Casting Judgement on Pierre Taki

Yakuza is a long-running franchise, legendary in Japan, and recently rediscovered, here, in the West. While Kiryu’s adventure’s have come to an end, the series and team behind it are not close to being finished. A new Yakuza game is in the works, and Judgement, called Judge Eyes in Japan, is coming to America on June 25th.

I, myself, picked up a copy, and decided to test my Japanese ability, and learn some new vocabulary along the way. It’s an excellent action adventure game, packed in with a ton of content. While it differs slightly from Yakuza, as you aren’t playing as a criminal this time around, veterans of Yakuza will feel right at home. As will Ace Attorney fans, as much of the main story and gameplay revolves around talking to people to gather evidence, and having to remember conveniently highlighted key phrases, to use against your opponents in the courtroom. Full disclosure, I haven’t beaten it, but I am confident that it’s a game that most people can enjoy.

However, the version we get in the West will be significantly different than the original release of Judge Eyes in Japan, with one of the game’s antagonists, Kyouhei Hamura, originally played by actor Pierre Taki, will now be played by an yet unannounced voice actor, with an original 3D model not based off of any real life celebrity, as of the writing of the article. On March 12th, 2019, Taki was arrested on suspicion of cocaine use, which carries a sentence of up to 7 years in Japan. While he has not gone to court as of yet, Taki’s career has been essentially ended, before the verdict has even been passed. In America, where drugs, such as cocaine, are still illegal, it is implicitly understood that the wealthy, especially those in Hollywood, tend to have a habit for designer drugs, such as cocaine. Occasionally, an actor or CEO may be busted for drug use, and then usually pays their way through the legal system, perhaps being made to pay a fine and do community service, but essentially getting off scot-free. Most people who watch the news see these stories and pay them no mind. In Japan, however, drug laws and the use of illicit drugs are taken VERY seriously. There seems to be no difference in the classification of illicit drugs in Japan, whether it be cannabis, cocaine, or methamphetamines, all carrying a similar felony charge. Not only are they very illegal, even to those belonging to high society, charges of drug use are seen as a huge mark of shame to any member of society. When Taki was charged, Sega immediately halted digital sales, and called for a recall of physical copies of Judge Eyes, with plans to rerelease the game after his likeness is taken out of the game and replaced. Sony Music also annulled their contract with his music group, Denki Groove, and Square-Enix and Disney removed his role as the voice of Olaf from Kingdom Hearts III and Frozen 2.

This cultural difference between the conception of illicit drug use is interesting, because ironically, the United States helped write the drug laws of Japan, after WWII. While opium, and opioid drugs had been illegal since the Meiji Restoration of the 19th Century, stimulants and cannabis were not outlawed until the US Occupation. These laws were mostly written in the 1950s, with some additions and revisions in compliance to United Nations code in the late 80s. These laws created a black market for illicit drug use, and the Japanese organized crime syndicates, the Yakuza, became the importer, producer, and distributor, for this market. Thus, Japanese society has an association between drug use, and organized crime, furthering their perception of anyone who uses drugs to be a non-member of society.

While I do not support the use of illicit drugs, as an American, I can see that our perception of drugs, and drug users, is much different. Cannabis has been widely legalized in a few states, and will likely become entirely legalized in the future, if current trends persist. While the common person doing drugs like cocaine or meth is looked down upon, it’s very common for us to turn a blind eye to actors, musicians, or business professionals using stimulants, or abusing prescription drugs. Japanese society is much more punitive than ours, as we often have a live-and-let-live mentality to other people that we aren’t connected to personally.

I cannot say what the fate of Pierre Taki will be, but I highly doubt that he’ll be returning to any of his old roles, and finding work will certainly be much harder in the future. It is ironic that his role in Judge Eyes featured him defending himself against the protagonist in the court of law, as now he’ll have to experience that for real. Japan’s legal system also boasts a conviction rate of over 90%, not just for drug-related crimes, but any crime. If you find yourself defending yourself in Japan’s court of law, like Pierre Taki, you’d better hope you’ve got a lawyer that rivals Takayuki Yagami, the protagonist of Judge Eyes.

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