Tokyo Ghoul Review

This is review number three hundred and seventy six. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Tokyo Ghoul. It’s a twelve episode anime about a bunch of flesh eaters, and there are also people beheaded here. It’s a really good anime, so let’s read on.

Story

The anime follows a guy named Ken Kaneki. He has a crush on this girl named Rize Kamishiro, and he finally gathered up some courage to ask her out. It turns out that they enjoy each other’s company, and Kaneki couldn’t believe it. This dream turned into a nightmare though when he realize Rize is actually a ghoul, monsters that eats humans. He almost became ghoul dinner, but an accident prevented that. Clinging to life, Kaneki is rushed to the hospital and he was saved when he had an organ transplant. He had Rize’s organs transplanted in his body, and he soon realized that he is no longer human.

Taking the Pants Off

Tokyo Ghoul is an anime I finished in one sitting. I rarely do that, and you can guarantee I only finished Tokyo Ghoul because it offered something amazing to me. I’m not going to lie though. My first impressions of the show are the same I had with Deadman Wonderland. The amount of gore and the sniveling main character is similar, and I can only imagine how much Tokyo Ghoul will f*ck up. In fact, I was expecting it. Come now, Tokyo Ghoul, how much will you suck? I’m an assh*le like that, but my faith in the show initially changed in the first episode as well. When I saw the visuals of the city streets and the atmosphere it’s trying to deliver, I was seriously impressed. The visuals are legit manga visuals down to the camera angle and the way the characters move in it. Someone put insane dedication to capture the background images of the manga, and I don’t see that a lot. Even if the show dropped this dedication, the effort put behind the background visuals already had me impressed. It’s as if someone is outright proving to the world that they know what they’re doing. It wanted audiences to trust this anime adaptation and, you know what, it worked for me. Tokyo Ghoul is an amazing anime. It’s standard Shounen for the most part, but everything about it is executed to perfection. The pacing, the characters and the story feels like I’m consuming a manga and, I absolutely love it. Is the show faithful to the adaptation? I don’t know. I don’t read manga, but the effort behind the show is really promising. Keep in mind, Deadman Wonderland was the bar in judging this anime. Deadman Wonderland failed in delivering its promising story in twelve episodes. Tokyo Ghoul had the same length, and so much amazing things happened in it that I was a fool to even compare it to such an embarrassing show.

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This anime is pretty straight forward. It’s about ghouls, and they’re mostly known for eating humans. The show didn’t slap us hard with the exposition at first. It mostly started with one guy liking a girl, and then both of them died. The guy survived though, and he had the girl’s organs transplanted in him. The guy, Ken Kaneki, is a human, but the girl, on the other hand, is actually a ghoul. Kaneki is now living as both a human and a ghoul. The change is absolutely too much for him, but he’s in too deep now. He is slowly entering the world of ghouls, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Keep in mind, ghouls only has one thing they’re known for and Kaneki is now going to have to partake in it as well if he wants to survive. The premise is absolutely interesting. The execution is a bit clunky, but you can tell more plot points are going to grow out of the incident. The first episode will hook you with its amazing visuals and graphic nature though. It’s not exactly gory, but it’s enough to blend in with the mood of the visuals and the pacing of the story. There is a great balance in how the show is executed, and I absolutely love it. It has its problems like the clunky presentation of the plot points and the supposed fast pacing of the events. This show ultimately sold me though thanks to Kaneki.

The first episode introduced us to the first plot point of the show. It’s about Kaneki becoming a ghoul, and it mostly centered on his new found craving for human flesh. The way he lost his humanity is absolutely lovely. The visuals are stunning with how he keep vomiting while desperately finding something to eat. His body is rejecting normal food, but the desperation of the scene is so intense. This is punctuated more clearly with Kaneki himself. This character is amazing, and we’ve only met him fifteen minutes ago prior to the events of the anime. Seeing him reject the fact that he has to eat human meat, and cling on to his belief that he is human, is just stunning. It’s clashing with his base instinct of trying to eat flesh, and the entire thing just really works for me. The story knows how to deliver a scene, and the character benefit in them a lot. This is also a small taste of the first plot point. Kaneki’s human side clashing with his ghoul side is really fascinating to watch. Throughout the rest of the show, Kaneki will be presented with more crisis like this one, and you can bet it’ll be as gripping as his desire for flesh. The internal conflict within him is actually a fascinating way to start to show, and it only gets better from there.

Actually, the clunky world building really affects the promising potential of the anime. The show is more concerned about introducing characters and their importance in the Tokyo Ghoul world, but it doesn’t really unpack the story properly. The premise is presented through the characters, and the story is done in the same manner. Terms like ghouls and binge eater will be something you’ll need to understand in how it applies to the world of the anime. The groups like CCG and Anteiku will not be thoroughly explained, but they’ll just act in the world to better point out their function. I like this approach, because it doesn’t spoon feed its audience. They are required to actually pay attention to everything, and this approach works because they’ll also be picking up the subtle foreshadowing and messages the show is trying to convey. In fact, the one about people consuming live stocks is nicely punctuated in the first plot point. Dude, just eat humans. If humans can eat chicken without batting an eye, then you should just do the same. But it’s a crime to kill humans. Well that’s tough sh*t, dude. They’re your food but they’re also different from live stocks, or are they? It’s gripping stuff. The approach of not spoon feeding the audience does have its downsides though. First of all, they’ll be lost on your intentions. What exactly is happening now, and where do all these characters fit in the direction of the story? Secondly, establishing exposition sets up the rules and limitations of your world. If it’s not established properly, then it’ll get confusing in the long run. Not everyone will invest a lot in watching an anime, because a lot of anime fans are lazy sh*ts, so it could be problematic moving forward. More importantly though, exposition gives us direction and it’ll be a problem without one.

This is exactly what happens in the first chapter of the anime. This anime has four chapters, and the first two chapters will be a bit of a hurdle. This is where the show is trying to establish the characters, and there are a lot of them. Seriously, there are seven characters slowly being built up to their eventual role in the story, and it can be daunting without a proper exposition to guide it. The show is trying to bank on the emotional weight of the characters, like when Kaneki realized he is a ghoul, but not everyone is as fascinating as our main character. I’m not saying that they’re bad, but they do take time to really hit their stride. Anyways, let’s go at it one chapter at a time. The first chapter involves Kaneki in the world of the ghouls. After his existential dilemma, Kaneki soon found himself under the guidance of a bunch of friendly ghouls. He is taught the basics of being a ghoul, and he is trying to pick up the pieces of his broken life. The first chapter pretty much just introduces the ghoul world to Kaneki. It’s pretty messy with a lot of characters shoved in our faces, but it certainly has its purpose. It’s basically planting the seeds that’ll make up different plot points of the anime. The focus of this chapter is also more on the characters making up the group Anteiku. This is the people that took Kaneki in, and they always try to help weak ghouls survive in the world. More importantly, the characters named Touka and Nishiki are introduced in the first chapter. They mostly helped Kaneki realized how f*cked up the ghoul world is and you need to be really strong to survive it. This sentiment is punctuated when Kaneki is basically stabbed and manhandled while a ghoul attempts to eat his best friend.

Aside from the exciting fight, the first chapter is pretty much just Kaneki meeting different characters and just talking with them. The exposition is thrown all over, and you are required to pick things up as the show rolls along. The same thing happens in the second chapter when we are introduced to the ghoul known as The Gourmet. He loves eating high quality meat, or something. I believe he was introduced eating a plate of virgin eyes sliced, and it’s pretty insane. He meets up with Kaneki as well, and The Gourmet pretty much decided that he wants Kaneki for dinner. This chapter is pretty straight forward, since Kaneki is simply asked to survive the insanity of The Gourmet. Despite being straight forward, the second chapter introduces the second plot point though.

This sounds confusing but a chapter pretty much covers the events of certain episodes. They’re like an arc in Shounen, but they only last three or four episodes tackling on a main topic. A plot point, on the other hand, is an idea constantly tackled throughout the show. It appears and reappears to punctuate a character’s growth or add color to the story. The second plot point covers the relationship of ghouls and humans. One is the food of the other, but our main characters actually have some baggage of their own. Some of them cling on to the hope that they can live among humans and maybe even love them. Kaneki, Touka and other ghouls seems to have attachments to the human world, and this adds layers to the characters. If they are your food, is it really alright to befriend them? Should the world be so black and white though? More importantly, can humans and ghouls really co-exist together? As in, can anything good really come out of it? We’ve seen these ghouls feast on humans, so how exactly can this work? The characters don’t know as well, but they are trying their damnest. Throughout the rest of the show, this relationship between the two groups is further explored.

The second chapter is also the point in the anime where it decides to employ flashbacks. This adds to the confusion in the show, since it’s mostly used the same way Attack on Titans did. It’s mostly there to lengthen the story. During the big battle in the second chapter, a flashback about a girl we’ve only met until then is squeezed awkwardly in the middle of the showdown. It served a purpose, but it feels weird considering how the anime is mostly downplaying the story to focus on developing the characters. The flashback now only serves as a way to introduce characters that’ll develop other characters. Yeah, buckle up. Anyways, things started to really become great when we hit the third chapter. This is where the “doves” are introduced.

Doves are what the ghouls call the CCG group. They are humans that only have one goal in mind: to eradicate ghouls. They are equipped with briefcases, and ghouls are instructed to run should they ever run across a dove. They’re basically feared humans trying to re-claim the top of the food chain, and Anteiku soon crosses path with them. This is my favorite chapter in the anime, because it introduced us to this psycho named Mado. He is extremely insane, and he considers ghouls to be nothing more than pests. He enjoys how they beg for mercy, and he considers them a stain in the world. With his deranged look and enjoyment for violence, this guy just stole the show. Mado and his partner soon clashes with Kaneki and the rest of the group and it’s really the climax of the anime. Things are just presented wonderfully, and there is a more drawn out fight against the characters. The third chapter also developed the first and second plot point of the show. The first plot point, where Kaneki is both human and ghoul, is given some color when he realizes how f*cked up both world is. After all, seeing a character beheaded will make you question your role in life as well. Is he human or is he a ghoul? How can he be both when the problems of one group don’t seem to concern him as much? Kaneki will be forced to pick a side though, and he has to think fast before the doves closes in. The second plot point is also developed greatly in the third chapter, and it’s mostly punctuated with this:

The relationships of humans and ghouls really come into question nicely in those screenshots. One side claims to only trying to survive while accusing the other that they’re f*cked up for not seeing it in their point of view. Both of them right, but they’re also wrong. I love that, because the show really went to a great distance to prove just how good and bad both sides are. With The Gourmet on one side and Mado on the other, how exactly can you say one side is correct? There are also gentle characters on both sides though, and the anime also put effort in trying to give the human characters their sympathy angle. It feels forced, but the stage is set for a moral battle between the two. Interestingly, Kaneki is smack dab at the middle of both sides. He won’t be for long though, because the fourth chapter forces him to choose one side over the other.

The fourth chapter is a rushed clusterf*ck of a lot of things. You can tell the anime really had a hard time stuffing so many characters and subplots in three episodes. It’s mostly about the different forces making up the world of Tokyo Ghoul coming head to head with each other. First off, a bunch of 11th Ward ghouls openly declared war on the humans, and the meat bags are forced to retaliate. Secondly, Anteiku is between a rock and a hard place when Kaneki is kidnapped by one of the 11th ward baddies, and the group must now save him. The only problem is that he’s kept captive in the same place where the ghouls and the humans are set to fight each other. Thirdly, there are so many characters introduced, and they’re all badly presented in the fourth chapter. Touka’s brother is revealed to have opposite ideals as big sister, the giant Frankenstein in the first episode re-appears to give a proper introduction to Kaneki, the legendary “One Eyed King” is said to lead the 11th Ward group, a trap character as crazy as Mado but resembles “L” from Death Note joins the fray, The Gourmet is reintroduced with a new role in the story, and there’s a guy trying to track down the ghoul killed in the first episode whose organs are now inhabiting Kaneki. It’s a glorious clusterf*ck, but it honestly still worked. I can imagine the manga certainly had a clearer pace to it, and I don’t understand why the anime shoved this long chapter in the first season, but it still had a pretty satisfying pay off to it. Every character, both old and new, had some great moments in the three episodes of the last chapter. It also builds up some interesting subplots for the second season. It did its job decently, even though it clearly feels like a big blemish to end the anime.

The fourth chapter is entertaining for three things. Firstly, Kaneki’s best friend seems to be getting a larger role in the story. He mostly just stayed in the background throughout the show, but it looks like he might soon clash with Kaneki as well. He might join CCG soon, and this’ll further put weight on the second plot point concerning humans and ghouls. Secondly, Mado’s partner is fleshed out even more. He vows to take revenge for Mado, and he soon becomes a character that ghouls everywhere should fear. He represents the anger humans have for being treated as live stocks and he’s willingly to die for what he believes is right. He’s being setup to clash with Kaneki as well though, since Kaneki’s action in the third chapter planted doubt in this growingly awesome character. Lastly, the fourth chapter accomplished something amazing. We saw Kaneki transform into the badass he is destined to be, and it was as heavy as the first scene where he is desperately trying to eat human food. This was actually given more focus than the war between humans and ghouls. While that sh*t is happening, Kaneki is kept in a room with a guy asking him to countdown from one thousand minus seven. It is insane, and the sight of that centipede will haunt me forever. The fourth chapter really sets out to establish the second season, and I believe it did its job by ending the show with Kaneki choosing one side over the other. It was a poignant move to really hammer in the turn of events for the first plot point, and it only opens great possibilities for the show. Seriously, the centipede freaked me out.

The characters are all pretty great. The anime puts great emphasis on them, so they’re really nicely presented in the show. I won’t go in-depth describing them, since watching the show adding layers to them is really the fascinating part of the anime. Every scene, flashback and dialogue exchanges benefit the characters greatly, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it when you watch the anime. I don’t even want to talk about Kaneki, because his role throughout the show varies in each chapter. If there’s one thing to note though, I think the rushed pacing really ruined some of the characters. Those introduced in the latter half of the show were really clumsily presented, and they didn’t have the same impact as the ones in the first half. I think they’ll make it up in the second season, so we shall see. I hear the second season is bad though, so I am a bit concerned. No spoilers! Aside from the characters sloppily presented in the last chapter, I am also very intrigued if the show will ever introduce the author named Sen Takatsuki. He is littered all over the show, and I can only imagine he has a bigger role to play. I’m avoiding looking him up, because I might spoil myself. I’m guessing he is a ghoul, but that’s all I have about this enigmatic author.

This is a Pierrot anime, and that is pretty shocking. They rarely do good animation like this, and they even cut corners on strong shows like Naruto. I think the visuals on the first episode are a big cry from Pierrot to beg audiences to give this anime a shot. They’ve been in the industry for so long, and they do have a reputation for bad quality animation. I mean, look at Baby Steps. They did give us GTO, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Fushigi Yuugi back in the 90s, so they did have standards back then. It certainly dipped though, when two of the big giants of the industry where coming from their doors. Naruto and Bleach are so influential to the anime landscape that Studio Pierrot didn’t give a crap about the quality of their other shows. Now that both giants are done, I think Pierrot is looking for their next big hit. I’m just happy that they’re putting effort in their sh*t, because Sabagebu and Baby Steps were depressing to watch. I’m excited right now to see new things from Studio Pierrot, because they’re going to put effort on their shows until the next big giant comes out of their doors. Shuhei Morita directed this anime, and this guy showed promised with his Oscar Nominated work back in 2013. He has talent, and it clearly shows in Tokyo Ghoul. This is technically his first directed piece, and just look at it. He had something to prove, and I think his talents were greatly put forth here. As I said before, this anime could’ve been another Deadman Wonderlands, but even at its worst, Tokyo Ghoul is still entertaining through and through. This is thanks to Shuhei completely understanding the vision of the mangaka and bringing it to life.

Sight and Sound

Sui Ishida is an incredible mangaka. His manga is a really dark and dreary piece, and it really captures the horror appeal of Tokyo Ghoul thanks to how he draws the characters. He has a great understanding of the negative space and how inking affects a panel. He is able to capture the dark mood and atmosphere of his story thanks to the visuals he puts in the manga. They’re simply stunning, especially the way the ghouls show their scary eyes. There is a lot more emphasis on how the face and the eyes contort into the devilish look of the ghouls, and I love that attention to detail in the manga. The faces are actually an important highlight in the manga, because Sui coveys the story’s gritty tone through how the characters react to them. He puts insane details on every facial expression in every panel and there is great attention put to how the characters feel in those moments. This brings up the horror appeal of the manga. I’m not sure if the manga is graphic, but I can imagine being completely drawn into the manga though and just eat up the panels with Sui’s intense artwork in it. Character design is pretty much the same in the anime though, so I love how the show captured Sui’s design. It’s bulky, and it’s pretty standard Shounen. The characters are all nicely proportioned, and this is because the fight scenes are so elaborate in the manga. I do love the age range of the characters, and he employs a lot of strong features to his Shounen characters. From their face to the shape of their body, the characters are really defined in terms of visuals. From their detailed expressions to how they fight, each character really stands out nicely despite their Shounen based designs. Sui understands how to really elevate these characters, and I can’t believe he just started with the faces. It’s really ingenious.

Animation is pretty amazing. Aside from the stunning visuals, the animation is also really top notch. The thing I love most is how it captured Sui’s love for facial expressions. They can’t be as prominent as Sui’s intentions in the manga, but the anime is still able to dedicate significant frames to these expressions without being a distraction to the story. I find myself often going frame by frame to how characters react, because it’s often just a few seconds before they return to their normal faces. Those few seconds are enough though, because it really helps in telling the story the way Sui intended them to be. Facial expressions are top notch in this anime, but the animation isn’t that consistent. Later episodes aren’t that well defined and certain scenes look similar to Baby Steps quality. It’s not that noticeable, but it’s there. It’s a good thing the fight scenes are able to cover up the weaknesses of the animation. Couple with the facial expressions, the fight scenes really becomes a special part of the anime. They don’t last long, but it’s able to feature the characters in a grand fashion and really bring out the best of the animation. With fast paced action and smart camera angles, the fight scenes really compliment the progression of the story. The graphic scenes aren’t that satisfying, and I think the horror is supposed to come from there. It’s an element of the manga that doesn’t really come out in the show, but that’s OK. The anime is still able to balance it with some really distinct framing and psychologically disturb visuals like this one:

We never saw this thing enter Kaneki’s ear, but the mere idea that this bastard exists is enough to bring out the intention of these scenes. Animation is really a big plus in this show, and I seriously hope Pierrot keeps this kind of quality with the rest of their shows.

The anime’s OP is “unravel” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure. This is a pretty decent song, but I just don’t like the pacing of it. The singer first sings like he is whispering, and then he sings normally towards the chorus. It doesn’t really compliment the instrumentals backing him up, and it just doesn’t sound right to me. It’s not to my liking, I guess. I do love the lyrics, since it tells of a ghoul’s situation living in the human world. It nicely captures the spirit of the anime, especially Kaneki’s own struggle in the story. The OP sequence features all the characters briefly introduced, and there’s not much else here. The story is smartly tiptoed around in as well, just like in the actual show.

The anime’s ED is “Seijatachi” by People In The Box. I like this song. It has the same mood as the OP, but it’s delivered much more effectively. It’s a nice medley with the singer’s voice complimenting the pace of the song. The lyrics are about people living a boring life in the city, but there’s this unsettling mood to how the lyrics are delivered. It’s both uplifting and a bit mysterious, and I absolutely love it. The ED sequence is just images of the characters, but they’re done in bright water colored palettes like they’re from a cute story book. I like the designs of the characters, because it’s completely different from the ones in the manga. It’s a cute take on the characters.

Overall Score

8/10 “It’s gripping, unnerving, and exciting, as much as a ghoul craving human flesh.”

This is an amazing anime. From the characters to the action, this show never lets up. It knew how to pace the story brilliantly despite being clunky from the beginning and the later parts of the series. It did have its bad moments, but I think the positives were able to balance things out nicely. If you enjoy graphic Shounen shows, then you’ll love this one. If you enjoy shows that balance both action and story then this one is for you. If you like shows that focus greatly on fleshing out characters in an effective way, then you’ll like this anime as well. It’s a strong show through and through. I recommend it.

6 thoughts on “Tokyo Ghoul Review

  1. Pingback: Tokyo Ghoul (Season 1) | Anime Gauge

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