With the anime version now available to watch on All 4 in the UK, a reminder of Ren Zelen's thoughts on the live action adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul (Tôkyô gûru)...
Director: Kentarô Hagiwara
Writers: Sui Ishida (manga), Ichirô Kusuno (screenplay)
Starring: Masataka Kubota, Fumika Shimizu, Nobuyuki Suzuki, Hiyori Sakurada, Yû Aoi
Based on Sui Ishida’s famous, best-selling Manga – Tokyo Ghoul is the live-action movie adaption from director Kentarô Hagiwara.
The story unfolds in an alternative, modern-day Japan, where humans coexist with undercover ghouls who look and act like humans but have secret lives. The ghouls take refuge with their own kind and hunt at night in their own ‘territories’.
Apart from their diet of human flesh, ghouls may be identified by their kagune – fantastical appendages such as tentacles, wings, tails and claws, which differ between individuals and emerge from their backs only when they are afraid, roused to fight or compelled to feed. They also have a penchant for wearing nifty, custom-made face masks.
The tale concerns the plight of Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota), a shy, bookish college boy, who becomes enamoured of the demure and diffident Rize (Yû Aoi). He finally plucks up courage, and awkwardly asks her out on a date. All goes well, until their goodnight embrace, when shrinking-violet Rize suddenly becomes flesh-hungry ghoul Rize, all mockery and flailing feelers. You have to sympathise with sweet, shocked Ken Kaneki – it’s hard to find a nice girl.
However, after sinking her fangs and feelers into Ken, ghoul-girl is unexpectedly killed in a freak accident. Ken wakes in hospital, having survived the encounter only by having had a life-saving operation involving several fresh organ transplants from none other than Rize herself - the result being, that he’s now part human, part ghoul.
After various attempts to force regular human food down his throat, Ken inspires horror and pity as he vomits up everything he tries to swallow. It is a sad attempt to deny his altered state. His agony at his predicament is painful to watch, but close to starvation, he is forced to come to terms with his needs, although they cause him nothing but disgust.
Trying to hold on to the vestiges of his humanity, Ken keeps his ghoul side hidden from his long-time friend Hide (Kai Ogasawara), while he struggles to learn from the ghoul underworld, which remains suspicious of his ‘human’ side.
Ken finds sanctuary at Anteiku, a café secretly staffed by ghouls and run by Mr. Yoshimura (Kunio Marai), a wise old gent who acts as spiritual guide and adviser. Working at the café is Touka (Fumika Shimizu), a tough girl who begrudgingly accepts Ken and agrees to become his martial arts mentor.
Their lives are far from peaceful however, as there is a special unit dedicated to exterminating the ghoul threat from the city. Among their ranks are the ruthless, silver-haired Mado (Yo Oizumi) and the tall, stylish Amon (Nobuyuki Suzuki). They doggedly pursue all ghouls, using specialized weapons.
When ghoul hunters kill her devoted mother and then come after the innocent Hinami (Hiyori Sakurada)- a gentle, frightened ghoul-child - Ken finds his allegiance to humanity strained as he sees their implacable intolerance and bloody retribution.
Despite revelling in gory scenes of ghouls voraciously chomping down on their victims as they writhe in blood and scream in pain, the film presents the ghouls’ dietary preference more as a grim but inevitable effect of their unfortunate condition. As a consequence, some cognitive dissonance is necessary, as viewers may find themselves strangely torn between horror and disgust at ghoul behaviour, and pity for their predicament as creatures outlawed and hunted mercilessly by their human adversaries.
Kentaro Hagiwara's Tokyo Ghoul is subtly nuanced when doling out the horror and the blame, as the humans here are also seen to be capable of monstrous behaviour. The film follows the outlines of the manga’s story, and depicts its characters, ghoul and human, not as diametrically opposite goodies and baddies, but, often sympathetically, with the morality remaining firmly in a grey area.
Masataka Kubota (from the Japanese Death Note TV series) gives a sensitive central performance and first-time director Hagiwara resists excess, keeping the action taut and tense. Stylishly shot by DP Satoru Karasawa (20th Century Boys trilogy) Tokyo Ghoul also features striking masks and costumes designed by Masanori Morikawa.
For manga and action fans Tokyo Ghoul serves up entertainingly athletic and violent battles between ghouls and their human opponents, (I was struck with the thought – ‘If X-Men had been cannibals, things might have gone something like this!’) Given the massive global popularity of the Manga and the spinoff anime series, Tokyo Ghoul should have a built-in fan base, and for a new audience, it offers the unusual, the unexpected and a more emotionally complex horror-fantasy experience.
Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2017 All rights reserved.
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Images - Anime Ltd