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TV Review: ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2

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Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

(L to R) Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

The popular crime series ‘Tokyo Vice’ returns for a second season on Max beginning February 8th.

Based on the book of the same name by Jake Adelstein, the series stars Ansel Elgort (‘Baby Driver’) as Adelstein, an American Journalist living in Tokyo and working for a Japanese newspaper. Adelstein quickly befriends local police detective Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), and the two work together to bring down Shinzo Tozawa (Ayumi Tanida), a dangerous yakuza leader.

The series also stars Rachel Keller as Samantha Porter, an American expatriate living in Tokyo who works as a hostess and has befriended Jake. Samantha dreams of owning her own club but that dream is threatened when her friend Polina (Emi Maruyama) goes missing. Samantha also has an on-again-off-again relationship with Sato (Show Kasamatsu), an enforcer for the Chihara-kai yakuza clan.

Related Article: Rachel Keller and Show Kasamatsu Talk Max’s ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2

Initial Thoughts

Ansel Elgort in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

Ansel Elgort in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

The pilot episode of ‘Tokyo Vice’ begins with a glimpse of the future, and then flashes back to tell the story of the first season. I assumed that the first season would culminate with the future scene from the first episode, but I was incorrect. Instead, the first season ended on a cliffhanger mid-story, leaving some viewers (including myself) unsatisfied.

But season two of ‘Tokyo Vice’ addresses that issue very quickly by tying up some of those loose ends before resetting with a time jump that in theory brings us closer to the scene promised at the beginning of the series. The new season continues to explore Jake’s investigation into the yakuza, his working relationship with Katagiri, Samantha’s new club, her uneasy alliance with the yakuza, her relationship with Sato, his role in the yakuza, and the return of Tozawa.

Script and Direction

Ken Watanabe and Ansel Elgort in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

(L to R) Ken Watanabe and Ansel Elgort in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

‘Tokyo Vice’ season 2 begins where it left off and shows us the aftermath of Jake and Samantha’s search for Polina, and the attack on Sato. After a new threat to Katagiri’s family, he urges Jake to drop the investigation into the yakuza and focus on other important crime stories. Jake agrees and the two men go their separate ways.

The series then jumps forward three months. Tozawa is missing and the Chihara-kai clan has taken over his territory. Sato is recovering in secret from his wounds, and Samantha has opened her own club, with the help of the Chihara-kai clan. Jake is having success at the newspaper focusing on a story about stolen motorcycles, and has also started dating Misaki (Ayumi Ito), Tozawa’s mistress.

Ayumi Ito in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

Ayumi Ito in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

Katagiri has been put on desk duty taking the blame for Jin Miyamoto’s (Hideaki Ito) death but is soon given a new assignment that puts him back on the yakuza’s case. Katagiri and Jake are soon reunited when they both discover that Tozawa has returned and is aiming to take over control of all the yakuza.

While the second half of season one seemed to stretch out the story, season two is more focused on the main story they are trying to tell. While the search for Polina seemed to sidetrack last season, that story has been resolved and will inform our main character’s actions through the rest of the series. Season 2 brings us closer to that opening moment from the pilot, with Jake and Katagiri’s investigation into Tozawa and his attempt to take over the yakuza front and center.

Shooting on location in Tokyo adds an authenticity to the series as well as an air of danger that fits the show perfectly. While an American production, the series includes only a few American actors and mostly features a Japanese cast. Director Michael Mann, who shot the pilot, set the style and pacing for the show early on, and series creator J.T. Rogers has carried that on to season 2 and continues to explore Tokyo’s intriguing criminal underworld.

Performances

Ansel Elgort in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

Ansel Elgort in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

Ansel Elgort is a good actor but is at his best when he is cast correctly, as he has been with this series. Elgort has a youthful, naive and nervous energy that fits Jake’s personality, while at the same time portraying a “too clever for his own good” attitude. The new season continues to explore Jake’s partnership with Katagiri, and Elgort has great chemistry with Ken Watanabe. Season 2 will also take a closer look at Jake’s connection to Samantha as their lives begin to take them in different directions, as well as Jake’s unlikely growing friendship with Sato.

Ken Watanabe in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

Ken Watanabe in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

Ken Watanabe continues to give a complex performance as Hiroto Katagiri, who is torn between doing what’s right while still protecting his family. Katagiri is professionally castrated at the beginning of the season, forced to take a desk job in shame, but is suddenly given a second chance at bringing the members of the yakuza to justice. This releases a certain energy in the character, like a dog finally unchained, and Watanabe plays the character’s unhinged emotions well. But the series is at its best when Watanabe and Elgort’s characters are working together and exploring their unusual partnership.

Rachel Keller in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

Rachel Keller in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

Rachel Keller also continues to shine as the complex Samantha, and the season spends much of its time examining her uneasy alliance with the yakuza, which is complicated by her relationship with Sato. But in many ways, Sato is the breakout character of the series, and Show Kasamatsu is a force of nature in the role, playing the character with strength and mystery. Season 2 will not only reveal Sato’s condition following the first season’s cliffhanger, but it will also explore his growing role in the yakuza and his loyalty to his Oyabun (Hitoshi Ishida played by Shun Sugato).

Show Kasamatsu in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

Show Kasamatsu in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

Sugato also continues to give a strong performance as the yakuza leader who is at odds with Tozawa. The new season will explore his role in the yakuza and his admiration for Sato. Ayumi Tanida gives a very intimidating performance as the show’s big bad, Tozawa, but is sidelined for the first half of the season. Other returning characters like Jake’s supervisor at the newspaper, Emi Maruyama played by Rinko Kikuchi, and his co-workers Trendy (Takaki Uda) and Tintin (Kosuke Tanaka) are given small story arcs of their own but are also basically sidelined to focus on the yakuza storyline.

Rachel Keller and Hyunri Lee in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

(L to R) Rachel Keller and Hyunri Lee in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

There are also some new faces in season 2 including Miki Maya as Katagiri’s new partner, Yosuke Kubozuka as Sato’s new superior in the yakuza, Hyunri Lee as a new hostess as Samantha’s club, and Takayuki Suzuki as Samantha’s new love interest.

Will there be a ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 3?

Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

(L to R) Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

Season 2 will consist of 10 episodes in all, but we only screened the first five. Again, assuming that the series is leading us up to the point in time where the pilot episode begins, it’s unclear if that moment will happen this season or if it is being saved for another season.

While the series was obviously successful enough to be greenlit for a second season, you never know in the competitive world of streaming if another season will happen for sure, so I hope whatever long-game the creators were planning has been truncated to take place this season so that if it is the final season, there is a satisfactory ending for audiences invested in the story of Jake and Katagiri taking down Tozawa.

Tanida Ayumi in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 1.

Tanida Ayumi in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 1. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

There is certainly a lot of stories yet to explore in future seasons besides the Tozawa storyline, including Sato’s rise in the yakuza, Samantha’s club, why Jake is hiding from his family in Japan, and Katagiri’s struggles with his own family, but the series would be wise to resolve the main story first before trying to tackle any of these other story threads.

Final Thoughts

‘Tokyo Vice’ continues to be an exciting and exhilarating crime series that really examines all the characters in a truthful way. With the beautiful yet mysterious backdrop of Tokyo, the series has created a unique tone unlike almost anything else on American television. With excellent performances from Elgort, Watanabe, Keller and Kasamatsu, as well as the supporting cast, ‘Tokyo Vice’ is a must see for crime series fans.

‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2 receives 9 out of 10 stars.

Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in 'Tokyo Vice' Season 2.

(L to R) Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2. Photo: James Lisle/Max.

What is the plot of ‘Tokyo Vice’?

In 1999, American journalist Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) has relocated to Tokyo and must pass a written exam in Japanese to have the chance to join the staff of a major Japanese newspaper. He succeeds in becoming their first foreign-born journalist and starts at the very bottom. Taken under the wing of a veteran detective (Ken Watanabe) in the vice squad, he starts to explore the dark and dangerous world of the Japanese yakuza whilst living under the city’s official line that “murder does not happen in Tokyo”.

What is the Plot of ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2?

Season two takes us deeper into the city’s criminal underworld as Adelstein comes to realize that his life, and the lives of those close to him, are in terrible danger.

Who is in the Cast of ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2?

  • Ansel Elgort as Jake Adelstein
  • Ken Watanabe as Hiroto Katagiri
  • Rachel Keller as Samantha Porter
  • Show Kasamatsu as Sato
  • Shun Sugata as Hitoshi Ishida
  • Rinko Kikuchi as Emi Maruyama
'Tokyo Vice' season 2 premieres February 8th on Max.

‘Tokyo Vice’ season 2 premieres February 8th on Max.

Other Michael Mann Movies:

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Please click on the video player below to watch Moviefone’s exclusive interviews with Rachel Keller and Show Kasamatsu about ‘Tokyo Vice’ Season 2.

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