Tokyo Vice season 2 loses what made season 1 so great.

Tokyo Vice is a show on Max (formerly HBO Max) that follows the story of Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) a young American journalist who relocates to Japan in order to make a name for himself. He works for the biggest Japanese newspaper in town called the Meicho Shimbun and quickly has to learn that the things he could do in America would never fly in Japan. Supposedly, this show is based on true stories from the real Jake Adelstein. It’s not. Jake provided some stories of his own experiences, but this story is one-hundred percent fictional.

Is Tokyo Vice a true story?

Season 1 came out strong with a compelling mystery and a fun premise. A fresh out of college American goes to a foreign land with no friends or contacts living a life most people would be too afraid to do. He has a handle on the Japanese language but has yet to learn how the Japanese culture of respect works and why that respect is needed to get what he wants.

When a man self-immolates in the middle of a busy street, Jake’s life as a crime scene journalist officially begins. His investigation leads him to meeting Samantha (Rachel Keller), Sato (Shô Kasamatsu), and Detective Katagiri (Ken Watanabe.)

For those of you not familiar with the Tokyo Vice story so far, I suggest you watch Season 1. This review contains minor spoilers.

In Season 1, Tokyo Vice kept me hooked through the mystery of the Yakuza and the life of Sato, a member of the Chihara-Kai Yakuza. Both Jake and Sato lived parallel lives of being newbies to the world they’ve adopted. For Sato, his life as a Yakuza lackey was full of tough lessons.

Sato is clapping with members of the Chihara-kai Yakuza.

Sato, despite being a part of an extremely violent organization, is a thug with a heart of gold. He has every opportunity given to him to use violence and instead prefers to use words. Then, when Jake establishes a relationship with Sato, the two of them bond by singing Backstreet Boys in the car. Sato is a compelling character because he cares very deeply about the people around him even though his organization views everyone as expendable.

Samantha (Rachel Keller) is the other gaijin (American) in Japan working as a hostess. A hostess is a girl who makes casual conversation and makes men feel good. Hostess goal is to get their male customers to spend as much money as possible on alcohol. She gets involved with the Yakuza through Sato and the two of them develop a relationship that extends beyond the club.

Then we have Detective Katagiri (Ken Watanabe) who acts as Jake’s mentor and crime informer. He serves as a mediator between the gumis (Yakuza groups) and tries to de-escalate tensions when there is a threat of war.

The storylines and connections between all these characters, along with the Yakuza insurance scam is what made Tokyo Vice season 1 great. Season 2 goes in a different and much less interesting direction.

Season 2 chooses to focus on the conflict between Chihara-kai and the Tozawa antagonist gumi.

Tokyo Vice season 2 picks up where season 1 left off. Detective Katagiri has been relegated to a boring desk job; Jake was taken off the crime scene beat; and Samantha now owns her own club. As for Sato? He’s moved up in his gumi and has become the right-hand man to the old guy running Chihara-kai. Ishida (Shun Sagata).

The first episode of season 2 is really boring. All the characters are separated and basically doing nothing interesting while apart. It’s basically a day in the life of and no one is doing anything interesting in their day. Samantha owning a club is not at all interesting and Detective Katagiri is placed out of action for the safety of his family. Plot-wise and motivation wise everything makes sense, but it turns the episode into filler.

Another problem with Tokyo Vice season 2 was how long it took for us to get a second season. The first season aired on April 7th 2022. We didn’t get season 2 until 2024! As my wife and I were watching season 2 we were literally thought to ourselves, “I have no idea what’s going on.”

Even if you decide to binge Tokyo Vice season 1 and season 2, it doesn’t change the fact that Season 2 is still weak.

Rather than focus on the characters, season 2 focuses on the plot and the growing conflict between Chihara-Kai and Tozawa. Tokyo Vice also introduces an awful new character, Naoki Hayama (Yôsuke Kubozuka) who’s fresh out of prison and is in line to take over Chihara-Kai. Hayama is a terrible character and insufferable to watch on screen because he is completely two-dimensional. He’s typical: violent, drunk, aggressive, selfish, and if you disrespect him, he kills you.

The Hayama character is a real drag on the show and his inclusion doesn’t add anything compelling to the show. Hayama’s only purpose is to antagonize Sato by trying to get Sato’s brother to join Chihara-kai. Hayama also isn’t a character you love to hate because he has no depth. Tozawa (Ayumi Tanida) also has this same problem. Though in Tozawa’s defense, he’s just trying to consolidate the gumis into one powerful organization.

The conflict between the two gumis and the police trying to shut them down is also a snooze.

Tokyo Vice fails to do what Narcos: Mexico did spectacularly. Narcos: Mexico had deep, complex characters who grew and changed over time. From humble beginnings selling weed to creating a massive distribution network with all the gangs working together; you see the downfall and how the gangs all eventually turn on each other. There is nothing like that in Tokyo Vice.

The gumis fighting each other isn’t what’s interesting about the show. What would be interesting is how the conflict changes the characters. Hayama shows no signs of growth or change, and he is a big focus in season 2.

The villains are ironically what make the show boring. I don’t care about Tozawa or Hayama because there is nothing to relate to. Sato would have been a more compelling antagonist.

Should you skip or watch Tokyo Vice?

The ultimate question. Should you watch Tokyo Vice? Tough call. Season 2 drops the ball pretty hard. Although it’s cool to be taken to 90’s Japan, the atmosphere can only keep you invested for so long. I don’t mind the show but I’m also less picky when it comes to content I watch.

If you’ve run out of shows, I think Tokyo Vice could fill that missing content slot. Unfortunately, season 2 is a major let down and that reason alone prevents me from recommending it.

Three stars.

Before I leave, some website news.

I am working on some significant changes to The Silver Ninja website. One of the big ones you’ll notice is the removal of slideshows. As much as I like the aesthetic of the slideshow, it’s not great for new visitors. For starters, if you don’t feel like scrolling through all the slides then you’ll never see all of the content. The second problem is that the slideshow takes 1-2 seconds to load. In that second, there is an ugly white screen before the image pops up.

I’m also very unhappy with mybooktable plugin that I use to manage my books. The original developer sold the plugin to another company and the functionality hasn’t been updated to reflect modern trends in web design. For example, the plugin makes the price of paperbacks bigger than digital. Well, digital sells more than paperbacks and not being able to change the interface really annoys me.

Mybooktable does have cross functionality with Mybookprogress, but honestly, I don’t have time to log into the website to update when I write 100 words. I do want to keep some kind of indicator that I’m working on something, but I don’t think it should be through the plugins anymore.

Also, I need to make space for my horror series. Until I have a big enough library to warrant its own website, my horror series will be sharing space with The Silver Ninja. Hope you like the changes and new artwork that will go along with it.

Very excited for the new reveal, hope to show it to you all soon.

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Wilmar Luna

Couldn't be a superhero in real life so he decided to write his own. When he's not creating empowered female characters he can be found watching films, reading books, and playing lots of video games. Buy his books here: