“Of Love & Law” The Absurdities of Japanese Life Amos Lassen To many outside of Asia, Japan is a mysterious land but in reality it is a nation and state like any other, with charms, foibles and contemporary challenges that the very real people living there must deal with every day. It’s these challenges that filmmaker Hikaru Toda examines in “Of Love & Law”, a documentary about the legal battles that marginalized Japanese are fighting in 2018. The film tracks lawyers Masafumi Yoshida and Kazayuki Minami — Fumi and Kazu — who are also personal and professional partners, over the course of several years as they take on constitutional challenges. Toda shines a light on the apparent self-contradiction and traditional rigidity that are making life difficult for thousands of Japanese citizens raised to be nonconfrontational and respectful of others and community to the detriment of themselves. Though the film isn’t particularly cutting-edge stylistically or formally, it doesn’t have to be because it is socially current. The lives of Fumi and Kazu become the lens through which Toda examines Japanese society’s more draconian elements, particularly those that apply to freedom of expression, nonconforming legal statuses and LGBT rights. The two lawyers are Osaka’s, and Japan’s, first openly gay practicing lawyers. attract a niche clientele almost by default: those who feel Japan’s tendency to social conformity and obedience is suffocating their personal freedoms, quashing their voices, jeopardizing their very survival or all of the above. Among the cases Fumi and Kazu take on are those of an artist arrested for obscenity as a result of her vagina-themed art, this despite Kazu walks into an adult department store and buys all manner of sex toys from the window display; a teacher who refused to sing the national anthem as a form of protest and lost her job for it and a pair of twentysomethings who were undocumented on their family registries for varying reasons, including hiding from an abusive husband. Without a registration, the two have nominal legal status as citizens at best, and are unable to get passports, driver’s licenses or into a university, among other issues. “Of Love & Law” lays out the details, and lets the inconsistencies, illogic and, to Western audiences, illegalities reveal themselves.Most interesting perhaps is that the film is a record of two men proudly bucking an entrenched, confining system and doing well anyway— Fumi and Kazu have been together 15 years, and as a portrait of a nation in flux, one that is being forced to deal with the individual at a pace and in a way it never has before.