Review: Tokyo Ghoul


People eating other people usually isn’t a particularly palatable topic on screen (see what I did there?).  For some reason while television and film, may that be anime or otherwise, has in recent times glamourised the concept vampires and all that comes with them, it has very rarely and only cautiously dabbled into the realms of cannibalism.

Tokyo Ghoul then steps bravely into this gap, telling a story where eating people is not accepted or chosen but is necessary. It is a story that questions society as well as the morality of those within it.

Background and plot

The world in which Tokyo Ghoul is much the same as modern Japan today. Set in Tokyo (well, duh), the world is inhabited by humans and ghouls. To the eye there are no difference between the two, with ghouls fitting into society seamlessly, with only one thing giving them away: devoured humans. The one difference between humans and ghouls is simple – ghouls eat humans.

Kaneki lives a totally normal human life in the show - for about 10 minutes at least.
Kaneki lives a totally normal human life in the show – for about 10 minutes, at least.

As with any horror based plot, the main character is unassuming and in this case lonely and parentless university student, Kaneki Ken. Kaneki lives his typical human life quite happily until a date with the seemingly like minded and beautiful Riza goes wrong when he becomes her dinner. After being saved by an accident (?) Kaneki is forced to have an organ transplant to save his life, and thus transforming him into part ghoul.

Tokyo Ghoul is the story of how Kaneki deals with his place in both human and ghoul society and how those around him deal with the ongoing human/ghoul conflict.

Kaneki slowly becomes more accustomed to being part of the ghoul world.
Kaneki slowly becomes more accustomed to being part of the ghoul world.

On the ending: I’m all for including cliff hangers in shows, especially when there is the promise of the second season (which has now been released), but in the case of Tokyo Ghoul the events leading up to the cliff hanger in episode 12 simply don’t seem to match with the ending.

Characters

For a 12 episode show, Tokyo Ghoul spends time developing the plot lines of a lot of characters. Kaneki is obviously the centre of attention for much of the series with his progression from clueless human to fully integrated ghoul (or something like that, at least) being the main point of the show.

Touka is my favourite character in Tokyo Ghoul. Just so you know.
Touka is my favourite character in Tokyo Ghoul. No explanation needed.

Other characters are explored to a really refreshingly great depth, and not just the so called ‘good guys’ – if there are such things in the world Tokyo Ghoul creates. Touka and Hinami, Kaneki’s new friends after his transformation, have plot lines of their own that although often need a bit more development, stand alone well from Kaneki’s linear plot.

As I mentioned, it is not only those on Kaneki’s ‘side’ that we’re meant to feel sympathetic towards. The back stories of the doves – the group of humans organised to eradicate the ghoul population – is explored, in many ways, to a greater depth than that of the ghouls themselves. It might just be that I didn’t quite subscribe to the premise of Tokyo Ghoul in the way I should have, but I couldn’t help but feel that this this did a disservice to the ghouls who were – in my mind at least- the most unfairly treated of the two parties in the society.

Sorry, but I don't feel any sympathy for either of them - no, not even you Amon.
Sorry, but I don’t feel any sympathy for either of them – no, not even you Amon.

Sound, artwork and animation

I can’t say anything negative about this section because it did everything pretty well. In itself, the sound is quite typical of the genre but doesn’t in any way take away from the show and the opening track is absolutely incredible. The artwork for the ghoul quinques (blood weapons) are unique and imaginative and they are animated pretty well if not outstandingly.

Favourite Episode

Episode 12: Ghoul

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Earlier on I criticised the ending of the show for not fitting with the rest of the show, and at this stage I still stand by that. However, the last 2 minutes of the show is the part I have issue with. In the final episode, the confrontation between Kaneki and Rize is one of the most intense scenes I think I’ve seen in anime and is definitely my favourite single scene of the whole show.

Take my word for it, this is an incredible scene.
Take my word for it, this is an incredible scene.

Favourite Piece of Music

Unravel – TK from Ling Tosite Sigure

The soundtrack overall in Tokyo Ghoul isn’t bad, but neither does it stand out from the crowd in any particular way. As with many mediocre soundtracks though, there is a standout track and it is absolutely the opening. A fantastic opening track.

Overall

I really enjoyed Tokyo Ghoul. From start to finish, the ride was fantastic – it’s a show that really draws you in and keeps you interested from start to finish. The characters are on the whole developed really well on both sides of the conflict and even though some gaps are left, it should be a really praised aspect of the show. On top of that the concept of ghouls is really good and is executed imaginatively and uniquely.

The ending is the obvious let down here. It just felt as if it didn’t fit in with the whole tone of the show up to that point. That isn’t to say that it’s necessarily the fault of the anime writers as it may well just be a problem with the manga itself, but it does set things up for something in the second season.

Tokyo Ghoul’s faults however do not outweigh it’s positives and I would recommend this to any fans of the horror/thriller genre.

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