Tokyo Ghoul is a Japanese action/drama anime which powerfully critiques the morality of the human race by pitting ghouls against them. This is a world where ghouls are forced to eat human flesh in order to survive. Initially we are taught to believe that they mindlessly hunt innocent civilians, through the eyes of the protagonist Kaneki. But when Kaneki is attacked one night by a ghoul he perceived to be a human being, his near-death experience culminates in his transformation into a hybrid of both human and ghoul.
Through Kaneki, we enter the ghoulish world of Tokyo and begin to see life from their end of the spectrum. Yet due to his blood ties, we still continue to understand the human struggles too. Both species are juxtaposed to show just how morally corrupt and similar they are, despite the glaring difference in genetics.
Kaneki‘s character development is staggeringly good. He goes from being a social recluse, buried in his books, to an outright socially conscious badass. His development is aided by the brutal events he witnesses as a hybrid being, yet the relationships he builds keep him going and restore his faith in the ghoul society.
Some of the ghouls Kaneki meets are underdeveloped – and that is a criticism I have to beset upon this anime. Touka is an exception, though. She represents a strong female character that would put many Western animations to shame. Admittedly, the anime style tends to do this. She is not reliant on a male character, and fights her own battles, but when she opens up it is then that we see into her story. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other ghouls: Nishiki, Gourmet etc.
Gourmet is a character worth exploring. He is often mentioned as one of the most powerful ghouls, and we get a display of his strengths throughout the 12 episodes. He is intriguing, yet bizarre. It would be great if his character were developed upon because he could instantly become a fan-favourite. Wards are areas of Tokyo, which are frequented by ghouls. The most prominent ward is “20”, which is where the aforementioned characters reside.
Amon and Mado, two of the law enforcers, offer an insight into the world of people trying to defeat malevolent beings. Their stories are executed superbly, in particular Amon’s. His drive and passion to ending ghoul influences over his city is admirable. The show does a great job in making the audience feel torn. At times, it is almost as though Amon – representing the human race – is pulling one of our arms and then Kaneki is pulling the other. It puts us in a moral dilemma – a moral dilemma which the characters battle with too.
For just 12 episodes, ‘Tokyo Ghoul’ establishes a fascinating concept and a creepy world. It is a gory, riveting rollercoaster of emotions intertwined with a critical analysis of humanity and attitudes toward ‘outsiders’. A quick disclaimer for those of the squeamish nature: this is not a series for you. With season two, here comes an improvement on development for the secondary characters. There is only so much that can be executed in circa four hours of screen time, especially in an opening season.
If you are looking for a thought-provoking and mature anime, then this is definitely something that should top your list. If you have read the manga, then expect an entirely different ride as this deviates massively from the source material. ‘Tokyo Ghoul’ is a must-watch.