In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the season-one conclusion of “Tokyo Vice”, “Yoshino,” ended on a cliffhanger. Since the show opened with a flash-forward and hasn’t been formally renewed for a second season yet, I figured there’d be some sort of resolution. However, anyone who has been paying attention should be aware that this is a game that is constantly changing, punishing players for making impulsive decisions at the wrong time. It’s all about the big galactic stream’s ebb and flows, baby.
As a result, we frequently find ourselves in precarious situations with our friends and foes. At the start of this episode, Katagiri is the only one who appears to be in good spirits, as we see him enjoying a cheery breakfast with his family at home, the sun beaming so brightly that it feels like it can’t be contained within the frame. It feels like a dream sequence, and it’s a time that will be shattered by imminent disaster as quickly as a dream.
On that topic, the episode’s Trainspotting-style meth montage was deleted from Katagiri’s dreamlike family breakfast. Jake and Samantha are forced back together in a mutually advantageous, quid pro quo side quest after exhausting all other options. Samantha is hunting for Polina, her best friend who has been sent to Yoshino to pay off her debts. Jake has a source that might be able to provide more information, but they’ll need to find some good crystal meth to entice him to speak with them.
So they pay a visit to Ukai Haruki, the writer of our favorite yakuza magazine, with Samantha posing as a yakuza mag fangirl who met Jake at a hostel. Jake asks Haruki about Tozawa’s operation in Yoshino far too quickly, perhaps still on too many idiot pills, and the red flag is raised. They cut to the chase because Karuki knows he’s a reporter and give him some top-notch shabu in exchange for what he knows. The only catch is that they must stay with him and party before he speaks. As Jake consumes meth for the first time and Samantha parties with Karuki, the whole situation turns wooey-wooey. Yoshino is a “luxury” ship where Tozawa “hosts” top clientele and business associates, she discovers. Samantha kicks Karuki in the nuts with a fast kick, and she and Jake bounce. They duck into an alley and Samantha re-centers Jake with a big ol’ kiss because Jake is still high as fuck out on the street. Gross. Sorry, I get this is a love triangle, and the narrative thrusts these two into each other’s arms at the most suitable moment, but being Team Jake over Team Sato is about as tempting as being Team Jacob at this point, you feel me?
Being a member of Team Sato is, unfortunately, a doomed position these days. Our man is at a fork in the road, if not for himself or his own fate (which is mostly sealed in terms of his yakuza membership), then for his new recruit, who has just pissed off Ishida by fucking up his tea order and timidly clapping back when he’s called out in front of the entire crew. The poor youngster tries to make amends with a yubitsume, a Japanese tradition of slicing off a fingertip as penance for wrongdoing against another person. Unfortunately, he messes that up as well, cutting into the knuckle bone and not being able to cut all the way through. Sato takes him to the hospital, which serves as a metaphor for him as a hall of mirrors. In the waiting area, a small child with his mother points to Sato’s yakuza tattoo, which causes him to roll down his sleeve in humiliation. Later, he’ll see a man assisting his elderly mother on her way out of the hospital parking lot. They transform into a joyful, reunited version of himself and his mother before his eyes, a true haunting in its impossibility. So he lets the youngster off at home and instructs him to go out and get some sneakers, play some video games, and go about his business.
Few people are given second chances, and even if they are, it is often too late to change their fortunes. Take, for example, Miyamoto, who has been caught red-handed interacting with Tozawa and is forced to reorganize his alliances and join forces with Katagiri. Miyamoto tells Katagiri that it all started with leaking information to Tozawa’s team here and there in the hopes that they’d return the favor. They eventually did, with the promise of insider information on drug shipments and cold-hard cash as a reward. The tips eventually dried out, but Miyamoto was already too far in. “I also accomplished some good.” “I’m aware of my track record,” he tells Katagiri, “but I take responsibility for my mistakes.” Katagiri responds with the tried-and-true you made a terrible choice, but you’re a good officer routine, and the two devise a plan to stem the flow of information by using Miyamoto’s relationship with Tozawa.
But, just as the tide of fate had gone against Tozawa in recent episodes, it now seemed to have turned back in his favor. From the moment we met him, our main baddie has been screaming into the void, suffering from an unknown terminal illness and obsessing over his naked, slowly deteriorating body in the mirror. Since then, almost every action he’s taken has been an act of dying, but the type where he goes down swinging, you know? Rage, rage against the light’s fading and all that. He has this underlying notion that Misaki has become an avatar for the life force he’s progressively losing, so he takes it out on her with a series of threats disguised as thinly veiled loving gestures like he does every time he’s with her. He blackmails her into discussing what her life will be like after he’s gone in episode six, then threatens to kill her if she marries another guy before he dies. After Tozawa confronts her over being spotted with Jake at the club and beats her when she fails another of his sadistic tests to “prove her love,” things get even nastier. He’s staring at his own rotting body in the mirror when he receives a weird phone call, and we only hear his side of the conversation. “Yes, tonight, I understand,” he says, “that is very welcome news.” “Thank you very much.” Tozawa appears to be on to something terrific.
And whatever it is, it is enough to lift his spirits and send him into full “retaliation” mode. Katagiri and Miyamoto aim to raid the next heroin shipment, assuming they’ve successfully duped Tozawa into believing Miyamoto is still in his service. Only Miyamoto, who was meant to arrive at the warehouse with Tozawa’s men, fails to show up, forcing Katagiri to enter the facility alone. In what may be the most terrifying sequence in the series, he meets Tozawa (probably dead off-screen), who informs him Miyamoto’s error was trying to convince him that Katagiri, the “one incorruptible man” he’s “ever met,” was on the take from Ishida. He also warns him that he has his eyes on his family and that if Katagiri continues to mess with him or his clan, he would murder them. Tozawa is off to the airport, where he has orchestrated a diabolical, anti-Casablanca sendoff with Misaki on the tarmac, punctuating the affair once more with a thinly veiled threat: “You believe I’m not long for this world, but I guarantee you, I’m going to be here for a long, long time.”
Tozawa has proven to be a strong Kurusawan antagonist whose dalliance with death is the very thing that pulls him forward — similar to George Lucas’s scarred half-man half-metal-machine-lord Darth Vader, or Kurosawa’s elderly, corrupt industrialists in The Bad Sleep Well. This episode reminded me of this topical, deadly line from The Bad Sleep Well: “It’s not easy disliking evil.” You must feed your own rage to the point where you become evil.”
To put it another way, you must deal with your opponent in order to defeat him. Passing through the Great Reset means sealing one’s contract with the devil for Samantha and Sato. Samantha falls for the bait when Akira comes up at her house with a sob story about individuals calling him up and wanting a large sum of money in exchange for Polina’s safe return. I have to admit, I was surprised Samantha went for it. Yeah, she was hesitant to give the money to the thugs in the van when they refused to show her Polina, but going that far without being wary of Akira seemed out of character for her. I guess it was desperation on her part or the benefit of hindsight on mine. In any event, it all puts her back on the narrative route she’d been on all along.
By the end of “Yoshino,” Samantha has lost a significant amount of money due to Akira’s deception; she has less than 24 hours to make the last payment on her new club or risk losing it totally. As a result, she turns to Ishida, who is pleased by her ambitions and new ideas for mizu shobai’s future, as he will convey to Sato. He commands, “Tell the girl we’ll loan her the money for her club.” “Then, if her club generates a lot of money, we’ll renegotiate her contract.” “Devolve into full mates.” Samantha, who emulated James Caan’s posture in Thief when threatened by rival rulers, clapping back with equal ferocity and swagger, isn’t going to take it when the rules shift and the produce of her labor is sucked even farther.
Sato tries to prevent Ishida from making this agreement, hoping to save Samantha’s life as he did for his recruit previously. Ishida, on the other hand, refuses to budge. Why would he do that? It’s desperate times, and he has the authority to strike a bargain, with just the benefits of someone who excels in their area to reap. Samantha later tells Sato that she realizes this may end badly for her, but she’s worked much too hard to throw away everything she’s built.
Jake is attacked at his flat by Tozawa’s goons near the end of the episode and threatened with death if he continues to investigate him and hang out with his girl. Jake wakes up in a daze, phones home, and speaks with his estranged father on the other end of the line. Jake isn’t doing so good right now, and it sounds like his sister isn’t doing so well too. He might be able to return. “Is that really what you want, son?” his father inquires, presumably knowing the answer as well as we do. Because, as luck would have it, a videotape appears on Jake’s doorstep, featuring images of Polina being murdered(?) on the good ship Yoshino. Jake and Katagiri are in it to win it now, whether they want to or not, and they’ll need each other to make it through the next stage. “I know I screwed up,” Jake confesses at his adoptive father’s door, “and I know you don’t trust me, but I’m here begging for a second chance.” Here we go, round two of second chances (c’mon HBO Max, let’s do it) and “make sure you weren’t followed” on the way down.