Tokyo Ghoul First Impressions Review
I like dark stories. I don’t know if you could tell that about me, but I do. So when I saw this series being advertised with the above image, I was immediately interested. The trailers just compounded the interest, full of blood and violence and people crying and weird blood Doc Ock arm things on ladies in pretty dresses. It looked awesome. And now that I’ve seen the first episode, I can say that it is pretty awesome.
Tokyo Ghoul follows a kid named Kaneki, a nervous little man with a fondness for a certain author. One day he finds out that a girl he’s been watching at a coffee shop (but not in a creepy way or anything) happens to like the same author. So they go out on a date and when things are getting good, she guts him and throws him through a wall. Turns out she’s a ghoul, a creature that looks entirely human but has to eat humans in order to survive. She almost kills him, but gets killed instead. In order to save Kaneki’s life, doctors transplant the ghoul’s organs into Kaneki. This saves him, but afterwards he starts exhibiting traits of a ghoul. And from there spoilers happen so I won’t get too far into that.
This first episode deals mostly with Kaneki coming to terms with what’s happened to him. Not accepting it or anything, just realizing that this has happened, and I really like how it was handled. He goes into pretty hardcore denial, doing everything he can to try to prove that he’s still human. He hears on the news that ghoul’s can’t eat human food, so he eats everything in his fridge before vomiting it all back up. He hears that normal weapons can’t hurt ghouls, so he stabs himself in the stomach. There are so many great reaction shots of him throughout this episode as he just gets more and more depressed and he can’t deny what he is anymore. As for his character I didn’t really get to see much of him. Before the plot kicked into high gear, we didn’t get to see much of him being anything other than nervous around a lady. Even when he is just talking to his best friend, Hide, he’s just talking about this ghoul and being all embarrassed about it.
As for the other characters, I can’t really say much because there weren’t that many. At least not that many that we get to know anything about. But that’s probably being saved for later in the story. This episode deals mostly with Kaneki, and we only get to know as much about the world as he does. At first that can get a bit confusing, especially with the ghouls. The episode starts out with a ghoul on ghoul fight where they grow these giant spider legs that look like blood out of there backs while one lady is eating some people, and then just move on. But later we start to get that information, explaining what ghouls kind of are and how they work. While it is a bit contrived, it’s there to move the plot forward and give Kaneki stuff to do/freak the fuck out about. It never stops the story to explain what a thing is for five minutes. Near the end of the episode we get this great little info dump that opens up the world to us, telling the audience that the ghouls aren’t just mindless monsters, but an entire society with their own rules and governing bodies. And it fits in with what’s happening in the narrative at the time.
All of this world building and ghoul-on-ghoul violence is shown to us with some pretty great animation, too. The opening shot of this episode is fantastic, with traditionally animated layered buildings moving over each other and some really fluid, high quality animation in that opening fight. They also didn’t really animate the environment, so they look like moving still images around the characters. You’d think that would be a bad thing, but I kind of like it. Since they aren’t spending the time animating the world, they can put so much more detail into it, giving everything a really textured look to it. With the characters having as much texture to them as regular anime characters do, the animation on them is really good.
But there are one or two things that really bug me about the animation, like the CG. I’ve ranted about CG a lot on this website, but I can’t help it. I fucking hate CG in anime. Every once in a while a series will nail it, though, and have the CG feel totally fine with the rest of the animation. This show isn’t one of them. They do the standard thing with the cars being CG, but they’ll have bystanders be CG, too. And it’s completely random when they have the people be CG or regular. There’s a scene in the middle of the episode where Kaneki is walking down the street and dealing with the cravings for human flesh, and as he’s walking a huge crowd of people walk by him. The people closest to him are regular with the people behind them being CG. But as it goes on the CG people start encroaching, becoming more and more of the crowd. Until finally the camera pulls back and reveals everyone is CG, and it looks goddamn terrible.
The other thing that wasn’t great for me was something I said I kind of liked a couple of paragraphs back. With the environment and the characters animated the way they are, they look awesome and create a cool little distinction between one another. But sometimes they feel too distinct to the point where the look terrible together. One scene in particular stands out in my mind, where Kaneki and the ghoul lady are walking down the street. Their character models are doing their walk cycle animation, but they aren’t actually moving. At all. They’re just walking on the spot, like they aren’t even a part of the same animation. And CG cars.
Finally, the tone is a bit weird in this. For the most part it’s dark. That beginning bit, all the stuff with Kaneki realizing what he is, and the way it’s all drawn is really dark, and I love it. But there’s this one scene right after the opening fight that is bright and cheery and colorful and everything. That would be fine if it was then a gradual slide back down into the darkness, but it just flips a switch. While Kaneki is on his date, it’s the same kind of tone but with a darker environment, which is a nice juxtaposition. Then they come across the dark alley, and everything goes to bloody, eviscerating shit and keeps going down that path. It’s a path I like, but it makes me question why even put that really bright scene in there in the first place.
Tokyo Ghoul left a really good impression on me. Despite what I mentioned above, the animation is usually great and I love the dark tone and world they have set up here. They’ve let me know enough about the world that I want to know more, but so much that I feel like I know everything. Seeing Kaneki react to the changes happening to him is really tragic and I loved every second of it. If you’re into dark series and are looking for something new, Tokyo Ghoul has what you want.
Despite some minor issues with tone and animation, Tokyo Ghoul episode 1 is a great series opener. It sets up an interesting world with interesting things happening in it, and has a lead character who reacts to all of it in a really tragic way I loved.