Date Posted: 17/08/20
Based upon the manga of the same name Tokyo Ghoul is only the titles of the first series with the second titled Tokyo Ghoul √A and final series that was split into two parts titled Tokyo Ghoul:re. The anime follows Ken Kaneki a young man that is turned into a half-human half-Ghoul hybrid who struggles to control his insatiable desire for human flesh.
So within the context of the series a Ghoul is a human-looking creature that needs to feed on human flesh in order to survive. Normal foods like burgers, crisps and so on make a Ghoul physically sick and tastes disgusting with the acceptation of coffee which they can drink without problem. They all have a kagune which manifests differently for each Ghoul taking on the form of wings, tentacles, and can even projectiles. Depending on the strength and power of the Ghoul dictates the strength and power of the kagune with some more powerful Ghouls having massive and monstrous kagune forms. The Ghouls are hunted down by the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul) who uses weapons like guns and swords, but are also armed with quingue’s which are manufactured from a Ghoul’s kagune.
Okay, now in case you don’t know I am a fan of anime, I love the animation style and the fact that the animation is never ruined by out of place CGI. In live-action watching a human character suddenly taking on a monster form is generally the moment when my suspension of disbelief is ripped from me as I see an actor replaced by an obvious CGI creation. Anime doesn’t suffer from that problem and twisted monsters look just as real as the humans because they are animated in the same way. I have watched Akira, Hellsing, Hellsing Ultimate OVA, Death Note, Ninja Scroll to name but a few and liked them all but haven’t found one to watch recently. However, there is an anime section on Netflix and picking one of those led to me watching Tokyo Ghoul.
Not surprisingly set in Tokyo the first episode sees an attractive naked woman feasting on the flesh of several young men, she is being hunted by a man who she is able to evade. The CCG is searching for this Ghoul, nicknamed the “Glutton” because she feeds in excess of the amount a Ghoul needs to feed to survive. Meanwhile, college student Ken Kaneki meets a beautiful woman named Rize at a coffee shop, and manages to work up the courage to ask her on a date. The date seems to be going well as they both have similar tastes in books, and other things in common, but Riza then reveals herself to be a Ghoul. She attacks Kaneki with the intention of devouring him (Riza being the Glutton the CCG are looking for), however, she is crushed by falling girders after chasing him into a building site. Kaneki is also injured and wakes up some time later to learn that in order to save his life, the organs of the young woman he’d been with have been implanted into him.
Kaneki learns to his horror that food now tastes revolting to him and realises that as Riza was a Ghoul, her organs have transformed him into a half-human half-Ghoul hybrid, which now shares their desire for human flesh.
Repulsed at what he has become Kaneki tries to protect his only friend from the monster he fears he will become. He is found by the kindly owner of a coffee shop and given a home with a job surrounded by other Ghouls who leave as peaceful a life as possible. Kaneki struggles to come to terms with who he is, and what he is to become as he delves deeper into the world of the Ghouls discovering that some of them are not the monsters that he imagined them to be.
But the man, nicknamed Jason, who was hunting Riza comes looking for her and smelling her scent on Kaneki kidnaps him in the hopes of finding out where she is. Jason brutally tortures the young Kaneki, who finally realises that unleashing the monster that he was trying so hard to keep contained within himself might be the only way he will survive....
I won’t go any further because to talk about anything that happens in series two and three would ruin them which I don’t want to do.
What struck me first about this anime is the fact that Ghouls seem native to Tokyo, and people have kind-of just accepted that they exist. There is no conspiracy to keep them hidden away from the eyes of the public, far from it, ghoul attacks are reported on the news in the same way any crime would be. The CCG acts with impunity and are able to cut down any ghouls they come across without hesitation or remorse. I am not sure exactly how the CCG are able to turn a ghoul’s kagune into a quingue as in most instances when a ghoul dies their kagune appears to disintegrate. The show doesn’t explain how they do it either. Basically when a CCG special agent kills a ghoul they somehow acquire the quingue to be used how they wish. In some cases the quingue’s seem to be more powerful than the kagune’s they came from in the first place.
As I watched more and more I came to the conclusion that this anime is really weird...I am usually able to follow the story of films and TV shows with little difficulty. But there were more than a few occasions when I struggled to follow just what the hell was going on. The CCG are determined to wipe out all ghouls, seeing them as evil creatures, okay fine. Yet some of them seem to think that maybe ghouls are not all monsters so maybe they don’t all need to be wiped out, no worries, not black and white but shades of grey, I can follow that. The ghouls that Kaneki befriends are all former monsters that have abandoned their former lives to live in peace, not a problem with that. Yet both the CCG and the ghouls act in irrational ways that straight up don’t make sense. When a ghoul refuses to fight to buy time for her daughter to escape Amon, one of the two CCG operatives sent to find her, hesitates as he watches his partner, Modo cut her down without mercy. Amon begins to question whether it was right to slaughter the unarmed woman. That is until Touka (a young female ghoul) goes after Modo seeking revenge. During the course of the anime the story does go round in circles with ghouls killing CCG in revenge for CCG killing ghouls who then kill ghouls in revenge for them killing CCG. I get that this cycle is a way of life for these characters but things are set up with Kaneki being the only one who can bring out the best in both Humans and Ghouls being a hybrid but it takes his bloody ages to figure this out for himself despite being told by other characters that he can do it.
Ken Kaneki is capable of being a badass at times but he is no Alucard from Hellsing or Jubei from Ninja Scroll, and spends the majority of the anime with tears in his eyes or just straight up crying. He even cries when he is getting some on one episode. Once again I understand that he is struggling with what he has become but there are times when you want to tell him to just man the fuck up already. I always love it in anime when characters unleash their full powers and straight up wreck shit which fortunately Kaneki is able to do with increasing frequency in later series.
I enjoyed the other characters and seeing the very human Kaneki trying to rationalise to creatures that simply need to feed on human flesh to survive is interesting to watch. His relationship with Touka is one of the central themes of the story with him going to increasingly extreme lengths to protect the people he has come to care about.
Like Attack on Titan this is one of those anime shows in which generally the most interesting stuff happens in the first five minutes and the last five minutes of an episode. Almost every one ends with a cliff hanger and you immediately want to keep watching to see what happens, the first few minutes of the next episode are awesome then it settles back into some exposition, a flashback or two, or whatever before building up to another crescendo that wets your appetite for what is to come. I was sitting watching episode after episode long after I planned to stop just to see what happens next.
The voice acting and the dubbing is incredibly well done with each voice fitting the character perfectly. I especially enjoyed Tsukiyama who is both entertaining and also seriously fucked up, as he views himself a “Gourmet” who seeks to enjoy different flavours of meals and sets his sights on the rarity that is a half-human half-Ghoul. He has a weird character arc as he starts off trying to kill Kaneki whilst developing something of an obsession with him that demonstrates how much he comes to care for the young man. Yet he still makes references to wanting to devour him.
On that subject I am not sure if ghouls eating other ghouls means that they absorb their strengths. Ghouls who eat others of their own kind are referred to as cannibals. It is suggested that a ghoul eating others of their own kind will make them stronger as certain characters certainly become stronger after eating other ghouls, however, it is implied that those characters were massively powerful in their own right anyway so devouring others of their own kind might not make much difference.
There is a definite story arc and by series three the lines between human and ghouls is so blurred that it is hard to see who is on the right side, or what the right side even is. The CCG develop the Quinque Squad who have kagunes themselves, as they are part ghoul, so like Kaneki they are half-ghoul hybrids...?...Again it is not expressly said how the CCG creates these operatives other than through the use of organ transplant. We also learn that the CCG have no problems torturing their own people if it means that they accomplish their goals.
The biggest problem that I had with the anime though was the fact that pretty much everyone in it looked the same. Imagine a brooding character with hair falling down over their face (or waving in the wind over their face) with usually one sober eye looking out from under their hair, and multiple that by about twenty, and you’ll be imagining pretty much every character in the series. I have watched Berserk and it is easy to tell Guts from Griffith, Caska from Princess Charlotte, Pippin from Corkas, and so on because all of them have a different designs to one another. Ditto with Hellsing in which Alucard is different to Walter, who is different to the Major, who is different to the Captain, etcetera. Yet in Tokyo Ghoul I had real trouble keeping up with who is who most of the time and it doesn’t help that the CCG operatives all dress the same. Plus a lot of the characters drop like flies so just as you are getting to know everyone, a bunch of them die, and you have to figure out who is who of the new people, all of whom have brooding expressions under long fringes.
I stuck with the show because I did want to see what happened and I am glad I stuck with it because it was unlike anything I had watched before. It had its problems and I may go back to watch it all again at some point to see if it makes following the story easier. If you like anime and have watched the likes of Death Note, Berserk and Hellsing then you will probably enjoy this slice of anime too. I am giving Tokyo Ghoul a Thumbs Up, and as all three series are available on Netflix urge any anime fans to give it a watch.
7/10 – An entertaining anime that is let down a little in the generic designs of its characters, but makes up for it with some truly badass moments, excellent voice acting, and a world in which both humans and ghouls are made up of their own monsters.