Tokyo Ghoul: Episode 01

悲劇 – Tragedy

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Summer 2014 was off to a morbidly beautiful start with the opening episode of the season’s token horror series, Tokyo Ghoul. This review comes as rather late, as I have been grappling with whether to cover this series or not. However, after much thought, it was decided that Tokyo Ghoul is too fascinating a series to pass on.

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Story. Proudly presented by Studio Pierrot, Tokyo Ghoul is a horror/suspense anime revolving around mysterious ghouls that terrorise Tokyo. After a chance encounter with Rise, followed by a devastating (but simultaneously fortunate) turn of events, Kaneki, our protagonist, finds himself straddling both the human world and that which the ghouls reside. While the whole identity crisis / struggling to accept and be accepted idea might come across as your very typical and average kind of story, I have to say right here that this series is anything but. Tokyo Ghoul does not simply graze the top of the identity crisis aspect; it digs deep, real deep, exploring far more complex emotions and themes.

The focus of this first episode was mainly on Kaneki’s transition from human to human/ghoul. And right off the bat, it was flawless execution like no other opening episode has presented. I mention this with particular reference to the scene during which Kaneki first suspected that he might have turned into a ghoul. The entire display of how the idea was first planted in his mind, which then grew into worry, followed by the manifestation of his anxiety – the desperation that seeped through as he frantically stuffed himself with food in delirious denial; that breakdown he had after being unable to stomach all that food; the final realisation that he might very well not be human anymore.. Kaneki might not be physically human, but what he exhibited was very real and very raw human emotion. And I guess it is the showcase of such emotion that really pulls me in, because on some kind of level it mirrors reality – life is not all sunshine and rainbows, there are times when things are just dark and bleak; real life is a struggle, a long and painful struggle; and despite how challenging it gets, we still have to get through it somehow. Now I don’t mean to go all manic-depressive here, but a beautifully executed storyline that involves a character going into hysterics has always fascinated me.

Seiyuus. If anyone has doubts as to whether seiyuus matter or not, just watch this first episode of Tokyo Ghoul. The first two minutes will suffice. Hanazawa Kana was ABSOLUTELY STUNNING with her portrayal of binge-eater ghoul Rise. So outstanding in fact, that those first couple of minutes put her straight back into my list of favourites (after her train wreck of a Natsume in Tokyo Ravens). She was not the only one who impressed, because Hanae Natsuki definitely stole the episode, with his delivery of such a diverse range of emotions as panic-striken Kaneki. Tokyo Ghoul has rounded up quite a stellar cast list, including relative newcomer Amamiya Sora, along with veterans like Ookawa Tooru and Toriumi Kousuke, as well as koekara favourites Konishi KatsuyukiMiyano Mamoru and Sakurai Takahiro (Shion, Komorebi and Akatsuki respectively, kiseki shall kyun in your stead). Based on just this first episode alone, I daresay that this series is voice acting at its very best. Under the directorship of Academy Award nominee Morita Shuhei, Tokyo Ghoul is definitely in very safe and capable hands and I expect the standard of voice acting will continue being top-notch.

Soundtrack. Music wise, this appears to be Yamada Yutaka’s debut soundtrack. It might not be as exquisite as others this season (yes, Kanno Yoko’s Zankyou OST immediately comes to mind) but it is still pretty in its own right. The track that greeted us in the opening scene was creepy and foreboding, which just FIT the scene to a tee what with all the gross devouring and exorcist-like atmosphere. The thing that really caught my attention was the OP (which played at the end), but more of that in the next review.

Even if you are not a fan of gore/violence, I strongly encourage anyone who has not yet seen this series to please do, because it was SUCH a treat of an opening episode. After all, there has to be a reason why the manga is so highly rated on MAL. Considering the strong line-up we have this Summer 2014, Tokyo Ghoul has still managed to set itself apart from the rest of the shows this season (with Zankyou just a few steps ahead) and here’s hoping the rest of the series keeps up with the trend.

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