Tokyo Vice Opening Episodes Review: A Suspenseful Crime Noir that Explores Japan’s Underworld - MovieWeb

Starring Ansel Elgort, this gripping series is an adaptation of Jake Adelstein’s 2009 memoir about being the first non-Japanese reporter in Tokyo.
HBO Max has done it again with the debut of another brilliant original series. The series premiere of the brand-new crime drama, Tokyo Vice, released its first three episodes on the streaming platform. Created by J.T. Rogers, the new series is based on the 2009 memoir written by Jake Adelstein titled, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan. Adelstein is best known for being the first non-Japanese staff writer at Japan’s largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shinbun.
Set in the late 1990s, American journalist Jake Adelstein relocates to Tokyo to join the staff of a major Japanese newspaper as their first foreign-born reporter. Taken under the wing of a veteran detective in the vice squad, he starts to explore the dark and dangerous world of the Japanese yakuza. Tokyo Vice’s pilot is directed by Michael Mann, who also sets the tone for the series. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton also sits as an executive producer for the series.
Tokyo Vice stars Ansel Elgort as Jake Adelstein, who is an American journalist from the state of Missouri who moves to Tokyo, Japan. Ken Watanabe costars as Hiroto Katagiri, who is a detective in the organized crime division. His character will become a father figure to Adelstein and help guide him through the thin and often precarious line between the law and organized crime. Rachel Keller appears as Samantha, an American expat living in Tokyo who makes her living as a hostess in the Kabukicho district.
Other cast members include Ella Rumpf as Polina, an Eastern European expat, who works alongside Samantha as another hostess. Rinko Kikuchi stars as Eimi, Jake Adelstein’s supervisor at the Japanese newspaper company. Show Kasamatsu plays the role of Sato, while Tomohisa Yamashita stars as Akira. The recurring roles are performed by Shun Sugata, Masato Hagiwara, Ayumi Tanida, and Kosuke Toyohara.
The official synopsis for Tokyo Vice reads as, "loosely inspired by American journalist Jake Adelstein's non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Beat, the crime drama series, filmed on location in Tokyo, captures Adelstein's (played by Ansel Elgort) daily descent into the neon-soaked underbelly of Tokyo in the late ‘90s, where nothing and no one is truly what or who they seem."
Hired as Meicho Shimbun's first American crime reporter, Jake Adelstein is quickly tasked with covering two cases that initially appear unrelated but soon stakes his career and life on connecting the dots.
Directed by Michael Mann, the series premiere begins with Adelstein’s commitment to not being some random tourist in Japan. He strongly dedicates his time in studying the language, eating at local restaurants, and preparing for the entrance exam for Japan’s largest newspaper company. After making a very good first impression, Adelstein obtains the job as a staff writer, where he is somewhat treated as an outcast with other his coworkers. Ansel Elgort easily pulls off an incredible performance and truly captures himself in the role of his character.
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As crime boss Tozawa dangerously toes the line between territories, the rival Chihara-Kai scrambles to collect dues. Samantha protects another hostess, while Jake witnesses a confrontation that changes everything.
The next two episodes are directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka, who definitely brings the story into a much darker realm. As the season continues, viewers can start to learn a lot more about the featured characters in the series. The first two episodes sort of start off with a slow burn, but it seems to pick right back up on its third episode. Tokyo Vice certainly doesn’t rely on too many special effects, but the many scenes displaying the city of Tokyo proves to be quite amazing.
Jake's persistence pays off when he receives an exclusive from Detective Katagiri — but catches the less ideal eye of someone else in the process. Meanwhile, Samantha hits it off with a new customer, as Sato chooses between words and fists.
What’s interesting about Tokyo Vice is that the series doesn’t always have to revolve around epic action sequences just to keep viewers entertained. The series has already shown that conflicts don’t always have to end with violence. The complexity of each character proves that the series tells an incredible story. As the story continues to unfold, Adelstein proves to be a rigorous reporter, while Ken Watanabe’s Detective Katagiri is a total badass. Nonetheless, these two actors seem to make a great duo together.
Initially, Tokyo Vice was supposed to be developed as a movie back in 2013. The film was set to star Daniel Radcliffe as Jake Adelstein, with Anthony Mandler set to direct. In June 2019, Tokyo Vice was then rebranded into a television series and had received a 10-episode order by WarnerMedia. Lead star Ansel Elgort also sits in the seat of an executive producer alongside J.T. Rogers. Currently, Rotten Tomatoes has reported a 90% approval rating with an average rating of 7.7/10, based on a total of 20 critic reviews.
The first three episodes of Tokyo Vice are currently available for streaming on HBO Max. Two episodes will then be released weekly on Thursdays until the season finale on April 28. It has been confirmed that Tokyo Vice will consist of a total of eight episodes. Each episode has roughly 55–57-minute runtimes. There are currently no details pertaining to the show’s second season at this time.
Alexander Navarro has been writing for MovieWeb for roughly a year now. He is currently serving in the United States Army for the past 8 years. Alexander is also attached as a screenwriter in an upcoming unannounced project , and currently resides in Austin, TX.

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