Tokyo Vice: how to watch and everything we know

Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe sitting on a bus with armored police officers in Tokyo Vice
Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe in Tokyo Vice (Image credit: HBO Max)

There's few things people like more than a good TV crime drama (see the Law & Order franchise, 2021’s Mare of Easttown and countless others) and TV viewers were introduced to a new one in 2022 centered in the Tokyo underworld of the 90s with Tokyo Vice. Making it even better, a master of the genre, Michael Man (Heat), is involved in the project.

The series is based on a journalist's first-hand experiences, which has been adapted for TV by JT Rogers, who is a Tony Award-winning playwright for Oslo, which was also made into a hit, Emmy-nominated TV movie.

Here is everything you need to know about Tokyo Vice.

How to watch Tokyo Vice

Tokyo Vice season 1 has concluded its run in the US, with all eight episodes available to stream right now on HBO Max.

UK viewers interested in Tokyo Vice can watch the show on Starzplay or iPlayer.

Tokyo Vice season 2

Tokyo Vice has officially been renewed for season 2 by HBO Max. However, no details were given as to when fans can expect Tokyo Vice season 2 to debut.

Without giving away any spoilers, if you're all caught up with Tokyo Vice you know that the first eight episodes end with many of the characters we've gotten to know in some precarious situations. Where will their stories go as the crime drama continues?

Tokyo Vice plot

Ansel Elgort riding in a taxi in Tokyo at night in Tokyo Vice

(Image credit: James Lisle/HBO Max)

Tokyo Vice is based on American journalist Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat. Here’s the official synopsis:

"The crime drama series, filmed on location in Tokyo, captures Adelstein's daily descent into the neon-soaked underbelly of Tokyo in the late ‘90s, where nothing and no one is truly what or who they seem."

The source material has come under a bit of scrutiny recently, as The Hollywood Reporter has shared that some believe that Adelstein's book stretches the truth at what really happened. HBO Max has previously said the series is "loosely inspired" from Adelstein’s writings and that their first priority was "entertainment."

Here are the synopses for all Tokyo Vice episodes:

Tokyo Vice episode 1: "The Test"
"Hired as Meicho Shumbun's first American crime reporter, Jake Adelstein is quickly tasked with covering two cases that initially appear unreleated, but soon stakes his career — and life on connecting the dots.

Tokyo Vice episode 2: "Kishi Kaisei"
"As crime boss Tozawa dangeroulsy toes the line between territories, the rival Chihara-Kai scramble to collect dues. Samantha protects another hostess, while Jake witnesses a confrontation that changes everything.

Tokyo Vice episode 3: "Read the Air"
"Jake's persistence pays off when he receives an exclusive from Detective Katagiri — but catches the less ideal eye of someone else in the process. Meanwhile, Samantha hits it off with a new customer, as Sato chooses between words and fists."

Tokyo Vice episode 4: "I Want It That Way"
"As Samantha makes strides toward the future, her past catches up. With help from Emi, Tin-Tin and Trendy, Jake has a breakthrough in connecting the cases — and comes face-to-face with the head of Chihari-Kai, who requires a favor."

Tokyo Vice episode 5: "Everybody Pays"
"When Jake helps reveal the mole in Chihara-Kai, he must weigh the risks of accepting a favor in return from Ishida. Samantha attemps to take care of her Matsuo problem. Sato's recruitment ends with a devastating lesson in loyalty."

Tokyo Vice episode 6: "The Information Business"
"An impromptu Yakuza Peace Summit finds Tozawa at the mercy of his own actions. Samantha begins to settle her debts with Matsuo. A determined Jake chases down a tip from Ishida."

Tokyo Vice episode 7: "Sometimes They Disappear"
"Jake struggles to regain his footing after the botched raid, while Samantha grows increasingly desperate to find Polina. Sato feels the pressure of his elevated standing in Chihari-Kai."

Tokyo Vice episode 8: "Yoshino"
"While Samantha risks it all for Polina's safe return, Sato is forced to mix business with pleasure. As Katagiri devises a plan to finally take down Tozawa, Jake is confronted by the crime boss's men."

Tokyo Vice cast

The Tokyo Vice cast features a mix of US and Japanese actors, led by the duo of Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe.

Ansel Elgort plays Jake Adelstein in the series. Elgort was most recently seen in the Best Picture nominee West Side Story, but is also well known for his roles in Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series. 

Ken Watanabe is the other lead in the series, playing a member of the Tokyo police, Hiroto Katagiri. Watanabe is an Academy Award-nominated actor (The Last Samurai) who also has appeared in big projects like Inception, Godzilla, Batman Begins, Memoirs of a Geisha and more.

Another Oscar-nominated actor is part of the Tokyo Vice cast, Rinko Kikuchi. Kikuchi received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 2006’s Babel. Since then she has starred in movies like The Brothers Bloom, Pacific Rim and Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, as well as TV series like Westworld and Invasion. Kikuchi will play Eimi in Tokyo Vice.

Other members of the cast include Rachel Keller (Fargo, Legion) as Samantha, Ella Rumpf (Raw, Succession) as Polina, Hideaki Ito (Memoirs of a Murderer) as Jin Miyamoto, Shô Kasamatsu (My Girlfriend is a Serial Killer) as Sato and Tomohisa Yamashita (Code Blue) as Akira. 

Tokyo Vice trailer

HBO Max has shared the trailer for Tokyo Vice and in it we get an enticing taste of the thrills, violence and danger of Jake Adelstein’s reporting of the battle between the Tokyo Police and Yakuza. Give it a watch below: 

Tokyo Vice directors

Tokyo Vice has lined up some exciting directors for its run. As mentioned, Michael Mann will be directing the pilot episode. Mann is best known for directing movies like Heat, Public Enemies, The Insider, Collateral and The Last of the Mohicans.

Also in line to direct multiple episodes of Tokyo Vice is Destin Daniel Cretton. Cretton is coming off directing Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021, but also has movies like Just Mercy and Short Term 12 on his resume.

Japanese director Hikari is also listed as a director of two episodes for the series, per IMDb.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.