Laughing at the Law: A Socio-semiotic Analysis of Legal Comedy on Japanese Prime-Time Television

  • Leon WolffEmail author


This article highlights the growing mainstream preoccupation with law, lawyers and litigation on Japanese prime-time television. Specifically, the article focuses on the recent shift from the dramatic and serious in 1990s productions to the more comic (in both on scripted shows and infotainment law-themed shows) in the 2000s and beyond. Linking the semiotics of humour, sociolegal studies and socio-semiotics more broadly, the article argues that an analysis of law-themed comic scenes and skits highlights Japanese society’s heightened interest in the law (mirroring twenty first century legal system reforms) and yet an enduring social sense that the law, especially legal resolution of conflict, is something incongruous and unrelated to people’s lived realities (which reflects ongoing low rates of litigation). Despite Ramseyer’s thesis that “rational” Japanese avoid the law because they bargain in its shadow, this article concludes that the Japanese draw on their emotional intelligence to accept the possibilities of the law for achieving social justice but acknowledge its limits for resolving satisfactorily everyday disputes.


Japanese law Litigiousness Popular culture Prime-time television Semiotics of humor Socio-semiotics 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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