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REVIEW: Tokyo Vice

Tokyo Vice Review

HBO Max’s Tokyo Vice focuses on American reporter Jack Adelstein’s (Ansel Elgort) time in Tokyo reporting on crime in the 1990s. Adelstein is employed by the largest newspapers in Japan and is making a mess of it. As the only gaijin (foreigner) at the paper, he is desperate to prove himself to the newspaper and his boss, Eimi (Rinko Kikuchi). He’s assigned to the crime area, which is great for him as he has an unhealthy, obsessive interest in the Yakuza (gangsters). For his career, and in order to get exclusive information, he befriends two police officers, Katagiri (Ken Watanabe) and Miyamoto (Hideaki Ito).

Adelstein frequents a hostess club in his free time where he meets Samantha (Rachel Keller), an actual member of a yakuza organization, Sato (Sho Kasamatsu). He bungles his way through Tokyo, investigating Yakuza organizations, destroying relationships, and making himself look incompetent at best.

Tokyo Vice Review

I did read Tokyo Vice before watching this show and this series is definitely only loosely based upon the book. I did have problems with the book itself as I think Adelstein embellished his story. However, his book was far more entertaining than this show.

The entire plotline about the hostess, Samantha, was wholly uninteresting and unnecessary, slowing down the series. Whenever she came onto the screen, my finger itched to fast forward. For me, it served zero purpose. The pacing was very uneven, which resulted in a boring show. There were flashes of brilliance, the fourth episode being my favourite out of the series, which gave me hope. Sadly, that was short-lived.

Tokyo Vice Review

Adelstein was the least interesting character in the entire series. Every time he was on screen, I reached for my phone to play a game. I can’t figure out if it was a script or an acting issue but Elgort just walked around the entire time, pouting like a kicked puppy. There was one thing that actually really bothered me. Adelstein was proficient in Japanese and went to university in Tokyo, but on his first day on the job, he forgot to use an honorific to address his boss. Now, had this guy not lived in Japan before this, it would have been understandable. I’m guessing this was thrown in to make him look like an even bigger idiot.

Tokyo Vice Review

The other characters in the series had richer backstories than our main character. There was Eimi, the lone woman at the newspaper, a good and not so good cop, the advancing through the ranks of Yakuza, the interesting characters. Even the annoying hostess with dreams of opening her own club was more complex than Adelstein.

The strangest thing about this series was that it just ended. It wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger; it just wasn’t exciting enough. I googled, went through IMDB, and looked on the HBO Max app; sure enough, no more episodes. So, I watched this slow, unevenly paced show, and it’s left unresolved? It doesn’t seem like there will be a second season, nor should it have one. If a second season does happen, I’d be shocked.

Tokyo Vice Crime, Drama, Thriller | 15 May 2022 (United Kingdom) 8.2
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Ken Watanabe, Rachel KellerSummary: In 1999, When he was hired as a rookie reporter for Yomiuri Shimbun. As a cadet, he describes being taken under the wing of Sekiguchi, an older detective. Adelstein was initially assigned to "tacky" Saitama, and the memoir covers his next 12 years as a staffer for the paper, describing 80-hour work weeks, relationship difficulties, and the interactions between crime reporters and the police. Specific cases involve the search for the killer of Lucie Blackman, and the memoir also details death threats after he published an expose on Tadamasa Goto. He also uncovered that Saitama Prefecture was altering scientific data on dioxin contamination.

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Erika Johnson
I'm a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I'm an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I'm not at the movies, I'm either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.
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