Movie Review: Tokyo Ghoul

By Drew Hurley 25.01.2018

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Tokyo Ghoul (UK Rating: 15)

2017 was a very good year for British otaku thanks to Anime Limited, which not only has been bringing some unsung gems and the hottest new series to DVD and Blu-ray, but has also been getting big screen features. Thanks to its partnership with Funimation that list of films is due to expand, and the first one that UK fans can look forward to is Tokyo Ghoul, which will available in select theatres nationwide from 31st January.

Shueisha still hasn't got over the blow of Attack on Titan. It passed on the property thinking it too dark for its audiences and was then surprised when it shot to global acclaim. It leads to something positive, though. It led to Shueisha taking a chance on some other dark series, like the superb The Promised Neverland and Tokyo Ghoul. Set in modern-day Tokyo, this is a world where flesh-eating Ghouls hunt, slaughter, and devour innocent people. Latest on the menu is a young man named Kaneki Ken. He seems like a pretty average high-schooler, if a little reserved. He has a single real friend and loves to read highbrow Japanese literature. He also has a crush on fellow bookworm, Rize Kamishiro, but when he finally manages to drum up the courage to ask her on a date, he realises she's a little too interested in his body.

Rize's a Ghoul and is taking prime cuts from Kaneki when a convenient accident falls on her head. Both Kaneki and Rize are found and rushed to a hospital where the doctor makes the executive decision to use the organs of Rize to save Kaneki, turning him into something between Human and Ghoul. A Ghoul has some benefits. They heal quickly, have superhuman strength and agility, and also have greatly enhanced senses. These benefits, though, come at a cost of a hunger. Ghouls need to eat Human flesh to survive and attempting to eat regular food is like eating rotten meat to them - something that Kaneki has to try to come to terms with before the hunger drives him to become a murderer.

His hunger forces him out into the world and his baser instincts have him stalking women in Shinjuku when a certain scent draws him into a dark alley - an alley where another Ghoul is feeding. That Ghoul is not particularly happy being interrupted and Kaneki is once again close to being turned into Ghoul food until he's saved by a hot young lady, named Touka Kirishima. Touka turns out to be part of a Ghoul underground being run out of the local coffee shop "Anteiku." Here Ghouls who can't or won't hunt for whatever reason rely on the manager and the staff to keep them hidden and provide them with their necessary sustenance. Anteiku is not a permanent solution, though, as the government's "Commission of Counter Ghouls" (CCG) is constantly on the hunt to murder any Ghouls they find, using parts of their victims as weapons.

That might not make much sense to those new to Tokyo Ghoul - another major aspect of being a Ghoul is a Ghoul's Kagune. A Kagune is a Ghoul's "Predatory Organ" and while the manga delves into great depth for the different types of Kagune and the physiology behind it, suffice it to say it's an extra appendage that grows from the back of the Ghoul and is used to attack. Some are like the tail of a Scorpion, some can fire shard like darts, some are like whips, and some like wings. The CCG has found a way of weaponising these organs, removing them from their victims and turning them against the Ghouls.

Therefore, Kaneki has to avoid these CGC agents who are slowly closing in on the latest refugees to hide out at Anteiku, while also trying to go about his normal life, keeping his Ghoul half hidden from prying eyes and come to terms with the reality of his new life. For fans of the series, the story adapts Hinami's story; for the anime viewers, the story covers up to around eight episodes but there are some major changes throughout. Nishiki is a brief footnote, the extended Ghoul society is not mentioned, and Tsukiyama is completely absent. Even with all these changes, the story is fantastic and actually delivers a tight and concise story.

The cast does a great job of giving life to its characters. Kaneki is played by Masataka Kubota who has built up a considerable catalogue of films and shows, considering his young age, but is likely best known for his performances in other adaptations, such as Rurouni Kenshin and the J-drama TV show version of Death Note. While that TV adaptation was heavily flawed, it still gave Kubota a chance to flex his dramatic chops as Light Yagami, and when Tokyo Ghoul's creator saw Kubota's performance in a lesser known film, decided then that there should be a live-action adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul. There cannot be a better reason to cast someone than the creator's approval, and it's a wise choice as Kubota's performance is outstanding. As the everyday Kaneki, he portrays a nervous, quiet kid, totally lacking confidence. Then as a Ghoul, the small twitches and the manic laughter, the rapid eye movements and the cracking of bones in the hand. Best of all, his movements are absolutely true to the source material. It is clear Kubota and the Director, Kentaro Hagiwara, have paid special attention to the details here.

Fumika Shimizu delivers a quality Touka, too; quite different from her other recent performances as the sweet schoolgirl. She made her break on one of the best Kamen Rider seasons, Fourze, (case in point for those unaware, Kamen Rider OOO is the best. Ever. Best there is. Best there was. Best there ever will be. TAKA TORA BATTA!) and has recently starred as the damsel with the magic underwear in the hilarious Hentai Kamen movies.

The Ghouls aren't the only ones with quality actors; their enemies, the Doves, include some quality performances, too, specifically senior investigator Kureo Mado, being played by Yo Oizumi, an actor with considerable experience in numerous forms of media and one that delivers an uncanny performance that is just the right level of creepy to portray the twisted officer.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Why can't Western adaptations be like this? Tokyo Ghoul stays faithful to the source material where it matters and knows where to cut away to make sure the story fits within a single movie. The actors and director have clearly done their research here and care about the source material, resulting in an adaptation that fans will adore.

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