What to know about 'Tokyo Vice,' an HBO Max series with Columbia roots

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Viewers of the upcoming HBO Max series "Tokyo Vice" will dive deep into a particular segment of Japanese society. The road taking them there started in Columbia.

The show, which premieres April 7, is based on a 2009 book by Columbia native Jake Adelstein. The nonfiction tome recalls his time covering crime for the Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. Adelstein has since penned several more books and written for the likes of The Daily Beast.

But he isn't the show's only local connection. Series creator J.T. Rogers is a Tony Award-winning playwright and fellow Rock Bridge Bruin. Rogers' plays include "Oslo," "Blood and Gifts" and "White People."

The project has drawn in other serious creative talents, including filmmaker Michael Mann ("Heat," "The Insider"), who executive produces and directed the series premiere.

Other executive producers include "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" director Destin Daniel Cretton and "Birdman" producer John Lesher.

With "Tokyo Vice" on approach, here's what to know before you watch.

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How many episodes will drop at once?

Per initial reports from sources like Deadline, the first three episodes become available April 7. Two more episodes will drop each week, with the finale streaming starting April 28.

Who leads the cast?

Ansel Elgort ("West Side Story," "Baby Driver") plays Adelstein. Elgort is a Golden Globe-nominated performer whose connection to "West Side Story" in particular grew complicated as sexual assault and misconduct allegations resurfaced during publicity around the film.

Veteran actor Ken Watanabe ("Inception," "Batman Begins") co-stars as police detective Hiroto Katagiri; his character is billed as a sort of mentor and guide to Adelstein. In addition to a supporting actor Oscar nomination for "The Last Samurai," Watanabe earned Tony and Grammy nods for his lead role in a Broadway revival of "The King and I."

Other cast members include Rachel Keller (TV's "Fargo"), Ella Rumpf ("Raw") and Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel," "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter").

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Was Daniel Radcliffe almost Jake Adelstein on-screen?

Yes — the "Harry Potter" star was cast as Adelstein in a film adaptation of "Tokyo Vice" that was set to shoot in 2014. Eventually, the project evolved into its current small-screen state.

What did initial reviews say about Adelstein's book?

"Tokyo Vice"
"Tokyo Vice"

Kirkus Reviews called "Tokyo Vice," the book, "not just a hard-boiled true-crime thriller, but an engrossing, troubling look at crime and human exploitation in Japan."

And Publishers Weekly identified Adelstein as a "pragmatic but sensitive character," whose "worldview takes quite a beating during his tour of duty; thanks to his immersive reporting, readers suffer with him through the choice between personal safety and a chance to confront the evil inhabiting his city."

How much is a subscription to HBO Max?

If you don't already subscribe, plans which include ads are $9.99 a month; ad-free plans are $14.99.

What else can you watch on HBO Max?

Other available series include "Euphoria," "The Righteous Gemstones," "The Gilded Age," "The Flight Attendant" and "Station Eleven." The streaming service also contains a library of movies and previously-aired series.

Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at adanielsen@columbiatribune.com or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: New HBO Max series "Tokyo Vice" based on book by Columbia author