Aw come on, at least use a napkin there.

Our latest alternate-Tokyo features a city plagued by ‘Ghouls’ – man-eating humanoids that won’t stop causing trouble to the extent that a ‘Ghoul Attack’ is just another news day. Kaneki Ken is a rather bookish, shy college student who lives close to where the latest attacks involving a so-called ‘Binge-Eater’ Ghoul are taking place – her binge-eating habits are noteworthy since other Ghouls tend to only feed once a month or so. Ken has a huge crush on a certain girl named Rize who frequents a cafe he likes, and eventually even has the courage to ask her out on a date…a date which ends in tragedy because SURPRISE! Rize was the ghoul all along, although her attempt at eating Ken goes awry when she is killed by, of all things, a freak accident involving suspension cables snapping and dropping steel beams on her. Mortally wounded, Ken is able to be revived with organ transplants from her body.

But it’s not just the questionable legality of such a thing that bothers Ken. It’s the fact that ever since being discharged from the hospital, he can no longer stomach regular food and he finds himself craving only one thing: human flesh.  Plus, the whole ‘terrifying black and red eye’ thing.

Well that’s unfortunate.

Anime gore fans rejoice: the newest splatterfest is here. We’ve got murder, cannabilism, eye horror and litres and litres of blood!
Personally, I have a kind of like-hate relationship with gorey horror anime – they’re often very addicting, and horror can be great when it’s done right. On the flip side, gore is all too often an ‘instant depth’ card that too many anime like to play. Even Attack on Titan, which started off pretty strong, quickly became a tediously juvenile shonen cliche-fest that tried way too hard to be mature by drenching everything in crimson. And don’t even get me started on Elfen Lied.

So far, Tokyo Ghoul has enough gore to make an impact and get attention, but not so much that its eye-rolling (yet). The ‘guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly turns into a horrible monster’ thing isn’t exactly new, but I’m hoping they do something good with it. What’s probably the most interesting thing about the premise so far, to me, is the fact that Ken didn’t actually become a Ghoul, he’s stuck as some weird limbo half-human, half-ghoul hybrid that can now presumably be accepted by neither. The start of the episode paints the Ghouls as terrible monsters, but towards the end we’re already getting a little bit of insight into their ‘society’ – they’re incredibly territorial, for one, and if Touka is any indication they definitely possess the capacity for rational thought. Having her as a potential mentor for Ken’s transition into (semi)Ghoul-hood is why I’ll be sticking around for at least one episode. It’s still of course too early to tell if this is going to be a genuinely good story or just the dreaded gratuitous gore-fest.

The show itself looks pretty stunning though, I must admit. The animation is very fluid and the backgrounds look like actual settings filled with vibrancy – the lit-up city signs when Ken walks along the street are particularly impressive. There’s also lots of great attention to colour, lighting and overall visual composition – for example the opening scene alone, featuring Rize eating some unfortunate chap in a gorgeously rendered aquarium, was just a great-looking scene overall. I also like how the relatively calm beginning of the episode had a much ‘warmer’ feel to the visuals, with everything turning dark and with a somewhat panicked feeling to match the mood later on. (ie, the ‘shakey horror camera’ effect when Ken was trying and failing to eat some regular food).

Overall my verdict on the show is a cautiously optimistic ‘wait and see’, but I’m sure quite a lot of people will be won over by the first episode alone.

I think I could like Touka.

Out of 5,