Among the entertainment works from the Japanese scene, one of the most popular and prolific in recent years – and belonging to the “new generation” of manga that proliferate on the magazines of the Rising Sun – is Tokyo Ghoul. It is a seinen manga written and drawn by Sui Ishida, serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump magazine and collected, once the work is completed, in 14 tankobons. From the paper, the manga was then transposed into two anime series by Studio Pierrot (Naruto, Naruto Shippuden, Bleach): Tokyo Ghoul, in fact, and Tokyo Ghoul: A, which serves as the second season to the previous 12 episodes. . The success of both the manga and the anime led to the creation of a live-action film, recently landed in our cinemas: the story made by Sui Ishida, however, certainly did not end with Tokyo Ghoul, since – starting since 2014 – the author gave birth to Tokyo Ghoul: re, the official sequel to the work.
The Tokyo of monsters
As you can easily guess from the name, Tokyo Ghoul takes us into a story set in the crowded Japanese metropolis, a place that is not a simple background to the events told by the author or the animators of Studio Pierrot but which – with its lights and its scenarios – almost acts as a co-protagonist in the dramatic battles experienced by the protagonists, forced to fight in a world that pits them against humanity but also against their fellow men. The story, in fact, tells that, in a modern and contemporary Tokyo, the population is afflicted by the presence of ghouls, ravenous and evil demons who possess the bodies of human beings, but who are able to transform themselves and equip themselves with high fighting skills. As if that were not enough, however, ghouls love to eat human flesh: indeed, it is the only solid dish that they are able to assimilate. These demons, in fact, are unable to swallow any type of food, even what could appear to the human palate as the tastiest and most nutritious: devouring food that is not human flesh causes feelings of disgust to the ghouls, in addition to the fact that they are unable to no way to satiate, leading to starvation if one fails to feed on human flesh. The only other dish that is inexplicably edible, but which cannot be a nutrient for obvious reasons, is coffee.
Ken Kaneki, a meek and anonymous university student, is the protagonist of this story: the young man is extremely addicted to reading and has no other passions than devouring books, a love transmitted to him from an early age by his mother. Extremely maladjusted compared to his peers, Ken dreams of being able to declare himself to Rize, a beautiful girl who frequents his own bar: one day, having found the courage to talk to her, he discovers that the girl shares his same interests and manages to get an appointment from she. Having crowned his dream, Kaneki goes to Rize to spend a pleasant and intoxicating evening in the company of his flame, but ignores that this will be the beginning of a terrible existence: the beautiful girl, in fact, turns out to be a ghoul who does not he wanted nothing more than to devour poor Ken. During a chase, an accident occurs: both are buried in the rubble of a construction site, and Rize is run over by the debris, losing her life. Kaneki miraculously manages to save himself, but to survive he needs a transfusion and, pressed by the short time available to her, the doctors of the hospital – unaware of the true nature of Rize – inject her blood into his body.
It is the beginning of the end for the existence of the poor protagonist, at least as he has always been used to living, but it is in fact the genesis of our story, what happens in the pilot episode of the anime made by Pierrot and inspired by the manga by Sui Ishida. The operation, therefore, will make Ken Kaneki become a half-ghoul, a being in the balance between the human and the demonic world, since Rize’s blood now flows in his veins: a central element, this, also in the script phase, since even the will and thoughts of Rize, from now on, will live in Kaneki, who will often find himself talking to the deceased girl in some introspective sequences which, especially at the end of the first season of the television anime, will be an essential pivot in the evolution of our hero.
And it is a factor, to say the least, fundamental in the economy of the development of the plot: Tokyo Ghoul is a story of profound formation for its protagonist, Ken Kaneki, a hero divided between two worlds, between the deep sense of compassion derived from human emotions and the ravenous ferocity of the fearsome ghouls. The of him, however, is an extremely slow, trailing process of evolution, whose psychology is completely deconstructed in the first episodes and then rebuilt with patience and perseverance in the following ones, up to the explosive final season. The moment he realizes he has become a ghoul, Kaneki’s existence becomes an ordeal of drama, suffering, a plethora of emotions ranging from despair to disgust at the loss of his humanity, in a physical and moral sense, up to sense of deep loss due to his feeling alone in a world (a city, indeed) terribly large.
But it will be when he meets Toka and other supporting actors, ghouls exactly like him but who have learned to survive without harming humans – and who, indeed, do their utmost to maintain order in Tokyo at night, facing their more wicked and hungry alike – which starts a new life for poor Kaneki. Ken finds himself working as a waiter at Anteiku, a place that serves as a front for a haunt of ghouls fighting to preserve ideals of goodness and justice. As the episodes of the anime go by, in fact, we become even more aware of the very slow process that focuses on Ken’s evolution, from a naive individual and victim of events to a real anti-hero with an extremely tormented psychology: we find ourselves, therefore, following with extreme interest the events related to the various and picturesque supporting actors, rather than the limping formation of the protagonist, starting from the members of the Anteiku up to the soldiers of the CCG, a special body prepared to hunt ghouls and in which the stories of Kotaro Amon, a young novice soldier, together with his partner and mentor Kureo Mado, stand out. This is an element that suffers from some bending over the course of the story, and which makes the Tokyo Ghoul screenplay a cauldron of characters and perspectives whose rhythm, over the course of the 12 episodes, is quite fluctuating and not always as exciting as it is. wait, son of a script that – in its entirety – appears more hasty than the pages of the original manga: a defect that is also reflected in the characterization of the protagonist, never really al.
The disturbing turn
Everything changes, however, in the final episodes of the series, of which evidently the first part serves as a necessary and compromising premise to ensure that the plot explodes and culminates in a heart-pounding season finale. The moment comes when the protagonist literally blossoms both on a physical and mental level: a path, as mentioned, built piece by piece, in which Kaneki has to face a series of mainly psychological tests, and which culminate in a specific moment – end of the first season – which represents the highest point of the first 12 episodes, a long and exhausting sequence in which sound accompaniments and directional solutions are alternated to say the least masterful, the maximum expression of both physical and introspective violence, mirror reflection of a anime series with highly mature themes and images. Tokyo Ghoul is a story founded, mainly on a distorted dichotomy between good and evil, in which it is difficult to deduce who are good and bad or winners and losers: the plot, the characters and the developments of the plot only accentuate how difficult it is take a clear and distinct position, both on one side and on the other of certain protagonists.
The anime by Studio Pierrot is an extremely valuable product also on an artistic level, with music always fitting according to the situations told and a captivating style both in terms of character design and animations: in this sense, the work done by Studio Pierrot is undoubtedly flawless on an artistic level, perhaps a little less on the side of the drawing itself, since – in our opinion – the pencils of the animation studio fail to fully convey the original author’s trait. As mentioned, however, Tokyo Ghoul is forgiven on the level of the atmosphere, on the feelings of claustrophobia and on the deep sense of horror derived from certain sequences, all seasoned with some moments – such as that of the season finale, disturbing like only a few seinen they have managed to do in recent years – from the high emotional rate, both dramatic and uplifting.