It is no secret that Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul manga has exploded into mainstream popularity. With three anime seasons and a handful of OVAs, it was only natural that a movie was in order. However, we were not treated to an animated movie this time around. Instead, we were given a live-action adaptation which sent shivers (both good and bad) down the spines of Tokyo Ghoul fans. We all know just how bad live-action movie adaptations have been, but did Tokyo Ghoul suffer the same fate?
Ken Kaneki is a young man beginning his life as a college student. He loves to read and hang out with his friend Hide… especially at the Anteiku Coffee Shop where a girl who has captivated his interests frequents. After discovering that this girl also likes to read, Hide encourages Kaneki to go talk to her. The two of them hit it off and end up going out on a typical date… a little talking… a little dinner with Kaneki as the main dish and… wait.
Yes, Rize turns out to be a ghoul and wants to eat Kaneki’s poor, unsuspecting body. Rize almost succeeds until somebody drops a ton of steel beams on her, ending her life. With Kaneki’s life hanging on by a thread, Rize’s organs are transplanted into him in order to save his life… with one little side effect: Kaneki has become a ghoul himself.
The film focuses on Kaneki becoming a ghoul and the moral boundaries that he has to cross in order to survive in this “new world” that he finds himself in. He comes to understand that he has to eat human flesh in order to survive, but at the same time, he cannot let go of his human side. While Kaneki adjusts to becoming a ghoul, the Commission for Counter Ghoul (CCG) starts moving into the ward and begins targeting and exterminating ghouls. Two of the ghouls that they have targeted are Hinami Fueguchi and her mother Ryouko who, like Kaneki, are just looking to live peacefully among the humans.
Anteiku ends up being a safe haven for ghouls and Kaneki agrees to stay there which is how he meets and gets to know Hinami and Ryouko. Two of the CCG’s top agents (known as Doves); Amon and Mado, are the ones who end up targeting Hinami and her mother. This creates tension between the CCG and Anteiku and there’s only one way to resolve it.
Tokyo Ghoul doesn’t adapt the entire story and I am highly thankful that it doesn’t. If you’ve never seen the series or read the manga, I will refrain from spoiling the major events of the film, but they did choose a great point to stop the movie at because, not only, does it wrap up everything that you’ve seen nicely, it leaves just enough untold story to make a sequel (or two, or three, or TEN!). I felt the pacing was great and it tried very hard to follow the source material, taking very little to no liberties with it. Needless to say, I was very pleased with the way the story was portrayed here.
One thing that Tokyo Ghoul does is it keeps all of the great character development intact from the anime and/or the manga! If you’ve experienced the source material then everyone will feel familiar to you and everything you experience with these characters will not feel out of place one bit. It really was like watching the anime in live-action format!
Kaneki’s portrayal was spot on. In fact, I thought he was just a little less emo in the movie than he was in the anime because, let’s face it… Kaneki did a lot of crying in the anime. The film simply didn’t have time for all of that, but they did manage to keep Kaneki rather confused and conflicted, which was great. His character still drove home the emotions that he felt after becoming a ghoul and realizing that he could never go back to being human. His decision to embrace what he had become showed a nice change of character and really showed the diversity of Kaneki as a whole. I felt that Masataka Kubota did a phenomenal job portraying Kaneki as he was able to bring all of those different sides of his character to life!
She’s a waitress at Anteiku and one who is not afraid to protect those to take up safe haven there. She’s pretty cold towards Kaneki at first because she can’t stand the way that he acts when he finds out he’s a ghoul, but she doesn’t really have much sympathy as a character either. Her mindset portrays a “you’re a ghoul, deal with it” attitude and she seems a bit annoyed by anyone who would question what they have become… almost as if it’s a slap in the face to her as a ghoul herself. Add in the fact that she feels a bit jealous towards Kaneki because he once knew what human food tasted like… something Touka never knew the joy of. Despite these feelings, Touka eventually warms up to Kaneki and even agrees to help him train so he can learn how to fight. Her resolve and her desire to help others is what makes her a strong character and Fumika Shimizu does a great job showing that aspect of her off.
She’s the daughter of Ryouko Fueguchi and has taken refuge at Anteiku as they become targeted by the Doves. Hinami is very timid and shy and likes to read, but ends up befriending Kaneki because he offers to help teach her the meaning of some of the words in her books. While I think their friendship is shortened here a bit in the film, it still gets portrayed in such a way where you can still understand the connection between the two of them.
He is the owner of Anteiku and a man who wishes to help any and all ghouls who are in need. I loved Yoshimura’s character in the anime and he was played PERFECTLY here by Kunio Murai. He has that old-wise caring man vibe to him who is also wise with his words, but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty if the situation calls for it.
One of the two Dove agents sent from the CCG. Mado is the “mad scientist” who cares not for the lives of ghouls. He is fascinated by quinques… weapons made from the RC Cells of ghouls… and takes great enjoyment in tearing ghouls apart with them.
He is the second of the two Doves sent by the CCG. He plays the role of the white knight who believes that he is on the side of justice. He wants to do things by the book, but that always draws Mado’s ire. He wants Amon to take more risks and thinks he’s a bit naive because of his beliefs, thinking that it will one day get him killed. Still, Amon tries his hardest to hold onto his values while under the belief that eradicating the ghouls will make things better for all mankind.
Some people have called Tokyo Ghoul one of, if not, the best anime to live-action movie adaptations to date and I would have to agree with those people. Sure, it wasn’t perfect and the acting was a tad sloppy at times, but the film really drew you into the world that Sui Ishida created and spared no detail in doing so. The source material was followed, almost to the crossed t’s and dotted I’s and it made for an authentic Tokyo Ghoul experience.
My only qualm about the movie were the special effects. We know that Japanese CGI really hasn’t caught up to the United States so CGI sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure, it may look fine in stills, but once you see it in motion, it looks a bit cheesy. It did take me out of the action a few times, but it’s something that you just have to shake your head at and move on from. If you can put the CG aside, then you’ll have a much better time enjoying this film.
I do have to say that even though the CG was a bit offputting, the Kagune and the Quinques did have some nice detail to them. Touka’s kagune wasn’t as “beautiful” in the movie was it was in the anime, though. It could have benefitted from some more color depth, but Kaneki’s looked the way it should have and I guess that’s all that matters since he’s the lead character, right?
I really do believe that fans of the series will highly enjoy this movie. Even if you haven’t seen the source material, Tokyo Ghoul is a fantastic series and the movie will provide you with a solid two hours of entertainment. This is the first live-action anime adaptation that I can comfortably give a high recommendation to. I know I recommended Your Lie in April, but that was more or less a “it’s a pretty good idea to watch it” type of recommendation. Tokyo Ghoul, on the other hand, is more like a “Hey, this really is one of the best anime to live-action movie adaptations out there. Go watch it now.” Only thing that could have made this better was TK from Ling Tosite Sigure lending “Unravel” to the movie’s OST. So sad that we didn’t get it.
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Until next time,
Even with some sub-par CG, Tokyo Ghoul makes up for it in spades with the great portrayal of their characters and the fact that they stuck very closely to the source material. Fans of the Tokyo Ghoul series will enjoy this film!