Director: Shuhei Morita, Original Creator: Sui Ishida, Series Composition: Chuuji Mikasano, Character Designer: Kazuhiro Miwa,
Voice Actors and Characters
Natsuki Hanae as Ken Kaneki, Kana Hanazawa as Rize Kamishiro, Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Hideyoshi (Hide) Nagachika, Sora Amamiya as Touka Kirishima, Mamoru Miyano as Shuu Tsukiyama, Takahiro Sakurai as Uta, Sumire Morohoshi as Hinami Fueguchi, Takayuki Sugou as Yoshimura,
Reports have it that “Ghouls” roam the streets of Tokyo and are devouring humans. Nobody has seen these things and lived until a bookish college student named Ken Kaneki encounters them.
We first meet him chilling at his favourite coffee shop with his friend Hide, he sneaks quick looks at a beautiful girl sat across from him and talks about his dream of winning a date with her. It seems that he is too shy to act.
Hide mocks his friend’s guileless and naïve love and tries hitting on the silent waitress Touka but fails miserably and decides to fly the coop and leave Ken for the night. With Hide’s departure it seems that Ken’s luck takes a change as he attracts the attention of the girl. Ken discovers that her name is Rize and she is obsessed with the same writers that he is. He also discovers more, darker things about her as he hangs out with Rize and from that very moment he met her at the coffee shop his life takes a dark and ghoulish turn…
Tokyo Ghoul comes from Studio Pierrot and the director is Suhei Morita who is most famous for his work on the omnibus movie Short Peace which was nominated for an Oscar in the best animated short category. They pull out the stops with an animation that is vibrant, bright and colourful like the blood that pulses out of the torn and shredded bodies of ghoul victims and a great set of characters and strong writing and world creation that promises a lot of meat for the viewer to get their teeth into.
The story takes place in contemporary Tokyo. It is recognisable, a place of cafes and college but this Tokyo is one where ghouls roam the streets and everybody knows about it and aren’t sure how to deal with it. News of the ghoul’s presence is all over the airwaves and in episode one, newscasters and guests discuss the problems of ghouls and we find out that the government are investigating them. I guess people just have to deal with it like a troublesome social group such as yakuza – if you know you’re on the same side of the road as a ghoul, cross over and try not to attract their attention.
Problem is, nobody quite knows what these creatures look like and that’s because people who encounter ghouls ends up getting eaten. Ghouls look like us, although once they reveal their true form, a powered up form of the human physique, the major giveaway is a kagune, a “predatory organ that functions as weapons and claws”.
Apart from that it is still hard to tell them apart from humans and so the ghouls find it possible to live in our world undetected and restrict their ghoulish active to the twilight hours where they find their human prey are least aware of threats.
This scene setting is evocatively brought to the screen through great art direction and backgrounds which brings to life the various settings and the way people fit in.
While Ghouls co-exist with us in open society, in secret there is a mirror world that the ghouls inhabit, one with rules and factions, a familiar concept from other monster genres like vampires and werewolves, and Ken Kaneki finds himself plunged into this new world.
Thrown into it might be a better way to describe it because his dream date with Rize takes a nasty turn when she reveals her true nature.
Fortunately an untimely construction site accident means Ken no longer has to have his liver chewed on but leaves him in critical condition. In order to save his life, a surgeon transplants Rize’s organs into Ken which is the start of his descent into the ghoul’s shadow world.
Through the organs he develops into a half-ghoul as his humanity slowly becomes overtaken by Rize’s unwanted influence. It seems that her psychic presence clings to her organs as well as her ghoul persona and powers and she lurks in a dark corner of his mind, popping up to torment Ken when he’s faced with the horrible changes his new organs are creating. This is where Tokyo Ghoul goes into overdrive as it balances extreme violence with heart-rending character development and spends a lot of time focussing on his struggles to adapt and not lose his humanity.
Ken is first presented as a bookish guy with a bit of a pure soul, one who blushes at the thought of girls and is a complete gentleman. After his new life-saving operation he has to devour the limbs and livers of others and he finds it truly horrific.
A lot of time is spent on his battle with the concept of having to eat flesh to survive, something he finds repulsive and decides to try and avoid but he faces starvation which is extremely painful for a ghoul.
There are many scenes where nothing but his struggle not to eat flesh is on show and he voices his objections and moral dilemmas and doubling over from the pain his hunger gives him.
He tries isolating himself from others but his best friend Hide refuses to leave him alone. It really is impossible to drop out of a highly connected society and Hide tracks Ken down when he sees him at college. Ken’s presence places Hide in great danger not only because of his taste for human flesh but the presence of other ghouls and this inevitably leads to violence as Ken has to protect Hide.
The body horror that goes on is startling and hideous and it’s meant to be so we understand Ken Kaneki’s emotional journey as he finds his humanity undergoing repulsive changes and it’s sold so well here. Limbs are torn apart, bodies thrown across streets and hands tear into chest cavities. However most of the violence is heavily censored in TV anime and the black fog covers many of the worst aspects of the violence but in the second episode director Suhei Morita and anime studio Pierrot go all arty and use a startling array of colours for the peak of the goriness and carnage.
It’s a move that reminded me of Bakemonogatari and making a relationship between that and Tokyo Ghoul makes me view this favourably.
I was genuinely impressed by the scene on an artistic level because the level of savagery and brutality was translated well without having to cut away or censor anything and it was beautiful to look at.
What impressed me more was that after dealing with moments of intensely horrific high-stakes combat or scenes of human flesh being consumed, Tokyo Ghoul goes into dealing with the psychological effects of it on Ken and the world he has entered. The juxtaposition with his innocent and upstanding earlier self and the feral creature he becomes is stark. His world view is slowly coming apart at the seams and it seems that he will lose his humanity and the ghost of Rize (who likes to grope and taunt him) will have her way and get him to consume people.
I respect the time spent on showing his troubles and it goes a long way in building up his character.
Fortunately he is always saved by another character and the world of Tokyo Ghoul opens up even more as Ken encounters other ghouls, some of whom are friendly and some who are downright evil and if the first two episodes are indicative of the rest of the series, seeing how these characters integrate is going to be cool.
I’ve done it again, a long rambly post with lots of images that gives too much away but I like the anime a lot.
A great start which has a strong character in Ken Kaneki, We follow his journey into a shadow world where there are many deliciously twisted elements such as horror, loss of humanity and disturbed people who are all mixing together to create some thrilling drama. There’s also the prospect of encountering some ghoul-hunting corporation named CCG and chap called “Jason” who we have not seen yet but must be awesome. Like me!
Following the first two episodes, I would rate this one of my favourite titles of the last few years, never mind the summer season. I rate it so highly that I’m going to start reading Sui Ishida’s original manga which this is based on. The anime has had a tremendous start with fantastic animation
Tokyo Ghoul has my favourite ED from the season and I’ve pre-ordered the CD that the track Seijatachi can be found on: