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‘Tokyo Vice’ beats with the energy of the streets [Unscripted] | Entertainment

“Tokyo Vice,” HBO Max’s new neon-soaked series set in Japan’s largest city in 1999, is a tale of investigative journalism mixed with a mob murder plot, all wrapped up in a gritty neo -not to go. As a fan of film noir movies and books, deep dives into investigative journalism, and Japanese literature, the chances were extremely high that I would enjoy this show, and it did not disappoint.

At one point in the show, two characters even recite some haiku from my favorite Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho. It seems like my only interests that don’t appear in the first three episodes of the show are baseball, which is huge in Japan (there’s actually a batting cage scene), and Phish, who toured Japan in 1999. So , there is still hope for “Tokyo Vice”. ” to completely check all my “personal favorites” boxes.

The series is something like “All the President’s Men” and “Zodiac” meets “The Sopranos” and “Goodfellas,” with a bit of “Lost in Translation” thrown into the mix.

HBO Max launched the eight-episode crime drama with a bang on April 7 by releasing three nearly hour-long episodes. HBO Max will release two episodes each Thursday until the finale premieres on April 28.

Like much good noir, “Tokyo Vice” leans into certain tropes while establishing a unique angle to tell its story.

“Tokyo Vice” is loosely based on journalist Jake Adelstein’s 2009 memoir “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.” The series follows a fictionalized version of Adelstein (played by Ansel Elgort, “West Side Story”), a rookie expat reporter for Japan’s largest newspaper, as he finds his footing and searches for a big, meaningful story to write. In real life and on the show, Adelstein was the first American citizen to be hired as a reporter for a Japanese newspaper, written in Japanese, which uncovered the secrets of the Japanese underworld and the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

Elgort does a good job of portraying Adelstein as a bit clumsy and naive, but ambitious, serious and idealistic. In the second episode, Adelstein tells another young reporter how the words of his coroner’s father inspired him to become a reporter: “Every day the knowledge of the world increases a little, and this newspaper is a record of that.” He then adds: “And that’s what we have to do. We have the opportunity to increase the knowledge of the world every day.”

The pilot episode was directed by perhaps the person most qualified to direct a crime/journalism series named after a city and the word vice in the title: Michael Mann. Mann produced “Miami Vice” (the television series) and directed “Miami Vice”, the 2006 film. Most notably, he directed the crime films “Thief” (1981), “Manhunter” (1986), “Heat” (1995) and “The Insider” (1999) on journalists and the tobacco industry.

Mann does an excellent job of setting the scene by throwing us right into a tense showdown between Adelstein, Detective Hiroto Katagari (Ken Watanabe, “The Last Samurai,” “Godzilla”), and some members of the yakuza gang. The show then flashes back two years to 1999, where the action of the first three episodes takes place, to provide some of Adelstein’s backstory while showcasing the fresh and dramatic noir landscape of Tokyo nightlife. “Tokyo Vice” also stars Rachel Keller (TV series “Fargo”) as Samantha, an expat who works as a nightclub hostess, and Sho Kasamatsu as Sato, a rising yakuza member.

The true story begins when Adelstein shows up to cover a crime scene where a man has been stabbed with a sword, only to be told later by a policeman that “there are no murders in Japan.” Later, Adelstein sees a man commit suicide by setting himself on fire in public and discovers what he believes to be a connection between the two incidents. Like any stubborn reporter, Adelstein is not so easily dissuaded. Despite his superiors’ wishes to write only what the police tell him, he begins to investigate suspicious deaths and finds sources in the Tokyo Police Department and the underbelly of the city.

Like a good piece of investigative journalism, “Tokyo Vice” hooks you with its lede, a journalistic term for the beginning of a story, then turns on a flashlight and takes you into a dark world you didn’t know existed.

Mike Andrelczyk is a staff writer for LNP. “Unscripted” is a weekly entertainment column produced by a rotating team of writers.

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