[Review] Tokyo Ghoul

This year has been a boon for popular Japanese manga-adapted live-action movies coming to Singapore – we had Gintama earlier this month, then JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and now Tokyo Ghoul.

Tokyo Ghoul, as its name suggests, is a dark fantasy horror set in a world where ‘ghouls’ who can only survive by eating human flesh, live among normal humans in order to evade being hunted by the relevant authorities.

The movie is well-received by fans, mostly praising its faithful manga adaptation – from the pacing down to the acting. Masataka Kubota was lauded for his accurate portrayal of Ken Kaneki, the reluctant protagonist. The movie condenses 3 volumes of the manga, so for those of you who haven’t read it, you’d technically be watching an adaptation of 29 books.

The story begins with a very shy, almost reticent Ken Kaneki who goes on a date with a girl he has a crush on, but unbeknownst to him, she happens to be a ghoul. In a strange twist of events, she skewers him, but somehow she ends up dead in a freak accident and his life is saved using her organs. So that makes him a half-ghoul – which means he’s unable to eat human food, craving human flesh instead.

Much of the movie focuses on how he learns to adapt to his new life with an adopted ghoul group. At the same time, there’s a cat-and-mouse chase involving authorities called CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul) who are hell-bent on eradicating ghouls.

What’s interesting to note is that while ghouls – a powerful human-flesh-eating species with special abilities – are considered the ‘enemy’ of humans, the movie makes us side with them instead, portraying them as a hunted species instead of powerful killers. It seems to remind us that we shouldn’t be quick to condemn others until know what it’s like on the other side.

The movie packs in enough melodrama, the trials of a struggling youth, and even interesting CGI when it comes to ghoul battles involving their kagune (writhing ‘weapons’ that appear from their backs). Because there’s a big fight scene at the end, there’s even a cheesy training montage.

As a horror-action genre, there is a lot of focus on melodrama and oddly-timed action scenes, so love it or hate it, bear in mind that it’s a faithful adaptation of the manga.