Judge (Yami no Shihosha: Judge [Magistrate of Darkness: Judge]), directed by Hiroshi Negishi. 50 minutes. June 15, 1991.
Judge was another under-an-hour OAV, but better directed than most. It was based on a manga by Fujihiko Hosoko in Weekly Manga Action, and was produced by J. C. Staff. The plot depended on knowledge of the Japanese beliefs of Hell or the Underworld, where supernatural beings observe and make notes of all the sins of mankind.
The OAV begins with the fluttering pages of a book and the murder of a man in a South American jungle, over the credits and title. The story begins after the title in a big Japanese corporate office. The office omega, Hoichiro Ohma or Ōma, is being chewed out by his superior. Ōma’s girlfriend Nanase, a secretary, wishes he wasn’t such a wimp, but it’s obvious that Ōma doesn’t mind at all his low position. The office’s rising star is Ryuichi Murakami, who is believed to be a close friend of a Director and due for a promotion. Murakami is secretly in an affair with Keiko Yamamoto in Accounting, and he gets her to cover up his embezzlement of company money “for them”.
In Ōma’s apartment, he and Nanase have sex. Ōma’s parrot watches and repeats her passionate screams later, to her embarrassment and Ōma’s amusement.
Murakami meets the (weirdly drawn) executive in a bar. He’s told that some girl in Accounting has leaked their involvement in South American loans and the detectives will raid them tomorrow. Murakami says not to worry; the books have been fixed.
When the police raid the offices and find the embezzlement, it’s blamed on Yamamoto who is missing. Later, Yamamoto phones Ōma at his apartment and asks him to deliver a message to Murakami. Murakami denies they were ever involved and threatens Ōma. He boasts that he will be Ōma’s boss when he returns from America. Yamamoto’s body is found; supposedly a suicide but it’s implied that Murakami has had her murdered.
This is enough for Ōma. He dresses up as a Judge from Hell with his weird parrot, and his crows attack Murakami’s car on a lonely highway. “The Laws of Darkness, 42nd entry. The penalty for perjury is a 4-inch nail [through the tongue]. … There is much evil in this world that escapes mortal law. For centuries, my line has sat in judgment over that evil. Mankind has named us the Judges of Darkness.” The book holds the Laws of Darkness and is composed entirely of human skin, and permits contact with the dead. Murakami is also found guilty of embezzlement, and sentenced to suffocation in an American flag.
In Ōma’s apartment, he and Nanase discuss how Murakami has vanished. Ōma gets a phone call that Mr. Yamanobe, a Director who went to South America on business, has been murdered by guerillas. At Yamanobe’s funeral, Ōma sees that his wife and son are grief-stricken. Koji Kawamata, the weird-looking man who is also a Director, professes to have been his best friend. Ōma uses the book to observe Yamanobe’s murder by a guerilla. He thinks that Kawamata was behind it.
Kawamata is eating in a restaurant. He is accosted by a man in a purple suit who says that he will help him – whether Kawamata wants it or not. He leaves Kawamata with a card/talisman that says “Metaphysical Attorney”.
Kawamata enters an elevator at the company offices. Ōma attacks him with a rotting corpse (that looks nothing like Yamanobe). The talisman saves Kawamata, but he goes to the man in a purple suit in a church. The latter claims to be a supernatural defense attorney who will represent Kawamata for $500,000. He asks if Yamanobe had any grievances against Kawamata. Kawamata insists he had none; Yamanobe was his best friend.
The defense attorney takes Kawamata up onto a “sacred mountain” during a freezing winter; Ōma follows them. The defense attorney warns Kawamata not to leave their tent for anything. Ōma as the Judge attacks the tent and has his parrot attack it. The defense attorney challenges Ōma directly; he says that everyone has the right to a defense, and that only the Court of Ten Kings, the ten gods of Hell, can determine true guilt. The defense attorney has gloves made of skin that are as powerful as Ōma’s book. Ōma, defeated, calls upon Nanase for her strength.
In Kawamata’s office, the defense attorney says he can’t prevent Kawamata from being summoned before the Court of Ten Kings, but he’ll get him off. Nanase enters, and Ōma is channeling through her. Kawamata is attacked by the Hag of the Styx, but the defense attorney says that she has no authority over Kawamata because he isn’t dead. Kawamata and the defense attorney are transported before the Ten Kings. Ōma as the Judge of Darkness is the prosecutor. He summons the ghost of Yamanobe who says that Kawamata was the company representative in South America before him, and Yamanobe believes he was paying the guerillas, but he doesn’t think that Kawamata would have had him killed since they were best friends. The defense attorney argues that the evidence against his client is only circumstantial and that Kawamata should be freed. But Kawamata backs up against the Mirror of Enma which shows the truth in a man’s heart, and Kawamata’s reflection admits to him having Yamanobe killed by the guerillas out of jealousy. Kawamata’s reflection strangles him. The defense attorney says it’s too bad, because he was about to get him off. In the real world, Nanase discovers Kawamata’s body, apparently having strangled himself.
In the coda, the defense attorney, Ōma, and Nanase are together in a coffee shop. The defense attorney agrees that all men should be tried, but it should be a fair trial, with the truth left up to the gods to decide. After the others leave, Ōma says that he’ll never be a god, but that he’ll never stop judging men.
Judge was well directed, with clever dialogue. It did a good job of making Kawamata look so guilty that the viewer wonders if he will turn out to be innocent at the last moment. Still, the ending makes one wonder why all trials don’t use the Mirror of Enma to determine authentic innocence or guilt right away.
Judge was licensed in the U.S. by Central Park Media. It was released on VHS on October 8, 1996, and on DVD on March 16, 1999.
Next week: “Forgotten” OAVs #19.