Tokyo Ghoul (東京喰種トーキョーグール) is a horror/thriller anime series based on the manga series Ishida Sui. The story follows studious college student Kaneki Ken who is attacked by the beautiful Kamishiro Rize, while on a dream date with her. She reveals herself to him as a ghoul – a human-looking creature that sustains itself on the consumption of human flesh. Ken survives the attack somehow, but does awake in the hospital only to find out that some of Rize’s organs have been transplanted into him in order to save his life. Now he is half-ghoul and he himself must consume human flesh to survive, an idea that is appalling to him. Disheartened, frightened, and unable to survive, Ken finds himself taken in by a kind group of ghouls in a cafe called “Anteiku” who try to assimilate into human culture. There, he becomes friends with a ghoul girl named Touka Kirishima who works there as a part-time waitress. She can be violent and she’s out for revenge for the killing of her father when she was younger, but she also has a tender side, becoming the guardian of the young, 12-year-old ghoul girl Fueguchi Hinami after a violent faction of ghouls that dislike the ghouls trying to assimilate killed her mother. Ken finds himself having to negotiate the complex and violent world of the ghouls and their differing factions – some who want to lead normal lives with minimal killing of humans and others who want to kill all humans and be the superior creatures.
The series is beautiful. The animation is truly eye-popping, gritty, and edgy in every sense. Some of the ghoul animation struck me as having a similarity to the character designs in Hellsing Ultimate, but the series on the whole did not reach the same level of gravitas and unrelenting horror as Hellsing. Still, the angst and blood soaked action of Tokyo Ghoul is dripping with cool.
But this would all be for naught had the story and characters not been worth watching, and they are. Ken is the prototypical fish out of water who finds himself in an overwhelming situation having to reflect on his morals and how he can stay true to himself. But it is perhaps Touka who is the most compelling character. A tsundere, anti-heroine with serious conflict in her past that makes her just as likely to kill you as she is to help you out. Her struggle is within as well, but, unlike Ken, she’s not trying to bottle up the violence. This duality, this interplay between the two of them that is a sort of microcosm of the greater battle tacking place between the various ghoul factions, makes Tokyo Ghoul fascinating, hip, and an excellently executed series all around.
The animation, as noted, looks fantastic for Tokyo Ghoul, and on Blu-ray the colors really pop nicely, the line art looks crisp, and there’s strong contrast in the overall image, but the AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement does suffer from color banding as its biggest weakness. There are some parts where it is rather obvious and distracting, although mostly it is not noticeable.
I really can’t give the audio on this set high praises because both the Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 stereo track and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 dub track fall into the same category as most every FUNimation release, and that is to say something is off with the mastering level and dynamic range. In other words, the sound is mastered way lower than most releases and the dynamic range is minimal. The result of this is a loss of a distinct soundstage, be it the stereo field or the atmospherics and discrete effects in the surround channels. I know it can’t be my system, because every other disc I put in sounds fine and doesn’t require me to pump the volume up by 8db or more beyond my normal listening levels to get decent playback levels. That said, the Japanese cast here is phenomenal, the English cast, not so much, but I suppose they’ll work for people who prefer dubs.
The two audio commentaries and nearly half-hour-long featurette on the series with the English cast and crew make the extras more than worth going through.
- Episode 4 Audio Commentary
- Episode 12 Audio Commentary
- Kaneki in Black and White (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:27:42)
- Japanese Commercials (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:12)
- Promotional Videos (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:34)
- Preview Collection (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:06:22)
- U.S. Trailer (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:02)
- FUNimation Trailers
- Textless Opening Song “Unravel”
- Textless Closing Songs “The Saints/Seijataichi” Versions 1-4
The Definitive Word
Breathtaking animation and gritty action soaked in carmine – this is the eye-popping, edgy horror of Tokyo Ghoul, an A+ anime series.
Additional Screen Captures