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Ex-convicts have it hard in Japan, with their criminal records trailing them from job to job, place to place. The many Japanese films about them have a common arc: The struggle to stay on the straight and narrow fails, the lure of the criminal life prevails.

Yoshiyuki Kishi’s well-intentioned social problem drama “Prior Convictions,” which has its origins in a six-part TV series on Wowow — that was in turn based on a manga by Masahito Kagawa and Toji Tsukishima — adds a component those films ignore: the volunteer probation workers who support the transition of ex-cons to productive lives.

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