With the recent influx of live action remakes, it’s hard to get excited considering the quality of those that have been made and Hollywood’s tone deaf casting and creative decisions. So, I was a bit on the skeptical side when I was invited to Funimation’s premiere of the live action version of Tokyo Ghoul. First off, this movie was made in Japan and features an all Japanese cast, so no problems with whitewashing, but this presents a new set of problems. Many live action remakes don’t translate well to the big screen in terms of graphics and many Japanese movies lack the large Hollywood budget able to create something as pretty as the new Ghost in the Shell, though it’s too bad everything else made that movie tank. So, should you, reader, go see Tokyo Ghoul in theaters? My answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
Tokyo Ghoul the anime made its first appearance on Japanese televisions in July of 2014, but even before that, the series was a manga written by Sui Ishida. The series became overwhelmingly popular and sparked light novels, OVAs, and a second season titled Tokyo Ghoul √A as well as a forthcoming anime series in 2018, so it’s no surprise that the story was picked up for the silver screen. The movie was directed by Kentaro Hagiwara, who seems to be a relatively new director according to his IMDB credits, and stars Masataka Kubota (Ken Kaneki), Fumika Shimizu (Touka Kirishima), Yu Aoi (Rize Kamishiro), Nobuyuki Suzuki (Kotaro Amon), and Yo Oizumi (Kureo Mado).
The casting seemed fairly accurate with the exception of Kaneki and Hinami. Both of the actors felt a bit too old to reflect the age of the actual characters, Hinami especially. It was almost cringe worthy seeing Hinami act like a spoiled or scared child at times when it was obvious she was much older and and a very capable adult.
Casting aside, let’s get to the meat of the movie, the story. I will be up front, I have never seen anything Tokyo Ghoul before this point so I am not a good judge as to how faithful the movie was to the original, but I can say as someone who had no idea what I was going into, that I was surprisingly happy with what I did see.
The movie opens with Kaneki eating lunch in a bright and sunny cafe talking to his best friend about ghouls, creatures who feed on human flesh, but look no different than their prey. Just as they begin speculating who amongst them may be one of these dangerous creatures, Kaneki’s crush makes her entrance. Kaneki states that he isn’t ready to confess yet, but thanks to the goading of his friend, Kaneki works up his courage to take her out. We next see Kaneki on what seems to be an adorable date with the woman he loves, but she is showing signs of odd behavior and refusing to eat. After what seems like a wonderful day, Kaneki walks her home only to find out that she was really a ghoul all along. He makes a run for it and is injured in the fight. When Kaneki wakes, he finds that some of the ghoul’s remains have been transplanted inside of him in order to save his life. Days pass and Kaneki finds that he can no longer stomach (pun intended) normal food anymore. Starving, Kaneki wanders the streets in search of something to eat when he comes across another ghoul in a back alley who offers him the flesh of a homeless man. Kaneku refuses finding the situation revolting and begins to leave when two other ghouls begin to fight over the hunting grounds. The victor, Touka, offers him food and shelter the next day in the very cafe he used to frequent. In fact, that cafe is known as a safe haven for ghouls in the district. From here on, Kaneki begins a new life and becomes sympathetic to their cause. Ghouls don’t choose how they are born and those in his ward only use the flesh of humans who have committed suicide. Humans lack of understanding have led ghouls to be hunted by the government instead of helped.
Watching the film, I found myself invested in the characters despite the short run time. In fact, I left wishing there were at least thirty minutes more. Kaneki’s inner struggle reminds me of my own being biracial. He is forced to have one foot in each world and struggles with the burden. Touka lashes out at him constantly because she is jealous and frustrated she can not live a normal life with her friends, yelling at him, “What does a strawberry taste like? I have never known!” Now that Kaneki is “tainted” so to speak with the blood of a ghoul in his veins, the world will only view him as a ghoul if they find out. It does not matter how normal he or Touga or any of the other ghouls act, they will only be blood thirsty monsters in the eyes of the government. Creatures to be feared.
Something else that really impressed me with this film was the wide range of women characters featured. Touga has a lot going on. During the day, she works at the cafe as a hostess and cultivates the few friendships she is able to maintain. By night, Touka is transformed into a badass out for revenge. Touga trains constantly and is easily able to beat the crap out of her opponents which is why Kaneki begs her to train him. She obliges, but she is not a doting teacher. Touka puts Kaneki through hell, but in the end her efforts paid off. Kaneki is able to handle himself against the sidekick to the main villain while she takes on the main baddy. That’s right, Touka is the one to fight and defeat the lead antagonist after the ghouls in their ward, and she takes some heavy damage while doing so, but never fails to stand up.
Hinami is another great character who has been shielded from the act of killing and has only ever fed on flesh given to her. She is not a fighter and is embarrassed of what she is. She takes a liking to Kaneki due to their shared love of books, her first connection with someone outside of her mother and father. Even after seeing her mother brutally murdered, she does not wish to fight, but when her hand is forced, she unleashes some very powerful attacks while aiding Touka in the battle against her mother’s murderer.
So, it isn’t Kaneki who defeats the main enemy. It is two women. That is amazing and even overshadows Kaneki’s battle. These are just two of the main women. I haven’t even mentioned Hinami’s mother who sacrificed herself for her own child which seems to be a common trope, but is slightly balanced by the fact that her father died before this. But really, can we stop this? It’s been overdone to death.
In regards to the graphics, these were surprisingly well done. The Kagune did not feel out of place and did not take away from the overall experience. There have been some examples of awful CG in movies such as this, but Tokyo Ghoul did a splendid job.
Overall, I would have to say that this movie is definitely worth seeing in theaters. The action, plot, and graphics are a pleasant surprise from the onslaught of half baked remakes being put out lately, so please support a remake that actually does some good. Tokyo Ghoul will be in select theaters from October 16-22nd and tickets may be purchased here. This movie is subtitled and there are no dubs currently.
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