Tokyo Ghoul is an anime series by Studio Pierrot, based on the manga series of the same name written and illustrated by Sui Ishida. The first season which is available either dubbed or with subtitles premiered on July 4th, 2014 and concluded September 19th of the same year.
I’ve wanted to talk about Tokyo Ghoul for several months now and decided now the third season has been made available, I can comfortably unpack and articulate my thoughts of the series so far. I’ve always considered myself a casual viewer of anime (I am enthusiastic but very selective and particular), and I’ve always meant to single-out some of them on Mishmashers.
I’ve watched both versions of the first season (both dubbed and subbed) and find they both deliver, more-or-less, equivalent experiences. I know the age-old debate of whether to watch sub-titles or dubbed over versions is a passionate one, personally, I’ll usually opt for a dub if it’s available and of a decent quality. If the animation and storyline maintain their quality, I think performances are performances, and thus, interchangeable. I don’t believe English voice-actors are inherently inferior to Japanese voice-actors. The voice-acting is acceptable on both counts, which is something I’m a stickler about when it comes to anime.
The animation is very nicely created with a dark, horror thematic allure very attuned to my own taste. The concept is unique, but in a way that’s familiar and conventional, it’s easy to understand and insert yourself into Kaneki’s situation and appreciate its absurdity, while, at the same time, appreciate the relationships he cultivates with other ghouls. One of the biggest angles in Tokyo Ghoul is its change in perspective. Kaneki looking at the ghouls as his own and as sentient creatures capable of emotion, instead of as monsters. It isn’t something we haven’t done before in other ways; the whole, different but still good. However, I think the way it frames survival of the fittest is a unique concept. In-general, humans label themselves as the top of the food chain because of the way we think that deviates from other animals and our conscious-thought. The idea of a new creature being on-level with us on the food chain with the same caliber of rational (like vampires, for instance), is intriguing, and I think Tokyo Ghoul succeeds at providing an entertaining series about that.
The times when it steps away from convention is what stood out to me the most, however. Altogether, I think the series delivers an above-average anime series that engages and entertains, but the moments, like in the last episode especially, I enjoyed its emotional depth and execution of dark subject-matter. Something I’ve never necessarily felt with many other anime series’ before, even series’ I liked such as Full Metal Alchemist or Death Note (which had tremendous narratives, concepts, and character portrayals), the production-value and musical score really appealed to me, especially in the last episode. The soft, understated musical notes in the background, then, their transition to illustrate maddening panic or chaos, it’s some of the best I’ve ever seen implemented in dark animation. As a horror fan, the similarities between one character in-particular to Hannibal Lecter, the fact there’s a hockey-mask wearing character named Jason, and the series’ dark horror-rooted art-style weren’t lost on me.
If I have any criticisms about Tokyo Ghoul’s first season, aside from perhaps the moments it doesn’t stray enough, is that the first season isn’t long enough. At twelve episodes, I think this season could have chewed on the scenery and built on certain relationships more than what they did. The only reason I mention it is with hindsight to how drastically the series changes in its proceeding seasons, and I think it would have packed a bigger punch if we would have let the story-line breathe a little more than they did.
I would highly recommend Tokyo Ghoul. I think they left some stones unturned, but the first season entertains. The series has high production-value through animation, artistic aesthetics, and musical score, and it’s a narrative presented in such a way that really touches on its themes in a way that feels stylish and inspired.