You know when you launch a firework there’s a thrilling rush as you flick the match and light the string? After, there’s this awkward wait to see if it takes off and, if it does so correctly, then it’s followed by a long, dry pause, everyone just staring at it, most losing sight of it. Finally BOOOOOOMMM!!! it explodes furiously, and everyone applauds, expecting more to come, right?
That, friends, is Tokyo Ghoul, a new dark fantasy/horror anime that starts and ends with quite the bang, but in the middle leaves us squinting our eyeballs to spot any real development.
Creeping around the dark alleyways of modern Tokyo are the Ghouls, monsters that devour human organs as food. Everyone knows about them, and some even fear for their lives of taking a daily death stroll, but most just continue on with their day. Why would you do something so insane?? Because these Ghouls look exactly like normal people: adults, teens, children, elderly, husbands, wives, etc. The only distinguishing feature of these demons is their black and crimson eyes that burn when they exhibit fierce emotions.
Kaneki Ken is your average college student who frequents a local cafe for one main reason: the enchanting Rize. Since they both enjoy reading from the same author, Kaneki musters the courage to ask her out, thinking that they have so much in common. Kaneki’s date quickly soils into a blood fest when Rize “the Binge-Eater” reveals her wicked Ghoul powers and then tries to kill Kaneki. Suddenly, an accident occurs in their location, and the critical medical situation results in her organs being transplanted into Kaneki to preserve his life.
But now Kaneki feels strange. All normal food makes him want to vomit, and instead he craves . . . human flesh. The story is about Kaneki’s struggle as this new “Half-Breed” for his remaining humanity, and what he’ll risk to remain moral no matter what – or give in to Ghoul within!
Right from the start Tokyo Ghoul latches on with an interesting predicament for our protagonist. The show quickly appeals to your senses when, after the operation, Kaneki tries to cram his face with his favorite foods, all to no avail. They taste like charcoal and rotten dung. Those incredibly morbid realizations that he’s become a monster attack the heart, causing you to feel all of the suffering that he does. This deep argument of human VS Ghoul develops as the show progresses, mostly to build around Kaneki and a little girl named Hinami, though.
I think Kaneki fits the mold for the intense themes of humanity and life better than any other character could have. Cocky like let’s say Eren Yeager (Attack on Titan) and everyone at the cafe will despise him. But too kind like Armin Arlert and I don’t think we’d get anywhere. Kaneki embodies the middle ground of what I’d like to call a “real human being.” He’s never too innocent, yet never totally ridiculous either, and that makes him easily likeable.
Hanae Natsuki portrays all of Kaneki’s hardships believably well, be it screaming in Ghoul mode, conversing calmly with friends, or choking on blood. He’s amazing!
The rest of the characters range from a tsundere teen somewhat goth girl, to an overly-attached whimsical genius, to a desperate family, and finally to a pair of Ghoul counter team members. Even with all of the variety, however, I just didn’t feel the characters nor relate to them in any way. In fact, I can hardly recall names, which is crucial to note because I hardly ever forget a name. Other than Kaneki and possibly Touka, another cafe Ghoul refugee, Tokyo Ghoul lacks in the character department.
Quite stunning is the art and animation by Studio Pierrot (Yona of the Dawn), who puts together intense action sequences with outrageously beautiful and surprisingly colorful animation – especially of the Kagunes, the Ghoul blood weapons. Supposedly, there’s a lot of gore, but I couldn’t see half of the screen because of all of the DAMN CENSORING!! Sheesh, like seriously, they’re only gonna make me more curious about what’s going on. And you know what, it probably wasn’t that bad of gore anyway! But I suppose that’s not the studio’s fault, as the various censoring depended on what your source you watched from.
Yutaka Yamada provides a supportive soundtrack that easily surpasses your average OST. Loneliness, tragedy, melancholy, and epicness are all packed into his tracks. “Licht und Schatten (Light and Shadow)” and a battle theme entitled “Symphony” are model examples of his high-quality work. Though the OST is a rather small one, the few tracks played are not only longer than usual but great to listen to. Quality over quantity is what I believe wins the day!
I’ve gradually become more and more familiar with Ling Tosite Sigure’s opening “Unravel,” which is a step up considering that I don’t care for that high-pitch screamo voice. The song matches the show perfectly, and it became one of my favorite parts of the experience. 🙂
As mentioned previously, the anime’s ending is an unexpected thriller, one that I didn’t see coming a mile away. The show steps away from its usual routes to do something very, very interesting – something that hopefully pays off in the second season. If you can watch the end without flinching, then congrats to your balls of steel.
And now for my major problem with the show: we don’t have explanations for anything! Where did Ghouls come from? What determines their powers? Do the Kagunes have special properties, and how can normal people wield them? What can a half-breed do better than anyone else? How is the main antagonist roped in with all of this? How did Rize actually die?? Tokyo Ghoul has a crap ton of potential, enough to be considered one of the best – that is, if the second season pans out well, because at this point, Tokyo Ghoul is definitely unfinished. If you’re gonna get into it, just be sure you can stomach the gore, and please, watch it uncensored. It tastes better that way >.<
“What is this? What is it to be a Ghoul? Killing people . . . killing each other . . .I’m not like that! I’m . . . human!” – Kaneki Ken
+ Easily likable, non-annoying lead character with good development
+ Gripping start, intense, bloody and sweaty cliffhanger
+ Quality colorful visuals, gorgeous fights, matching OST to back it up
– SO many unanswered questions, literally no explanations!
– Weak secondary character development
– Middle of show deviates from an psychological alley horror to a slice of life coffee shop drama (no JK, but seriously, what?)
I’m pretty excited for the sequel! It has a lot riding on its shoulders, and I can only hope it doesn’t disappoint (even though I heard it sucks, I will be the judge of that myself). What did you think of Tokyo Ghoul? Were you thinking “Welp, this makes absolutely no sense, why aren’t people screaming for their lives? At least it’s pretty :3” FUNimation has licensed the anime for North America with an English dub on the way, though you can watch it for free on their site if you’re +18. Clobber that like button for more material like this and until next time, this has been
– Takuto, your host