Max’s Immersive Crime Noir Evolves Into A Sharp & Sprawling Epic

By z20z.com 8 Min Read

Summary

  • Tokyo Vice Season 2 expands its original premise, delving deeper into Tokyo’s underground crime scene, without missing a beat.
  • The show features a robust ensemble cast with a thoughtfully constructed structure that impressively balances its various sprawling subplots.
  • The gangster plot remains the most compelling asset of Tokyo Vice Season 2, with rival gangs and subtle politics raising a sense of mystery and tension.


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Tokyo Vice season 2 offers a massive and well-balanced expansion of its original premise set deep inside Tokyo’s late-1990s underground crime scene. Following Tokyo Vice season 1’s cliffhanger ending, the 10-part season 2 had many questions to answer from the start. Wisely, the series picks back up in the thick of its thrilling gangster-fueled aftermath without missing a beat. At the center of it all is Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort), whose real-life memoir inspired the series. Jake is an American runaway and a clumsily ambitious reporter with a natural talent for falling upwards at Tokyo’s leading newspaper, Meicho.


Based on the novel and the true experiences of Jake Adelstein, Tokyo Vice is a drama thriller series that sees the first American journalist ever to join a Japanese newspaper, forced to start at the bottom of the totem pole to earn his place. Set loose under a vice detective’s close tutelage and supervision, Jake steps into the Yakuza-led underworld of Tokyo and learns what it means to ask too many questions.

Pros
  • The dramatic execution is excellent overall
  • The cast is fantastic, really digging into their character arcs
  • The characters are more fleshed out
Cons
  • There can be too many characters to balance
  • Katagiri and Jake’s dynamic is no longer as much of a focus


Created by Tony Award-winning playwright and first-time showrunner J.T. Rogers, Tokyo Vice features an outstanding cast led by the scene-stealing Ken Watanabe, an unstoppable Rachel Keller, and a stoic James Dean-esque Shô Kasamatsu. These actors only begin to scratch the surface of Tokyo Vice season 2’s robust and seemingly endless ensemble, which alternates in thoughtfully constructed, tidelike shifts to the center of the narrative’s focus. The dozens of rotating characters can create a dizzying effect for the viewer at times, which makes for some awkward and volatile tone shifts between scenes.


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Tokyo Vice Season 2 Gives Characters Plenty Of Room To Breathe

The trio of Jake, Samantha, and Sato, who were nearly inseparable in season 1, have continuously proven to carry their weight as mutual protagonists.


With two additional hour-long episodes, Tokyo Vice season 2 uses a fair chunk of its increased runtime to allow its key characters to stretch outside Tokyo’s underbelly of crime and corruption. Because of this, the show occasionally drifts too far from its core crime elements, as expansions on brief familial moments and backstory glimpses from season 1 go into great detail. Many supporting players are given external outlets, such as a love interest or a family tie, that result in more complete characters at the cost of a leaner and more succinct story.


The House of Cards-level breadth of new and returning characters in Tokyo Vice season 2 is remarkable considering how logical and organic the various intertwining subplots are. The various stories of each episode avoid derailment to a point of convolution, which is a testament to the quality of Tokyo Vice’s talented writing team. The trio of Jake, Samantha, and Sato, who were nearly inseparable in season 1, have continuously proven to carry their weight as mutual protagonists. Each is built with enough substance, initiative, and allure to walk separate paths that better suit them as individuals.


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Tokyo Vice Season 2’s Gangster Plot Is Its Most Compelling Asset

Ken Watanabe in Tokyo Vice season 2

Katagiri continues to throw bones at Jake despite his constant fumblings. While the pair’s dynamic remains one of the best in the series, it seems to have lost its main-character vibe.


The natural tension season 2 achieves between its rival gangs, the Chihara-Kai and the Tozawa clan, could carry the entire series itself. Despite this, the gangster politics at play are much more subdued and calculated in season 2 than they were in season 1, raising a paranoid sense of calm-before-the-storm intrigue. Season 1’s apparent bosses, such as Katagiri and Tozawa, are humbled by the additions of their overlord superiors. Yakuza newcomers also contribute a fiery intensity made vacant by season 1’s Kume, contrasted by Oyabun Ishida’s course of absolute honor and Sato’s hidden doubts about his chosen life of crime.


Elgort’s Jake is not as emphasized in the new season, allowing more space for the Chihara-Kai and Tozawa rivalry, and the rising Tokyo police pressure, to propel their own momentum. Jake is far from the most compelling character in season 2, only becoming relevant through his persistent and often short-sided means of self-insertion that usually burns the people around him. Katagiri continues to throw bones at Jake despite his constant fumblings. While the pair’s dynamic remains one of the best in the series, it seems to have lost its main-character vibe. Meanwhile, Sato continues to effortlessly captivate.


Samantha found her stride as a respectable business owner unafraid to draw her line in the sand against Yakuza pressures. Shoko Nagata’s influence revitalizes Tokyo’s police force without actor Miki Maya making much of an impression. While the hour-long episodes enjoy taking serpentine scenic routes to their narrative destinations, the dramatic impact upon arrival is routinely well-designed and executed. The characters may meander, some interpersonal dynamics might be unrealized, and the series could have run on a more efficient engine. Overall, Tokyo Vice season 2 is an exuberant, bountiful, and sprawling drive worth taking despite a few superfluous pit stops.

New episodes of
Tokyo Vice
season 2 stream on Thursdays exclusively on Max.


Tokyo Vice

Release Date
April 17, 2022

Cast
Ansel Elgort , Rachel Keller

Seasons
2

Writers
Destin Daniel Cretton

Directors
Josef Kubota Wladyka , Michael Mann , Alan Poul , Hikari

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