We’re right in the middle of it now, aren’t we? When you believe you’ve got a grasp on the city’s game of sex, drugs, and crime, you discover the board beneath your feet is six levels deeper than before, and swagger is no substitute for actual prowess. Main players on both sides are mired in weeds right now, and it’s difficult to tell who has enough of either to emerge victoriously.
The Information Industry
Jake shows up at Sam’s apartment with Japanese “I’m sorry chocolates” in hand to apologize for his previous assholery at Onyx, but promptly puts his foot in his mouth by urging her to be careful with her new BF Sato. He’s aware of “those individuals” and “how they live their lives,” and he doesn’t want Samantha to become too involved. I’m not sure if Jake’s head is too far up his own arse right now (which it is, as we’ll soon see), but he should know by now that everyone, even Samantha, has been following Tokyo’s rules for longer than he has.
But reflection isn’t where Jake’s mind is these days. Still looking for a way to get to Tozawa, he finds that the same writer, Ukai Haruki, is responsible for all of the major Tozawa features in the yakuza fan magazines, so he pays him an unscheduled visit. Jake comes on strong like a big fan, posing as a happy-go-lucky gaijin with weak Japanese and ahead in the clouds. Haruki welcomes Jake into his home and shows him a wall of images and newspaper clippings that rivals the Charlie conspiracy meme. The topic moves to Tozawa’s mistresses, one of whom was assassinated for speaking to the press, as Hakuri points out. Jake notices Misaki, Tozawa’s number-one lady, whom we’ve only seen in passing in earlier episodes, and follows her into a shopping mall for a little talk. Our girl, on the other hand, is as shrewd as hell, sizing up Jake in a matter of seconds, so when he asks her if she’d like to comment on Tozawa’s deceased fiancée, she says, “You gotta be either stupid or crazy to ask me that, buddy.” Jake admits that he understands her fear of Tozawa. “No, Mexico-san,” she responds, “it is you who should be terrified.”
Because everyone in this program, including the yakuza’s power players, has something they should be terrified of. We’re just six episodes in, and we’re only scratching the surface of how complicated this system is, who’s truly in command, and who’s being pushed around by forces from above and beside them. To address the simmering turf war between Tozawa and Ishida, a meeting has been scheduled. As arbiter, Chairman Nakahara, the incumbent “kumicho,” or supreme kingpin, is present. Chihara-kai presents a straightforward argument: Tokyo is their region, while Tozawa’s is to the west. Tozawa attempted to encroach on their area. “If one of us is abused, we are all abused!” Tozawa provides a large suitcase full of money as penance, and Ishida, like a boss, only accepts half of it. Tozawa will have to get down on his knees to make this apology. Before Tozawa bows and accepts his licking, there’s a killer low angle shot of his clinched fist.
Later, Tozawa and Nakahara are alone, and we learn that this entire conspiracy was started by Nakahara. Tozawa is enraged at the prospect of losing face and groveling at Ishida’s feet. “Have you lost your face?” “It was you, not me, who botched the assassination,” Nakahara responds. I chose you to penetrate this place. In Tokyo, we will raise our flag. “However, you failed.” If Tozawa fails him again, he’ll have to pay with more than just his knees and a wad of cash.
Meanwhile, Ishida and Sato plan to provide Jake a juicy tip on Tozawa’s drug routes while the iron is still hot. Jake is first hesitant to act on the information, claiming that he does not want to use it to aid one criminal in the assassination of another. Ishida responds, “Yes, we’re both criminals, but Tozawa is a virus.” “You already know that my method is superior to his.” It’s difficult to disagree with that. So Jake dashes over to Katagiri’s to convey the information in the hopes of raiding the arriving plane the next morning. Katagiri, ever the calm master, is hesitant to act quickly on this hint, and Jake, who appears to be drinking more idiot juice than normal, is in no mood to listen to his advice. Now that I know the raid goes south and they don’t find anything on the plane, I suppose it’s simple for me to say. We also learn that Miyamoto, who Jake approaches with a tip when Katagiri refuses to budge, has been working with Tozawa all along. Tozawa is enraged that he’ll have to find a new way to bring his stuff into Japan, but Miyomoto reminds him that the goods were insured. Despite Jake’s protests, Meicho publishes his report on the raid with a police failure aspect, which spells disaster for his career. Tozawa now has a clear understanding of who he is. On Tokyo Vice, I guess that’s where that good ole cowboy hubris can get you.
Samantha is likewise testing the boundaries of her own power and comprehension. Sato, too, is feeling a little overwhelmed with his recent, eh, promotion to Ishida’s de facto right-hand man following that kick-ass siege. Sato in the back of a chauffeured car, the window gently unrolling to expose our favorite hot-shot young yakuza lookin’ cool as fuck, cut by a flash of pictures from the siege that leaves him worried and breathing heavily, is a wonderful scene at the opening of the episode. Sato’s first kill, and as Ishida informs him later, the first kill shouldn’t upset you. “Those who follow will not.”
Samantha will put it to the test when she informs Sato about Matsuo and asks for his assistance. After this lovely little interlude in which Sato prepares for her (which was so brilliantly constructed and acted that it made me cry), she shows him her CTR ring, which gains a new layer of significance for the spectator. Her father gave it to her as a reminder of her responsibility to him, not to their faith. And now he’s enlisted the help of this Matsuo guy to track her down. Being raised in a strict Mormon family teaches you that love, in all of its manifestations, is ultimately conditional and best maintained through a series of social transactions that show dedication. Sato isn’t unfamiliar with this scenario, and it’s here that this love tale leaves the honeymoon phase as swiftly as it began. Sato takes care of Matsuo in the most lethal sense of the word, and the episode finishes with our two love birds in a funk over it. How can you switch off when a real relationship comes along if every relationship you’ve ever had has been transactional in some way?
They Occasionally Disappear
As we move on to the following episode, Samantha’s colleague hostess and sole true friend in Tokyo, Pollina, has vanished. Last we saw her, she was fighting for the affections of the favorite customer and rival club host Akira, racking up some serious booze and partying the night away in a sea of noise, shadows, and neon. Samantha is busy putting the finishing touches on her new club, so it’s been a week when she discovers Pollina has vanished. Meanwhile, Sato appears to have found his stride as Ishida’s eyes, ears, and enforcer. At dinner, the two lovers already feel like an old couple, sharing secrets and wondering if they can really trust each other with their most vulnerable selves. “Sometimes people need time to ponder,” Sato says when Samantha discusses Pollina’s disappearance. She isn’t convinced, so she approaches Akira, who dismisses her and refuses to take her seriously until she arrives at his club with Sato in tow.
When Sato gets the phone from Sam, he’s just had a tense reunion with his family. His father is undergoing treatment at the hospital after suffering a small stroke while loading his fishing boat. When Sato offers to pay for all medical expenditures, Mom delivers him a sharp smack in the face and a fuck you, you’re the one who did this to him. As a result, when he arrives at Sam’s beck and call, he is not in the best of spirits. He roughs up Akira enough at his club to gain access to the management, who informs them that Pollina was a regular whose debt had become out of control. The indebted girls are transferred to Yoshino to pay off their debts, and when they return, they frequently run it up again.
Sato may find himself in hot water if Tozawa’s guys happen to be at the club when he arrives, as Ishida has issued a stern no-stirring-shit order until things calm down. Sam gives him one more than he needs. Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please “Do not treat me as though I were a customer.” “You can’t even look at me, but I’m your baby when you need anything.” Since he killed Matsuo, things have been weird with them, and Sato believes Samantha is in over her head. “We live in a perilous world. People are injured. They vanish from time to time. Perhaps it isn’t for you.”
Samantha isn’t the only one who’s about to lose the wind in her sails. Things are about to get hairy on the Tozawa and Miyamoto front. My man Katagiri, on the other hand, is aware that something was wrong with that bungled raid. He recognizes that Ishida’s advice was likely to sound, and he knows what to do next. Thus he receives permission to set a trap, which is perhaps the most immediately satisfying part of the entire challenge so far.
Miyamoto and two other vice officers are hired to assist Katagiri and the organized crime team in their case against Tozawa, having just recovered from the shame of the unsuccessful raid by apprehending a suspect in a high-profile murder. Katagiri has some incriminating documents on lockdown in the basement, according to the narrative, and they’re ultimately enough to make an arrest. Tozawa orders Miyamoto to make some copies of the documents during his large birthday bash (where the yakuza boss will eventually fall on the floor in front of all his guests). When Miyamoto enters the subterranean evidence room, all he finds is a camera peering down at him. The key to winning this game is to stay one step ahead of your opponent, looking at what’s currently on the playing board and exploiting it. Katagiri has it figured out for the time being, but we’ll see what barriers pop up in the finale.
Jake, on the other hand, is on the outs during all of this. Katagiri has stopped communicating with him and isn’t returning his calls, so he’s on his own. I have to say, it’s very funny when Jake emerges into the sunshine, wearing goofy-ass sunglasses and starting a cigarette with the false swagger of someone thinking his audience will point at him and mutter, “that’s the Tokyo Vice.” But, just when he’s at his swaggiest, a ghost from his past appears on the street in the guise of a high school MF. Jake is visibly shaken by this living apparition, but later that night he brings an old high school friend to the club, where he encounters Misaki. Jake joins her on the dance floor and inquires about her connection with Tozawa over cocktails on the roof, ever determined to get closer to the sun. You get the impression that Jake is only realizing how heavy things are getting for him by the time Tozawa’s men arrive to collect her (and become nasty with Jake’s high school pal, putting a knife to his cheek and all).
Samantha is waiting for him at his door when he returns home at the end of the night. “I’m in need of your assistance,” she says. With only one episode remaining, it’s difficult to determine whether this will be a turning point for them both or just another story with no clear finish or suspects.