Anime recommendations: ‘Tokyo Ghoul’

Martika Theis, Reporter

What words will suffice to describe “Tokyo Ghoul”? I really don’t know, but I’ll try. Without a doubt this is the most tragic story I have ever seen or read and it deserves its place among the classics of anime, those whose legacy lives past their completion dates for years.

Without a doubt this is the most tragic story I have ever seen or read and it deserves its place among the classics of anime, those whose legacy lives past their completion dates for years.”

For those who don’t know, the manga and anime series “Tokyo Ghoul” takes place in a world with two dominant species, the ghouls and the humans. Both look alike except when the ghouls decide to show their specific characteristics and become more humanoid than actually human. For all intents and purposes, the species are at war due to a fact of simple biology. Ghouls are incapable of eating human food and the only nourishment that sustains them is human organs. Gross, right? Not to worry as most of this censors itself in terms of camera angles and such. Speaking of which, this series is not for the faint-hearted nor first time anime watchers. If you are comfortable with the gore level of, say, “Hellsing,” then this is nothing new. However, if “Fairy Tail” is as gory as you go, this is not the series for you.

The main character, Kaneki Ken, is interesting in how unusual his character type is. He’s bookish, shy, and cute, which aren’t unusual in and of themselves, but he is also passive. For a male lead in anime to be passive is quite rare as they are often called upon to perform ridiculous feats of strength or faith. Kaneki is a normal human college student who keeps mostly to himself and has recently developed a crush on a cute girl who frequents his favorite café. Upon making a connection, they go on a date and she asks him to walk her home. What starts off as seemingly innocent turns deadly as the girl is revealed to be a sadistic ghoul who is trying to eat Kaneki. She succeeds only in seriously wounding him until a pile of collapsing beams kill her. In desperation, or so we initially think, to save Kaneki, the doctors at the hospital implant her organs into Kaneki, accidentally turning him half-ghoul. From there on, Kaneki is forced to learn the culture of ghoul society and struggle with his hatred for the idea of eating humans.

What really shines across both the anime and the manga is Kaneki’s slow discovery of how ghouls are not just beasts and humans are not only the good guys to the point where it really isn’t clear which species can be classified as the “monsters.” The moral grey area is really fascinating to watch and it becomes so grey that I simultaneously hate and love pretty much every character. No other series has ever done that for me before. This is sympathetic villain characterization at its absolute finest.

The moral grey area is really fascinating to watch and it becomes so grey that I simultaneously hate and love pretty much every character. No other series has ever done that for me before.”

Now onto which is better, the anime or the manga?

I watched the anime first, then read the manga but I am all caught up in both so I feel pretty qualified in making an unbiased comparison. The anime is shorter, just 12 episodes per season and two seasons, but it does a relatively reasonable job fitting in plot points. Notice I said plot points, not character development. Some pieces of the anime feel out of place or unexplained and the pacing is very fast. However, the adaptation of scenes they do copy verbatim from the manga absolutely shine. Almost crying, laughing, and inwardly screaming were just some of my reactions to the more intense scenes.

If you thought the anime had a lot of content, you’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. The manga does a much better job explaining how certain events came into being, changing some plot point, and strengthening character development to the point where you want to scream with how perfect it all is. That being said, the manga is a lot more gory, so be warned. It is also worse in terms of psychological torture. Also, the anime only follows the manga storyline up to the end of season one or about Chapter 65. Afterwards they diverge and the manga goes way past the anime, even running over into a sequel series, “Tokyo Ghoul:re”. I would definitely read the manga even if you don’t want to watch the anime.

Subtitles, sub, or voice-dubbed?

Honestly, I would love to be able to recommend the dub. I really would, especially because probably my favorite voice actor, J. Michael Tatum, voices Tsukiyama, my favorite character. However, the English voice actor for Kaneki just doesn’t seem to understand his character. He’s passive! The English voice actor plays him like he’s Naruto. He’s too loud, too sharp, too action-hero for my taste. The sub, on the other hand, is spectacular. Everyone’s voice fits and gives the character a wonderfully quirky spin. Also, the opening theme is one of my favorites ever composed.

If you are into the horror or psychological thriller genre, just heard about “Tokyo Ghoul” from a friend, or want to see a really well written story, “Tokyo Ghoul” is well worth the time. I will give it as a franchise maybe 8 out of 10 stars and recommend it for watching subbed and reading.