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Tokyo Vice Brings Back Memories of Classic Journalism

Tokyo Vice is streaming on LionsgatePlay

Tokyo Vice Brings Back Memories of Classic Journalism

Last Updated: 09.32 PM, May 09, 2022


At the turn of the millennium, with the advent of TV news channels, news became a money-making business. With a single hyperbolic news anchor with a clear right-wing bent, Indian news slipped into the propaganda carriage within a very short span of time. Today, newspapers are looked upon as the only source of genuine news and BARC, the central TV rating agency, has been rejected by national and state news networks as manipulated and biased. In this race for viewership, it can become difficult to distinguish or realise the actual power of the press.

Tokyo Vice is a classic piece of content that highlights the good that newspapers can do. Based on the memoirs of journalist Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort), the only American or foreigner to have ever worked with a leading Japanese newspaper, this series is about the nearly unreported but highly powerful underworld of Japan, the Yakuza, and their hold over society in the country.


Japan is unique in culture, food, music, ways of living and philosophy, so much so that its inward-looking professional culture often makes it challenging for foreigners (gaijin) to function here. Police and Yakuza work in tandem to maintain balance in Tokyo, a fact that this show highlights with the sheer absence of murders in Japan (these are often written off as accidents and suicides).

Creator, writer and executive producer J T Rogers has worked with a team of stellar directors, including Micheal Mann and Hikari, to create an emotional drama about the life of a trainee newspaper reporter who finds an important outsider perspective on Japan. Ansel Elgort, Ken Watanabe, Rachel Keller and Sho Kasamatsu deliver convincing performances and make for an eclectic roll-call of characters in this series.

Shining Girls on Apple TV+ is another series that builds on the role of an investigative journalist in a bustling city through sharp fiction. Michelle Maclaren, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul alum produces this series. Narcos fame Wagner Moura plays a world-weary crime journalist who has had a run-in with alcoholism and struggles to bring up his pre-teen son. His perspective as an experienced journalist, who has to assess the credibility of a trauma victim, is the balance in his erratic life. Placing this journalist in the Chicago Sun-times, alongside Kirby as a research assistant in the same paper, presents an inside view of the hustle-bustle and unbreakable monotony for people who work in the business of reporting news. It uses the journalist as a balancing voice.

The power of journalism to bring about a change in society and to be the voice of people makes for the brilliant Spotlight (Amazon Prime Video). The film is centred on the meticulous Boston Globe investigation that unveiled the sexual abuse of young boys by some Catholic priests and the Church’s cover-up for decades. It is a moving story about dedicated journalism where lead characters rise above identity and upbringing to expose damaging social corruption.

Naradan is a Malayalam film that reminds one of India’s personal journeys to the morass of sensational journalism, with a powerful closing act where the ego of a false media god is smashed by the authentic high mindedness of a judge in a small town. Aashiq Abu has researched the steady growth of a certain kind of loud, hype-driven journalism that becomes relevant today and makes you think about the current state of TV news. Similarly, Dhamaka (Netflix) by Ram Madhvani looks at the personal impact of being a popular news anchor in India today.

Journalism driven films like The Post (by Steven Spielberg), Ace in the Hole (by Billy Wilder), and Network (Sidney Lumet) offer different facets of the media as it evolved from a simple public information vehicle to a massive multimedia business. Succession from HBO draws upon the unstated but dominant power of the media in deciding the fortunes of the Roy family and its global media magnate. And the beautiful French Dispatch on Hotstar from Wes Anderson is an unabashed throwback to a bygone era of newsmen that believed in words over currency and stood by their faith. There’s also Inventing Anna, an adaptation of a recent piece of investigative journalism by the Cut magazine which exposed a manipulative young woman, a fake heiress that had conned many rich and powerful Americans to lead a super luxurious life. As this series shows, while digital media, over the top TV news and bought out print space has changed the nature of journalism to an extent, the power of an honest and reported journalistic article stands the test of time, and can still make people accountable.