‘Tokyo Vice’ finale hits all the sweets spots — and makes me crave season 3

Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in Tokyo Vice season 2 finale
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

A show like “Tokyo Vice” doesn’t come around all too often. With its second season steeped in a Japan-trotting finale (released this past Thursday), the Max crime series based on the true events surrounding Jake Adelstein’s time as an American reporter in Tokyo bleeds with incredible promise — and all I want is more.

Once more at the forefront is 1990s Japan, a tantalizing world ripe with a culture all its own, which “Tokyo Vice” captures in elegant and mesmerizing detail even to the bitter end. An underworld ruled with honor and respect is underpinned by the always-bustling inner workings of the top newspaper of the time, both of which draw out a clear understanding of Japan’s stringent code of ethics. 

Characters like Shinzo Tozawa (Ayumi Tanida) and Emi Maruyama (Rinko Kikuchi) bring brilliant life and vibrancy to the cast, sporting their own forms of ruthlessness in their respective fields. And, of course, how can you not love Ken Watanabe’s performance as Hiroto Katagiri, the ever-loyal and hard-working detective at the center of a Japan swirling in criminality? 

There’s so much to love in this escape into the neon-streaked streets of Tokyo. Like myself, many might be curious about its future and what might become of still untethered story beats gracing the screen amid its “Endgame.” Expect spoilers ahead for the 10th and final episode of “Tokyo Vice,” so do be sure to grab a warm cup of tea and experience the epic finale for yourself before proceeding. 

A thrilling (and cutthroat) climax

Ayumi Tanida’s Shinzo Tozawa in Tokyo Vice

(Image credit: Max)

At the forefront of this season’s close is an immensely surprising (and yet somewhat honorable) passing of Shinzo Tozowa, the leading crime boss set to take over Japan’s Yakuza-ruled underworld. Tozawa, who is brought to life in a bone-chilling performance by Tanida, sat out the first few episodes this season but re-entered the show with a terrifying display of confidence and a new lease on life. 

That, however, came to a swift end in the final few minutes of “Endgame,” which saw Tozawa take his own life following his exposure as an FBI criminal informant to the wider Yakuza clans. Though loosely based in reality, “Tokyo Vice” still toes a fine line of dramatism while sticking true to both the real-world story and Japanese culture. 

“But also remember, the show is fiction. So when we talk about authenticity, it’s what possibly could’ve happened, what doesn’t feel like it is based on a misunderstanding of the culture.”

Alan Poul

When asked about Tozawa’s shocking demise in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “Tokyo Vice” executive producer Alan Poul explains how “the show is fiction.” Despite that fictional nature, the series creators did well in keeping true to the authenticity of the Yakuza and Japan on the whole.

And, as friendships are mended and characters go their separate ways, it’s clear in its final lasting moments that “Tokyo Vice” and its brilliant cast aren’t yet finished. Despite Tozawa’s passing, there’s still much to tell about the now ever-thriving world of the Yakuza and beyond, but where that story might be headed next is anyone’s best guess.

On where Adelstein’s adventure leads 

With Tozawa now out of the picture, series star Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) must find a new story to chase across the crime-riddled streets of Tokyo. In its closing shot, Adelstein and Katagiri share a lovely moment that highlights their seemingly unnatural bond, showing just how far the duo has come since their first awkward encounter. 

Of course, the show expertly ends on the winking promise of more to come — and I, for one, will be waiting breathlessly for its return. As among the best shows on Max, “Tokyo Vice” is a true love letter to fans not only of crime thrillers and police procedurals like “Miami Vice” but of Japan and its deeply rich culture. 

It’s unclear how a third season might take shape, but series creator and writer J.T. Rogers already has one mapped out and “ready to go.” In the same interview with THR, Rogers hints at a “Tokyo Vice” season 3 that “will be full of twists and turns,” which should be reassuring to long-time fans of the series. 

Ansel Elgort and Rachel Keller in Tokyo Vice finale

(Image credit: Max)

One thing’s for sure: we’ve certainly got a long wait ahead before experiencing this expert look into the criminal underworld of Japan once more. While there’s more than enough to keep us preoccupied, namely Netflix’s “3 Body Problem” and the upcoming "House of the Dragon" season 2, few if any alternatives will be able to recapture that same loving look at one of the world’s most fascinating places — though if there’s anything I do recommend it would have to be “Shogun” on Hulu.

Both “Tokyo Vice” and “Shogun” have done well in keeping true to Japan’s rich history while still offering an incredible story to follow, oftentimes on the edge of your seat. More shows like them should follow suit in highlighting this breathtaking country, one that has largely kept itself closed off from the rest of the world — and I’ll be waiting in quiet meditation to see where that next trip to Japan takes shape in the lead-up to the return of “Tokyo Vice.”

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Ryan Epps
Staff Writer

Ryan Epps is a Staff Writer under the TV/AV section at Tom's Guide focusing on TVs and projectors. When not researching PHOLEDs and writing about the next major innovation in the projector space, he's consuming random anime from the 90's, playing Dark Souls 3 again, or reading yet another Haruki Murakami novel.