Review: Tokyo Ghoul - A Flawed, But Great Series

Two years ago, everywhere I looked on the internet was filled with Tokyo Ghoul posters, threads, videos, you name it it was there. Eventually I caved and decided to watch the series. Luckily, I watched the uncensored version so I got to see Tokyo Ghoul in all its bloody glory. And I was honestly really impressed with what the story was setting up. And now, having finally gotten around to watching the second season, Root A, I feel that the series still headed in the right direction, but it’s definitely incomplete.

The Story

To catch people up to speed, Tokyo Ghoul takes place in our world, except there are two differents species of Humans. You have the normal Humans like you and I. And then you have the Ghouls, Humans with supernatural powers and the only thing they can eat for sustenance is human flesh. And therein lies the main conflict of the story. Humans eat normal food and live normal lives. Ghouls eat flesh and only flesh and thus must kill normal humans to survive. Enter the CCG, an organization dedicated to eradicating the Ghouls as they are a threat to regular human existence. Ghouls are nothing, but animals to them. But on the Ghoul side, they see themselves as misunderstood humans, it isn’t their fault that the only thing they can eat is flesh, and so they fight back in order to survive.


By the start of the story, humans and Ghouls have been at war for an undisclosed amount of time. A young college student named Ken Kaneki asks a girl out on a date. They have a lot of fun... and then the girl tries to eat him alive. After barely surviving and having her organs transplanted into him, Kaneki becomes half-human, half-ghoul. Confused as to what part of himself to accept, his human side or his Ghoul side, Kaneki is taken in by a group known as Anteiku who run a coffee shop with the same name. A group of Ghouls who peacefully, and secretly, coexist with humans and subsist on a diet of specially-blended coffee and flesh from deceased humans.

All in all the world of Tokyo Ghoul is well built, if a bit vague in the history department. Likewise the vast majority of the characters are likeable, some more than others. Kaneki is obviously the most interesting as he walks the line between human and Ghoul. I won’t say much more on that front because that’s pretty much the main focus of the story, but I do like where the story is going with his character.

I will say, however, that I do take issue with the line that Root A began to walk. While it tries to stay as close to the original manga as possible(Full disclosure: I have not read the manga. Only what I can glean from the Tokyo Ghoul wiki.), Root A does take a few liberties with the story and thus the title, Root A, should really read “Route A” because its an alternate version of events like a different route in a visual novel. That being said, from what I know of Tokyo Ghoul:Re, the story can be reconciled with that of the manga and can get back on track if a third season is ever produced.

Story Spoilers

I had heard about the ending beforehand, but I didn’t believe it at first. Now I’m just as disappointed as many others. I mean, Kaneki just walked... and walked... and walked some more. He walked so much that the music stopped. It was obvious they were trying to fill in what was left of the runtime, but didn’t have any actual material to fill in the gap. Which from a certain perspective makes no sense because they did skip and/or gloss over segments of the mangas plot, so they did have more material. But as a result of trying to condense all of that down to 12 episodes stuff was left out and others parts were rewritten, resulting in what we got. But as I said before, it’s not impossible to reconnect the anime with the manga. A timeskip has that power. All they need to do is devote part of the first episode to flashbacks where they can retcon some things to try and sync up with the next part of the story, which was slightly teased at the end of Root A with Touka opening up her own coffee shop “:Re.”


The Art


Tokyo Ghoul is a beautifully drawn series and also beautifully animated. Of course, that is more than likely partially thanks to each seasons 12 episode run time, affording them more budget to devote to those particular resources. I can’t really find any fault with it except for those few instances where the quality dropped in relatively unimportant scenes. Though there was a scene in the eleventh episode of Root A I think where the quality of Kaneki’s kagune drops to the point that it looks flat rather than three-dimensional. Though it only lasted for a little bit before reverting back to 3D. Not really sure what the deal with that was.

The Sound


(Sorry, I wanted something different than the usual Licht und Schatten track that is everywhere, and soundcloud was the only place to find a few other Tokyo Ghoul tracks.)

I can count on two hands how many flawless soundtracks I’ve heard. Tokyo Ghoul joins that list because there is absolutely nothing bad about its soundtrack. The fact that it stands out on its own is a testament to how great composer Yutaka Yamada is. Like, I can’t get enough of the soundtrack to this show as a whole.


Though, that being said, this soundtrack also fell into the all too common pitfall of not every track actually making it onto the disc release. The vocal tracks(On My Own, Glassy Sky, Wanderer) had instrumental versions in the show, however those instrumental versions, along with a few other tracks, are not present on the disc, and so as a result you can’t listen to them outside the show unless you’re willing to settle for piano covers. Finding the soundtrack online to listen to is also a pain because this is one of those soundtracks where the copyrights are heavily enforced. The occasional video on Youtube will slip through the cracks, but you won’t find the full Root A OST(Of course I know where to get the soundtrack itself for free, but that depends on how you feel about piracy. Note: No I do not partake. It’s tempting, very tempting, but I’m generally too paranoid about such things.).

Speaking on the voiceover, Tokyo Ghoul was licensed and released by Funimation Entertainment. The dub is pretty good so you can watch either that or the Japanese dub if you so prefer. Funimation and Bang Zoom typically do really good dub work so you can rest assured that it isn’t bad at all.


The Verdict


Season One is absolutely fantastic, Season Two stumbles when compared to the manga, but on its own it too is fantastic and filled with raw emotion. Taken as a whole, Tokyo Ghoul, as it currently stands, is worth at least one watch in its entirety. However, do be careful when deciding how to watch it. If you happen to watch streams, you’re likely to get the censored version, which is to say, black bars, beams of lights, and everything in between will be everywhere. That includes color inversion and scenes where part of the screen is chopped. I highly recommend seeking out the uncensored version, either dubbed or subbed for the true Tokyo Ghoul experience.

If you’ve read the manga, keep an open mind about the second season because constantly comparing will likely lead to disappointment.

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