to see how characters crack under their own pressure, how easily manipulated people can be and how people can hold on to what they truly believe. It’s an interesting journey to see how people react and what people find most important. I loved the fact that through this drama you ask whether the name comes from the fact the woman on trial is manipulating people, are they under her so called spell or is it called a witch trial because she is being used as a scapegoat, if she gets burned it means someone else gets away with murder. After all the true meaning behind the Salem witch trials was to sacrifice women thought of as witches to keep everyone thinking they were safe and cared for, the authorities had to look like they were doing their job and tackling the issues. So its up to you really to see what you think of the trial and who is in control.