There were things I liked about Tokyo Ghoul, and there were things I didn’t like about Tokyo Ghoul. I liked the premise. I liked the plot. I liked the characters and the setting and the cool bioweapon-like powers. However, I did not like the rearrangement of the manga. I didn’t like the terrible censoring. And I really didn’t like the exact point during at which the director chose to end the anime.
It adds up to a cool package with some cool goodies within, but if you think about it too hard you might hurt your brain. And don’t go looking for any solid conclusion.
Spoilers from this point onward.
Premise rehash: there’s a subspecies of human known as ghouls which is incapable of eating human food and must instead eat humans to get sustenance. In exchange, they get superhuman physical abilities and lots of cool powers. Ken Kaneki, a normal college student, is lured into a trap by a ghoul and almost eaten, but saved at the last second by a timely accident. He wakes up later to find that his damaged internal organs were replaced with the ghoul’s, and so he begins his new life as a half-human, half-ghoul outcast.
Taking the details out and just looking at the broad picture, Tokyo Ghoul is nothing new, nor is it anything special. It’s the newest hyper-edgy and violent show on the market, and from that aspect it derives most of its popularity. That doesn’t mean it’s not cool or enjoyable to watch; it certainly is. But it’s not all that unique, and that one little factor did continue to float through my mind over the course of the series.
Series structure isn’t all that special either. While we get mostly plot, occasionally we get nice character building episodes for people that we really couldn’t care less about. Certain parts, like the Tsukiyama mini-arc, felt totally unnecessary and probably could have been replaced with better aspects. Stuff like that.
I understand that this anime is an adaptation of the manga. I’m reading the manga; I’m almost done with it. I like the manga, though many of those same flaws I mentioned in the anime are present there because, well, they were present in the manga first. Overall I like the manga better simply because I can read through those boring scenes and mini-arcs much faster than I can watch them. Because unfortunately, if I spend a whole week waiting for some more superpowers and fights but then instead I get a bunch of boring dudes talking, there’s not much I can do. I could fast-forward my video player. I could skip the episodes. But I can’t make the cool stuff come faster.
Another quick note about this being an adaptation: the anime follows the manga very precisely, I was impressed. I’m glad they didn’t invent a bunch of new content. Some little details were changed, like Hinami having black hair in the manga, but I can understand some degree of diversification. What I don’t understand, then, is why the anime crew decided to flip the order of the Tsukiyama arc and the Hinami’s Parents arc. Maybe to make Mado seem more relevant, since he dies so much earlier in the manga? Maybe to build up the cast more by introducing Tsukiyama earlier? Maybe to draw out Kaneki’s suffering? I don’t know. Didn’t make much sense to me, but it’s not really all that important.
My only real problem with Tokyo Ghoul was the final episode. I was so pumped about seeing Kaneki finally lose it. But unfortunately, we have to watch him lose it all episode. I just wanted him to snap, eat and fight, to become the creepily awesome dude he becomes in the manga. But we get maybe three minutes of that at the end, after an entire episode of him chatting it up with Rise in his head while interspersing the occasional over-the-top torture scene (all stupidly censored like the rest of the show, by the way).
Or, to take my personal feelings out of it and make a more logical argument: wouldn’t it have been better from a directional perspective to end the series after the conclusion of the battle with Aogiri Tree, rather than like maybe halfway through? Mind boggling.
Let me elaborate on censorship. I talk a lot about censorship. I talk a lot about how much I hate censorship. This anime’s particular flavor involved covering three-quarters of the screen in black every time anything even slightly violent happened. Half the time I had to guess what exactly was happening during the fights, and the other half I only knew because I had read the manga. If a directional team is going to animate the fights, then at least let us watch them. Uncensored blu-rays? Maybe. Eventually. I’m not going to waste my money on a shamelessly manipulative ploy like that.
(In pretty much every one of my posts covering an anime that uses censorship, I point out how much I hate censorship. However, I recently finished an anime that used absolutely no censorship! Tune in soon to read about how I hate the lack of censorship as well. Nobody wins, ever.)
Censorship aside, the visuals were pretty okay. Most of the series had a darker look to match its atmosphere, which I liked, but whenever it was day there were always so many obnoxiously bright colors, which totally didn’t fit the mood. I like the character designs for the most part, though they’re not particularly original or special. Post-torture Kaneki is basically Hollow Ichigo from Bleach (remember Bleach? I used to love Bleach) so it felt pretty nostalgic. Some characters like Yamori bothered me, but at least they stuck to their manga appearances so it’s fine. Not a fan of the unnatural hair colors on some characters.
Sound was pretty okay for the most part. Sound effects and background music were decent. The OP was awesome, in my opinion, but the ED didn’t do much for me. Voice actors were good overall. Took me a while to figure out that Kaneki and Inaho from Aldnoah.Zero were voiced by the same dude.
Since it’s not an original story, I won’t go on about how I wish the writer had done certain things differently; although some things (like Touka’s brother being in Aogiri Tree) felt a little forced, overall it was pretty good. A fun 25 minutes per week. I’d repeat the experience.
Not sure I’ll get to, though. Apparently the manga received a super-rushed ending because the writer got a cute little letter from the publisher saying, “Yeah, we’re about done” or something like that. As a result, the season listings that originally had a second anime season of Tokyo Ghoul slated for Winter 2015 also disappeared. Maybe it’s just in question, or maybe a different studio is picking it up. Maybe it’s been cancelled. Who knows? Due to its apparent popularity I doubt it will be cancelled entirely, but perhaps postponed until someone wants to pick up the pieces. We’ll have to wait and see.
Overall it was worth it. The censoring ticked me off and the spot it ended kinda bummed me, but the rest of it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to a hopeful second season.
Final MAL score is a 6.6/10, rounded to 7/10.