'Tokyo Vice' Episodes 1 to 3 Review: A gripping introduction Tokyo's underbelly

'Tokyo Vice' Episodes 1 to 3 Review: A gripping introduction Tokyo's underbelly
Ansel Elgort as Jake Adelstein in a still from 'Tokyo Vice' (HBO Max)

"We know what you're investigating. We want you to stop. This story is not good for him. Understand? Walk away. It will be like it never happened. Publish it? There's nowhere you can hide. But before we deal with you, we'll visit your whole family." This monologue of sorts is what we witness as 'Tokyo Vice' begins. The monologue also more-or-less sets the mood or rather the imminent threat for the rest of the HBO Max series. 

We're soon pulled back to 1999, and this is where Jake Adelstein's (Ansel Elgort) story in Japan commences. We get quick but effective montages that give us a peek into his life and they eventually lead to him becoming an employee at Yomiuri Shimbun. 'Tokyo Vice' follows Adelstein's life as a reporter there and the first three episodes happen to be an introduction to the seedy underbelly of Tokyo, both for Adelstein and the viewer. 


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Adelstein's approach to reporting results in him drawing the interest of detective Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), who takes him under his wing and also allows him to accompany the police during a raid. He writes a story on it, marking his first published piece as a writer at Shimbun. Adelstein gets to meet some people later, namely Samantha (Rachel Keller) and Sato (Show Kasamatsu). The former is an American ex-pat just like Adelstein, who makes a living as a hostess while the latter is a Yakuza. What follows is Jake's encounters as he goes about reporting on the Yakuza and other criminal activities and the challenges he faces.

Two things stand out about 'Tokyo Vice.' The first one is the execution, a rather fresh and organic one that pulls us into one of the largest metro cities in the world. We feel like we're a part of it and the neon-tinted nights are just too alluring while being intimidating and mysterious. The second is the acting. While Watanabe brings about stoicism to the show, Ansel Elgort shines as the 'gaijin' or outsider. The effort Elgort has put in is clearly visible and definitely commendable. The rest of the cast does a wonderful job as well.

In all, 'Tokyo Vice' is a slow-burner but the payoffs are worth it. 

The first 3 episodes of 'Tokyo Vice' are available for streaming on HBO Max. The remaining episodes will drop on Thursdays, starting April 14.

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