Written by Ralph Jean-Pierre: Tokyo Vice editor of episodes 3, 4, 9, and the finale

Around the time I was wrapping up the final season of the AppleTV+ show Servant, I was finalizing my plans to move from Los Angeles to New York via Philadelphia. Having lived in LA for about 13 years, I was anxious about landing my first job in a new territory. So when my agent called to set me up for an interview for Tokyo Vice, most of my anxieties went away.

What began as my homework and prep for the show ended up being a two-night binge of the entire season one, and immediately, I was hooked. The show felt so authentic and showed a side of Japan that not many people get to see on mainstream TV. Having been a “gaijin” English teacher myself in Japan in my early 20s, I felt immediately connected to the American characters Jake and Samantha.

Working on a foreign language project wasn’t out of my realm as both my thesis films at AFI Conservatory were Lithuanian and Japanese-American films. I believe this allowed me to not feel hindered by footage or any language barriers. Being that the show was shot in Tokyo, and we were posting in NY, it took about two days for the footage to get to my assistant and me. The dailies involved the AEs creating group clips that consisted of clean and subtitled footage. So with the material, I approached it like how I would approach any project; study the script, watch and get to know the dailies, pick my selects, and lay down the footage line by line as written in the script. Once I have my paper edit down, I’d then begin shaping any reactions, beats, and pacing to what I feel is right and follows the tone and direction of the show. It was important to me that each scene felt natural and smooth, as if I was a Japanese viewer.

In our current post-pandemic hybrid working environments, editors rarely get to be on set anymore. So I was excited when I learned that we would get a chance to work with our respective directors and producers on-location for a few weeks. The first day I arrived at our post-production offices, I was welcomed by a towering Godzilla at the famous TOHO Studios. Trust me, the geek in me went crazy, and I had to make' sure to swap to work mode.

'Tokyo Vice'Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Finally, getting to sit with my director, Josef Wladyka, we were quickly able to have a shorthand during our notes sessions, and it was great to have him and his assistant as a starting guide to getting acquainted with the Japanese culture. What I truly enjoyed with Josef was how he would go home, study the edit, and come back with some story structure changes that made it fun to experiment in the room. It allowed us to have a good dialogue about the story and go back and forth to see what worked or didn’t.

One of my favorite scenes was in episode 203, “Old Law, New Twist,” where Sato, played by Show Kasamatsu, and the Chihara kai members are in a karaoke room belting out to the Backstreet Boys’ song, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” With any scene where the music is baked in, I had to build the scene starting with the karaoke performances. Then, I’d focus on making sure we could track all the key moments while also keeping the energy of the room. I was very keen on making sure that any of my music edits wouldn’t bump the audience just in case they were singing along to themselves. It was a very fun scene and kudos to the director’s assistant for creating the karaoke video in the background.

I am truly glad to hear that my work as a storyteller in the post really came across and allowed the viewers to be immersed in our Japanese crime thriller. I am also truly thankful to our amazing cast and crew for making this one of the best shows out there, if I say so myself.