Every anime season seems to have 1 amazing title that stands out among the rest. Last season that anime was, in my opinion, Tokyo Ghoul. As a fan of horror and major character change I was delighted with Tokyo Ghoul’s dark, and often sad story of a human who becomes a bridge between his original species and what he is turned into.
Tokyo Ghoul follows Ken Kaneki, a student who frequents a coffee shop in order to watch the object of his affection Rize Kamishiro. Kaneki, an avid reader, is impressed by Rize’s taste in books, and feminine charms. He wants nothing more than to spend time with Rize talking about books, and so he is delighted when Rize approaches him herself. Kaneki has a satisfying date with Rize, and decides to walk her home after she says she lives in an area known for recent Ghoul attacks. Rize, however, is not what she seems. It turns out that Rize is in fact the very ghoul that has been making her neighborhood a dangerous place. Rize takes a sadistic turn as she taunts Kaneki, revealing her identity, and her intent to eat him. As a wounded Kaneki looks up on Rize, who is posed to kill and eat him, steel i-beams tumble from above crushing her. Kaneki wakes up in the hospital, saved by an organ transplant, from organs donated by Rize. So begins the story of Tokyo Ghoul.
As Tokyo Ghoul develops, Kaneki must learn to adapt to his new life as a Ghoul. His organ transplant has changed his species to that held by Rize herself. Discovering that normal food is now inedible to him, Kaneki follows a delicious smell into an alley where he stumbles upon a ghoul feeding on a human. Ghouls can only sustain themselves on Human flesh, and Kaneki must now learn how to eat the flesh of human. Aiding him is the staff of the coffee shop Anteiku, a safe haven for Ghouls that takes him in. Kaneki must learn to fit in to ghoul society while also retaining his humanity.
This struggle to maintain his humanity while accepting his change is the heart of the story. While the plot can move at a slow pace at times, the growth and development is honest and believable. Visually the series uses its dark palette to keep you in the headspace of these nocturnal creatures, and the animation quality and character designs help to give weight to Kaneki’s struggle. Through the course of the series, we see the world through Kaneki’s eyes and take in multiple perspectives on the war between Ghouls, and Ghoul Investigators, the only humans capable of killing Ghouls. There is no right or wrong, Ghoul Investigators are largely forged from Ghoul created tragedy, yet Ghouls did not ask for their lot in life. Everything works towards this realization, the music, the acting, it all straddles a fine balance between introspective thoughtfulness and operatic excess.
While strong throughout, the series really comes into its own in its final episode. With Kaneki tortured and tormented into realizing some hard truths that change him forever. The episode was beautifully drawn and animated, one of my favorite single episodes of anime ever. This winter will bring a new season of Tokyo Ghoul to anime fans, I, for one, cannot wait.
This review would not be complete without a comparison to the source material. Like many anime, Tokyo Ghoul is based on a manga series of the same name. After finishing the anime, I quickly dived into the manga, reading it from beginning to end over the course of a few sleepless days. Many fans of the manga have expressed dissatisfaction with the anime adaptation. Personally i prefer the anime to the manga. I feel that it is paced better, and that the climax of the final season was done significantly better. While some changes were made I do not feel that any of them harmed the story, in fact, in many ways it improved it. Jason’s earlier appearance, and the death of Hinami’s family comes together in a more coherent and meaningful way. I must also add that I have been rather dissatisfied with the manga’s continuation, and hope that the anime adaptation of this material is improved upon.
I’ll end of this review with a strong recommendation of this series. With season 2 coming in just over a month or so, it is the perfect time to catch up on the original series. Season 1 of Tokyo Ghoul is available to stream on both Funimation and Hulu.
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