Tokyo Vice Season 2 Review

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There was plenty to love about season one of Tokyo Vice, Max’s noirish escapade based on the real-life experiences of Western journalist Jake Adelstein. High-stakes drama at its finest, the series created by J.T. Rogers (Oslo) quickly found a fan base that appreciated the compelling world-building on display here and a slew of characters caught in life-and-death situations. Most of all, there was something a bit daring about approaching Adelstein’s experiences and putting a cinematic spin on them. And stars Ansel Elgort (West Side Story), Oscar-nominee Ken Watanabe (The Creator, Godzilla), Rachel Keller (A Man Called Otto), Show Kasamatsu, Rinko Kikuchi, and Ayumi Ito created one of the best casts featured in a new series.




Cliffhangers helped fuel even more interest at the end of season one. Troubled gangster Sato (Kasamatsu) was stabbed, and beleaguered Jake was attacked by hoods employed by the crime syndicate King Tozawa (Ayumi Tanida). Meanwhile, will we ever tire of watching Watanabe? As Hiroto Katagiri, a senior detective at Tokyo Metropolitan Police, the actor’s sublime performance is worthy of an Emmy nod.


In its sophomore season, Rogers, executive-producer Michael Mann, and producer Alan Poul expand upon their world-building, opting to pull viewers through a steady, gradual, ever-intriguing if not deeply involved offering that secures this series as one of the best Max shows in the last decade. Remember how you felt about shows like The Wire or The Sopranos? Season two works on you in a way that makes you lose track of time. The performances, the plotline, and the execution are exceptional. If you appreciate intricate, character-driven, high-stakes dramas, Tokyo Vice is still one of the best offerings around.


Tokyo Vice Season 2 Paves the Way for More

Tokyo Vice

Tokyo Vice

4.5/5

Release Date
April 7, 2022

Seasons
2

Pros

  • Outstanding performances and a character-driven plot raise the bar for Tokyo Vice season 2.
  • The world-building continues to expand in intriguing ways.
  • The depth between the characters leaves room for multiple seasons going forward.
Cons

  • A bit of patience is required as Tokyo Vice finds its rhythm in season 2.


Based on Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, the series tracks a non-Japanese reporter hired by a respected Japanese newspaper who suddenly finds himself drawn into the criminal underworld. The first season was a flurry of intrigue as Jake and Katagiri investigated Japan’s yakuza underground. Season two is quick to tie up loose ends. The fate of Sato after being stabbed is quickly addressed, and, even more curiously, considering it was a major plot thread linking many things together in season one, so is Polina’s murder. Ex-pat/nightclub hostess Sam (played by Rachel Keller) and her nightclub come into play as well.


The first two hours of the new season are somewhat of a frenzy. Then things settle down. And you settle in. It appears Rogers et al. are banking that audiences will reinvest, and reinvest big, in the series. To that end, some patience is required as this compelling show finds a new rhythm and direction for the future. Pay attention to the brief time jump, as that will set the pace for how episodes play out toward the latter episodes.


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Noteworthy shifts include a WTF double-takes with Katagiri and his role on the yakuza beat. “There are other crimes to be exposed,” he tells Jake at one point. Meanwhile, watch for how well Keller builds upon her character, Sam. And Sato’s fate—already revealed in trailers—don’t get your hopes up for him and Sam find a way back to each other. It’s one of many things that make season two work, but it’s as if we’re watching a potential classic series become the “classic” it deserves to be. Meaning: let’s get at least four seasons with these characters and the powerful stories, which can be worthy of our time.

Tokyo Vice Season 2 Features Changes in Characters


As J.T. Rogers expands and builds upon this world—he’s a longtime friend of the real Jake Adelstein, in fact, so very close to the source material—most of those dangling carrots from season one fade away. Veils are dropped. We learn more about Jake’s family. Refreshing and adds to the mix. Elgort remains a fine protagonist here, and there’s certainly more to explore with Jake, even though Elgort’s own legal pressures and headlines for alleged assault tend to come along for the ride throughout this season.


Watanabe continues to hold our interest, too. We’ve seen good unlikely professional couplings before, but there’s something refreshing about watching Watanabe’s seasoned Katagiri butt up against Jake’s inexperience. What would happen should these characters find themselves in a situation outside of the gritty underworld they’re playing in? There is so much depth to explore between two very different souls.


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In the meantime, fan-favorite Sato, a gangster pulled from both sides, shows deeper shades of his humanity this season. That may be a great head-turner, in fact. The emotional brick wall is crumbling. This is most apparent whenever we find Sato caring for his brother or showing concern for the younger son of a promising new figure. Keep your eyes on that. New series regulars include Yosuke Kubozuka and Miki Maya. Overall, despite some curious choices that find Jake in precarious personal situations, season two seems destined to be a big hit. As compelling as it is alluring, settle in for the ride. Let’s hope it extends into a third or fourth season.


The first two episodes of Tokyo Vice stream on Max on Feb. 8. In addition, you can watch MovieWeb’s interview with Alan Poul and J.T. Rogers below.



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