In one episode of the new HBO crime drama Max Tokyo Vice, American-born newspaper reporter Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) conducts his Japanese editor Amy (Kikuchi Market) through the many dead victims of a complex criminal conspiracy he uncovered. A moment later she interrupts his general descriptions to show, “Jake, they have names.”
Hearing this, Jake was embarrassed. He insisted to those who would listen that he was not looking for exotic adventures to dine when he inevitably returned home – that he now wanted to see Japan as his country and understand everything he could about the culture of his new home. However, Amy just called him right, for treating these people – who had a difficult life of their own, and loved ones who would miss them – as players in their fascinating history abroad.
At least for now, Jake realizes the mistake he made. The question is whether Tokyo Vice generally guilty of the same emotional tourism with which Amy accused Jake of playing. This is a chaotic question that has no clear answer until the end of the five episodes provided by critics for review.
There is a long tradition of Hollywood productions in which white Americans act as POVs for viewers in questions of why and why other nations. Ken Watanabe, who plays police veteran teacher Jake Hirata Katagiri, first appeared in an American audience in this film: Tom Cruise’s 2003 Car The Last Samurai. Sometimes these international trips manage to feel truly grateful and exciting
while others never manage to go beyond the perspective of their hero. Scriptless television often handles this pretty well, especially in food shows such as Phil Rosenthal’s Netflix show
Someone feed Philand various series of travels of the late Anthony Bourdain. Tokyo Vice, adapted from the real memoirs of Jake Adelstein playwright J. T. Rogers, makes a series of sincere gestures towards the city in which his fictional Jake settled. The vast majority of shows are on Japanese subtitles. (Jake becomes the first white American reporter for his new employer in part because of his intuitive understanding of the language.) Characters like Amy and Hirota may exist not only as simple teachers, but only to help Jake improve. There are also long segments involving Hirota and / or two warring parties and
charges factions in which Jake is almost not involved, if at all, and instead for a while represented the low-level gangster Sato (Shaw Kasamatsu) as our protagonist. But some of these bona fide attempts seem less convincing than the creative team might expect. The fact that the lives of Amy and Hirata, for example, are not related to writing, but to the performances of former Oscar nominees Kikuchi and Watanabe. There is also another famous American character, Samantha (Rachel Keller of FX’s Fargoand Legion ), who works at a hostess club for local businessmen and becomes the third point in something like a love triangle involving Jake and Sato. She is a complex character (there is another
the hostess described in Adelstein’s book, but she was British and never met him), which seems to exist just as much to give Jake another English-speaking trustee, and in order to add to the story some familiar mysterious and tense components. HBO MaxOr maybe it’s a matter of which actor will play Jake. Ansel Elgort, you may recall from the press cycle around the issue West Side Story , has been accused by many women of various cases of sexual obscenity, from texting an eighth-grader with a photo of a member to sexual assault. Elgort has denied the allegations, but his presence sheds light on the whole affair. Tokyo Vice It’s not just another story about a white guy spending time in Japan, but it’s true
it is white guy? And even separating the artist from the art, Elgort’s performance is often awkward. He may seem complacent even in scenes where Jake has to be modest and inquisitive, which undermines attempts by the show to position him as an outsider in a country that may have deep hostility to white visitors and even more to Jews like Jake.Not surprisingly, Elgort is best used in the wonderful premiere of the series, directed by Michael Mann. Although Mann never technically directed episodes of his iconic police show of the 1980s Weiss Miami his visual aesthetics were just as palpable in that show as in this one completely unrelated
history. Tokyo’s early 21st century (most of the first season takes place in 1999) seems to have been built for Manna to shoot, with its rich cool glass and metal surfaces and rich neon signs. There are several stunning shots, in particular one of four different trains traveling through the same place at the same time, and a man standing within all the tracks; the camera is pulled out and we see that the man was stabbed with an old-fashioned blade, contrasting with this modern background. And when we’re in the newsroom, at the hostess club, at the police station, or at one of the parties for the Sato team, this first episode provides another example of how effectively Mann shows people who do their jobs well. He also presents a liveliness in Elgort, which is not the case, as in the following episodes he gives way to director Josef Kubot Vladyka and Hikari. The energy level of the series as a whole is declining, and it becomes more sensitive that the plot is based on clichés from different traditions of pop culture. The supporting actors are strong, even if there is no material. For example, the more we learn about the mysterious prehistory of Samantha, the less interesting it is, but Keller effortlessly holds the screen, whether it is opposite Elgort, Kasamatsu or any of Samantha’s colleagues. And while the show is for the most part quite serious and serious, it occasionally generates pleasant easy moments as we see Jake working on friendships with his fellow reporters, with the cops (including Hideaki Ito as the cheeky a vice detective who seems less credible than Hirota), and even with Sato, who lures Jake into a debate about what exactly “yes” means in the Backstreet Boys ’“ I Want It That Way ”chorus.In one scene, Jake and Amy interview a Korean immigrant, and Amy reveals that she has a grandparent. The mere mention of these biographical details is serious given the complex and often ugly story between the two cultures that you can now see in the incredible Apple TV + movie Beginning . This show also largely unfolds in foreign languages with English subtitles, but it doesn’t feel the need to give American viewers an American guide across the globe. Both series adapt books with different approaches, however
Tokyo Vice manages to turn his version of the central figure of the source material into an obstacle to the history of all others. Tokyo Vice certainly have their moments, including long ones
yakuza a sequence of actions in which swords ultimately prove more useful than guns. But it’s hard not to leave with the feeling that the show could have been much bigger. At one point, Hirota describes his father Jake as “very Japanese.” When Jake asks what that means, Hirota explains, “There are degrees.” It’s a decent show, but one that feels like it would be so much better if it wanted to be more Japanese. The first three episodes
The Tokyo vice will air on April 7 on HBO Max, with two episodes a week coming out weekly until the April 28 finale. I saw the first five of the eight episodes.