Tokyo Ghoul is a film based on a very popular anime and manga, and though I have since started on the anime, when I saw the film I knew very little about the series other than the brief synopsis. Bear that in mind then, when I say I enjoyed the film a great deal – no purist am I – and I acknowledge that a greater familiarity with the source material might have meant otherwise. The film is exactly what I both wanted and expected: kinda dumb, kinda melodramatic, delightfully over the top in its action and gore…in short, a lot of fun.
The film concerns regular university student Ken (Masataka Kubota), who likes reading, hanging out with his best friend Hide (Kai Ogasawara), and crushing on Rize (Yū Aoi). The world Ken inhabits is not so regular, however, as Tokyo has a ghoul problem – a humanoid species which survives on a diet of, well, people. A chance encounter leaves Ken mortally wounded, until a full organ transplant saves his life. Unfortunately for him, those organs were from a deceased ghoul, and Ken now finds himself existing as a rare creature indeed: half-ghoul, half-human, unable to live in the human world but disgusted by the ghoul world. He’s taken in by the staff of the cafe he used to frequent, Anteiku, which is in fact a safe haven for pacifistic ghouls, headed up by Yoshimura (Kunio Murai). There Ken is taken under the wing of hostile Touka (Fumika Shimizu) and he soon adjusts to his new life – only to have it all thrown into turmoil when he’s introduced to Agents Amon (Nobuyuki Suzuki) and Mado (Yō Ōizumi) of the CCG, the organisation tasked with wiping out ghouls once and for all.
Yes, that’s right, Tokyo Ghoul is basically a vampire story. Ghouls and vampires are not strictly similar – ghouls eat human flesh, can walk around freely in daylight, have elaborate hidden appendages known as kagune which are pretty nifty in a fight – but the story structured around these creatures and characters is fairly familiar. It’s nice, then, that the film still manages to be so entertaining, despite the sense of familiarity. That’s down, in part, to the earnestness of the performances, and the great sense of pacing – melodrama and action run along at good speed for its 2-hour run time.
The cast is all-round strong, and Masataka Kubota particularly does a great job as the perpetually conflicted Ken Kaneki, managing to never tip an emotional role into parody. Yō Ōizumi is immensely entertaining as the sadistic Mado, while the rest of the supporting cast is strong. Although the relationships in the story are portrayed with a healthy does of arch-melodrama, Tokyo Ghoul rather pulls it off, and interesting secondary – perhaps crucially human – characters such as Hide and Touka’s best friend Yoriko (Seika Furuhata) add a satisfying sense of depth and emotional investment.
Chances are if you’re going in cold you’re not necessarily watching Tokyo Ghoul for the story world – and, good thing is, the action more than holds up too. The ghouls’ kagune, tentacle-like appendages unique to each individual, make for imaginatively staged fight scenes – and if you think that sounds silly, wait ‘til you see what a quinque is. There is a certain element of camp to the film, particularly when you factor in the design of Ken’s ghoul mask, but it’s so well balanced that it never becomes overbearing. Even if it did, I dare say it would still be mighty enjoyable.
All in all, Tokyo Ghoul is unlikely to win you over if you’re not a fan of over-the-top manga adaptations in the vein of Attack on Titan or Parasyte, but if you are, then it’s just the ticket.
Tokyo Ghoul is in select UK cinemas from January 31st. Find out where it’s showing near you on the Anime Ltd website.