I sometimes feel that it’s odd for me to term myself a long-time Tokyo Ghoul fan, but having watched both seasons of the anime (and the currently airing Re:), as well as read the original manga series, I think it’s safe to say that I am a fan of the franchise. So with this in mind, I’d also say that I’m qualified to review the latest addition to this multimedia series: the Tokyo Ghoul live action movie.
Tokyo Ghoul takes place in a world inhabited by both humans and ghouls, the latter only being able to survive by eating human flesh. The ghouls live their lives among humans while hiding the secret of their true nature, hoping no one will discover that they’re not actually human. Our story begins with Ken Kaneki, an ordinary college student with a crush on Rize Kamishiro – a visitor to a café they both frequent. Unbeknownst to Ken, Rize is actually a ghoul, and when she agrees to go on a date with the young man, his fate is about to change forever…
It turns out Rize accepted Ken’s invitation to go on a date because she plans on eating him. However, before she can kill and devour Ken the two are involved in an accident. This accident leads to the death of Rize and almost kills Ken as well, but he’s saved by a doctor who transplants Rize’s organs into him. While this saves Ken’s life, it also leads to a problem: Ken has become half-ghoul. Now stuck between living as a human or a ghoul, Ken must decide where he belongs before his thirst for human meat drives him crazy.
As the movie progresses we see Ken meet both friend and foe alike in the world of ghouls. He encounters the nasty Nishiki Nishio, who wishes to eat Ken’s best friend called Hideyoshi Nagachika. However, Ken also befriends the friendly ghoul Toka Kirishima and discovers that the café she works for (Anteiku) strives to protect ghouls and offer a safe haven.
Being an existing fan of Tokyo Ghoul, it’s hard for me to overlook the information this movie leaves out. Although we’re introduced to two ‘ghoul investigators’, it’s never really explained what their role in the world is – beyond hunting ghouls, anyway. Likewise, quite a few characters I’m fond of are written out early on – including Nishio, who had an interesting story to tell in the original manga. The absence of Hideyoshi is also notable as without him it doesn’t feel as if Ken is truly conflicted about which world he wants to be a part of.
In the manga and anime Ken doesn’t want to give up his friendship with Hideyoshi, but he also knows it’s dangerous to be around a human as a ghoul. This is what leads him to accepting Anteiku’s help. The live action movie’s plotline is largely the same but there’s an absence of anything to keep Ken rooted to humanity once Hideyoshi is out of the picture.
The original series also throws many morals into question. Should ghouls be allowed to exist? Do they deserve to live among humans? And does a half-ghoul belong anywhere in society? These sorts of questions do exist in the movie but they’re not explored as well as they have been elsewhere. That being said, I don’t believe Tokyo Ghoul’s live action adaptation is actively bad. It does what it sets out to do quite well and the content and characters that are cut were clearly removed because of the time constraints.
At heart Tokyo Ghoul is a horror series and this movie certainly isn’t something for the faint-hearted. There is a lot of blood and goresome [gory] gore scene to scene, which fits well with the series but might be off-putting to some, so it’s worth being aware of going in. The film makes use of a lot of CGI and in places this can look bad, but for the majority of the movie it pulls it off. The CGI works well to strike fear into your heart as you watch the ghouls’ Kagune pulse and wither as they fight or hunt for food. The Kagune truly look alive and part of the Ghouls.
Where actors are concerned, everyone does a great job, especially Masataka Kubota (some of you may know him as Light in the Japanese live action TV adaption of Death Note) who takes the lead as Ken. Masataka’s acting is befitting of a ‘soup opera’ at times, and he certainly knows how to ham a performance up, but this works in the movie’s favour because his acting often makes up for a somewhat lackluster script. His time as Light has definitely served him well as, although Ken is far from evil, when giving into his ghoul instinct he’s definitely more menacing – and Kubota pulls this off wonderfully.
Interestingly, there is also an English dub on offer for this release. Due to the fact I had watched this movie in Japanese with English subtitles previously, I decided to give the dub a go. I was pleased to find that a large number of the cast seem to be voice actors who also handle their respective roles in the anime’s dub, but that didn’t make up for an otherwise fatal error. I discovered very quickly that the English script didn’t always sync up with the lip flaps of the Japanese actors. Now, I don’t watch a lot of live action films dubbed into another language, so perhaps it’s a common issue, but to me it just seemed lazy and like a few slight adjustments could have made it much better. For this reason I would strongly recommend watching the film with its original Japanese audio and English subs.
This release has been brought to the UK thanks to Anime Limited and is available on both Blu-ray and DVD. Both are standard editions and there are no physical extras to speak of, nor are there any on-disc extras.
Overall this live action adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul is an enjoyable watch. It doesn’t necessarily have the same pull as the original manga or its anime adaption but for existing fans it’s interesting to see the story adapted in a different way. The movie is an inoffensive take on a popular franchise that is worth a look – just maybe not a good introduction to the world for newcomers.