All eyes are trained on the launch of the rocket ‘Seiren’, which is being shown on video screens at a command centre of the Japan Space Science Development Agency. As Oba Kazuyoshi, Motoki Ko and Tsukuda Kohei watch closely, the countdown ends and the rocket lifts off. However, a warning suddenly goes off seconds later because of a rapid drop in the pressue in one of its engines. As problems develop in the rocket’s flight, Oba is forced to order its destruction. A speechless Tsukuda watches as the rocket is destroyed in midair … …
Seven years later, Tsukuda has succeeded his father to become the second generation president of Tsukuda Industries, a medium-sized factory with 200 employees. He had been made to resign from the agency to take responsibility for the design flaw in the valve system that resulted in the failed rocket launch. But he still has not given up on his space rocket dream and instructs Yamazaki Mitsuhiko, the head of engineering development, to develop an engine component.
Meanwhile, the details of the Stardust Programme is announced at Teikoku Heavy Industries by Zaizen Michio, the head of its Aerospace Systems Division. The programme will be the realisation of Teikoku Heavy Industries’ long-cherished dream to launch Japan’s first domestically-made space rocket. He outlines the company’s plan to invest in the development of key engine components and file patents for them with the aim of becoming a major force in the international arena.
In the midst of this, a situation which Tsukuda had not expected occurs. Tsukuda Industries is suddenly notified by a client of its wish to stop dealings with the company. Tsukuda knows that this will have an impact on the production line and staff, but little does he anticipate that the decrease in sales will tip Tsukuda Industries into the red until he is told by Tsuno Kaoru and Tonomura Naohiro, the heads of sales and accounting. Tsukuda suggests taking a loan from the banks, but Tonomura is of the opinion that it will be difficult with the increase in research expenses. Tsukuda and Tsuno interject that Tsukuda Industries is a technology company. Without the investment in research and technological advancements, the company would lose its competitiveness. However, Tonomura points out that it would depend on how the banks view the commercialisation of technology such as the rocket valve system that Tsukuda Industries recently filed a patent for. “You cannot forget about the dream you had as a researcher, but you’re no longer a researcher. You’re a business manager,” he bluntly tells Tsukuda what no one in the company has dared to articulate, and urges him to stop pursuing it for a while. There is truth in Tonomura’s words which makes Tsukuda agonise over the right thing to do.
Not long after that, Tsukuda Industries receives a court claim from Nakashima Precision, a big listed company. It is claiming 9 billion yen in damages from Tsukuda Industries for a key product that infringes its patent. Tonomura points out that Nakashima Precision’s strategy is to crush small companies by first imitating their products, and then challenging them on intellectual property rights. While Tsukuda Industries is the original inventor of the product, the difficulty lies in proving that when up against a big company like Nakashima Precision, the lawyer Tanabe Atsushi warns. This gives Tsukuda misgivings about having Tanabe represent Tsukuda Industries at the trial, yet he feels indebted to the man who had advised the company since his father’s time. To compound matters, Tsukuda and Tonomura are told by the company’s main bank, Hakusui Bank, that an additional loan is a sensitive issue because of the lawsuit.
Tsukuda’s ex-wife, Izumi Saya, learns of the tight spot that Tsukuda is in from her good friend, Kamiya Ryoko, who is a lawyer. Ryoko used to work under Okawa Kyoichi, a lawyer specialising in intellectual property but grew disgusted with the tactics he used to attain his objectives, and set up her own firm. Because Okawa is in cahoots with Mita Kimiyasu, Nakashima Precision’s head of legal affairs, in the case against Tsukuda Industries, Ryoko knows that Tsukuda stands no chance. Hoping to do something for her ex-husband, Saya offers to refer a lawyer to him during a phone conversation but he turns her down.
Tsukuda Industries finds itself in a survival crisis because of Nakashima Precision’s ruthless legal tactics as clients start to cancel their orders, and other banks refuse to extend loans too. Ehara Haruki, a section head at the sales department and the leader for young employees at Tsukuda Industries, gives feedback on the rumours going around when the team makes sales calls. Disgruntled about the way Tsukuda has been channelling all the money earned by the sales department into research, he also questions the amount being spent on research and the direction the company is taking because he does not know when the research into rocket engines will begin to reap benefits. Tsukuda is pressed to make a decision.
On the other hand, the project for the launch of the domestically-made rocket is making progress, but Zaizen learns of a startling fact from his subordinate, Tomiyama Keiji. A patent had been filed three weeks ago for the same technology used in the development of Teikoku Heavy Industries’ engine valve system. The company with the patent is Tsukuda Industries. Unable to believe that a small company like Tsukuda Industries can steal a march Teikoku Heavy Industries, he orders Tomiyama to do an immediate check and keep the information to himself.
At that moment, Mita and Okawa are discussing the strategy they will take against Tsukuda Industries. Mita believes the best tact is not to crush the company but to just keep it alive because Tsukuda Industries possesses technological capabilities that make it a desirable target. “Torment the company and then extend a helping hand when it is close to death by forcing it to give Nakashima Precision a majority stake in settlement of the 9 billion yen.” In doing so, Tsukuda Industries will become an affiliate of Nakashima Precision.
The next day, Tonomura proposes to Tsukuda that they withdraw the company’s fixed deposits from the banks. This amount will help them tide through a year. Tsukuda deliberates and finally reaches a decision which he hastens to communicate to his employees. Declaring this as Tsukuda Industries’ biggest crisis since its founding, he implores everyone to give him support so that the company will not lose to the big company that is treading on their pride.
The day of the trial comes. Just as the hearing is about to begin, Ryoko enters the courtroom … …
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