The official Tokyo Ghoul live-action promo account has released a visual teaser featuring Masataka Kubota as Kaneki Ken. There are a lot of mainstream live-action films lined up for 2017, and #TokyoGhoul is the one that I’m most hyped about (Sato Takeru's Ajin: Demi Human comes in close second).
Takeru, who rose to international fame with Rurouni Kenshin and Bakuman, is a fan-favorite pick to play #KanekiKen. Others are also rooting for Kanata Hongo, Ryûnosuke Kamiki and Kento Yamazaki — but 28-year-old Kubota comes out on top for several reasons.
Tokyo Ghoul is a dark fantasy seinen #manga series written by Sui Ishida. With more than six million copies sold, it was one of the best-selling manga series in Japan in 2014, with its translated version topping The New York Times Best Sellers list in 2015.
The Story Of Tokyo Ghoul
The story is set in a world where ghouls and humans coexist. Ghouls live like ordinary people, except they crave for human flesh. They have some unusual abilities that they must hide to avoid getting exposed and captured by the authorities. Kaneki Ken is a typical student at Kamii University, whose chance encounter with a ghoul named Rize Kamishiro changes his life. Following a life-threatening accident, Rize’s organs are transplanted into Kaneki and he manages to pull through. However, he is now a half-ghoul who must feed on human flesh to survive.
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Half-ghouls are stronger than pure-blood ghouls. A half-ghoul is the offspring born naturally of a ghoul and a human. Artificially, a half-ghoul can also be produced the same way Kaneki was turned into one — by transferring ghoul organs into a human body. Fortunately, he was taken in by Anteiku, a safe-haven cafe managed by ghouls who help him adjust to his new life, while keeping his identity hidden from humans.
Kaneki Ken is a dark-haired and lean young man who prefers reading to athletic pursuits. Kubota is one of my favorite actors, and here are the reasons why I believe he's the best choice to play the famous half-ghoul.
1. He Does Crazy So Well
Kaneki Ken goes through a drastic and life-altering change. His fear of being alone pushes him to extremes in a bid to protect the important people in his life. However, instead of maintaining his previous gentle human nature, he becomes violent and merciless toward those he feels threaten him.
Kubota is best known for his award-winning and engrossing portrayal of Yagami Light in the 2015 series adaptation of Death Note. Unlike Kaneki, who goes from shy black-haired boy to white-haired badass, Yagami Light did not have any physical manifestation of his changes. Kubota sensitively portrayed the pathos of Yagami’s transformation from compassionate fighter of justice to a ruthless psychopath who deemed himself fit to judge humanity. Just look at those expressive eyes.
2. Playing Tragic Characters Is Nothing New
"I’m not the protagonist of a novel or anything. I’m just a college student who likes to read, like you could find anywhere. But... if, for argument’s sake, you were to write a story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be... a tragedy."
– Ken Kaneki, "Tokyo Ghoul"
Kaneki Ken is a tragic character. Yagami Light, too. Kubota played one of the elite samurais who embark on a suicide mission to assassinate a tyrant in Takashi Miike's remake of 13 Assassins. He is also a part of the #RurouniKenshin live-action universe. It may have been a brief appearance, but he is definitely an important part of Himura Kenshin’s life. Masataka Kubota is Kiyosato Akira, a member of the Mimawarigumi who worked as a bodyguard for a high-ranking official. He met his tragic fate at the hands of Hitokiri Battousai, but his strong will to live allowed him to leave the first deep and lasting cut on Kenshin’s face.
Talk about a scene stealer.
3. He's More Than Just A Dramatic Actor
Kubota may look like a precious cinnamon roll, but he can kick ass and accomplish physical feats in impressive action sequences. Indeed, Kubota has proved to be one of the go-to action stars of this generation, having successfully tackled the role of of Kuronaga Hayato, a violent delinquent in the low-budget Gachi-ban. He also played one of the quirky members of ST in the mystery film ST MPD Scientific Investigation Squad, as well as Smoky, the leader of the Rude Boys in the TV miniseries High & Low: The Story of S.W.O.R.D.
The Rude Boys trailer, in which the gang utilize the art of #parkour in their action scenes, is the most watched trailer for High & Low. At the 1:55 mark, we see Smoky in a one-on-one fight against Sannoh Rengokai's Yamato. The latter is played by Noboyuki Suzuki. They will soon face off again in Tokyo Ghoul's live-action film, with Suzuki set play First Class Ghoul Investigator Koutarou Amon.
4. Sui Ishida Approves
After seeing Kubota in the trailer for the 2011 film We Can't Change the World. But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia, #SuiIshida stated that if Tokyo Ghoul were to ever be made into a live-action movie, Kubota would be his pick for Kaneki Ken. And no one knows the character better than the creator himself.
A compelling lead is just one of many essential elements on the checklist of how to pull off a good live-action film. A director who is familiar with the source material is also an important component. Frankly, I'm just relieved that Tokyo Ghoul won't be Hollywood produced and follow in the footsteps of Dragonball: Evolution and The Last Airbender.
There is always the fear that Tokyo Ghoul is going to be the next lackluster adaptation, like Attack on Titan, but I can’t deny the possibility that if done right, it might just be the next #blockbuster hit in the vein of Rurouni Kenshin. I'm just hoping for the best.
Tokyo Ghoul is set for release in 2017. How do you feel about a live-action version of the series? Do you agree with casting Masataka Kubota as the lead?