The writer manages to find a contact in the Tokyo police force, and they start working together in order to bring to light some of the most depraved and chaotic drug-related crimes that were happening at the time. The story takes a serious toll on the author’s mental state as he becomes increasingly obsessed over the statistics and the information that he finds.
Tokyo Vice dives deep into the mindset of the author, showcasing everything from his point of view as well as that of some members of the police squad. The story goes over his life, getting his education from Sophia University in Japan, up until landing the job as the first non- Japanese reporter at one of Japan’s most prolific institutions, the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper. His involvement in the underworld there ends up becoming one of the largest crime stories in Tokyo’s history.
Following a non-linear narrative, the plot follows Jake as he’s thrown into two different cases, which at first seem unrelated until a much darker path becomes illuminated. Taking notes from Chinatown, the interconnectivity is gradually revealed in a way that remains both haunting and mysterious, influencing the main character to actively go out and search for clues and the hidden links between them. Brief moments of respite from the intensity were carefully put in place, but without ever disrupting the overall pace, especially through the thrilling first half of the season. It’s here where we’re able to analyze the characters’ psyches and focus on Jake’s meticulous process to solving these crimes.
Tokyo Vice manages to create an aura of suspense through its developing of this world. Legendary filmmaker Michael Mann serves as showrunner and pilot director here, imbuing the series with delicate noir influences and taking time to develop the characters and their world as the story builds up to its heated moments. Likewise, the writing team provides some of the best TV dialogue in recent vintage.
None of this would have mattered if they didn’t manage to stick the landing. The ending, the climax, and overall final episode needed to be perfect in order to hit the home run and Tokyo Vice delivers on all three. We’re given a conclusion that’s dramatic, yet highly realistic. The finale is not only crucial to the show’s success, but the highlight of the first season, resulting in one of the most bombastic pieces of drama that you will see this year.
The characters are extremely dynamic, especially the main duo of Jake and his detective/mentor Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe). The series doesn’t just focus on these two though, as it dives into characters that you wouldn’t normally expect, such as crime bosses and other members of the police squad, showcasing their perspectives as well. Unlike the book, it deviates from the memoir structure inherently built into it.
Conveying a realism as it pertains to journalism and putting into question the obfuscation of right and wrong, the series constantly forces its characters to walk that thin line between illegal activity and rule of law, their morality coming into question over and over again. And where the writing gives the show its foundation, it’s the actors who elevate these characters even more.
Ansel Elgort is absolutely fantastic here, giving one of the most genuine portrayals of a reporter in recent history, providing depth and nuance for Jake, toiling with his obsession while realistically depicting his desire to lead a regular, stress-free life.