Kasai No Hito (Man of Family Court) – Manga Themed on Juvenile Court
As is also the case with many other countries, legal issues related to matrimonial matters such as divorce and trials of juvenile crimes are handled by family courts in Japan. The courts are referred to as “kasai” in abbreviation in Japanese, and the manga “Kasai No Hito,” which we are introducing to you here, features a family court judge as the protagonist.
Naturally, he could foresee his promising career in the legal circle. But he declines a promotion to the Supreme Court, the epitome in the administration of justice, and chooses a post at Harukawa branch of Iwasaki District Court.
Here, committing himself to the task of seeking a true way to help troubled people readapt to society, he sincerely faces those coming to the family court and examines and judges the cases he comes across.
Each episode basically contains a single complete story which depicts the exchanges and dramatic relationships between the protagonist and those coming to the family court and related to the cases he handles.
1. Yoshio Kuwata
Button nosed, somewhat long faced and wearing round glasses, he is not exactly a handsome looking guy and can be categorized into an elite bureaucrat type just by his appearance.
He has a wife and a son but the wife never makes an appearance in the stories.
He is always calm and gives right advice to his colleague officers but shows his more active side at times in conducting such jobs as field investigations and background investigations.
One day he starts to grow plants in the garden of the family court and takes care of all the plants on his own.
While his bosses think he spends too much time with the plants and tend to give him low evaluations, he always ends up winning trust from his colleagues and bosses with his actual performances and achievements.
Despite his seemingly calm and peaceful character, he often acts strictly and severely in dealing with and protesting against wrong words and deeds.
2. Mamoru Kuwata
In one of the later episodes, he becomes the target of bullying and refuses to go to school.
In the episode, Yoshio decides to take a leave from work to spend some time with his son and camp in the woods.
3. Owner of a Haunted Mansion
He appears first in one of the later episodes.
Wearing a white sleeveless shirt and shorts, with a close-cropped hair-cut all the time, he is always examining something with his microscope.
He shares interest in plants with Yoshio Kuwata, which led to a friendship between them. When Yoshio’s son refused to go to school, he also lived near them in the woods.
From his appearance and the way he examines plants, the character may well have been modeled after Kumagusu Minakata, the famous existing naturalist.
One of the episodes tells of his criminal record and his current quasi-incompetent legal status declared based on his extremely wasteful habits, which puts him on the list of people to be monitored by the court.
It was first published on a magazine quite long ago and serialized from 1988 until 1996. It is now available in a total of 15 volumes of books.
The series came to a complete finale as far back as 20 years ago (as of 2016).
But the incidents and troubles featured in this manga such as inheritance disputes, divorce mediation and juvenile crimes are all what we come across very frequently still today.
Especially among them, the manga mainly focuses on juvenile crimes.
He never bursts out laughing or barely acts in any emotional way. What he does is to understand the depth and details of each case he handles and provides people with helpful advice.
In early episodes, he tackles all kinds of troubles and is depicted as a true man of justice almost like a perfect saint.
But later episodes describe him with more of a human touch. The manga for example focuses on a boy who fails to readapt to society and commits another crime despite a sentence Yoshio has declared with all with his confidence, and the way Yoshio throws off his calm personality and criticizes someone he strongly disagrees with.
Also, when his own son suffers from bullying and refuses to go to school, the protagonist, who has brilliantly solved tons of juvenile cases, becomes greatly troubled with the problem about his own son.
With all such episodes, the manga tells us a message that human beings are always something more than what can be gauged by reason and logics.
And the manga questions us; what shall we have to do in order to make criminals atone for their sins and prevent them from repeating mistakes after they are freed from jails.
It also matches the message of the manga which places high value on human connection and trust.
It might be difficult to get this relatively old manga especially if you are outside Japan. But it is definitely worth a read if you ever have a chance.