The Unjust system in Wizard Barristers – Benmashi Cecil
January 29, 2014 2 Comments
It should be obvious to anyone who has watched Wizard Barristers so far that the justice system created to deal with crimes involving wizards is inherently unjust. Rather than trying to find the cause of problems and deal with them in the correct manner, what we have seen suggests that this system was created for the sole purpose of punishing those with special powers and abilities. The first time we see the magic courtroom and the systems put in place to deal with magical crime at work it is strikingly obvious how unfair the whole thing is. The attitudes displayed in episode one with regards to magicians are reminiscent of the American justice system where defendants are considered guilty and must demonstrate their innocence. Wizards brought before this special court are assumed to be guilty – and some of them are – but instead of taking a balanced view on the issue, it is up to the Wizard Barristers to provide conclusive evidence of innocence, often against overwhelming odds.
Wizards are a marginal group, one that is indistinguishable from the rest of society until they use their powers, at which point they then appear to be ridiculed and cast aside. Marginal groups are quite problematic for Japan, and while they are used in anime and manga, we don’t see them used particularly often. What is so fascinating about the use of marginal or minority groups in anime is that their portrayal and the subsequent reactions of many other characters in the series bears a striking resemblance to the attitudes towards such groups in real life. Marginal groups such as the Zainichi Koreans and Ainu are central to the creation and maintenance of a Japanese national discourse about a shared identity and culture. Marginal groups, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the rest of society for differential and unequal treatment, and therefore begin to view themselves as objects of collective discrimination.
Wizards are certainly discriminated against, with Cecil’s first case helping to demonstrate how easily evidence can be stacked against a defendant, even when they were an innocent bystander, or someone who stood up for what was right at the time. His actions were the correct ones given the situation, but due to the prejudices of those without magical powers he was easily labelled as a member of a gang of bank robbers, and put on trial for murder. If we take the idea of a marginalised group again and look at how such things fit into peoples notions of nationality we can also see that despite being born in a country, those from marginalised ethnic groups can often be viewed as external, something that is not part of the homogenous whole called the nation. In Japan the widely help view of what it means to be pure Japanese is that an individual has Japanese nationality, they have Japanese lineage and, by extension, Japanese ancestors, and have internalised Japanese culture, but this whole notion is problematic because notions of race are contentious. While there is no mention of being true ‘Japanese’ in Wizard Barristers, we have heard characters, particularly Quinn Erari talk about Wizards as less than human, as something other, a dangerous existence that shouldn’t belong in society.
With police inspectors freely voicing their hate for Wizards it is little wonder that people begin to see them as dangerous, and also why wizards inherently seem to distrust the system that governs them. In many respects this hate for wizards can be looked at as part of the process of national decline, and how it is presented as coinciding with the dilution of once homogenous and continuous national stock by alien strains. Wizards are obvious, their powers cannot be easily hidden, especially when they must be registered or face fines, or even jail time. They are an easy target for people’s dissatisfaction with the current system, and can become scapegoats for corruption and a morally bankrupt society. The mass media within this sort of society can pick up on such rhetoric; helping to create the idea that alien cultures embody a threat which, in turn, invites the conclusion that national decline has been precipitated by the arrival of other ethnic, or cultural groups. Such opinions are fostered and naturalised through the concentrated way in which wizards are accused of crimes and portrayed in the society of Wizard Barristers, thus creating a message that wizards are inherently dangers and destructive beings, while at the same time creating notions of the inferiority and inhuman nature as the natural order of things.
In the latest episode of Benmashi Cecil we see how easily one persons prejudices can be changed as we learn a little about Mitsuhisa Hachiya’s past as a prosecutor, only to be forced to switch to defence once his magical powers awakened. Throughout this opening scene we see him alleging that the accused used magic to kill someone knowing full well the consequences of his actions, but did it because he enjoyed the thrill of using magic. It becomes something personal, whereby the wizard in question cannot control his desire to use magic and has therefore given in to animal, or inhuman urges. Hachiiya change from a ‘normal’ human to a wizard has clearly affected how he views the world, because now he has become something that isn’t human, an accusation we see him use at the very beginning of the episode. Mayu’s actions, including the request for Machiya to represent her are partly due to her wish for revenge, while also attempting to show him, and others the prejudiced nature of the law as it pertains to wizards and their abilities.
But her actions are foolish and only serve to further demonise wizards as volatile, and potentially destructive beings that need to be further policed ad strictly monitored. As Cecil points out, Mayu’s quest for revenge and later attempts to destroy the magic court do not solve anything, instead they feed into peoples prejudices and harm both normal humans and magicians alike. Cecil is certainly not one to believe that the current system is just given her history and the suggestion that her mother was wrongfully convicted and put on death-row by that very court, but she understands that to destroy the court and cause so much damage does not help wizard’s case. As much as the system is broken and destructive, she knows that wizards need to work within the system if they want any chance to live peaceful lives, regardless of how demeaning and horrible that idea might seem. As Hachiya points out, most humans do not believe that thy can coexist with wizards, so further violence and destructive use of magic powers only reinforces such a notion.
This doesn’t mean that all wizards are good and just individuals, we just have to look at the way Wizard Barrister’s opened with a wizard destroying a train and killing numerous people. But he could have easily done the same without the help of his powers, only the very existence of that sort of destructive power, one that cannot easily be controlled makes him far more dangerous in the eyes of those who fear their lack of power and control. But this image of wizards helps to justify the actions of those who use harsh punishments to control that power, absolving them of any guilt that their deaths may bring. When Shizumu shoots Mayu after her rampage, he answers Cecil’s question by saying he shot Mayu because he was a police officer. It’s not a particularly good answer, and doesn’t resolve anything, but instead of arresting her again and finding out has happened her actions make her guilty and justify her death. The world of Wizard Barristers is clearly unjust, with a morally bankrupt, and perhaps even corrupt society punishing those that have powers the majority do not. Seeing it through the eyes of Cecil, a girl who has a naïve streak, but who understands how society works, and knows that wizards need to use the system for their own ends, and to do the opposite only reinforces the prejudices of those who have created and control the system.