Okay, so before I start, I'd better apologise for how un-catchy that title was.
There, I've apologised. Time to start reviewing:
Now, Tokyo Ghoul is a recent anime based on the highly successful manga series of the same name by Sui Ishida. It focuses on a boy named Ken Kaneki who goes on a date with a girl called Rize, only to find out that she's actually a "ghoul", a species of supernatural humanoid creatures who need to eat human flesh to survive. On his date, the pair gets crushed by some falling construction material, and Kaneki has Rize's organs transplanted into his body, turning him into a ghoul himself.
The rest of the series focuses on Kaneki adjusting to his new life as a ghoul while having to face of threats such as the CCG, a government organisation focused on exterminating all ghouls to protect humanity, and even other ghouls along the way. Season 2 mixes things up a bit and has Kaneki joining the villainous ghoul organisation "Aogiri Tree" in order to protect the people he cares about.
The show has plenty of interesting and generally well-written characters, and the English dub has some utterly stellar voice acting - I'll give particular praise to Brina Palencia, who voices Touka, J. Michael Tatum, who voices Tsukiyama, and Kenny Green, who does a fantastic job capturing the shear psychopathic insanity of CCG Enforcer Kureo Mado.
With that said, not all the characters can be described as being particularly well-written, as a lot of them undergo some very sudden and drastic shifts in their personalities for no obvious reason. For example, Nishio (a ghoul introduced in the first episode) starts off as cold, cruel, homicidal, territorial, and he just comes across as flat-up evil. But, once Kaneki saves his life, he suddenly possesses none of these traits, and his relationship with his human girlfriend seems highly hypocritical given that only a few episodes prior to this reveal, he refused to acknowledge that Kaneki was really friends with Hide, saying that humans are nothing but food. Do you even hear yourself, Nishio????
Tsukiyama is another character who just kinda stops being evil half way through, but I will say that with him, at least he remains in character the whole time, and boy is he entertaining. The guy is obsessed with classy eating, and even hosts these opera house-based human banquets, at one point trying to feed Kaneki to the crowd as well as eat him himself. He is such an entertaining character, and you can just tell that J. Michael Tatum was having a LOT of fun voicing him.
With that said, I do have some problems with the show, and most of them are in season 2 (which actually deviates substantially from its source material, from what I've heard).
The most notable of these I think is the bizarre censorship used in some of the fight scenes. For example, in this little scene pitured below, the entertainingly crazy CCG enforced Juuzou Suzaya has been fighting two half-ghoul twins, and has embedded dozens of knives into the flesh of one of them during the fight. Or at least, I think that's what happened, but for some reason they decided to blur her entire body out so that we couldn't see the wounds:
Now, I really don't get why they blurred this out but not so many other graphic scenes, especially when this clearly isn't a kids show, so they wouldn't be watching this anyway. All the blurring does is get in the way of the animation, and it is very distracting.
Speaking of the animation, the show is produced and animated by Studio Pierrot, who are the same company that animated around 3/4 of season 2 of the Legend of Korra. I will say that the animators at Pierrot are extremely talented, and are particularly great when it comes to the fight scenes, as well as all the background designs, and just creating a great atmosphere for all of the different settings. With that said, they were a little careless quite a few times when it came to clothing, as often we would see a character get stabbed or impaled through the chest, survive (if they're a ghoul), and in the next scene, that exact piece of clothing that was torn during the stabbing would suddenly be completely whole again, but they remembered to include the blood stain, like you see in the image below:
While that is a minor nitpick, I did find it unbelievably annoying. Another thing that I found unbelievably annoying was the way that the ghoul healing factor was so inconsistent. Sometimes similar wounds would have little to no impact, or they would leave a ghoul bedbound for days. A knife cannot pierce a ghoul's skin, and they need special steel to perform surgery on them, but Kaneki can somehow cut his finger on a teacup. Things like that.
It also strikes me as bizarre that Kotoro Amon, a straight-laced CCG investigator and one of the show's main characters, had so much respect for Mado even though the latter was so obviously a crazy, sadistic, messed-up psychopath. In fact, any real-life agency would have probably had Mado sectioned (with that said, Mado was absolutely fantastic in this series, and his episodes are REALLY worth checking out even if you're not interested in thee whole thing).
I didn't think that Kaneki's joining Aogiri made that much sense either, and Ayato's joining them sure as hell didn't make sense, because Kaneki figures out in season 2 episode 1 that Ayato joined them to protect Touka, but 2 episodes prior, he freaking tried to kill Touka.
There was no explanation for how Kaneki's hair suddenly turned white in the space of about 1 second either while he was being tortured by a guy called Jason (who, just to mention, wears a hockey mask... uh, trademark infringement anyone? No? okay). I mean, it happened in the space of about 1 second, way too fast to be Marie Antoinette Syndrome.
Also, I don't get how, if Tsukiyama showed that ghouls can just heal themselves by eating themselves, then any ghouls die ever? Surely all they need to do is start chewing on their hands when they've been badly hurt, and they'll be fine. Surely? Am I wrong?
I think one of the better written characters of the show is Touka, because all of her anger, guilt, conflict, care, and uncertainties make her feel like a real human being who's really been hunted all her life and is just so angry at the world for wanting to kill her even though she hasn't necessarily done anything wrong. What I DON'T like about the way they write Touka is the way that she kills a random CCG agent in retaliation for the murder of Hinami's mother, and doesn't seem to care about this at all, then later on she becomes horrified and depressed after killing Mado and seeing the wedding ring on his finger. That's right - she cares that she took creepy old psycho from HIS family, but she doesn't care at all about taking some random other investigator from his. In fact, the writers just seemed to forget about that other investigator completely.
Not only that, but remember crazy awesome Juuzou Suzaya who I mentioned earlier? (here's his picture below):
Well, they completely forgot his backstory part way through and gave him a new one. In one episode, he's revealed to have studied at the CCG Academy with the two half-ghoul twins (among others), and then in another episode it's shown that he was rescued from "Big Mama", who was forcing him to fight ghouls in Tsukiyama's "Gourmet" arena, and his skills were considered so great that they never sent him to the academy, but just partnered him straight off with Shinohara. So, one episode said that he went to the Academy, and another episode said that he didn't go to the academy... right.
With that said, Shinohara and Suzaya's pseudo father-son relationship is truly touching, and it has some pretty sweet moments, and the way they coordinate their attacks against one of the "One Eyed Owls" (whose identity I won't spoil) in the penultimate episode is so cool, as is Suzaya's crazy, fun-loving attitude to ghoul-slaying. It's also great that we gradually see Shinohara's kind nature rub off on Suzaya, and he gradually becomes a more empathetic and better person as a result of it.
As I said, there is a lot to praise in this show, but there's also a lot to complain about, which is why I find this show so hard to describe, review, or even say whether or not I like it. With that said, I think that the good stuff does outweigh the annoying "bad stuff" (you can tell that I'm writing this while tired, can't you?), and I would still recommend watching it.
One thing: a lot of people blame Studio Pierrot for the changes to the story from its source material, and have petitioned to get Madhouse to make the next season instead in order to show more respect to the source material. I just want to remind those people that all of the changes to the story in season 2 were not Studio Pierrot's doing or fault, but the choices made by manga creator Sui Ishida, so can people stop pointing fingers at the wrong people and just enjoy the new and interesting direction that the creator took his characters in? Please???
The soundtrack to the series is also absolutely beautiful, with the first theme song in particular being a captivating mixture of downbeat and tragic, while also exciting and fast-paced, much like the show itself. I think this goes up there with the first AoT theme and the Ga-Rei Zero theme as my joint first favourite anime theme, and if you want to chesk it out, here;s the video below:
The second theme song (linked below), by contrast, was dull, slow, and extremely unengaging, and the video was really boring as well in my opinion. I could never skip the first opening, but the second, I fast-forwarded that every time.
With that said, season 2 did give us the beautiful vocal piece "Glassy Sky" by Donna Burke, which just sounded amazing:
The final episode of season 2 was definitely a tear-jerker as well, with a very tragic and ambiguous ending, which left a lot of plot-threads still open, and while some of the mysteries I'm pretty sure I've already figured out, I just can't wait for season 3 (which has apparently been officially confirmed, but there are a lot of conflicting reports as to when it's actually being released, so I can't say I'm 100% sure).
Also, on a side note, I loved Kaneki's season 2 appearance so much that I decided to draw it:
So, anyway... Yes, I think you should give this show a watch, just be prepared for a lot of emotional conflict and tear-jerker moments. But you'll also get some fantastic action, great animation, a gorgeous soundtrack, memorable and relatable characters, and one thing that I felt each time was a real excitement about what was going to happen in the next episode each time.
You have been reading "Addicted to Animation Reviews" with Dan King. Next Review: The Asterisk War, Season 1 Part 1.