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Tokyo Vice review: Ansel Elgort's series is experimental, impresses but only to an extent

Tokyo Vice is another example of how a novel adaptation (here, memoir) could work wonders but only in bits and parts. Watch out for Ken Watanabe and Sho Kasamatsu, who impress way more than Ansel in various scenes.

  • Shaheen Irani

Last Updated: 12.36 AM, May 04, 2022

Tokyo Vice review: Ansel Elgort's series is experimental, impresses but only to an extent
Tokyo Vice - Ken Watanabe, Ansel Elgort.


Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) comes across a story for his newspaper when he witnesses a chain of events. While he knows the pros and cons, Jake doesn't shy back from dabbling into the world of crime (Yazuka) and law simultaneously. Many stories unfold through him and Japan's culture (or at least what it once was) is brought to the front with this series, based on real events (at least 80-90%).


Tokyo Vice is one series that is long, sometimes unpredictable and has its moments from time-to-time. Adapted from a memoir, this one could bring more intrigue to the table but still, somehow does a fair job if you keep some patience to watch this one.

The series begins like a typical mafia story, only this time it is set in Tokyo, Japan. This one is about an American boy (and you would already know he isn't ordinary) trying to make it in Japan.

The vibe of this show is not such that it intrigued you. The focus on story beginning from metro, in fact, makes you wonder if this one is also trying to adapt from Netflix's superhit show, Squid Game.

At long last, you get the feeling of the show being made in Japan. The little iconic things like a ramen shop or the streets of Tokyo finally let you relate to this show.

The story takes its own pace to develop, which is also evident from how long this show is (eight hours, one hour per episode). What could be said in 10 minutes, the makers take an hour to convey.

The show gets better from the second episode. Things finally fall into place and the intrigue factor is introduced. Music plays a huge role in that.

The workplace culture of Japan and journalism as a whole is beautifully represented in the series. There are way too many complications behind what people consider 'one simple story' and Tokyo Vice puts its finger right on that.

Tokyo Vice is about a reporter who is made to feel out of place. It is about him trying to do his job but being caught up with the politics outside of work (here, journalism).

Ansel Elgort as Jake Adelstein is not one of the best actors out there but he does his job as the American journalist in Japan. He has a few moments that could make you smile, if not win you over.

Rachel Keller as Samantha is a typical American actress on the show. She is fierce and as much as we love that, this is a show where we wanted to see more. She does show some shades that surprise you but those are very rare.

Sho Kasamatsu is good as Sato. Although he is mainly poker-faced, this actor makes a mark in a way where others fail to do so. Like what was visible from scene one, he is one character that is layered and it is something to watch out for.

Ken Watanabe as Hiroto Katagiri is impressive. Even if he has two main shades - angry and frustrated, he makes the character worth watching. His cameo appearances are sometimes better than the lead actor Ansel himself.

The excitement in this series keeps increasing with each episode since after a while, you get to see mafia, justice and how the two are often inter-connected. The good bit in Tokyo Vice is seeing them both do their job with extreme loyalty and honour.

If you give this series a chance, it has some iconic and fun moments. The encounters between Jake and Sato are something to look forward to almost always.

After a point, the makers seem to have put no effort into the show. The lip sync isn't on point and still, the cameras focus on the faces which is very off-putting for any viewer watching the show.

Everybody knows about the Yakuza and this story, inspired from a real-life incident, sees Jake working closely with a member of the Yakuza, Sato. Their stories run parallely and you see a clear distinction in their worlds but despite that too, the two are similar in many various, which is also beautifully reflected through their friendship on the show.

The action in this series is definitely worth your time but the constant switch between Japanese and English could get a little too much to handle. Another thing about this series that would make you want to quit mid-way is its length. With more than nine hours, this one could get a drag in a few places but is also interesting in other.

Like it begins, Tokyo Vice also ends on an abrupt note. However, this time you have some context and so, the story is a little more appealing towards the last scene. Although it builds intrigue, there's no strong reason for you to go back to this series, except for appreciating how Japanese content has made its way and is probably here to stay.


Tokyo Vice is one of the experimental projects. While it hasn't failed to convey a message, the series doesn't pass with flying colours too.

The huge factor that holds back Tokyo Vice is the time each episode takes to convey a message. While a few episodes (two-three) are justified, the rest could stretch out a message that could be conveyed in 10 minutes. We mean stretching up to an hour.

Anywho, this series has an intrigue factor, even if it comes late. If you have the patience to sit through shows for a few moments, then you shouldn't skip this one. Honestly, you shouldn't skip it for the art because every episode has something to offer but then again, it all depends on how much patience you have to sit through a show which is over nine hours long and has a short message to convey, in longer duration.