Tokyo Vice (S1/2022 & S2/2024) Series Review

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Tokyo Vice (2024) Series Featured Image

The “Tokyo Vice” show weaves a Japanese crime drama set in Tokyo, Japan. This thrilling American show focuses on the alluring backdrop of 1990s Tokyo’s underbelly with its fascinating narrative and characters.

It is loosely inspired by the memoir “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan” by Jake Adelstein. So, it is a firsthand account of Jake’s time as a Journalist covering the crime beat in Tokyo. While working closely with the official (s) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, Jake came across its seedy underbelly.

Back in 2013, the production of the book adaptation was set to be a feature film, with Daniel Radcliffe cast to play the role of Jake Adelstein.

Trailers: Tokyo Vice (S1 & S2) Series

Season (S1/2022) One – Official Trailer
Official Trailer – Tokyo Vice (S1/2022) Show | YouTube.
Season (S2/2024) Two – Official Trailer
Official Trailer – Tokyo Vice (S2/2024) Show | YouTube.

Synopsis: Tokyo Vice (S1 & S2) Series

A Western (USA) journalist working for a leading (newspaper) publication in Tokyo takes on one of the city’s most powerful (Yakuza) crime bosses.

Season (1) OneLoosely inspired by Jake Adelstein’s first-hand account, the young American journalist Jake (Ansel Elgort) descends into the neon-soaked underbelly of late 1990s Tokyo, where nothing and no one is what they seem.
Season (2) TwoIt takes us deeper into the city’s criminal underworld, as Adelstein comes to realize that his life, and the lives of those close to him, are in terrible danger.
Tokyo Vice – Synopsis

‘Tokyo Vice’ Is An Intriguing Crime Drama About Japanese Underworld

Yakuza, Japanese gangsters (underworld), members of what are formally called bōryokudan (“violence groups”), or Mafia-like criminal organizations.

Spoiler Free Review: Tokyo Vice (S1 & S2) Series

The introduction

It draws from the American journalist Jake Adelstein’s real-life experiences on the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat. The narrative delves into Jake’s journey as a news reporter working in one of the leading Japanese newspapers. Interestingly, it expertly portrays the rich setting of 1990s Tokyo. It depicts a captivating tale that explores the intricate dynamics between law enforcement, criminals, journalists and others. So, it showcases an enthralling exploration of the uneasy balance and the intricate relationships among them. Thus, we (non-Japanese viewers) are exposed to the enigmatic and deceptive landscape of Tokyo’s neon-lit underworld of the Yakuza.

The things that we liked in this series

Well, the layered and fast-paced script of the show kept us entertained for two seasons, so far. We liked the way, the riveting tale of an American Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) unfolds. Specifically his progression from an inexperienced cub reporter (in the first season) to a bold investigative journalist (in the second season) digging for truths. We liked its vivid descriptions of society in Japan and its cultural aspects. It also unveils the secretive world of contemporary yakuza. Interestingly, this world has remained hidden from the majority of Japanese society too. But we get a chance to step into the world of the underworld. No wonder, it is a captivating and enlightening watch for two seasons.

But, please note that in this crime drama, Jake’s story is not the only one. We also get to watch the other fascinating stories of the veteran police detective Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), the club hostess Samantha (Rachel Keller), and the Yakuza Sato (Shô Kasamatsu), among others. We liked their character arcs too. No doubt, the entire ensemble cast has done a wonderful job of keeping us interested in the tale with subtitles. We even liked the references to the various songs belted out by the Backstreet Boys of that 1990s era.

The elements that we loved in this series

Also, we were pleasantly surprised to hear even the American actors speaking fluent Japanese in the show. The primary use of the Japanese language lends depth and credibility to this show. Moreover, the music and cinematography set the perfect Japanese mood. In addition, they have portrayed ancient Japanese customs, traditions, rituals (seppuku/hara-kiri) and other aspects (hostess club) authentically. The show creator J. T. Rogers and the entire creative team (American & Japanese) of the show deserve a lot of praise and credit. The realistic depiction of authentic Japanese is a big positive for the show. Lastly, rather interestingly, in the current era of marathon-watching, this absorbing series defies the norm by proving that a weekly release can still offer remarkable entertainment.

Now, what can we say about our interests in the intriguing world of Yakuza? We have read and heard so much about the deadly and dangerous world of the Yakuza, the Mafia-like criminal organizations. They have dominated the streets of Japan historically. So, in this fictional tale, we get the ancient customs and raw power of the Yakuza in Japanese society. In one of the key scenes, we get to witness the initiation of a leader of a Yakuza clan and even the infamous hara-kiri. In this fictional show, it is mind-boggling that the Yakuza seemed to exert their reach and influence even to the Legislature, Executive, Media and other pillars of modern democracy.

The conclusion

In the season finale of the second season, the stories of Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort), Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), Samantha (Rachel Keller), Sato (Shô Kasamatsu), and others have been neatly tied up. We liked the ending, which started as a slow-burning crime drama and ended on a high note for most of them, except for the antagonist Yakuza leader. However, with this kind of open-ended ending, we might see the third season and/or another version of this Japanese story in the future. Meanwhile, you can watch the two seasons of this gripping and intriguing Japanese crime drama made by Americans. This kind of interesting cross-over (East to West and vice-versa) made for a delightful thriller show to watch.

Ratings: Tokyo Vice (S1 & S2) Series

FM Rating – Season (S1/2022) One
FM Rating3.90/5
FM Short CommentsThis American crime drama has taken great care to incorporate the different aspects of the Japanese culture authentically. So, we get to see Japanese – Journalists, Police Officials, Yakuza (Underworld), Politicians, etc. and the intricate relationships that exist among them. This American (& Japanese) crime neo-noir is a well-made cross-over series.
Tokyo Vice (S1/2022) Show – FM Rating
FM Rating – Season (S2/2024) Two
FM Rating4.05/5
FM Short CommentsIn its second season, the show creator and the actors have taken this Japanese (& USA) drama to a notch above. Among its talented ensemble cast from Japan (& USA), Ansel Elgort (Jake), Ken Watanabe (Katagiri), Rachel Keller (Samantha), Shô Kasamatsu (Sato), Ayumi Tanida (Tozawa), Shun Sugata (Ishida) were impressive.
Tokyo Vice (S2/2024) Show – FM Rating

Posters: Tokyo Vice (S1 & S2) Series

Key Details: Tokyo Vice (S1 & S2) Series

GenreCrime, Drama, Thriller
Original languagesJapanese & English (USA)
First/1st SeasonEight (8) Episodes in April 2022
Second/2nd SeasonTen (10) Episodes in February, March & April 2024
CreatorJ. T. Rogers
WritersJake Adelstein & J. T. Rogers
TaglinesTo break the story, break the rules. [1st Season]
Find the truth, no matter the cost. [2nd Season]
CastAnsel Elgort (Jake Adelstein), Ken Watanabe (Hiroto Katagiri), Rachel Keller (Samantha), Shô Kasamatsu (Sato), Rinko Kikuchi (Eimi), Kosuke Tanaka (Tin Tin), Takaki Uda (Trendy), Nobushige Suematsu (Gen), Ayumi Ito (Misaki), Kazuya Tanabe (Yabuki), Shun Sugata (Ishida), Ayumi Tanida (Tozawa), Koshi Uehara (Taro), Ryûhei Watabe (Matsuda), Kôsuke Toyohara (Baku), Shun Sugata (Hitoshi Ishida), etc.
NetworkHBO Max
Tokyo Vice (S1-2022/S2-2024) Show – About

Spoilers Alert: Episodes Summary of “Tokyo Vice” Series

The First Season aired from April 7, 2022, to April 28, 2022 | Episodes Summary

The Test (S1, E1) | 58 minutes | April 7, 2022

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.

Kishi Kaisei (S1, E2) | 55 minutes | April 7, 2022

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.

Kishi Kaisei literally translates to "Wake from death and return to life". In other words, it means "To come out of a desperate situation and make a complete return in one sudden burst". 

Read the Air (S1, E3) | 55 minutes | April 7, 2022

After proving himself to Detective Katagiri, Jake learns an invaluable lesson about the relationship between the police and the yakuza before receiving an opportunity to witness it firsthand.

I Want It That Way (S1, E4) | 54 minutes | April 14, 2022

As Samantha makes strides toward the future, her past catches up. With help from Emi, Tin-Tin, and Trendy, Jake has a breakthrough in connecting the cases.

Everybody Pays (S1, E5) | 1 hour 3 minutes | April 14, 2022

When Jake helps reveal the mole in Chihara-Kai, he must weigh the risks of accepting a favour in return from Ishida. Samantha attempts to take care of her Matsuo problem.

The Information Business (S1, E6) | 1 hour 3 minutes | April 21, 2022

An impromptu Yakuza Peace Summit finds Tozawa at the mercy of his actions. Samantha begins to settle her debts with Matsuo. A determined Jake chases down a tip from Ishida.

Sometimes They Disappear (S1, E7) | 55 minutes | April 21, 2022

Jake struggles to regain his footing after the botched raid, while Samantha grows increasingly desperate to find Polina. Sato feels the pressure of his elevated standing in Chihari-Kai.

Yoshino (S1, E8) | 1 hour 4 minutes | April 28, 2022

Samantha risks it all for Polina’s safe return, and Sato is forced to mix business with pleasure. Katagiri devises a plan to finally take down Tozawa, Jake is confronted by the crime boss’s men.

Yoshino, this Japanese ancient name means ‘lucky (or good) field’. This word is taken from the scenic Yoshino region of southern Yamato (now Nara prefecture). It is also written with characters meaning ‘fragrant field’.
The Second Season aired from February 8, 2024, to April 4, 2024 | Episodes Summary

Don’t Ever F**king Miss (S2, E1) | 58 minutes | February 8, 2024

After receiving a terrifying video tape, Jake enlists Detective Katagiri in pursuit of the truth behind Polina’s disappearance… but must tread lightly due to the involvement of a government minister. As Samantha takes steps to launch her club, the Chihara-kai closely monitor a gravely injured Sato – but not all members are eager for his full recovery.

Be My Number On (S2, E2) | 60 minutes | February 8, 2024

With Katagiri sidelined at work and Jake intentionally off the yakuza beat, both search for new meaning in their work. As Jake pursues an uptick in motorcycle theft, Samantha confronts a thief in her club, and the Chihara-kai welcome back former member Hayama, who has returned as Sato’s superior.

Old Law, New Twist (S2, E3) | 54 minutes | February 8, 2024

After Katagiri partners with Nagata, the detectives ramp up their task force’s efforts to take down the city’s yakuza organizations. As his coverage of motorcycle thefts gains momentum, Jake receives an invite to an exclusive party – and boldly brings along a special guest. Meanwhile, Samantha and Sato deal with a growing problem at the club.

Like a New Man (S2, E4 ) | 57 minutes | February 8, 2024

Katagiri and Nagata’s task force gains momentum, while an oyabun’s mysterious return at a yakuza summit triggers a new investigation by Jake. As Katagiri and Jake dig into the mysterious return, Samantha must decide if she’ll do a favour for Ishida, and Sato and Hayama are forced to travel north on an expedition.

Illness of the Trade (S2, E5) | 57 minutes | March 1, 2024

Samantha tries to make amends with Masa while delivering on her promise to Ishida. Later, Jake and Katagiri attempt to pursue their elusive target without landing in his crosshairs. On their way back from the north, Sato and Hayama strategize a way forward.

I Choose You (S2, E6) | 56 minutes | March 8, 2024

On the heels of the devastating shootout at Club Polina, Hayama asserts himself as Chihara-kai’s leader, while Sato accelerates his efforts to keep Kaito safe. Samantha’s tip proves beneficial to Jake, as well as Katagiri and Nagata. Emi finally brings Kei and Shingo together.

The War at Home (S2, E7) | 56 minutes | March 15, 2024

As Chihara-kai lay one of their own to rest, the question of who will fill his shoes looms large – and further tests Kaito’s loyalty between Sato and Hayama. Jake returns home for his dad’s 60th birthday… and braces himself for the ensuing family drama. Meanwhile, Katagiri takes a big gamble on his case.

The Noble Path (S2, E8) | 56 minutes | March 22, 2024

Back from the States, Jake and Katagiri catch up before Jake wrangles his Meicho coworkers for help pursuing his new intel – including Trendy’s connection at the U.S. Embassy. Samantha sees her funds dwindle and decides to go back to the root of her money issues, as Katagiri struggles with his case’s devastating turn of events.

Consequences (S2, E9) | 51 minutes | March 29, 2024

As loyalties begin to fracture around him, a torn Sato considers Chihara-kai’s future. Meanwhile, Kei takes his role as Emi’s protector too far, and Jake and Katagiri inch closer to exposing the truth about Tozawa, which lands them in ever-increasing danger.

Endgame (S2, E10) | 1 hour 2 minutes | April 4, 2024

As Jake and Katagiri close in on a crucial piece of evidence, Sato prepares for the greatest power move of his life, and Samantha arranges an important meeting.

Posters and Featured Images of the Tokyo Vice (S1-2022/S2-2024) Show are courtesy of HBO Max.

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