Notice: This review covers both seasons of this anime.
Tokyo Ghoul was one of the most hyped titles of summer 2014 but it quickly proved to be far weaker than what its first episode promises. It starts off as a psychological thriller about the main character suddenly turning to a man eating monster. His freak out was done masterfully and you were made to think the rest of the show would be a constant internal struggle between his human and monster sides. Maybe he will accept it and go on a murder spree or maybe he will find a way to control it.
But nope, turns out the whole thing was just an excuse to have a lobotomized main character entering a world where everything needs to be explained to him. He is just used as a plot device for lazy infodumping, a guide for the viewer to explore the society of these man eating monsters. Basically the show is not a thriller about his internal struggles at all; it is about a poorly conceived world inside a fighting shonen and the whole thing falls apart early on.
Just like it happens with all shonen stories, this one too takes its material way too light in terms of exposition and way too silly in terms of unnecessarily violent scenes. You are mostly busy watching flat characters cutting people to pieces while throwing in some very simple and yet over the top reasoning for whatever is going on. Thus, not only the ghoul society is cartoonishly simplistic, but it is also presented in such an extreme way that it’s impossible to take it seriously.
These ghouls are supposed to be hiding amongst humanity and praying upon it since forever, yet humanity isn’t living or acting any differently because of that. Ok, they have anti-ghoul squads but everyday people behave as they would in our world. All they do is have a few posters as warning to kids not to be going on dark alleys alone. That makes it seem like these monsters that constantly kill and eat them, are as worrisome as teaching children how to cross the street. If this show was trying to be remotely realistic, the world would be a completely different place, since humans are not at the top of the food chain and are hunted all the time as if it’s still the prehistoric times instead of a civilized modern world. It is especially laughable when they keep saying it is very hard to find the ghouls hiding amongst them because they look like people, when they know their skin is very hard. All they have to do is sting someone with a needle. If that person doesn’t bleed, voila, it’s a ghoul.
The ghoul society ain’t that better either as there is no way to tell what these monsters really think or want as a whole. Some are complete maniacs who slaughter and arrange arena death duels for pure entertainment, and others behave like normal humans who coexist peacefully with them. The fact that they can have normal humans as lovers or can successfully transplant their organs to them, further proves that they are simply humans themselves who for no given reason can only eat human flesh and have superpowers. Oh, and just for the heck of it, they also drink coffee without a problem. Whatever.
Thus all attempts to flesh out their society are crock; they are just people themselves, not a different species. They have so much diversity in mannerisms amongst them to the point they have no identity as a whole. They even lack reason in having their own secret society. Heck, the very fact that they can feed on corpses they find in morgues or cemeteries further proves they don’t even need to kill people; they do it for fun, and not because their instinct compels them to do it. This trashes the interesting concepts the show was setting up in the early episodes, such as the internal struggle of the protagonist, or the need to murder people in general.
And the problems don’t even end there. As far as storytelling goes, the pacing is extremely fast, as the anime attempts to cover a hundred manga chapters in only a dozen episodes. Nothing lasts long enough for you to care about. Even in terms of aesthetics there is very little to hook you besides a few cinematics here and there. And even those are ruined because of the ridiculous amount of censorship. All action scenes consist mostly of white beams, black beams, and color swaps, which hide everything that is going on.
The protagonist is another issue. He is a complete pussy, screaming at everything, being worthless in battle and oblivious to common knowledge. It is normal for him to be terrified for being thrown in such a situation out of nowhere but this doesn’t make him a good protagonist. In fact, he is the least interesting and capable character in the whole show, and that is why I didn’t bother to say anything about him so far. Yet, he is constantly surviving his encounters with ghouls and sticks around to piss off the viewers even further out of plain old fashioned plot convenience.
Which is yet another major problem with this show. The protagonist, and anyone else who the scriptwriter deems plot relevant, are plot armored with 10 inches of titanium walls. They constantly try to make it seem like anyone can die in this show and yet several times per episode people will be jumping in out of nowhere to save plot related characters, or the characters themselves will have superpowers activating exactly when they are about to die. For a show that is constantly trying to excite you with gore or to make you think nobody in it is safe, this saps away all the tension from the battles. You know right away some characters will always be conveniently surviving in the lamest way imaginable. There is literally a scene where a super elite ghoul hunter has overpowered the good guys and out of nowhere a little defenseless girl sprouts super tentacles and wipes the floor with him. And all of that, while she was crying, had zero experience in combat, and didn’t even want to harm him. Power levels mean absolutely nothing; even if you can blow up mountains, you are still going to get killed by a little defenseless girl if you are not plot relevant.
But even as so, death is still meaningless in this show since people who are dead will be magically coming back to life or be replaced by others who have the exact same character. A ghoul gets chopped to pieces? No worries, it can eat itself and heal completely. A little girl lost its parents? Nothing was lost, she gets to use their superpowers as if they are still around. There is no finality to anything; death is as meaningless as it is in Dragonball or Bleach.
The biggest troll of them all is how they constantly try to make you think the protagonist is slowly learning and becomes less of a pussy. But that is a lie since every time his superpowers activate and gets angry, leads to nothing after the battle is over. Furthermore any so-called character development he gets is basically mimicking others instead of having a personality of his own. His fighting powers are not his; they are a copy of the ghoul whose organs got transplanted to him. His behavior in battle is again not his; it’s a copy of how his attackers behave, meaning he heads for childish poetic justice by treating the bad guys exactly as they treat him. That is what a spoiled 10 year old would do, not a matured character.
Tokyo Ghoul is pretty much the same thing as Deadman Wonderland. Promises excitement, mystery, and internal conflicts but all it delivers after a few episodes is a gorefest regarding poorly conceived superpower battles, shallow world building, and characters that come and go as the plot demands for it. There is literally a war going on in the last episodes and you have no idea who are these people, why do they kill each other like it matters, or why would you even care if there weren’t more than 2 minutes worth of screentime dedicated on making us care about them.
But wait, maybe the manga will be better. Everybody who reads it will tell you it has a far better feeling to it since the pacing is far slower and there is a far better fleshing out of its cast. Well sorry but that doesn’t improve the plot in overall, which is still poorly thought out and is constantly showing how a species lives in hiding without excusing why they don’t simply camp outside morgues and be done with it. You will be reading hundreds of chapters and you will be getting zero progress or meaning out of them.
Speaking of which, there is a second season after this one, which stops following the manga and heads for its own storyline. The fans of the manga, who won’t accept how crap is the thing they worship, kept saying that the only problem the first season had was the pacing, and that everything else was perfect. This is why the second season will be a masterpiece for not being limited by the pacing of the manga. And then the second season airs and it’s even worse, for having crappy animation, barely any actual plot progression, and the protagonist becoming a badasss. Oh woah, he is now a badass, this means the show is finally great, right? Nope, it’s still shit because by now everyone is just a caricature with no face (they all wear masks). The hints of characterization the first season had are completely gone, so all you see is random faceless creatures with no personality and only a superpower to define them, fighting each other for 12 episodes with no logic or meaning.
With shows such as Guyver from the 80s and Parasyte airing along with it, this becomes a complete trainwreck. Don’t waste your time with it, unless you are still in that phase when you think censored violence is better than Naruto. The only people who like it are those who think wearing a mask and killing faceless people with tentacles is depth. And yes, I just described Elfen Lied to you. Same shit, different name.
This was originally a recap on the finale (containing spoilers) as well as the following final impressions. You can read the post on my website found here.
Welcome to Tokyo Ghoul, the show that puts a twist on the bunny girl trope. There was a good amount of hype for Tokyo Ghoul just prior to the premier episode. The manga seemed to have a faithful fan-base, the animation and characters all looked very slick. The question was, whether or not there was any substance under Ghoul’s slick exterior. At least that was the question for me. Well, was there?
Undeniably yes. Well, mostly. At its heart Tokyo Ghoul is a shounen anime, and I am not a fan of fiction that caters to little boys — or big boys who wear little boy pants. I despise characters who speak in the middle of fights, I hate when characters level up, or hide their best moves for no reason except to extend fight scenes. So, what does Ghoul do differently?
First, it moves really quick. Yes, the series was short at 12 episodes, but fights never last very long, so although there were some silly or downright awful segments, the show never lingered on them. It had things to do. Before I forget, what’s this series about anyway?
Kaneki Ken is an academic warrior, who meets the apparent girl of his dreams, only she turns out not to be so great. He ends up becoming a “ghoul,” and learns to deal with this over the course of the series. Of course, the main character gets help, especially when he’s taken into care by the proprietor of Cafe Anteiku, a front for the peace-loving ghouls of Tokyo’s 20th ward.
This, after he’s saved by the series’ main female character, Kirishima Touka. Each of Tokyo’s wards are generally ruled over by a certain group of ghouls, and as the series progresses we learn about some of the ghoul politics, as well as the ghoulbuster organization, CCG (Commision of Counter Ghoul). We watch different groups fight it out, while the ghouls of the 20th ward attempt to try to live their lives like normal people — who need to feed on human flesh once and while.
There’s a lot going on in Tokyo Ghoul, and the fictionalized city is designed well as the backdrop of the show. I’ll try to actually organize some thoughts about the series, before giving my rating — all without spoilers, of course.
Lovely animated lighting for a nice ending to a first date.
First, the show looks really good. The characters look good, and move even better. The series was animated by Studio Pierrot, the same people who do Naruto and Bleach, but unlike those long-running series, Ghoul sort of remains top notch over its entire length, albiet a short one.
The show is fairly dark, both in theme and in design. It’s also an incredibly bloody show, that featured a host of censored scenes throughout the season. The censoring took on various forms as well, from inverting the color, to darkening out portions of screen. I’ll admit that it bothered me. I understand developers want to sell more Blu-Rays, but I’m uninterested in merchandise generally and prefer to actually see the show that I’m watching. Is that too much to ask for?
The entire production of the show was top-notch; from the voice acting, to the opening and ending sequences, etc. Think of those long running shounen series, but with a darker edge. However, I’m not really impressed by production. I like stories, and like lipstick on a pig, music and some nice fluid animation will never make up for a good story. For me at least.
So how did I like the story? I enjoyed watching Kaneki’s journey, but honestly, I found him to be boring, whiny, and possibly the least interesting character on the show. Thankfully, his story recedes at times, allowing other characters to take front and center. Touka in particular, the hot-headed cafe worker, high school student, and powerful ghoul — not only gave Tokyo Ghoul some hair on its chest, but gave me ample opportunity for screenshots.
In the same way I described Ghoul as a “shounen” series, I would describe Touka as a “tsundere” type of female character. She is, but she’s a lot more. The series provides multiple instances, shows lots of examples and ultimately well-defines why she acts the way she does.
Although, with only 12 episodes and a large cast of characters, many of whom seeminteresting, there’s not much depth created and most of them get glossed over. It’s sort of to be expected for an anime based on an on-going manga, but if you want to get really close to a small group of characters, this isn’t that series.
I won’t spoil the actual larger story lines, but I will say that there’s a sort of underlying thread of mystery that’s woven throughout the entire series. While that mystery doesn’t actually get solved, it does tie things together in a way.
Of course, if you were hoping for a self-contained story in 12 episodes, you’re shit out of luck.Tokyo Ghoul ends in dramatic cliff-hanger style, with (as of the time of this posting) an unconfirmed second season.
So, let’s get to it. Overall, I liked watching this every week. The production of the show was very high. I mainly enjoyed the characters, the story kept my attention, and I thought the world building — the ghoul version of Tokyo — was built in an above satisfactory level. I’ll easily give Tokyo Ghoul a 3.5 out of 5 on my Kitsune Scale.
On my rating system 2.5 is completely mediocre, so I thought fairly highly of this series. Why I recommend this series to anyone? Sure, if you like darker well-paced sort-of-shounen action with sometimes silly characters, this may be for you.
I've heard of Tokyo Ghoul through streaming sites, and interested in the synopsis I decided to peek at a few episodes. It turned out to be an enjoyable thriller that left me interested for more. It starts off with a calm interaction between two characters that later leads to a spark of danger and realization. After, an organ transplantation takes place in protagonist Kaneki; causing psychogenic opposition that nauseates him.
As he struggles between moral intuition and compulsion he’s introduced to an exclusive culture surrounded with elements of danger; which he innocently gets tangled within.
The negative reviews on this anime sound extremely literalistic without a sense of fictional placement. I believe one that can’t appreciate units of fictitious material shouldn’t be able to make such heavy statements in the first place, but that’s just my opinion. Most of the complaining was by dogmatic users obsessed with realism when they’re supposed to be covering a fictive anime, but let’s discard that key component and try to correspond the standards of their society with ours. Completely sensible. I’m also positive if clearly informed that the director’s plan was never to integrate realistic elements within this anime. So I’m having a bit of a hard time connecting the dots, but like I said it's simply my opinion.
The majority of the first season revolved around him as a lost puppy ineffective to the ghouls around him; being nothing more than a hindrance that causes or becomes victim to dangerous situations. He follows other ghouls throughout their personal conflicts all while learning about their culture and his strength.
This all happens within a human society that calmly goes about their days as if the deaths of humans by ghouls were just another unfortunate happening. It’s presented to be a normal occurring that humans have simply had to get used to; the same way we handle rapists and robbers in our reality.
Ghouls vary in radically different personalities; some are sadistic while others are calm. Others appear to have unhealthy compulsions while the other portion can effortlessly enjoy human interaction. I will add slight criticism since the flow of character development lacked significantly. Many of the characters had one mood throughout the entire anime. While bursts of emotion where sprinkled now and then, it felt like most if not all characters had singular mindsets that they’d always sphere around; desensitizing the power the anime could’ve had. It also made a handful of scenes unpleasantly predictable and left you stressing for a breakthrough in development that only happened towards the last few episodes. If you’re not too bothered by that, you’ll be able to make it through all the cringe worthy scenes that’ll annoy the heck out of you without much complaint. Ghouls are scattered in mannerisms similar to humans, so their identity jumbles as a species; making them extremely symmetrical to us. (Which doesn’t bother me personally.)
The action scenes were okay, but the heavy censorship made me wanting more. While all of the anime is speedy, the epic thoughts and adrenaline that run through your veins once you get hooked into that one scene is lessened due to the censorship. They’re not utterly horrendous, but they’ll definitely piss off you manga fans that are expecting similarity. If you’re looking for an anime with action scenes all throughout that contain detail or similarity to the manga, you’ll be pretty disappointed.
I enjoyed the protagonist; along with the other wimpy characters that contained a well amount of strength. While negative reviewers continue to point out how horrid and cowardly it is, they fail to see any reason behind the directors concepts. They’re going on about how the ones with power and determination should of had the upperhand in battles, yet fail to comprehend the bursts of strength that bloom from pure emotion. The director played a game of the weak at their weakest and the strong inches from their goal, and in this case the weak won a majority of the battles. Which is also another element I enjoyed. It ranged from a little girl critically injuring an expert in his field to Kaneki avoiding death several times in the story. It displayed that emotion overthrows even the strongest of individuals, and while of course not always true I enjoyed the concept he was portraying. In doubtful moments, there is at times strength among the weak.
The deaths in the anime were unnecessarily quick, and it completely ruined the potential for some heart wrenching scenes. They were not meaningless, but they weren’t near as memorable as some of the deaths in Attack On Titan. You ended up depressed or shocked for a mere moment, and moved on.
Kaneki later becomes a stronger character of his own form of maturity. As we all aren’t in agreement on what is and isn’t mature, I for one personally thinks he develops not only more maturely through time but develops a high form of individuality. Being infused with organs previously not related to him; it’s inevitable that traits of personality from the ghoul fused in him show through, but they are the makings of him. They dissolved within his body, his brain, his bones. It’s deductive reasoning that he’d develop a personality similar to the ghoul transplanted in him. It can’t be replaced or eliminated. He has became one with the ghoul organs transplanted in him. It is apart of him, and while influence to actions and mentality are definitely noticeable he still becomes his own individual.
Overall I’m quite pleased with the anime. I didn’t shed tears or have a moment of strong emotion, but I was highly entertained. If you dislike slowish censored animes with wimpy characters you’re likely to dislike it, you’re also likely to dislike it if you expect a large amount of action scenes to be similar to the ones in the manga. This anime is a well done anime that requires an open mind and a bit of thought. The worst thing you can do is apply this anime (like most fictive animes) to the standards of realism or physical existence, but if you’re good at underlining fictional concepts and comprehending different forms of work you might enjoy it.
After waiting patiently (sort of/not really) for the full 12 episodes to be released, I started Tokyo Ghoul due to a lot of hype that my friends gave it. Truth be told I've always loved the Horror genre, one of my first animes was Elfen Lied. I quickly found that Tokyo Ghoul was something that I should have taken up sooner. To say I love (still haven't finished watching it) it would be an understatement. The character development, the realism that Kaneki displays upon learning he's become part ghoul, really resonated with me. The only reason I'm not giving this a 10/10 is because I beleive it's too short. There must be more, I see so much in the intro that I just can't help but to think that some of the stuff get's left out between where I'm at (episode 8 upon writing this review) and the end of episode 12. I patiently await 2015 when we get what appears to be an extension on this awesome anime. Cheers~
Tokyo Ghoul starts with some promise but ends up more dissapointing than that one Guns'n'Roses album that took twenty years to make and kinda sucked. It had the potential to be great, but in the end, shies away from anything truly subversive that could have made it a classic.
So the premise is great; monsters that are men, men that are monsters, a world made of gray areas where those with morals end up being ground down to dust due to the unkind nature of it all. Instead we get emo vampires and over the top tragic backstory. Anime's greatest strength and weakness lies in it's endless references to past works and characters, giving a depth of metaphor that doesn't really exist in most western creations. Here it bogs down all the promise with what should be there according to the weight of creative history.
The issues start piling up fast, and that's because of the storytelling's structure. Potential psychological depth is given in the first episode, a clash between morality and necessity. It is somewhat explored, but the protagonist ends up as a tool for exposition rather than it coming naturally. Building the world while conforming to the structure of shounen stories (and don't let the gore and violence tell you otherwise, this is thinly veiled shounen), trying to create a rich cast, and being explicit about the details is just too much to leave any psychological depth. The metaphors which would have been pointed become obvious.
I may have said it earlier, but I love horror, explicit violence, psychological and philosophical discussion, and world building. These are done so-so, rather nicely, terribly, and not particularly well respectively. Questions which should have been answered: how do the two societies differ to ours, why are there forced shades of black and white, why aren't any realistic goals for the conflict brought up, and so on remain ignored... and when the world building takes so much time from an already short season, that's just not good enough.
Writing (story and characters):
Wishing real hard to be deep doesn't make it so, and the writing of Tokyo Ghoul obviously missed that point. Did they try to cram a ton of the manga into a short time frame and ended up without the necessary depth? Maybe, but we aren't reading the manga, so that's a non-issue at best, or an excuse at worst.
Here we have the unenviable task which the story took on: build a world, create interesting characters, and enable the interactions between them. Tokyo Ghoul's story achieved this, and absolutely nothing more. It is the bare minimum of a story, while being mediocre and empty because of the ambitious nature of the show. Had the world-building been successful, that would have been enough; it wasn't, so the story fails at what it should do.
Whereas the story is a failure, the characters are actually varied. There is a good use of archetypes to help guide us through what the characters should be, there are some hints at complexity, and even a bit of character development. But the wide cast backfires spectacularly because quite frankly, between all the infodumps and world-building, too many characters have actions that are either illogical or outright stupid.
All the issues mentioned are glaring. But they aren't enough to settle the ultimate question: is the writing successful at creating a compelling tale. Tokyo Ghoul fails at what it sets out to do, and therefore the writing ends up weaker than the sum of its parts. What is truly annoying about it is that the first episode had so much promise, and then it was all downhill... which sucks, because the first episode was great.
Art (animation and sound):
It's pretty damn good. There's no two ways about it. Tokyo Ghoul's success can be largely attributed to some sharp visual design. But does the art manage to enhance the writing inno it doesn't. Yeah, I cut myself off. The art is technically profficient though.
Visually, the character designs are a bit pedestrian but well done. The backgrounds are pretty great, and at moments the animation is really good. There are the obvious moments of "look at the glowy things! LOOK AT THEM!" to cover up some rather still frames... but overall the animation is technically well executed, sets a proper tone for what the story could have been, and has the right balance of realism and flair.
What really could have made the show great was the sound. It's decent, don't get me wrong. But there are so many cliches and ideas executed as standard fare that it really can't be anything exceptional. The voice acting is pretty good, though suffers greatly from over-the-top syndrome at important moments. The soundtrack is well done, but ultimately a mish-mash of generic stuff and emo-bait. What could have glued the animation and the writing together to give us better world-building ended up not doing the job.
The animation is the reason people were so wowed by this anime. On it's own, it's pretty great. But it fails to do what it should have done. You could argue that it's the writing and sound which let it down, but that's beside the point. The art should have brought new life to the world and managed to kick the writing up a notch. It didn't, not really.
I wish I could recommend this nearly as much as I wish I could like it. I suppose that if you want to get in touch with your inner angsty teen, then this can be good if you have time to spare. That said, Tokyo Ghoul isn't for me, and I find it hard to recommend it to anyone else.