Broadcast this Thursday on Canal+, the Tokyo Vice series offers an exciting dive into the yakuza, members of Japan’s organized crime.
What is it about?
In Tokyo, 24-year-old American reporter Jake Adelstein joined the police and justice department of “Meicho Shimbun”, the largest Japanese daily. While cooperating with the local police, he was contacted by the mafia. He became an interlocutor with the yakuza while continuing to be an informer for the police. But this ambivalent position is not without danger.
Tokyo Vice, a series created by JT Rogers with Ansel Elgort, Ken Watanabe, Rachel Keller… Two episodes from Thursday September 15 at 9:10 pm on Canal+ and MyCanal. Watched episodes: 3 of 8
Who is it with?
To headline Tokyo Vice, HBO Max (the original broadcaster) chose Ansel Elgort as Jake Adelstein, the American journalist who recounts his impressive investigation in a book of the same name. The 28-year-old actor is currently on a roll after starring in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.
Opposite him, the legend of Japanese cinema Ken Watanabe portrays the policeman Hiroto Katagiri who helps him navigate within the codified culture of Japan, and within the even more codified yakuza that culture. To Western audiences, he is best known for playing Letters from Iwo Jima, The Last Samurai and Batman Begins.
Finally, Rachel Keller – revealed in the series Legion and Fargo – plays Samantha Porter, an American expat living in Tokyo who earns her living as a hostess at the Onyx Club in the Kabukicho district. He accompanies many people, from employees to high-end clients and yakuza.
In one of his most recent roles, Ansel Elgort plays Jake, a young journalist from Missouri. A boy with humor, talent and an excellent level of Japanese that allowed him to become the first foreign journalist hired by the country’s largest daily newspaper.
But he quickly became disillusioned after his hiring, having to deal with rampant racism in a country where immigration was reduced to a minimum, and in ways that were unusual to say the least, where journalists specializing in news should content themselves with copying the press releases of the police and above all do not ask annoying questions.
But Jake is strong and persistent. He wanders the dark streets of the Kabukicho district and befriends Samantha, an American bar hostess with a mysterious past, and Sato (Shô Kasamatsu), a young Yakuza who collects money at the club where he works. Samantha is against the protection of her organization. But above all, Jake found a strong ally in the person of Inspector Hiroto Katagiri.
He was also frustrated by the lack of drive and ambition in his service and became Jake’s source and mentor.
Michael Mann on camera
Without a doubt, vice in tokyo a fun series to watch. The pilot is signed Michael Mann who also wears the producer’s cap. He knows how to capture the insidious allure of cities, whether in Miami Vice or the Los Angeles of Collateral. Through the creation of the pilot, the aesthetic charter of the series, his keen eye captured the whirlwind of Tokyo, the shady alleys and the attractive neon bars that separate the night.
For those unfamiliar with organized crime in Japan, Tokyo Vice is the perfect introduction to the world of the yakuza. Starting with the strange tattoos that cover the bodies of these mobsters and that the series is eager to show. The drama perfectly depicts their hierarchical structure based on the notions of loyalty and honor samurai.
We also see how the yakuza have infiltrated almost every structure of Japanese society to such an extent that the authorities are willing to do anything to prevent gang wars. It’s this whole feature that makes Tokyo Vice so appealing. The influence of the yakuza then becomes omnipresent leaving a permanent threat hanging over Jake, Samantha, Katagiri or even Sato.
Soon, we let ourselves be absorbed by this Tokyo of the 90s and this fascinating world of the yakuza. With the relief of not facing these impressive mafia.