beautiful city, shame about the western story about the savior?

It’s no coincidence that Tokyo Vice (Starzplay) brings back memories of Miami Vice. Both shows are about the seedy side of life: drugs, strip clubs, organized crime. Michael Mann, who produced Miami Vice, will direct the pilot episode of this new show. Even the music has a hint of Jan Hammer’s score. And the series begins with the pairing of Ken Watanabe and Ansel Elgort. Will they be Japan’s answer to Crockett and Tubbs?

well no. Despite all these signifiers, Tokyo Vice tells its story differently. For starters, there is only one lead. Watanabe, a very good actor, is relegated to a supporting role as a gray cop. The star is baby-faced Elgort, most recently seen on West Side Story, and here he plays an American who moves to Tokyo and lands a prized job as a cub reporter in the city’s most venerable newspaper, reporting on it. of the crime.

The show is based on Jake Adelstein’s 2009 bestseller memoir. As Adelstein, Elgort is feverishly smart – impressing everyone with his spoken and written Japanese, becoming the only Westerner to pass the paper’s entrance exam – and often manic intense. He is frustrated by the rules, which are so strict that the newspaper is run like a cross between an army regiment and a prison. An editor yells at Adelstein for reporting a “murder” – that word can never be used unless the police say so, even if the evidence is undeniable.

The most interesting thing about Tokyo Vice is this glimpse into a culture so different from our own (if we are to take it at face value – some critics have suggested that Adelstein embellished his stories of encounters with the yakuza, although his descriptions of the everyday life on paper seem to have been accepted). But the perspective of the outsiders is also awkward.

In recent years, the British public has had access to brilliant foreign crime dramas. Watching a show where the maverick westerner is the only character with the audacity to challenge the rules and crack the case seems like a throwback. The Japanese reporters are submissive corporate drones, while the Japanese detective who offers to show Adelstein the tricks of the trade is an old-fashioned sleazeball. It all feels as old-fashioned as the fashion sense of Miami Vice.

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