OK, I KNEW this was a horror series, but I was drawn to “Tokyo Ghoul”, as you get tired of the vampire – werewolf – zombie nexus and I wanted to try something new, although they do play fast and loose with the mythology (which begs the question: can a myth be factually incorrect?) So, let’s set the history of ghouls. A true ghoul eats the corpses of the human dead, thus hanging around graveyards and the like. They might be akin to a politician. However, some ghouls are not beyond helping people become dead, so they can dine. Talk about a moveable feast!
So, we are in Tokyo (which helps for a show named “Tokyo Ghoul”). Let us meet Ken Kaneki, that young male youth up there. Things are going well for him: he’s in college, he’s found a rockin’ place to hang out and he meets this fabulous girl, Rize Kamishiro, that far-right woman. Now, not only is she out of Kaneki’s league, it isn’t even the same sport, but he is intrigued, as she wants him over for dinner. Yup, she’s a ghoul and has her eyes (and teeth) set on Kaneki. As she is busily killing him at a construction site, a hoist of I-beams snaps free from its hook and comes crashing down upon them.
A doctor just happened to be travelling by, comes across these two really messed-up people and thinks “We have the technology. We can rebuild him.” Taken to the hospital in critical condition, he transplants from Rize those important organs that weren’t crushed under several tons of steel into Kaneki. He lives! The operation was a success. No, it wasn’t. After recovering, Kaneki discovers that the operation transformed him into a half-ghoul, and just like them, he must consume human flesh to survive.
With no one else to turn to, he is taken in by the ghouls who manage the coffee shop “Anteiku”, (that rockin’ place to hang out. Ghouls drink coffee? It gets explained) who teach him how to deal with his new life as a half-human/half-ghoul, including interacting with ghoul society and its conflicting factions, while striving to keep his identity secret from other humans. He receives as a guide the ever-irritated Tōka Kirishima (her in the middle) who dishes out Tough Love with the same aplomb as she would a French Roast.
There are also two arcs going on. Tokyo is approximately 10% ghouls and this is worrisome, as some of them like to go on killing sprees. Also, some ghouls enjoy eating on other ghouls. They are supposedly delicious, but I’m not that anxious to find out. To combat the ghouls, there is the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul), a group of weirdoes dedicated professionals who wish to eradicate all ghouls. Too bad the best of them, Kōtarō Amon, comes off as terrible as Dr Ver from “Symphonia”, with the crazed expression and wacky hair and the one eye open REALLY big and the other open REALLY small.
Kaneki has to survive all of this and even try to avoid Jason, a huge block of a man, who also kills ghouls as part of the splinter group Aogiri Tree.
What got to me is the tinkering with the mythology, as these ghouls can manifest a special power that helps them to defeat other ghouls or the CCG. So, now we have made them super supernatural. And the ending arc, when Kaneki is tortured by Jason, is really some grim and violent stuff, in that it is unrelenting and creates a huge emotional divide between the nobility of the hunted and the depravity of the hunter. But was it necessary to take it to such an extent? (Yes, it is horror and we somehow need swimming pools of blood and guts everywhere).
And the season ended without a real conclusion, so there is a second season in the offing (which I just confirmed; to begin in January 2015). Overall, I was disturbed by the series, and not just for the amount of blood slipping and slopping everywhere. The CCG ghoul killers, Jason, Shū Tsukiyama (he has a restaurant/club that eats other ghouls), even Riza (who comes back as a kind of kindred spirit) all have a huge caliber of arrogance and depravity that calls into question whether there is any humanity left in them. Yes, I know, a ghoul is no longer human, but that is what Kaneki is trying to remain and retain. It just came off as an excuse to make one feel creepy with no real end goal in mind.
It’s not bad as horror goes and does have some touching moments in it, but I feel that the pain and torture aspects of it undermine a compelling tale of such a life-altering incident.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (The weird characters are uber weird looking)
Plot 7 (At sixes and sevens)
Pacing 8 (Moves at a decent clip)
Effectiveness 6 (Lowered owing to the excessive violence)
Conclusion 4 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 7 (Fell apart at the end with the torture)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Beware the 20th Ward.