Here's Why Ansel Elgort Is the Weakest Link in Tokyo Vice

Here's Why Ansel Elgort Is the Weakest Link in Tokyo Vice
Image credit: HBO

If you didn't like Elgor's character, it's because of his real-life prototype, not the actor!


  • Tokyo Vice ended after two seasons and left critics in raptures.
  • However, fans hated Jake Adelstein, believing it to be an actor's problem.
  • The reason, however, is that Adelstein was intentionally written as an unlikable character.

In April 2022, the crime neo-noir drama Tokyo Vice, loosely based on Jake Adelstein's memoir of the same name, debuted on HBO Max. Both the book and the series tell the story of how the neon glow of Tokyo's nightlife hides dark secrets that are conveniently glossed over in the media. Yakuza showdowns and illegal businesses, drug dealing, sex trafficking, and ruthless murders are all part of the horrific daily life of 1990s Tokyo, unknown to the average tourist nowadays.

Two years later, a second season landed on Max, ending in April 2024. Tokyo Vice Season 2 managed to impress critics and audiences even more, shedding more light on Japan's criminal underbelly and striking a character-driven balance without resorting to cheesy sensationalism. Unfortunately, that didn't stop Max from deciding to cancel the series, which was announced just a few days ago.

The series will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the best crime dramas in television history, thanks in large part to the incomparable performances of Ken Watanabe, Sho Kasamatsu, and other talented actors. But with that in mind, it is not uncommon to see fans dissatisfied with Ansel Elgort, who played the show's protagonist. Let's find out why he is considered the weakest link in Tokyo Vice and whether he deserves such a judgment.

Why Some Fans Don't Like Elgort and His Character?

The series' protagonist, played by Ansel Elgort, is the fictionalized version of Jake Adelstein, a rookie American journalist who became the first foreigner to work for the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan's leading newspapers. As part of the job, he is assigned a mentor, the grumpy yet experienced Detective Hitoro Katagiri (Ken Watanabe).

Here's Why Ansel Elgort Is the Weakest Link in Tokyo Vice - image 1

Elgort is considered one of Hollywood's leading rising stars, with acclaimed performances in films such as The Fault in Our Stars, The Divergent Series and Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. But instead of praising his role in Tokyo Vice, many have expressed outright dislike for Elgort's character and performance. Why is that?

The problem is undoubtedly the character of Jake Adelstein. Although he, along with Watanabe's character, manages to immerse himself in the dangerous criminal world of Tokyo and successfully takes on an incredibly powerful yakuza boss, the viewer finds Jake to be overly conceited and arrogant. He literally develops what we might call a white savior complex, as a young American from Missouri feels that he has shaped Tokyo's underworld with his own hands.

Unfortunately, the criticism eventually fell on Elgort himself, as some felt that the character wouldn't have been so unpleasant if the actor hadn't overacted. But is it really his fault?

But Does He Deserve All the Criticism?

Just to remind you, Jake Adelstein is only in his 20s in the story. In the 1990s, not everyone could afford even a mundane tourist trip to another country, and he, a simple Missouri boy looking for fame and recognition, got a job at one of the biggest newspapers in Japan and even successfully exposed Tokyo criminal machinations. In general, anyone here could become star-struck and begin to feel vanity!

And once you get to know the real Adelstein, you'll realize that the character's narcissism on the show is a far cry from Elgort's exaggeration. He may not even reach the level of ego of the real-life reporter, dubbed 'Fake Adelstein' in Tokyo's English-speaking journalism community.

In response to criticism that his memoir is overly embellished and that a number of stories were fabricated, Adelstein has launched entire Internet campaigns to harass his critics online, not only violating journalistic ethics, but by showing what kind of person he really is.

Both seasons of Tokyo Vice are available for streaming on Max.