nice city, shame about the Western saviour narrative

This is no coincidence Tokyo Vice (Starzplay) brings back memories of Miami Vice. Both shows deal with the shady side of life: drugs, strip clubs, organized crime. Michael Mann, who produced Miami Vice, is directing the pilot of this new show. Even the music has a touch 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 track. Watanabe, a very good actor, is relegated to a supporting role as a grey-haired policeman. It stars baby-faced Elgort, most recently in West Side Story, who plays an American who moves to Tokyo and lands a valuable job as a young reporter at the city’s most venerable crime-covering newspaper .

The show is based on Jake Adelstein’s bestselling 2009 memoir. As Adelstein, Elgort is feverishly bright – impressing everyone with his spoken and written Japanese and becoming the only Westerner to pass the newspaper’s entrance exam – and often insanely 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 must never be used unless the police say so, even when the evidence is undeniable.

What is most interesting about Tokyo Vice is this glimpse into a culture so different from our own (if we take it at face value – some critics have suggested that Adelstein embellished his tales of encounters with the yakuza, although he was honest in his descriptions of the everyday life on paper seem to have been accepted). But the outside perspective is also unpleasant.

In recent years, British audiences have had access to brilliant foreign crime dramas. Watching a show where the western misfit is the only character who has the guts to defy the rules and crack the case seems like a throwback. The Japanese reporters are obsequious corporate drones, while the Japanese detective who offers to show Adelstein the ropes is an old-fashioned scoundrel. It all feels as dated as Miami Vice’s fashion sense.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/tokyo-vice-review-nice-city-shame-western-saviour-narrative/ nice city, shame about the Western saviour narrative


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