Tokyo Ghoul - Reviews

ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Aug 16, 2014

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 in 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. I mean, it is normal for him to be terrified when thrown in such a situation out of nowhere, but this doesn’t make him a good protagonist. Why do you think so many people dislike the protagonists of Tokyo Revengers or My Hero Academia? Such leads are always the least interesting. The fact that they constantly survive in every battle with crappy plot armor further damages the appeal of the show.

Speaking of which, there is no consistency when it comes to who can survive what. Anyone the scriptwriter deems plot relevant ia plot armored with 10 inches of titanium walls. He constantly tries 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.

Even death is meaningless in this show since people who are dead will be magically coming back to life or will 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 ll 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. Oh, hi Jason, I am going to be like you now! That is what a spoiled 10 year old would do, not a mature 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 is a masterpiece. Yeah, don’t believe them, it is still crap. It’s so poorly thought out it can’t even explain why don’t the ghouls 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. It will be just nonsense about flower symbolisms and people fighting each other with inconsistent power levels. The very creator eventually got bored and ended it all in a hurry.

With shows such as Guyver from the 80s and Parasyte airing along with it, Tokyo Ghoul comes off as a complete trainwreck that a lot of people liked because of the premise and not its execution. It’s basically another Elfen Lied or an Akame ga Kill.

2/10 story
6/10 animation
6/10 sound
2/10 characters
3/10 overall
kidkonseptual's avatar
Sep 18, 2014

This was originally a recap on the finale (with spoilers), posted on my old anime blog.

Tokyo Ghoul title screen.
Tokyo Ghoul title screen.

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.

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?

Kaneki, first appearance in signature ghoul mask.
Have to censor a show with a mask like this.

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.

Not always sunny in Tokyo.
Not always sunny in Tokyo.

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.

Thanks for reading my Tokyo Ghoul reviews!
Thanks for reading my Tokyo Ghoul reviews!

7/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
5/10 characters
7/10 overall
apoc9's avatar
Sep 27, 2014

If you really think about it the premise of story it is not original at all. It could be exactly same with vampires. The idea of ghouls is just attempt to make an illusion of unique and new idea. There is slight, but significant difference. Ghouls eat just human flesh. They do not need their victim to be actually alive or fresh corpse. I am not an expert in biology, but I think blood decays way faster than flesh. They could eat as well corpses of naturally deceased. It does not even add any gore - for example Hellsing is very violent and bloody. This is why argument that it is more violent than vampire animes does not hold. Like if that should be an aspect of quality in the first place. This show is heavily censored for whatever reason to make from seinen manga source a shounen anime adaptation. What they were thinking!?

However the first episode elevated my expectations. How will hero adapt to his transformation? This could be interesting thriller, but those expectations died out with each subsequent episode. Instead it turns to be more like family drama with random fights leading to cheesy end. Yet another shounen story of "boy wants to be a man in order to protect his loved ones" or something along those lines. There are several characters which die right away, but I couldn't care less. Everything goes just too fast. Nothing is explored in any meaningful way.

Main character Kaneki is exactly the type I hate most in anime and manga. He is wuss. It would be more humane to put him out of his misery in the first episode. Rize would be much more interesting character. Maybe It is character made solely to be hated like Bella in Twilight. Until the end, where he suddenly changes from totally useless looser to OP ghoul, while he is tortured by a sadistic guy - the main villain. Main villain is just one-dimensional sadist aside from "Jason" reference there is nothing worth mentioning. Then there is Touka* who is more like opposite of Kaneki in order to attract male audience. Yet, there is nothing in particular special about her. At first she is presented as more masculine than Kaneki. Maybe that is why she stands out by side of that wuss Kaneki. Yoshimura obviously portraits mentor like character or to be more precise the Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he doesn't do much. I don't think there was a single character that in particular caught my attention.

Art is average. Nothing exceptional nor wrong.

I don't like the opening nor the ending, still I won't say it is bad. It is just I don't like that kind of music.

So what was this anime about. The final message: "I'm not wrong! It is the world! Living means consuming others." I call this teenager bullshit wisdom. Overall this anime is a mess which doesn't make much sense and the outcome of the last episode is just there solely to hype you for the next season.

*For same reason her name is romanized incorrectly in the description here on AP.

2/10 story
5/10 animation
5/10 sound
2/10 characters
2/10 overall
Gzerble's avatar
Oct 7, 2016

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.

3/10 story
8.7/10 animation
5/10 sound
4/10 characters
5/10 overall
ObscureObsidian's avatar
Jun 21, 2015

Tokyo Ghoul is one of the titles who gained more popularity through the last year. Made by the hit-factory Studio Pierrot, the ones who bring us Fushigi Yuugi, Naruto and Bleach, Tokyo Ghoul didn't take too much time to became as popular as the others. The problem is, while Studio Pierrot always made popular shows, people complain about the quality. Is Tokyo Ghoul a exception, or one more?

The synopsis promises us an intense psychological thriller in a dark urban fantasy world. Kaneki survived the attack of a ghoul, name given to the human eater creatures of this series, despite the few similarities with the folclore creatures of the same name. I didn't mind the accuracy, an aspect is looks like no one cared. The main episodes really made us feel the fear of the main character wheen he discovered his trasformation. The dark atmosphere really helps.

But things get wrong too fast. The show tries really hard to tell a story about the conflict between humans and creatures that need to eat them to survive, but fails. Yeah, it could be more appealingto teenage viewers that shows like Shiki, more slow paced, but with superior writting. It always call my attention the fact mostly the series with more characters get the most of the fans. Maybe because there's more characters a viewer can relate, i suppose. I couldn't relate to any character in tokyo ghoul: Kaneki has Shinji Ikari complex(i love Evangelion, but i hate when they try to make the main male like Shinji without a good reason), i found Touka rude and obnoxious, and his brother more, a great deal if you think he only appears a few minutes on screen in the last episodes, and the rest of the cast who are ghouls are divided between the ones i like but died or doesn't have enough screen time, and the ones i hate because they are pathetic and dislikeable saddists without any charm or appeal. I love saddist villains, but there they are only disgusting or ridiculous.

The humans are not better: the only ones relevant in all the story are Hide, a character whose only use is to be the Kaneki's human friend, and the menbers of a Goverment's organizations who haunts ghouls. Damn, i fucking hate those guys. While in Shiki i ended up hating the remaining humans on the village, i coul understand their motivation and their actions. The motivation of those guys? I don't know, they're just assholes who killed innocent ghouls who didn't killed humans to feed. And they complain when they get killed. I hate them.

The story is poorly executed. A lot of elements who remain irrelevant through the series are presented, specially the flash-backs. I don't care when they told you the backstory of a character to make you sympathise with him or her.But that flash-back should be relevant for the plot. Elfen Lied has two flash-backs to help us to understand the whole story better. Tokyo Ghoul show us a lot of flash-backs in most of epiodes that are relevant only in this episode, if it was. Also, the story has a lot of plot holes, like if ghouls are indestructible, why they act so helpless in front of humans? They are not monsters, simply cause they don't play good that role.

The censorships is one of the biggest flaws of the show. It's really easy to understand. If you don't want gore in your series, don't make gore scenes. It's better than make gore scenes, censor it and ruin whole sequences. I ust admit the censorship was a point to help to raise the popularity: if the show were so explicit as it should be, many of the people who call themselves now fans would call the series garbage. A lot of anime fans can't stans gore right now.

My recomendation? Watch Parasyte. Watch Shiki. Watch Elfen Lied. All those show are similar, came out before, in the Parasyte's case, the manga is based, and are far better. Don't waste your time with this.

5.6/10 story
7/10 animation
6/10 sound
3.9/10 characters
4.8/10 overall