First Impressions – Tokyo Ghouls

Don’t you just hate it when you lose all your organs?

Let’s just say that Brynhildr didn’t exactly succeed in scratching my itch for a good horror anime last season. In fact, anime of the horror genre tend to be either terrible or wonderful with no in-between. Yet I love horror. It’s a big problem! But all that being considered, Tokyo Ghouls really caught my attention when I was looking at the upcoming summer shows.

…Wait, Brynhildr was supposed to be horror? Well, not including that show, there haven’t really been a lot of horror anime airing lately. The most recent one I can think of that even came close was Shingeki no Kyojin, though I think that one was supposed to be more of a violent-drama show. …And if there have been more horror anime airing, I’ve forgotten about them. So Tokyo Ghouls is pretty exciting.

Why am I not surprised for tagging this series with Cools and Kara? We are like the horror hounds of Metanorn because welp, the usual romantic drama just doesn’t cut it for us. It’s either beautiful blood a la Kara no Kyoukai style, gore a la Shiki style or Psychological a la Psycho-Pass style or into the Metanorn dungeons. I have to tell you, it’s a dangerous place…

Ghouly Tokyo

Tokyo Ghouls 001

Kyokai // Aah, finally a proper offering to the horror gods. Seriously, I have no pagan bone in my body but this genre fascinates me to no end. I have to confess that when I was in high school, rather than wasting time on Mills and Boon or Harlequin books, I read Frank Herbert, Dean Koontz and Stephen King… The world of the creepy is just around my alley and it has definitely been awhile that we got a good addition to it after Shiki and in some ways Shin Sekai no Yori. And from the first moment, Tokyo Ghoul did not shy away from throwing its core: blood, gore and lots of murder, right on your face. It proudly says, take it or leave it; there is no median of dandying about.

Some people might be turned off by the fact that there was no exposition of setting or even explanation but this is the first episode and do you always want your things handed to you? I’d be fine just discovering the deal with Ghouls, while the story progresses. Humans sure see them worse than animals but the matter is laughable when you realize that humans themselves are in the food chain and supposedly there is no system to prevent them from becoming bacon for Ghoul mouths yet. And Kaneki sure became food for Rize, only to be miraculously saved? There is something fishy about the events that led to Rize’s death. Giant construction material just doesn’t fall without a reason.

We literally have a modern day Tokyo, where everyone is connected like present. The only difference is the existence of Ghouls and from whatever could be fathomed from Nishiki and Touka’s conversation, Ghouls are not unorganized. They have internal factions and even neutral parties like Anteiku who regulate some boundaries and rules. I have a feeling the restaurant is just a façade for other Ghoul business. As the chain of command is not clear yet, we still have a long way to go in understanding what exactly happened with Kaneki becoming a half-ghoul, which seems to be a first from everyone’s surprise. But it’s clear that the city’s darkness holds many untold secrets and either the current government has some type of agreement with the ghouls or there are specific bodies in both ends operating to mitigate this issue.

Ghoul’s Night Out

Tokyo Ghouls 002

Karakuri // HanaKana’s character’s transformation from your average “dream girl” into unapologetically sadistic murderer was great. She’s been kind of typecast as the moe girl (or guy, occasionally) for so long, it’s always great to see her in these different types of roles. It’s kind of sad to see the role end so early, but maybe she can stick around as something to haunt Kaneki in future episodes as he struggles with life. She already made an appearance in the mirror during Kaneki’s identity crisis, but if they somehow made her sentient or something, that would be interesting. Kind of like ghost Banri from Golden Time, only a thousand times more likeable (which honestly, wouldn’t be that hard), with more sadism and way less whiny ANGST issues. Though I’m sure there will be more interesting characters to focus on in the future, so maybe Rize dying so quickly will be okay.

If anything else caught my eye this episode, it would be how the ghouls seem to have their own established society. Or maybe calling it a “society” is stretching the definition of the word a bit, since the small interactions here made it seem more like they all act on their own. What’s interesting though is that the ghouls seem to have their own rules to killing, even if it’s just “I get to eat the people in this area and you stay over there”. They’re not mindless monsters, but rational beings. This seems like a major factor in the humans being screwed over, since that means that the ghouls have human intelligence and reasoning skills. Hell, from the two that appeared in the end (plus Rize’s previous appearance), they can even blend in perfectly with their prey and nobody but them have any idea about it. It’s the humans against the ghouls, but the humans seem like they’re at a slight disadvantage, considering that they don’t even know friend from the people trying to kill them in the first place.

Fooly Ghouly

Tokyo Ghouls 006

Overcooled // Life is rough for Kaneki. Just when he thought he had wooed the cutest girl he’s seen in his life, his organs end up spewing out of his body. Not exactly the usual sequence of events for a boy-meets-girl situation, huh? Anyways, Kaneki survives but only because they transplant some ghoul organs into him. I’m still not sure if this cross-species surgery was intentional or not. It’s hard to tell because the doctor didn’t seem evil or sketchy, but he was also not very good at his job. If your patient eats absolutely nothing for several days after major surgery you don’t usually tell them to “not worry about it.” Yeah, you’re not taking in any nutrients when your body needs it the most, but hey, don’t sweat it! I’m a medical professional and eating is overrated, I tells ya.

It’s not long before Kaneki realizes something is up. But his refusal to believe he is truly a ghoul is really rather fun to watch. He’s in such denial that goes through every single morsel of food his friend sends him – even though just a couple should be enough for him to know. But Kaneki desperately wants to remain as human as possible, so he fights the signs. At the end we see him even denying his need to eat human flesh because he thinks that will forfeit his humanity. Seeing him struggle so hard with his ghoul and human instincts is almost painful, because you know he can’t win. He can’t stay as what he personally considers “human” if he goes around cannabolizing people.

But at the end of the day, it just depends on your definitions. A ghoul who doesn’t eat people is a pretty shitty ghoul but they’re still a ghoul. It’s a lot like when Seras becomes a vampire in Hellsing – she refuses to drink blood for a long time because she thinks it will allow her to somehow remain as a human. But for Kaneki, whether or not he gives in to his meat-eating desires has no impact on whether he’s a ghoul or not in reality. But in his mind, he’s set up these distinctions and moral codes. Eating another human goes against those codes (and I really hope most of you are the same way…). He can call it whatever he wants to make himself feel better, but he has to accept that he’s no longer human. He’s both. I look forward to seeing him try to fit in both worlds when his halfbreed status will clearly cause a lot of alienation and tension.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I liked the first episode. It gave us enough material to chew on and left questions for figuring things out for later plot progression. As a seiyuu fanatic, I loved HanaKana’s performance in this episode. She has definitely broken the usual mode of timid/megane-chan typecast and really played a bitch to her fullest. Taking joy in playing with her food by acting out a timid school girl to taking fleshy bites like a hungry fanatic without any qualms was awesomely done. However, I hope this is not the end of her role rather she lives on in a perverse way in Kaneki because well, ghoul organs and power share should have saved some part of her in him. For Kaneki as a character, I hope he grows up fast rather than whining about his situation. There seem to be a lot to deal with into his new transformation and whatever we saw in the trailer. Buck up, lad.

I wanted to hear the opening theme song so baaaad. For a reminder, the singer is TK from Ling Tosite Sigure, who sang the opening theme abnormalize for Psycho-Pass, and while I was writing this Hoshi told me that the full version was already out. Well, here’s a short version of “unravel” for your listening pleasure. Next week, you’ll be able to hear it in its full glory.

Okay, yeah, watching Kaneki freak out about not being able to eat human food was kind of more funny than anything. Also, I don’t know how much of the “noo I’m human, I swear!” from Kaneki I’ll be able to stand. Sometimes characters seem to struggle too long with giving themselves rules that defy their natures. I don’t mind the fact that Kaneki is setting standards for himself, but hopefully this doesn’t turn into an angst-y mess with Kaneki brooding all the time. I’m kind of hoping that he eventually finds some self-acceptance. The rest of the episode went alright though, as far as I’m concerned. It wasn’t so much in the “horror” department for me (maybe it was the weaker emotional impacts, as OC talks about later), but it did well for gore and violence. The set up seems interesting too, provided that Kaneki finds a balance between human and ghoul that’s acceptable to him at some point.

Tokyo Ghoul has a really cool premise: the city is littered with human-eating monsters that can blend in with us. Throw in a main character who is part of each and you’ve got a really cool perspective. He can effectively spy on both worlds and give us a view on how both of them operate, allowing us to see which ones we sympathize with more instead of immediately picking a villain. Although I have to say things aren’t looking so great for casting the ghouls in a positive light. Storywise, there’s a lot of cool stuff that can happen and it’s really exciting to see a good, horror set-up.

On the other hand, the first episode was a bit of a bumpy ride. They go in for big, emotional punches…in the first episode. There wasn’t even any time to wind up, so the blow ends up being rather weak. In other words, this show is incredibly dramatic and over-the-top and it’s a little too soon to be laying on the drama this thick. It almost had a more comedic effect in the end. I started to laugh when – like Light eating a potato chip with flare – Kaneki started eating all of Date’s food with desperation. The directing is questionable, but I think being a fan of more bombastic shows will let me learn to like it more over time.

Tokyo Ghouls 004

More delicious 100% human flesh hamburgers next week


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49 Responses to “First Impressions – Tokyo Ghouls”

  1. Hoshi says:

    ~As someone who read the manga beforehand, I was disappointed in the fact they crammed so much into one episode (Nishiki isn’t even supposed to come out for another couple of chapters if I remember correctly). One of the things I like about Tokyo Ghoul is its pacing, and already the adaption seems a bit rushed. I still have hope though…

    I also wasn’t expecting HanaKana to voice Rizie, so that was a great shock. I couldn’t stop laughing when I realized it.

    • Di Gi Kazune says:

      I assume that this is 12/13 episodes? If it is that short, it looks like they are trying to cram everything and leave room for the rest of the searing season.

    • anaaga says:

      They literally crammed 5 chapters into one episode lol. But if they follow the pace of the manga, the first episode will be super slow because chapter 1-2 are very plain and not explosive. I assume they’re doing this to catch the audience’s interest, and I think they’ll follow the pace of the manga again next week.

      • Kyokai says:

        I have this huge urge to go check out the manga now. I might just do that.

        • anaaga says:

          Literally wasted 4-5 hours in one day just to read the manga

          • Overcooled says:

            Now I’m tempted as well…

          • BlackBriar says:

            You’re a binge reader, anaaga!! 😉

            • anaaga says:

              Haha when I’m really immersed with the story, I will read it non-stop. I think I read Eyeshield 21 (333 chapters) in three days. Or four. I know I didn’t get my night sleep when I read it.

            • BlackBriar says:

              The time I seriously started reading Chibi Vampire, it took me about three days to blow through it.

        • igriega says:

          Have fun with Chapter 61. *cackling*


          *maniacal screeching off in the distance*

          • anaaga says:

            I wanted to hug Kaneki and tell him that everything will be alright in that chapter. It was soooooooo….. :'((((((((

            I wonder how much they’re going to censor in that chapter

            • igriega says:

              I’ll get pretty upset if they censor most of it. I liked Tokyo Ghoul before, but it was the visceral horror and unrelenting pain in that chapter that really drove it home. Chapter 75, too. I think I just like violent, transformative character development.

              Now we must all wait for the announcement of the series length……

            • anaaga says:

              From the poster, My guess is that they’ll animate it up to District 11 War arc

          • Hoshi says:

            ~Even though I felt so bad for Kaneki, it really was one of my favorite chapters in the entire series.

            I’m waiting for that announcement of the series length too because there is no way you can add in that transformation within 12 episodes without it being just totally rushed and awful. Maybe in 24 episodes, but in my ideal world it’ll be in another season or something.

            • anaaga says:

              The one in Metanorn’s banner is a picture for the anime promo, right? If you look at Kaneki’s shadow in the mirror, then I’m sure we’ll get District 11 arc.

              …Unless they cram 5 chapters in 1 episode again. But I think this is ok too, since the arcs in the manga are actually short, but the 20-pages chapter make them seem long. District 11 is probably its first long arc.

  2. skylion says:

    I think the only real beef I have with the show is half way introducing what ghouls are and then halfway introducing what a “half” version is in the same program. I know that by doing both, you increase tension, but it came off a bit “half” baked to me.

    But for that, I found the pacing to be excellent, and it did have just enough enigma in it to make me want to come back for seconds. Like, how much an influence the HanaKana ghouls has on the MC.

    The gorey stuff was used well, but I thought the more disturbing scenes were when he discovered he couldn’t eat normal food, and finding a scene or two later how the smell of a corpse brought back his mother’s cooking. Yuuuuuuuck! Ick. Shiiiiiver.

    • Overcooled says:

      There’s definitely a lot left to be explained. I actually thought ghouls were like big, dumb animals who only acted on their killing instincts until close to the end of the episode. It took me a while to really wrap my head around what they were.

      But what’s left to explain looks super cool. I’m excited for this one!

  3. JPNIgor says:

    Kyaaaaaaaaaah! *girly screams* God, I loved abnormalize and this song by Ling Tosite Sigure is just as good.

    I was not going to pick it up, since I usually think the horror theme has nothing more than gore and gore, and more gore, but Tokyo Ghouls seems to have something else. Seeing that there is some kind of system that maintain some kind of status quo on humans and ghouls made me take an interest on it. I’m not sure if it is the case, but the government kind of accepts that ghouls have their fair share of human flesh to survive, or they don’t have an option but to accept. It’s kind of like the way we accept there is always a murder rate as long as it is relatively low.

    And Kaneki, I know that if I could never enjoy my favorite food again I would rather die (just kidding).

    The only thing that concerns me is that Tokyo Ghouls is branded as horror, but up until now it was just full of gory things and nothing scary (to me, as an spectator. Kaneki must have shit his pants when he was attacked). I don’t know if the definition of horror in Japanese is different from the western one, but I remember not being scared by Shin Sekai Yori either.

    • Overcooled says:

      I really like everything I’ve heard from Ling Tosite Sigure =w=

      There’s a good plot under all that blood! A lot of horror anime tend to be really dumb in the end, but Tokyo Ghouls seems to be doing rather well. The status quo of people just kind of accepting that ghouls devour humans all the time and doing their best to deal with it is an interesting point.

      I think blood/guts/gore tends to give an immediate horror label because that kind of thing is scary to a lot of people. It just depends on what scares you!

      • JPNIgor says:

        My definition of horror is something less graphical, more psychological, just like american horror movies. To me, Shin Sekai Yori borders on horror because it has lots of mindfucks, but they are somehow grounded on science and reality…

        • BlackBriar says:

          Excluding the science and reality, the rest of your description is a good fit for the anime Another. Its mystery aspect is about as strong as the horror with the deaths of the show’s victims.

          • JPNIgor says:

            I gave my definition of horror, but it’s not like I enjoy it. I’m a scaredy cat D= I hide my face whenever that bgm that says “SOMETHING IS COMING” starts to play. I didn’t even try Another because people said it was really scary ‘-‘

        • Karakuri says:

          Yeh, that would be my definition of horror too. …Though I guess there’s the psychological genre for that. I wouldn’t have called Shin Sekai Yori horror either.

  4. BlackBriar says:

    Very nice. A sadistic Tag Team trio. How appropriate. Hah, I had a feeling Overcooled would be involved in this series. It definitely had the kind of feel that would be in her dark strike zone.

    An intense opening exposing the viewer to unapologetic violence and gore. My surprise was HanaKana voicing a sadistic flesh eating Rize. She said one time she wanted to play an evil character and it seems her wish is being granted after playing a psychotic Nadeko Sengoku. We need more roles like this from her. I’m going to go on a limb and say Rize’s insatiable hunger is tied to her libido. As she consumed a countless number of slain humans, she acted as if drowning in profound ecstasy.

    The lack of explanation at the moment is alright because it’s better to have knowledge brought to you piece by piece in place of a huge info dump that dulls the entire experience. Makes the shock values that much better and you can bet things are going to get uglier as the story progresses.

    I really feel for the protagonist Kaneki. The despair of losing your humanity after the fact and the pain of accepting that survival now means preying on exactly what you used to be. The two powerful parts of that revelation was the rejection of regular food and the end with him breaking down. If he’s only half ghoul yet can’t tolerate regular food, it could mean Rize’s organs aren’t finshed changing him.

    Overall, the opening is impressive. Slow in some parts but the build-up paid off. It may be the first episode but my interest has skyrocketed and may be my second Shiki. Now I’m on my knees begging for this to be two cour and that it plays out great from start to finish. For those who are squeamish, I advise this: Do not watch this alone in a dark room alone and considering the ghouls motor functions for sustenance, do not find yourself eating while they are.

    • Overcooled says:

      The Metanorn ladies are always ready for horror ;D

      It really is nice to see HanaKana as a vicious monster! I like it! I totally agree she should play yanderes (and tough cop ladies a la Psycho Pass) more often. She actually pulls it off very well.

      I feel bad for Kaneki too. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t deserve that at all, which makes it all the more tragic. I wonder how he’ll deal with having an arm shoved into his mouth next week? I hope he finds it delicious hahaha

      I was surprised at how much blood there was. There is a bit of censoring, but for the most part it refuses to cut away from the blood and violence. Neat!

  5. Irenesharda says:

    Well, I hope you guys enjoy this. I’ve heard nothing but good things. However, after watching the first episode and almost wanting to hurl by the end, I can tell you that I won’t be joining you guys for this ride.

    I really wanted to, too! 🙁 But the horror level is too high for me to stomach. I know my limit, so I’ll have to stop here.

    Have fun, everyone!

    • BlackBriar says:

      Oh, that’s a shame. I thought since you enjoyed Shiki so much because of its dark and despair exuding atmosphere, you’d like this series as well. Hopefully, you’ll give it a second shot and come back to join the rest of the group.

      • Irenesharda says:

        I don’t think it’s the tone, it’s the gore and the depravity of the ghouls themselves. I’m okay with vamps because most of the time it’s just blood, but I don’t do zombies or cannibals, it’s just too much gore for me to stomach.

        I’ll probably hang around the reviews and see what happens next, and if the gore stays at this same level or lower and there’s a real plot to this other than a boy coming to grips with becoming a monster, maybe I’ll come back. But as for right now, I don’t think so.

    • Overcooled says:

      It’s pretty darn bloody. And gutsy.

      • BlackBriar says:

        That’s an understatement. Imagine all that without all the censors. A sight no one would soon forget. It would be glorious.

      • Irenesharda says:

        I know, that’s why I don’t think I can stay. It’s funny I can look at blood and guts looking at a body from a medical and scientific perspective, but I’m pretty squeamish at horror movie gore fests.

        I guess it’s also about how it’s presented. In an action series, blood and gore is fine. Yet, I can’t take it in thrillers and horror. I just saw Akame ga Kill and was perfectly fine, so it all depends.

  6. BlackBriar says:

    From the time the promo for this series got released, what caught my attention were the eyes of the ghouls. Pitch black with a red iris. Totally reminiscent of Shiki which was absolutely pleasant. Kaneki’s reluctance to cross over is like Seras Victoria but his pain and suffering by acknowledging his change brings thoughts of Shiki’s Tohru Mutou.

    As I brought up certain similarities to Shiki, I also made some comparisons. Both species feed on humans but go about it in different methods. The Shiki feed on human blood but because they do by biting their victim’s neck, once they’re full, they can always come back another time until the victim expires. A total of four times and the body is still intact. When the ghouls hunt, they have to tear their prey apart then consume. A bit unproductive of a method, one of a piece meal basis as once they’re satisfied, they can’t come back to the same target since they’re in pieces and already rotting. Like eating a meal but there won’t be any leftovers. If anything, the Ghouls have it rougher.

    The Ghoul structure brings a lot of intrigue. For them to be so organized that they have named factions, it wouldn’t be farfetched to assume they have secret connections with the higher-ups of the city and are allowed a certain number of humans to feed on. Like the Magius in Valvrave being given a few humans to prey on as a part of an agreement. The idea of a binge eater is a serious cause for concern so I’m surprised there’s not a harsh crackdown. It reeks of political intervention because humans as a species normally would seek to wipe out anything considered a threat to them. The news announcements have the attacks as though it’s part of the norm.

    • Overcooled says:

      Yeah, it has quite a few similarities to Shiki so far. The eyes are a definite connection.

      It’s a lot less convenient to have to kill your victim right away instead of slowly weakening them…but at least Ghouls can kill 1 person per month whereas Shiki need someone every night. Overall, they have to kill less so I think it actually ends up being a little easier for them. Plus, they don’t need permission to enter houses.

      Ahhh I can’t wait to see how the ghouls are organized and how they feel about blending in with society.

      • BlackBriar says:

        I just love those eerie eyes with a passion. Can’t get enough of them. Creepy yet alluring. So I’m overjoyed there’s a series that’s reviving them.

        Oh, yeah, the no need for an invitation to enter is a huge advantage. That slipped my mind and a once a month feeding is a plus. But then again, those like Rize will abuse that privilege. A binge eater is enough incentive not to out at night, especially all alone.

        Another difference is, while the Shiki (and other vampires for that matter) feed on their victims on a rather elegant way, the Ghouls have no choice but rip their prey apart like savages. Hahaha, a contrast of table manners, anyone? Both creature species are a human’s worst nightmare.

        Since there’s some part of you that likes these things, which species would you want to be?

      • BlackBriar says:

        Finding out how the Ghouls blend in will be something indeed. It’s difficult to imagine a legitimate coexistence being established since it’s become increasingly clear they are hunters by definition and humans are the only acceptable food source.

  7. Foshizzel says:

    Another series where Hanazawa Kana’s character is dead! DAAAMN! I really loved her evil voice wow so hot <3

    • BlackBriar says:

      I doubt she’s done yet. A character like hers is hard to kill in my opinion. More over, MAL has Rize listed as a main character so we’re likely to see her again.

      • Foshizzel says:

        Well of course shes a top tier actress so they will use her much like Rie Kugu in the new JOJO season shes a minor character but still they have the actor might as well use them! If you saw Zetsuen no Tempest HanaKana’s character still managed to appear in almost every episode via flashbacks even though her character died.

        • BlackBriar says:

          Yeah, I remember HanaKana’s Aika Fuwa in Zetsuen no Tempest. Though a deceased cast member excluding Hakaze’s trip back in time, Aika was ever present in the story. The show made use of a character even though she was dead and it was well executed.

    • Overcooled says:

      The HanaKana virus strikes again!

  8. Mirun says:

    I really loved this anime. Despite the fact that I started laughing like a mad man when he was eating food all frantically. It didn’t have nearly as much as impact as those last 2 minutes. Good job to the seiyuu on that one. When he was screaming I’m human, you could hear the desperation, the fear, and the confusion in his voice. Pulled me right in.

    • skylion says:

      Welcome to Metanorn, Mirun. Glad to have you here.

      You’ve managed to put the hammer to the nail with this comment. I’m pretty much ready to not watch this show. But for the moments you’ve spelled out. They really were quite awesome. I did have that moment of laughter, and shock, the laughter as he was just gobbling up anything he could to prove himself human.

      • Mirun says:

        Thank you for welcoming me.

        Yeah. I just. I was laughing. My whole entire reaction the whole entirely time:

        -Laugh at something horrible
        -Claps like a giddy child
        -Laughs because, wtf
        -Laughs again
        -Claps like a giidy child
        -Tears at the end because of how powerful the last 2 mins was

        ^Summed up my watching experience with a few simply bulletins.

  9. Cassandra says:

    Kyokai I also love Kana Hanazawa’s crazyout of control performance. She can do cute roles but obviously crazy character ones too. She’s so talented.
    Ad the OP “Unravel” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure who also did the first OP for Psycho-Pass really made me get even more insanely excited to see more of the Tokyo Ghoul anime series.

    • Kyokai says:

      I love seeing her in negative roles! More exciting than the usual megane-toting shoujo any day. Unlike manga, I think she is going to have more appearances in anime so let’s look forward to it! :3

      After episode two, I found both OP and ED quite exciting. I’d be looking forward to the singles. 🙂

      • Cassandra says:

        I haven’t seen episode 2 yet. I’ll be watching Episode 2 tomorrow. Although if you say it is good now I am very much looking forward to hearing the OP and ED fully in the series.

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