Tokyo Vice

Summer is usually the time when the cinema turns to mindless action flicks to provide audiences with a surge of adrenaline. Most of them offer little in the way of plot but tons of excitement, enough to make the viewer forget that the prime elements of filmmaking, like character growth and plot development, are absent. Tokyo Vice very much tries to be a summer action film packed into about 50 minutes or so. I could get past most of the lame parts of the plot to enjoy the exploits on-screen, but ultimately it's a B-grade piece that's like a McDonald's hamburger. No frills, no character, a little meat and a lot of bun, but it's likable enough if it's what you're in the mood for.

Tokyo Vice really isn't about a vice squad, but instead follows the exploits of the members of the Rutz Detective Agency, a group of four friends who solve crimes together. We never really learn about a normal case for them, though...the story begins when a dying man hands a floppy disk to biker and Rutz member Junpei in the middle of a concert with the words, "Give this to Takashiro." Junpei feels like what's on the disk is now his responsibility, and he finds out that the man who'd been murdered had connections to the shadowy Yotsuboshi Corporation.

Junpei gets in touch with Takashiro's lab, but he's retired...and the lab assistant is on the take. As he heads to Takashiro's home, a militaristic helicopter attacks Junpei as he races through the city streets on his motorcycle and is nearly killed. His sister Kumiko keeps a close watch on him in the hospital only to get kidnapped by Junpei's would-be assassin. It's up to Akira, the head of the agency, to rescue Kumiko, unravel the mysteries that tie the Yotsuboshi Group to the highest levels of government, and keep the disk out of the hands of those who would use its contents to create an awesome weapon of destruction.

What we're looking at here, friends, is mindless escapist action fantasy. Now, granted, it's got a decent pedigree, with work from various folks involved with the original Dirty Pair series, Project A-Ko, and Yotoden (at least from what the box tells me). This is also a cleanly animated feature with a good OVA budget and attractive if unremarkable character designs. There're some nice skirmishes; in particular, the helicopter attack works quite well. We're also not given too much down time to concern ourselves about a plot. I was mostly entertained.

But what are we watching, then? The box screams at us that it's "Mission Impossible anime style!" Unfortunately, that's about as far from the truth as you can get. The Mission films at least had huge mindbender plots with twists and turns that would confuse a Mensa member. This program has none, nada, unless you count the kidnapping as a twist. (And I've given it away, too...oh well.) There's also no charismatic lead like Tom Cruise. The characters are too non-descript for us to get very involved in their exploits, and there's no character development either. Finally, there's the arena of believability. Though I enjoyed stunts like the helicopter blowing up half the Tokyo freeway system, it was impossible to believe that so much wanton death and destruction could be covered up! Yet that's what the show would have us believe. I can take a lot at face value, but that went over my line.

So once again, we have a show where you must turn off your brain to get into its spirit. Is this bad? If every anime were this way, I would have stopped watching a long time ago. This one's a show to rent when the better titles have been picked over by the teenagers early on a Friday night. Add about a letter grade if you love action stuff, and subtract one if you like intelligence in your anime...but even then, if you must have an adventure with lots of explosions, make sure you can't get Spriggan first.

Tokyo Vice -- violence, brief profanity -- C+