Anime Review: Tokyo Ghoul (Will Leave You Clawing for More)

Written by: Sui Ishida

Original Run: July 3, 2014 – September 18, 2014

No. of episodes: 12

Overview:

The story follows Ken Kaneki, a college student who meets a pretty lad, Rize Kamishiro at the coffee shop, Anteiku. They both share a wide interest in literature and books and decide to meet again for a date.

Rize reveals how she was afraid of going home alone at night due to the recent Ghoul attacks that has been going on in their area. Kaneki decides to walk her home only to find out about Rize’s true identity….a ghoul, a humanoid type of creature that feeds on human flesh.

Just when he was about to get killed, a huge platform falls down, killing Rize on site. Kaneki is taken to the hospital in a critical condition. Seeing how he will likely die, the doctor decides to transplant Rize’s internal organs to Kaneki.

Thus begin his painful and sweet journey as a half-human, half-ghoul.

Review:

Let’s begin by familiarizing some of the terms used in this anime (and this review).

Ghoul – Creatures who take the form of humans but lives by eating human flesh.

Kagune – A ghoul’s main weapon which is hidden inside their bodies and is activated by will. Its power is highly dependent on the physical strength of its owner. Therefore, a ghoul who has been starving (read: not eating human flesh) is incapable of activating this.

Doves – An arm of the government tasked to eliminate the ghouls.

Quinque – Special weapons used by the Doves to fight against ghouls. Its power is derived from the defeated ghouls.

Anteiku – A coffee shop run by a group of ghouls. They refuse to eat human flesh apart from those suicide victims.

20th ward – The area where Kaneki and Anteiku is located. It is generally considered as a peaceful place compared to the other wards.

Human – Ghoul Coexistence: An Obvious Incompatibility

The story started out clear. It’s an era where humans and ghouls coexist. Not that the government isn’t doing anything to stop it. They are trying – to no avail.

So we are brought into a story were danger is a constant factor. Where ghouls exist to eat humans, and humans, being humans with no supernatural abilities is bared prey to these creatures. There is tension with the existence of each other.

Humans, who are inferior by strength, live in fear but are striving to eliminate the ghouls by organizing the special unit of highly skilled agents called Doves. Ghouls, who are aware of their repugnant reputation among the humans, are constantly watching their backs, careful not to leave any tracks.

Both live with different needs, different reasons, and different views about life. But they are all living in one, same world. While one is hunting down the other, another one is hunting the hunter. It’s a constant battle of survival.

Blood, blood, and more blood…

The fighting scenes are great. They are fast, fluid, clean in the sense that they are well executed and well, bloody.

But it’s one of those anime were you get to wonder just how much blood is this man (or this ghoul) is capable of spilling. If you’ve seen Blood C, you can do a comparison. Every battle is bloody. And we’re not just talking about droplets of blood spilling after getting stabbed by a knife.

We are talking about blood flowing out of the body after getting stabbed by a kagune. One good reference will be Touka and Tsukishima’s battle. As the end of the 12-episode series nears, the battles just get bloodier and bloodier.

So for those who are terrible in handling scenes that involves violence and torture, this may not be the right pick for you.

Kaneki’s inner battle: Inability to stand by a Choice

One most dominant theme in the story is Kaneki’s continuous battle to remain human while satisfying his hunger for human flesh. For you see, he can no longer eat what humans eat. Any of his attempts to do so only ends up with him, having a bad stomach.

Rize’s internal organs which now resides in his body has been constantly fueling the hunger, and Kaneki is torn between keeping his humanity and just satiating his cravings. He is now different. But he insists on living as if he was the same.

When he start to realize how different he has become, how his favorite burger tasted foul in his mouth, he knew he had to make a choice. And the choice he made was to live in both lives.

However, I don’t see Kaneki’s character understanding much of what it means to live as a ghoul. True, he managed to survive somehow. But his insistence on being as human as possible has put him and the people close to him, and a lot of deadly situation.

If he made a firm choice and stood by it, lives would have been spared. But this aside, I think Kaneki has ultimately a great personality. It just took the whole season for him to realize the things he should have done on the first few episodes.

Brilliant characterization, but with few left undeveloped…

For a 12 – episode anime, Tokyo Ghoul managed to pull out brilliant characters on its cast. Kaneki’s somewhat frail and weak personality found its balance with Touka’s headstrong attitude and strength.

Ghouls’ morbid, somehow gore ways of living has its unique beauty the moment they released their kagune.

But while the first few episodes went just fine, giving us a peek behind each character’s motivation, there were a few more interesting personalities introduced near the end. For instance, Touka’s brother Ayato Kirishima who is now serving the feared One-eyed king of the ghouls.

Members of the Aogiri tree (headed by the one-eyed king), and which Ayato is a member is not also given enough introduction – though we’re given a taste of what they are capable of as a group.

And so we are left wondering just who the heck are these guys…….and how strong they are individually….

The verdict…

In a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, I’ll place Tokyo Ghoul at 7. The story is quick, bloody, competent in terms of graphics and has brilliant characters all in a 12 -episode series.

More importantly, the end is strategic. It’s a cliffhanger, yes. And I’d be disappointed if that’s everything they can offer. But since I heard that the 2nd season is scheduled to air January of 2015, then totally justifiable.

We’ve got something to look out for at the beginning of another year.

Watched the 1st season? What do you think about it?

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