The long title of this Japanese film could be translated into English as
follows: "A Man pushed to his limits at a Black Company." This
movie originated from '2 Channel,' the biggest Japanese electronic bulletin board system. A young person that
started working for so called 'black company' that exploits its employees with hard labor conditions got onto '2 Channel' and started posting messages there freely. Many people reacted to the messages.
Their answers, compiled into a popular book, provided the source of this
film. Popular idol Koike Teppei is the main actor.
'2 Channel' is first of all a virtual tool that people enjoy using, but it is doubtful
whether the messages posted there are real experiences or just fictional.
Nevertheless, after the bubble economy burst open, the younger generation
of "ice age job seekers" searching the Internet is well acquainted
with so-called "black companies." From this point of view, although
this film is meant to be an entertaining movie, it may also be considered
a sort of non-fiction.
The hero, who dropped out of high school as a result of bullying, falls
into the category of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) for
a long time until he decides to go job hunting. Although he taught himself
computer programming to qualify for a position, his resume was a blank
and he was turned down by dozens of companies. Then, finally, a small IT
company offered him a job.
Although the company calls itself an industrial IT company, it is actually a small subcontractor that often demands night shifts from its employees in order to answer impossible deadlines from the clients. In jargon slang that is called the "death march." But it's not only that. All expense requests, like for stationery and transportation are rejected. Bullying and power harassment are also ordinary matters. The hero was considered the enemy of the project leader and, since he is only a middle school graduate, becomes the object of bullying by his co-workers and finds himself on the verge of a breakdown.
In spite of this, no matter how critical the situation he has been thrown into, he does not quit his job because there is nothing else left for him anymore.
Because of the support the hero gets from his senior co-worker, his only friend and understanding colleague, he decides to continue with his job without keeping indoors. In other words, one can say that the film depicts the growth of a young person's independence. The movie is about serious matters but it leaves us with a good aftertaste, thanks to its humor.
At the end of the movie the hero's boss hires a new employee and, facing the camera laughs raucously saying: "I got one more soldier!" It makes no difference to the business whether the employees are in distress or quit their jobs, whether they grow or not. There are always plenty of soldiers available to replace them.
Many people commenting about this movie on the Internet note that their companies are also 'black companies.' Reflecting on such comments, we wonder if it might not be true that Japanese companies have a bad tradition of 'extra loads of work,' of being 'stingy' with their money and of 'bullying' co-workers.
Construction businesses employing day laborers, which became infamous in former days, remind us of such 'black companies.' Today, publishing and service companies, in fact many kids of businesses, have grown out of the IT business. Any place reached by globalization and de-regulation have become an unlimited breeding ground for 'black companies.' Is this irony or just a matter of fact?
The Book Review of this issue deals with children that find it difficult to deal with others at school. What kind of hope is left for young people who suffer at school and start working for such 'black companies?' Surely, parents with children feel especially affected.
Something has to be done. After all, it's a serious matter but not easy to handle.
[Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo]