We here at JPFmovies had to follow “Scum” lawyers with another Japanese 10-episode series: Hanzawa Naoki where one of Japan’s most popular actors Masato Sakai, tells the tale of a salary man at a bank who tells “the man” where he stick it. This show was the most-watched series in Japan with a 42.2 share of the audience, now that’s a lot of viewers. Let’s both discuss the show as well as ponder why it was so popular.
There are really 2 story arcs. First is the Osaka arc, where Hanzawa becomes Chief of Loans Division at the Osaka Nishi branch. He is forced by his branch manager to make a bad 500 million yen loan based on “window dressing” (i.e. false financial statements) to a steel company. Shortly after making the loan, the steel company goes bankrupt and its president Mitsuru Higashida along with the 500 million yen disappears. Of course, the branch manager shifts the blame to Hanzawa and orders him to recover the loan amount. Little do we know that the branch manager and the president of the steel company are in it together. Hanzawa finds out that the two are old classmates and begins investigating from there. Fighting his own bank and the Japanese Bureau of Taxation, Hanzawa does recover the money and threatens to expose those involved through the media. However, out of pity, Hanzawa instead leverages this knowledge into promotions for him and his buddies to the Bank’s headquarters in Tokyo.
Tokyo story arc. Hanzawa is in charge of investigating a hotel that borrowed 20 billion yen from his Tokyo Chuo Bank. Previously, the hotel suffered a loss of 12 billion yen and, with a Financial Services Agency audit coming up, the bank has exposure of about 150 billion yen should the hotel be labelled bankrupt. Hanzawa discovers that Director Ohwada was working behind the scenes to provide the loan to the hotel despite substantial evidence showing that the hotel could not pay it back. A friend of Hanzawa’s, who works at Tamiya Electric, discovers that Ohwada was also behind an indirect loan to Laffite, a fashion company owned by Ohwada’s wife. Hanzawa puts this evidence against Ohwada in front of a board of directors meeting leading to the “demise” of Director Ohwada. Seeking personal revenge for his father’s death, Hanzawa forced Ohwada to kneel down before him and apologize for his actions in front of all the board members despite his supervisor and the Chairman’s disapproval. During the final scene, Chairman Nakanowatari is seen giving Ohwada a small demotion to board member while Hanzawa is “exiled” from the bank to Tokyo Central Securities. Even though Hanzawa “won” the battles for his bank, he really lost by being put out to pasture.
While this is exciting stuff, why did this series get almost half of Japan’s entire television watching audience? We here at JPFmovies had to do some digging and some thinking to come up with a plausible explanation. Our theory is that Hanzawa literally doesn’t bow to authority, instead he stands his ground and even pushes back. Apparently, the corporate culture in Japan is about 180 degrees from what we here in west experience. The reason you don’t see westerners in Japanese companies isn’t because Japanese companies are racist: It’s because Japanese companies are crazy. In addition to crazy overtime and devoting your entire existence to the company, you have to put up with jerks like Hanzawa’s bosses.
Japanese companies are very traditional and work on a hierarchy system. Rank is not based on merit, but on seniority. That’s why Japanese people tend to work at one company their entire life and most Japanese CEOs are over 60–you’re just not going to move up unless you stay there forever. So, when Hanzawa tells his bosses where they can stick it (i.e. he is breaking the rules) every Japanese salaryman is jonesing to do the same thing—and there are a lot of Japanese salarymen. Imagine each one cheering for our protagonist Hanzawa at every turn when he gets things done and shoves it in the face of his superiors.
As we noted earlier this series was arguably the highest rated series in Japanese history—and after looking watching the episodes again through the eye of a Japanese salary man, it is easy to see why. Hanzawa does what probably every Japanese salary man wants to do (and has probably wanted to do for years) but the interesting twist at the end is when our hero both saves the bank and roots out corruption is exiled like any other failure, which, rumor has it leaves the door open for another 10-episode series. If you are at all interested in Japanese business culture, a great story, and want to see somebody stand up to authority by getting the job done not curing what the consequences are, the show was tailor-made for you. Or, if you simply want to watch a good Japanese drama the show was also tailor-made for you. In either event, if you get a chance to watch it we recommended highly.