First Look: Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul - 01a

Alternative titles: Tokyo Kushu
Manga Adaptation by Studio Pierrot
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

Tokyo is plagued by a string of gruesome murders, committed by vicious, cannibalistic creatures known only as Ghouls. Ken Kaneki soon finds himself at the mercy of one, but miraculously manages to survive… at a cost.

Euri’s verdict: Delicious Person Steak

If you asked me eight or so years ago, I’d probably tell you that horror was my favourite genre of film. There was nothing quite like getting out of school on a Friday afternoon and having a gore-fest of a movie to ring in the weekend. But times change, and basically I sustain myself on a diet of shitty rom-com anime and cute anime girls. Sorry mum.

That said, it’s not like I can’t watch a good horror show. Another was a great highlight from a few seasons back, and if Tokyo Ghoul has plans to entertain as much as that show did, I’m all for it. Opening the show to a naked lady feeding on a human corpse and dripping blood over her face in sheer indulgence was a pretty good way to make an immediate impression.

If you’re still working out whether you want to watch this show, know that while it’s unfortunately incredibly censored, it still seems like it’ll be quite the gruesome show. It’s enough to put off the squeamish among us, that’s for sure, but horror fans might want to wait and see how uncensored the DVDs will be.

As for the show itself, Tokyo Ghoul manages to do a pretty good job of setting up the main character. Seeing that ghouls are understood and that their victims’ deaths are almost explained as a necessity is incredibly refreshing, especially when we are teetering on the line of just labelling ghouls as pseudo-zombies. However, while the horror elements will be pushing the show along, I’m far more interested in learning how Kaneki learns to deal with his sudden urge to eat humans, or not as the case may be. I’ll be more than happy if the show turns out to be a struggle of sanity and decency.

Tokyo Ghoul - 01b

Marlin’s verdict: Violence’s Sake

Tokyo Ghoul felt a bit too much like a Hot Topic product at first glance. The very hammy acting and dark brooding directing didn’t help to change that stance. The violence is very over the top, but at least does seem intentionally so. I wasn’t disappointed by the date because we could obviously tell that Kana Hanazawa was playing both the girl and the Ghoul at the beginning of the episode. It felt more like that moment in a monster movie when you anticipate at just what point the monster is about to strike. After that part was done, we really got hammered into us the idea that Ken has been turned into a Ghoul. It’s the same kind of hamminess as the beginning orgy of blood that made what could have been simply him realizing he couldn’t stand his favorite meal turn into him having to eat everything. If the show doesn’t try to take itself too seriously outside the regular moral quandaries, I could see this being an okay bit of fluff for whenever I’m in a grindhouse kind of mood.

Tokyo Ghoul - 01c

Aqua’s verdict: Ow, The Edge

No matter how interesting the idea may be, shows like True Blood or Being Human have quickly proven that the premise of vampires, werewolves and whatnot trying to live normal human lives is somehow inherently destined to devolve into utter camp. Luckily, Tokyo Ghoul does viewers the pleasure of saving them the facade and opens up with a nude woman moaning in ecstasy as she consumes the flesh of one of her unsuspecting victims. Oh yes, send the kids to bed, because this is that kind of show, the kind where tears and sweat gush off the distorted faces of people screaming in agony and maniacal killers loudly cackle about how much they’ll enjoy tearing the festering intestines out of their victim’s corpse. For a country once renowned for its atmospherical, eerie horror, most of the animated dread Japan has produced in the last ten years has been more laughable video nasty than Silent Hill. It’s a pity, because gory melodrama aside, Tokyo Ghoul isn’t all that bad.

When it’s not busy confusing screaming with tension, Tokyo Ghoul actually manages to establish a great atmosphere, with beautiful lighting and computer effects à la Fate/Zero making the show’s noir-ified version of Tokyo seem bristling, yet eerie all the same. Dialogue is natural, and aside from the demure girl who suddenly turns into a psycho killer in a twist no seasoned anime fan could not have not seen coming, the characters get ample opportunity to properly establish themselves. The idea that Ghouls are a known threat to mankind is arguably Tokyo Ghoul‘s biggest strength, making the scene in which Kaneki finds out he’s become one a particularly outstanding moment. It’s an excellent combination of exposition that makes perfect sense in-universe and allowing the viewer to put two and two together that makes the scene work, making the hilariously overwrought snacking scene that follows it even more laughable.

To further twist the knife, the only thing more gratuitous than the gore in Tokyo Ghoul is the censorship, which luckily blends rather nicely with the excessive darkness in the show’s visual palette. In spite of all its self-obsessed edginess, Tokyo Ghoul actually has a few things going for it, or at least enough to keep me watching. The way it handles its premise could lead to some interesting things which its more ham-fisted excesses hopefully won’t get in the way of. If anything, at least it’ll still have what is most likely the best theme song of the season, so that’s something.

Tokyo Ghoul - 01d

Gee’s verdict: A Heavy Meal, but Unsatisfying

Tokyo Ghoul seems like the kind of thing I would have loved back in middle school. It’s violent, there’s an undeniable edginess to it, the titular ghouls are apparently misunderstood creatures, the whole power fantasy aspect of the ghouls themselves, etc. It has all the makings of every other edgy Young Adult oriented urban fantasy out there. And yet despite it all, I still can’t help but be somewhat interested. As Aqua mentioned, Tokyo Ghoul does a pretty decent job of establishing the scene. It takes place in a Tokyo like the one we’ve seen so many times before, but there is an undeniably unsettling air about it. I have a feeling with some great characters and a good plot, this could become a really interesting universe to explore.

Alas, the characters aren’t nearly as engaging as the world they live in. Our protagonist is your typical hapless everyman, though I suppose he deserves props for even managing to ask a girl out on a date, even if said girl was obviously the monster. I assume now that he’s a ghoul, there will be a focus on his adjustment to his new situation as well as his inevitable power up or whatever other reason is supposed to make our hero so special and different, even compared to other ghouls.

All that said, even if the look at the strange ghoul underworld lives up to its potential, I still cannot shake the feeling of how terribly wrong the concept is. While I’m all for misunderstood monsters, I have a sinking feeling Tokyo Ghoul is going to go all in with the “Humans are the real monster” theme while attempting to portray the ghouls as sympathetic. Let’s not forget here that these things fucking eat people alright? I mean what, do the “good” ghouls only eat criminals and the homeless? I can’t think of any possible justification to make them sympathetic unless it’s revealed that already-dead human flesh is okay too. If the show truly does play the ghouls straight as the cannibalistic abominations they are while trying to also play them off as sympathetic, the cognitive dissonance is gonna send this show straight into adolescent-power-fantasy territory.

4 thoughts on “First Look: Tokyo Ghoul

  1. I’ve read the manga and the latest translated chapters are some of the best I’ve read in recent memory. If the anime follows the manga and has good pacing, it could be really good.

  2. I am sticking with Yamishibai until the Glorio crew proclaims this is a worthy show to follow. There is still something to be said about an anime that presents horror with hardly any animation, but still compels me to believe in the existence of ghosts for the entire show.

  3. wtf, lol Yamori right off the bat. I really hope it ends up being 2-cours unlike some recent examples from last season, otherwise the story could wind up taking a hit. anyway, never imagined this series getting an anime so i’m pretty stoked. White Kaneki from the trailers does worry me tho…

    think episode 2 comes out today, so yeah…definitely gonna catch that, Tokyo Ghoul too stronk!

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