‘Ichikei’s Crow’ Hits Screens with New Twists

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yutaka Takenouchi, left, and Haru Kuroki

Michio Iruma, the unorthodox criminal court judge, has returned in “Ichikei no Karasu” (“Ichikei’s Crow”), a movie sequel to the Fuji Television drama series based on Rito Asami’s manga of the same title.

The drama series aired from April to June in 2021, and the movie is currently in theaters.

The protagonist Iruma, played by Yutaka Takenouchi, often declares in court that he, as a judge, will exercise his authority under the Criminal Procedure Code. To ensure that truth prevails, he goes the extra mile, including inspecting crime scenes himself.

The word “Ichikei” in the title comes from the abbreviated name for the 1st Criminal Division, which is part of the Tokyo District Court’s 3rd Branch and where Iruma served as a judge in the series. He worked with accomplished judge Chizuru Sakama, played by Haru Kuroki, and others to uncover the truth and make sure justice is served. However, in the final episode of the series, he is transferred to the Kumamoto District Court.

Sakama, right, stares down the legal counsel for major company Shikihama in front of Iruma, center, who is presiding over the trial.

The movie picks up the story two years after the final episode of the series. Iruma is now serving as a judge at the Okayama District Court, where he is presiding over an assault case in which a housewife stabbed the defense minister. The incident appears to be related to a collision between an Aegis warship and a cargo ship in nearby waters. However, the trial runs into problems as the warship’s navigation history is a national secret.

Meanwhile, Sakama, who is working as a lawyer in a nearby town, becomes friendly with human rights lawyer Shingo Tsukimoto. As she continues with her work, an allegation against a major local company comes to light.

New characters, situations

Takenouchi and Kuroki shared their thoughts about the sequel and the appeal of the film.

Fans of the show were moved by how Iruma and the other Ichikei judges addressed their cases. The relationship between Iruma and Sakama was also well-received.

The film, which was released on Jan. 13, came out about 1½ years after the series ended.

“I’m grateful to everyone who supported [our show],” Takenouchi said.

Takenouchi added that people would sometimes come up to him and ask if a sequel was in the works.

“I thought, ‘Wow, everyone seems to like Sakama and Michio,’” Kuroki said.

The story for the movie is set on a larger scale compared to the series and includes new characters. However, Takenouchi said that both of their characters are still as resolute as ever, even after they were transferred to smaller cities.

Takenouchi asked Kuroki, “Was it difficult for you to express [Sakama’s] emotional range?”

He asked her this question because, in the film, Sakama has to face new situations as a lawyer in a neighboring town. In particular, her relationships with lawyer Tsukimoto and Etsuko Kobayakawa, who works as an industrial physician for major local company Shikihama, prove to be very important to the plot.

Kuroki, a seasoned actress, contemplated the question and said: “Through her interactions with others, Sakama has to think about what justice means to her, and she grows increasingly troubled by it. In the movie, she feels unsure about her position in society and finds the career change difficult. She also starts to develop romantic feelings for Tsukimoto, who is very different from Michio. Sakama grows a lot [in this movie].”

Constantly sweating

“When we first started shooting, I would only sweat a little, but soon it got so hot that I would sweat while just standing still,” Takenouchi said.

Getting shots of the scenery that director Akira Tanaka wanted, such as the sea and a fishing port, required the actors to travel long hours and deal with the sweltering heat.

A scene in which Ichikei members play sandlot baseball

Takenouchi and Kuroki discussed other behind-the-scenes stories, including one while filming a sandlot baseball scene. The series often showed the Ichikei members playing sandlot baseball, and in the movie, Iruma and Sakama are seen playing the game for the first time in a long time. One scene shows Iruma yelling, “Sakama Chizuru, you’re out!”

Takenouchi said that line was completely improvised.

“The director just kept rolling, so I was thinking about what to do, and Ms. Kuroki’s stubborn reaction was so cute, so I yelled it out without thinking,” Takenouchi said.

The climactic scene in the movie takes place in a courtroom and is 19 pages long in the script. They had three days to shoot the scene, so the director had planned to shoot only half of it on the first day because Iruma’s lines were particularly long.

However, Takenouchi’s performance was perfect on Day One, allowing the director to shoot other actors, who teared up while listening to Iruma’s words as well.