Tokyo Ghoul Review

Tokyo Ghoul Review

If there is one thing that I have learned so far from watching anime, it is "Don't trust hot girls with purple hair." They are downright sadists and will rip you apart anytime they can (from the inside out), piece by piece enjoying every moment of it. (Remember Senjougahara from Bakemonogatari? Yeah. If you see purple, Run!)

Tokyo Ghoul is setup in a world where these creatures called 'Ghouls' exist among the general population. They must eat human flesh to survive and anything else that they eat is going to taste like garbage and is actually bad for their health except for coffee (weird, I know.)
The story follows a teenage boy Kaneki Ken, who is just your average highschool student and likes to read books as he meets Rize, a gorgeous looking purple haired girl who also likes to read books. So, he decides to talk to her and somehow they actually hit it off. But, there is a little secret about Rize that Kaneki doesn't know. On their first meeting/date, Kaneki takes her to visit a bookstore (lame) and on their way back, she gets Kaneki to walk her home. And being the good boy Kaneki is, he gladly agrees. But then, after arriving at some dark alley near a construction site, Rize decides to show her true colors. Little did Kaneki know, Rize is actually a ghoul who likes to eat people. And by the time he realises that, it's too late.

This is where the show kicks it up a notch with Rize going into full bloodlust psychotic ghoul mode and Kaneki running for his life as he is literally being torn apart by her. But as we all know, the protagonist never dies in the first episode, the guy survives because of Rize's sudden, coincidental yet unexplained death. (That might actually make one hell of an anime where the main character dies in the first episode and we get to see everything that led up to that all come together in the end with the same scene.) But Kaneki ends up losing consciousness and wakes up to find out that some his organs have been replaced with Rize's.

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Kaneki's expressions on this scene were priceless.
That is how the first half of the first episode ends. And this is where the psychological battle between Kaneki's own self and his new found Ghoul self (who appears in the form of Rize) begins.
Now, this first episode leaves one hell of an impression on you and gets your expectations really high for the upcoming episodes. The anime does stay on track for the next episode, but afterwards it is a complete mess. 

Imagine if the trailer of the movie was more awesome than the actual movie and you are left wondering, "What was that?" It's like having dessert before you start your dinner.
We've seen before the transition when a human turns into a vampire, how he wants blood and tries to fight that. It is the same case with ghouls apparently. The anime does a very good psychological representation of that transition in the first few episodes. How Kaneki hallucinates Rize reminded me of how House hallucinated Amber or Kutner. The conversations they have inside his head. His reactions, his expressions, they are all brilliantly done. It shows how his psyche is being torn apart by the hunger for flesh and how badly his ghoul side is pulling him towards it, away from his previous human self.

But the thing is, that transition ends a little too quick. Second episode, he is fighting with his ghoul side so that he doesn't end up eating his best friend but in episode three, all of that is just gone. The whole tense atmosphere with all the thrill that the anime established in the first couple episodes just vanishes and the anime goes into this easy tone where Kaneki is now used to being a ghoul and works at a coffee shop. (Go figure) All that inner conversations with Rize, him fighting the urge to eat human flesh, all of that, gone and now we are being shown what could be called some ghoul-human politics. It's like a horror movie with all the blood and gore turned into Dora the explorer. To be honest, it feels like you have entered a different anime with a much lighter tone.

But this isn't where the problems end with the anime. You see, the thing that really bothers me is that when all the humans in that world were already aware of the existense of ghouls, what kind of doctor in his right mind would transplant a ghoul's organs into a human? Speaking of ghouls, just what are they? What are their abilities? What the hell is a kagune? The anime absolutely refuses to give us any answers to those questions and that leaves some giant plotholes in the story.

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Moreover, all that well established premise from the start just gets butchered by the episodes that follow. The pacing just changes completely. You would expect Kaneki to be having some sort of a journey of self exploration or a fight to retain his humanity, but you get none of that. Now the focus just shifts to other ghouls and how a government agency called CCG is hunting down all the ghouls. Also the anime suggests some kind of a ghoul movement being organised in the background. Basically, a full scale ghoul-human war is going to take place.
Meanwhile we get a glimpse into what daily life for a ghoul looks like. All of that is okay but that just leaves all the primary character highly under-developed. It's like they never take any action on their own and move only when the plot demands them to or some kind of villain appears and starts messing things up.

All we have in the name of a backstory is the flashbacks from Kaneki's past which show his relationship with his best friend Hide. We get no backstory or development on any other characters at all. Rize, the purple haired psycho girl who made Kaneki a ghoul, we know nothing of her past. All we know is that she was a binge eater and she had some beef with Jason. We don't know if that little act she put on with Kaneki was her true self or what kind of person she was in real life.

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Her Kagune just looks so badass and pretty.
It's the same story with the other main character Touka. Her character is very plain and under-developed. In the beginning she is really quite and mysterious but later she turns into more of a tsundere who is scared of birds. The show suggests some romantic development between her and Kaneki, but never really moves into that direction. (Maybe becuase being a half ghoul and half human makes Kaneki impotent) By the way, her kagune looks beautiful.

The other characters are just there for plot's sake. Take Mado for example, he is a villain just for the sake of being a villain. There is no backstory to show is motivations on why he is doing this or why he is so twisted and hates ghouls so much.

The only way I was able to sit through that middle part of the anime was because of Tsukiyama Suu. This guy was downright hilarious as a character. He managed to be hilarious, disgusting and creepy at the same time. And the way he talks, behaves and his expressions just blended in so well to present this image, it is worth noticing. (The French was a nice touch) His character isn't really deep or anything, he is just there to troll Kaneki and he does his job well. He was my main source of entertainment whenever he was on screen.

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I think I have ranted enough so far on how this anime destroyed it's potential. I am going to put this one last thing here : 
Since the Humans know that Ghouls exist in their world, it gives way to some very interesting themes that the show could have explored upon. Like the relationship between a ghoul and a human. This can be looked at from both sides. We have some ghouls who actually love humans. And the show gives us a glimpse on how they feel and what is it like to be a ghoul and how they manage to live peacefully with humans and go about their everyday life. Try to put into their shoes, you like humans, but at the same time you can't deny the fact that you must eat human flesh to survive. That is a tough place to be. You can't just walk up to your best friend and say "Hey! I'm a ghoul and I eat humans. Don't worry, you are my best friend." The guy will probably think "Best friend? You mean emergency snack?"

Now, even if you look at it the other way around i.e., a human who loves a ghoul, it still gets pretty interesting. Just imagine how difficult it would be to accept that. Sure, you can tell yourself that as long as it isn't one of your friends or family members it's okay and convince yourself that that's his basic need, that he has to eat human flesh to survive, you can't just throw away your humanity now would you? Especially after you see him eat someone. That would make for an intense psychological battle within yourself. And I wish they would show something like that.

Another good theme that is slightly explored is that of idea that do ghouls have a right to live? They eat humans, they are much more powerful than a normal human, yet they lack certain things. But how would you judge them as a human? Is it okay for them to exist? The show asks the viewer this question via the little girl Hinami and throws a nice punch at their morality. 

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So, in the end, what's left is the ending of the anime. And they did a surprisingly good job here. The whole dark tone that the anime had in the first couple episode comes back into action and the anime goes back to being a psychological thriller. Our lovely psycho Rize starts appearing inside Kaneki's head and we see him slowly break down and changing into a different person. (Maybe even literally) But, if you really think about it all of this seems really out of place (considering the previous episodes with no interference from Rize) and the transition feels too rushed.
Some dark themes like torture are explored upon and the turnaround in Kaneki's personality is something to watch. And the way he finishes things is quite exhilarating.

Overall, this anime had a very good start but it failed to live up to the expectations it built with the first few episodes. This show could have used more than 12 episodes to flesh out its characters and fill all the gaps in the story that it just leaves and maybe even take time to explore upon those psychological and moral themes. It is still worth watching as a mindless action flick as the action and the animation is quite good but it won't be leaving that much of an impression that it could have.

Tokyo Ghoul Rating

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