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Series Analysis: Tokyo Vice Season 2 (2024) by J.T. Rogers
Series Analysis: Tokyo Vice Season 2 (2024) by J.T. Rogers

Series Analysis: Tokyo Vice Season 2 (2024) by J.T. Rogers

Definitely worthy of binge watching

Although the second season does not have the element of surprise, as first seasons usually do, it is easy to say that the creators of “Tokyo Vice Season 2” did an excellent job this time also, by focusing even more to the series’ best aspect, its characters.

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Jake’s miraculous rise in the echelons of Meicho newspaper continues, with his relationship with both his superior, Maruyama, and his colleagues, Tin Tin and Trendy, being on its highest level. Maruyama listens to him and trusts him, as do the other two actually, frequently following his advice even. Even Baku, his racist, nationalistic boss seems to have warmed up to him, at least professionally, occasionally approving even his most daring suggestions. At the same time, the reappearance of Tozawa throws a shadow over everyone, including Jake, who has started a relationship with his former mistress, Misaki, with both ignoring the dangers such an affair could entail. Ishida finds himself having to face an adversary that seems as cruel and cunning as him, who now even seems to be perfectly healthy. This last aspect actually, is one of the most central in the whole season. Lastly, Katagiri finds one of his arch-enemies having returned, with the threat Tozawa has made towards his family looming heavily over him, having a significant impact with his relationship with his family.

Ishida is also on the lookout for a successor, with his immediate number two, Hayama, who is newly released from a 7-year imprisonment and is appointed as his second-in-command, being the favorite, despite his mad-dog attitude, and Sato emerging as an outsider. As expected, an antagonism between the two ensues almost from the beginning, with Hayama highlighting his cruel nature by exploiting Sato’s will to leave his younger brother, Saito, out of the Yakuza, with him trying to woo him in instead. Maruyama also gets a rather interesting arc, with her relationship with the editor of a weekly newspaper, Murata, who is also of Korean descent. As things get more serious with the two of them, she has to introduce him to her mentally handicapped brother, who seems to be doing better, although she always remains anxious about him.

Samantha has now a new club, but her relationship with Sato seems to have ended, with her eventually pursuing one with one of her clients, although rather reluctantly, and Sato starting one with Erika, Samantha’s former mama-san. While Samantha has some success, and her ‘girls’ love and appreciate her, soon she realizes that partnering with the yakuza comes with certain and rather dangerous burdens. Tozawa’s wife, Kazuko, also emerges as a crucial player, while the appearance of a new officer, Nagata, in Katagirl’s precinct, who is intent in shutting down Yakuza organizations, shakes things up intensely, adding yet another very crucial female character in the mix. Lastly, Trendy starts a relationship while Tin Tin takes up baking, with both their relationships with Jake finding some bumps on the road, particularly since the latter seems to put his goals rather high in his life’s hierarchies.

Considering all the aforementioned, it becomes evident that the series is filled with episodes and characters, to a point that could end up confusing and stripping the viewer from any empathy they could have with them. However, the 10-episodes (most of which close up to an hour) format achieves exactly the opposite, as it allows for almost all of them and their interrelations to be explored thoroughly, in one of the most impressive characterization aspects we have seen lately.

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This elements also benefits the most by the impressive acting and casting. And if Ansel Elgort as Jake, Ken Watanabe as Katagiri, Rachel Keller as Samantha, Show Kasamatsu as Sato and Rinko Kikuchi Maruyama are as good as they were in first season, with their differences working excellently for the economy of the show, the ones who actually steal the show are the secondary roles and the newcomers. Ayumi Tanida as Tozawa and Shun Sugata as Ishida emit danger and respect from every movement and every word, with their clashes throughout the season being among its most impressive moments. Yosuke Kobuzuka as the the newcomes Hayama presents a genuine Mad Dog who is as cunning as he is ruled by his instincts, with his difference with Sato being another appealing element of the season. Makiko Watanabe as Kazuko essentially has the same impact as her husband and his adversary while Miki Maya as Nagata presents another rather strong and intelligent character, with both adding a very appealing female note in what seems to be two male-dominated worlds.

Lastly, Ayumi Ito as Misaki and Hyunri Lee as Erika are also great to watch, both due to their appearance and overall demeanor, while also playing crucial roles throughout the series. The ending of their arcs, though, could have been handled a bit better.

On the other hand, regarding the narrative, that everything ends up revolving around the main case does stretch the story a bit too far, while the ending could have definitely been handled better. Also as in the previous season, Jake’s American arc is the less interesting, even if it adds to his character as a man who is getting more and more sucked in his work. It is also worth mentioning that the presentation of Japanese culture is somewhat toned down this time, with the events and the characters being even more intense this time. The yakuza rituals and overall administration, the connection with the mafia, the press, the authorities and the politicians does come to the fore though once more, in the most interesting contextual element here.

Regarding the production values, the quality of HBO series is evident once more. The cinematography follows neo-noir aesthetics for the most part, in an approach that works wonders for the yakuza presentation. The overall cold colors seem to mirror the Japanese professional mentality, while the camera definitely allows the actors to shine through here, with the mostly mid shots adding to this whole approach. The editing is crisp and results in a pace that is definitely fast, thus allowing for the episodic narrative to unfold without haste, something that also benefits the series.

Although at a slightly lower level than the first part, “Tokyo Vice Season 2” remains a captivating series that continues to shed much light on Japanese society. Definitely worthy of binge watching.