I hadn’t been thinking much about Tokyo Ghoul prior to this season, but I felt this first episode was fairly solid work, with plenty of shaky parts, granted. Ultimately, however, this is a potentially interesting action horror show.
After the first scene displaying an out of context action set-piece, we see our protagonist Kaneki chatting with his friend about his first date. In Tokyo, the news is reporting that cannibal monsters known as Ghouls have been terroising Tokyo recently. They look like humans, and are certainly as intelligent as humans, but they display supernatural abilities and have a hungering for human flesh. Basically, they’re more ‘hardcore’ versions of vampires in this story.
It feels odd how the characters are more concerned about dates, cute girls, and general everyday life than they are about the dangerous Ghouls loose in the city. The reporters on TV treat these events like they’re a regular crime- however, the Ghouls are clearly something supernatural happening in an otherwise real world, and no one cares. It’s treated like just another serial killer on the loose. There’s clearly no media cover up, either. It’s the straight up, widely known truth that Ghouls exist, and no one seems to care until they’re literally being torn limb from limb. No lip service is paid to the idea that they wont be victimised, they just don’t react to the Ghouls whatsoever. This problem could easily be solved with a single line or two, which I either missed or flat out weren’t there. But is this due to bad writing, or because the Ghouls are a metaphor for something completely different to what we’re used to seeing in most horror shows and non-twilight vampire media in particular?
This show is probably one of the most overtly gory that I’ve seen in a while, and it can only get more brutal as the episodes progress, I’m sure, that said there are a few moments of shonen surrealism in some action sequences. Limbs are severed, teeth bites into flesh whilst blood splatters everywhere are all animated in violently indulgent detail, although bones, organs, and other such parts of the inner body aren’t displayed on screen. This is all very direct- the Ghouls must kill other humans to survive. Interestingly, however, there are some elements that separate this show from other kill or be killed media such as Battle Royale. Sex.
The second half of the episode is easily the highlight that makes me optimistic for future episodes, as we see him go through the suspenseful descent that seems to mirror, in some respects, a few stages of the 5 stages of grief. During this half, the audience knows that the previously innocent Kaneki has been transformed somehow after being killed by a Ghoul, his date who had tricked him into going down a dark alleyway and murdering him in such a manner as to inspire many hentai-related jokes.
However, I do believe that the choice to give this Ghoul tentacles was particularly meaningful. Kaneki has been devoured by a creature that now, quite literally, sustains his life. She has become part of him.
The rape metaphors are all too apparent. And like a drug or a truly pleasurable sexual encounter, he’ll no longer be satisfied with what the world can offer him legally. The Ghouls themselves appear to take sexual glee in killing other humans, rather than a glutenous one. Ghouls don’t need to eat a human often, they only need to kill them once or twice a month. They require human flesh to live, yes, but they can still eat human food- it just tastes awful. Human flesh is not food, it’s a fix. A slice of dark, exciting depravity needed to add that extra little bit of spice to his day to day life. Unlike other Ghouls, he is half human, and his human side constantly denies and fights against his new found urges. His life can never be the same.
If I had two legitimate flaws it would almost certainly be the Ghouls not feeling particularly grounded as believable biological entities- I’m not talking about realism, I’m talking about elements that make them seem like natural entities in the illusion presented to us. There are some questions raised, (where did they come from, how are more made, were they all once human, etc) on the other hand, the animation is very good at conveying aspects of the Ghouls that most viewers should just ‘get’ without a single line of dialogue, such as their eyes turning black and red when hungry or agitated.
My second flaw can largely be summed up in this image, and I’m pretty positive that moments like these are going to become more absurd as time goes on. Moments like these may weaken the show in the long run, but for the time being, I can confidently say that this episode was a pleasant surprise. What a stupid way to end a great scene.
“I’ll give you a hand… RASENGAN!”