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Series / Tokyo Trial

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Tokyo Trial is a 2016 television miniseries, which ran for four 45-minute episodes.

It is about the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, better known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trial or simply the Tokyo Trial. In 1946, with the Nuremberg Trial of the Nazi high command underway, a similar tribunal convenes in Tokyo to try the Japanese leadership. Former prime minister Hideki Tojo and various members of the Japanese cabinet and military leadership will be tried for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity.

The proceeding does not go as smoothly as the one being held in Nuremberg. The high commander in Occupied Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, refuses to let Emperor Hirohito stand trial. MacArthur wants Hirohito to help him unify Japan into a democratic (and America-friendly) state, but Judge William Webb of Australia (Jonathan Hyde), president of the tribunal, is incensed at the prospect of letting the emperor off the hook. Some of the judges, such as William Patrick of Great Britain, are only too eager to hang the Japanese leadership, but others such as Judge Röling of the Netherlands wonder if the Allies, who dropped two nukes on the Japanese, have the moral standing to judge the Japanese. Finally there is Judge Pal of India (Irrfan Khan), who rejects the entire idea of the trial as being ex post facto law, and advocates for the acquittal of all defendants.



  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Eta Harich-Schneider, the professional pianist who is evaluating Röling's violin skills, is a harsh critic.
    Eta: Your phrasing is all wrong. Go again!
    Röling: Right away?
    Eta: No, tomorrow. Go again!
  • As You Know: There's a lot of this in the early going, most notably in the scene where Judge Webb explains to the other judges stuff they would have already known about the charges being laid at the trial.
  • Call-Forward: Near the end Judge Patrick says that Judge Northcroft is advocating for a permanent tribunal for judging international crimes. Röling says that maybe it could be in the Netherlands. The International Criminal Court was established in the Netherlands, specifically in The Hague, but not until 2002.
  • The Ghost: Hirohito. While the Japanese defendants are shown via Stock Footage of the actual trial, Hirohito never appears at all. Yet the judges discuss him at length, wondering about his responsibility for the war and whether or not he could have stopped it or if he actually advocated for it.
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  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: A major theme of the film. While the Japanese did wage aggressive war and commit tons of atrocities that slaughtered millions, allegations of wrongdoings by the Allies are raised as well. An American lawyer defending the Japanese asks that if killing civilians is a war crime, why isn't Harry Truman in the dock for authorizing the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Judge Pal, who regards the whole trial as without merit, notes that the Western powers sitting in judgment over the Japanese were themselves colonizers who conquered the lands of the Far East themselves, before the Japanese replaced them as colonial masters.
  • Group Picture Ending: The series ends with all the judges taking a group picture, which cuts to the Real Life group picture the judges took.
  • Historical Domain Character: Just about all of them.
  • Info Dump: In the opening scene Judge Röling writes a Voiceover Letter to his wife where he names the Western judges who will be at the trial, while he looks at pictures of them, thus naming them all for the audience.
  • Narrator: Stacy Keach provides narration, chiefly explaining what is going on after the various Time Skips.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: Right before the end credits there's an epilogue with pictures of the real judges and some basic information about their later careers.
  • Retraux: The black-and-white Stock Footage of Tojo and the other defendants testifying, as well as clips of lawyers making arguments, is spliced together with footage of the actors in the movie (mostly the judges) listening to the testimony. This footage of the judges is shot in black and white to match the Real Life newsreel clips. The rest of the film is in color.
  • Speech-Centric Work: A lot of people talking about international law, morality, what is legal, what isn't.
  • Stock Footage:
    • The opening sequence contains stock footage of some of the lowlights of the war, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the devastation of Hiroshima, or the horrors of the Rape of Nanking.
    • Actors are not used to depict either the lawyers or Japanese defendants; instead stock footage clips of the real trial are used.
  • Voiceover Letter: The opening scene has Judge Röling writing a Voiceover Letter to his wife about all the other judges at the trial, which doubles as an Info Dump.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Said almost word-for-word by Judge Pal, when he tells Judge Röling that the "so-called terrorists", resisting the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies, really "are freedom fighters who want to reclaim their country."