HBO’s ‘Tokyo Vice’ Will Set A New Standard For Crime Dramas

The popularity of the crime genre is a double-edged sword when it comes to television. Content isn’t exactly in short supply, but the problem lies in quality and consistency. For every True Detective (season 1 & 3), there are about ten How To Get Away With Murders lurking about, polluting the waters with lowbrow garbage. Thankfully, on the odd occasion, something nuanced and well-considered comes along. Something like HBO’s adaptation of Tokyo Vice starring Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe. And with talent of Heat director Michael Mann’s calibre/pedigree onboard, it’s hard to imagine an outcome that doesn’t involve success.

Based on the 2009 memoir of the same name written by Jake Adelstein – yes, this is all inspired by a shockingly true story – the series follows a young American journalist who moves to Tokyo with the objective of investigating corruption within the metropolitan police department (specifically the vice squad). The classic fish-out-of-water scenario is dialled all the way up to 11 when Elgort’s Jake takes it upon himself to uncover the “real” Japan and gets in deep with the Yakuza. Although from what we’ve glimpsed in the trailer, the Yakuza isn’t who he should really be concerned about. As both Jake and audiences are about to discover, the thin blue line can get pretty blurry at times.

On the basis of visuals alone, Tokyo Vice promises to be a deliciously cinematic affair, coloured by muted palettes and subtle yet stylish camerawork… which probably has something to do with Michael Mann’s involvement. The legendary filmmaker turned novelist has not only signed on as a series producer, but also helmed the pilot episode. As for the creative genius steering this entire binge-worthy ship, that honour belongs to playwright J.T. Rogers, who personally adapted the first and last episode of season 1 for screens.



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Here’s a quick rundown of the main cast featured in Tokyo Vice:

  • Ansel Elgort as Jake Adelstein
    An American journalist from Missouri who moves to Tokyo. The longer he stays, the more he delves into the corruption of Tokyo’s seedy underworld, where no one is as they seem.
  • Ken Watanabe as Hiroto Katagiri
    A detective in the organized crime division. He’s a father figure to Adelstein who helps guide him through the thin and often precarious line between the law and organised crime.
  • Rachel Keller as Samantha
    An American expat living in Tokyo who makes her living as a hostess of the Kabukicho district. She guides many individuals from salarymen, to high-end clients, and yakuza.
  • Ella Rumpf as Polina
    An Eastern European expat, and a struggling new hostess at the club with Samantha. She came to Tokyo to work as a model, and got pulled into the seedy underbelly of Kabukicho.
  • Rinko Kikuchi as Adelstein’s supervisor
    A composite of the various colleagues and supervisors who worked with the real life Adelstein during his career.

The first three episodes of Tokyo Vice are scheduled to hit HBO Max on April 7th with weekly drops thereafter (meaning we can reasonably expect it on Binge around the same time) – check out the official trailer above and official synopsis below.

Loosely inspired by American journalist Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat, the crime drama series, filmed on location in Tokyo, captures Adelstein’s (portrayed by Ansel Elgort) daily descent into the neon-soaked underbelly of Tokyo in the late 90s, where nothing and no one is truly what or who they seem.