Director Kentarō Hagiwara takes on the beloved anime and shows how to translate a manga/film to the silverscreen.
Full disclosure, I am a huge anime fan. To that point, it should be noted that Tokyo Ghoul is one franchise I never had the opportunity (or interest) in sitting down and watching or reading. I always got the impression that it was some sort of Hot Topic goth fantasy so I kind of just kept my distance. I had no idea what it was or that it was so dark and violent. Once I got the brief summary of the plot, I was sold. And choosing to sit down in the seat at an early screening to watch the live-action film adaptation turned out to be a great joy, unlike so many failed anime films before it (looking at you, Netflix, Adam Wingard, and Death Note).
Tokyo Ghoul takes place in a fictional version of Japan where people live alongside Ghouls, creatures that feed on nothing but human flesh (and coffee for some reason). Ghouls are deadly, dangerous, and strong. Worst of all, they blend in with the appearance of humans to avoid being hunted by government organizations and authorities intending to eradicate their entire species.
Ken Kaneki is the main focus, a student who is attacked by a girl he fancies that turned out to be a ghoul. She pretends to get clsoe to Ken, begins devouring him, and through a miracle, Ken survives and is sent to the hospital. Unfortunately for Ken, the procedure that saves his life turns him into a half-ghoul, meaning that his human life is thrown to the wayside while he tries to cope with his unrelenting desire to eat other humans. Finding all food to be unbearably disgusting, Ken manages to find help with his newly found hunger through a group of ghouls posing as normal human coffee shop owners.
The eyes of a ghoul are black and red. Because Ken is a half-breed, only one of his eyes is discolored. His mask is replaced with an eyepatch depending on what life he is trying to lead. The mask covers his human eye, while his eyepatch covers his ghoulish one.
The thing about Tokyo Ghoul is that it is by far one of the more graphic manga/anime franchises to reach mainstream western audiences. It is dark to the core, bloody, violent, and filled with creatures wearing black leather. Imagine 50 Shades of Grey without the sex part, replaced with humans being eaten. That’s the best way to describe it.
What I find so interesting about the story, is that I found myself constantly flip-flopping on just whose side I was on. As a human, I couldn’t find any sympathy for ghouls, thinking in the back of my mind that I hope they all get wiped out. Then there are moments of humanity and restraint that the ghouls demonstrate to show that they are just trying to survive, some even going so far to be a sort of vegan ghoul (my words) where they avoid killing. I can’t say more than that so as to avoid spoilers, but these moments really put me at odds with mankind and ghoulkind throughout the whole film, which I am told does a decent job covering the first season of the 12 episode anime series.
I can’t say I was too impressed with the CGI, which stood out to me as being the weakest part about the whole film. But then some times it paid off and so I sort of just gave it a pass and went with it. It’s very clearly CGI, and that can take you out of the immersion of the film. But I got over it halfway through considering the film’s relatively small budget.
My only other gripe, and it isn’t even really that big of a deal, was that some of the actors really over-acted in parts that seemed beyond silly. Ken, when he gets the nerve to talk to this girl he likes in the beginning of the film, has such an awkward approach that it looked like the actor was trying to emulate the anime character, and not apply any real-life reaction that normal people would have when talking to a girl they are nervous interacting with. But at the same time, that moment and all others just like it tend to stick out like a sore thumb from start to finish. And oddly enough, no one in the theater seemed to mind besides me. Every other person I shared this view with said that it was like that in the anime and that it didn’t bother them a bit. None of us are really pro critics, but it kind of made me think I may have been too harsh but that too was easy to get over and forget.
While I still have not had the chance to power through the anime just yet, I can tell you that if nothing else, Tokyo Ghoul is a fun live action experience, with only a few minor cons. Even with those in mind, every other person in the theater with me raved about the film, almost all breathing a heavy sigh of relief that it wasn’t destroyed by Hollywood influence. And that’s because it wasn’t made by Hollywood. The purely Japanese cast and crew saved the film, and managed to have shown that unless Western filmmakers can respect the culture of Japanese anime, and truly take the time to sit down and read manga to understand what it’s all about, then it would probably be best to just let the Japanese filmmakers take the lead on all future live-action movies based on anime.
All-in-all, Tokyo Ghoul was intense and fun. I had no expectations other than “yeah, this is gonna suck” and it didn’t. Not at all. The movie was no Oscar winner, but it was such a major step-up from horrible adaptations like Dragon Ball Evolution and Death Note that I just couldn’t bring myself to give Tokyo Ghoul anything less than an 8/10, but that is only if you like anime and Japanese culture. Keep an open mind if you are not a fan, but assuming you aren’t you wouldn’t likely be seeing the movie in the first place.
Tokyo Ghoul will be hitting select theaters October 16-22.
Tokyo Ghoul (film) 2017 Trailer
- Spotty CGI (low-budget)