Tokyo Ghoul

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Tokyo Ghoul
"With its combination of rather sweet teenage angst and extremely gory action scenes, the film serves its natural audience well but is unlikely to reach far beyond that."

When you're a shy Japanese teenager and a bit of a nerd to boot, talking to girls is never easy. Ken (Masataka Kubota) can't believe his luck when the girl he's liked for ages (YĆ» Aoi) takes an interest in him. She's quiet, bookish, and finds his awkwardness endearing. They seem made for each other. Unfortunately, she's also a bloodthirsty monster, and when she gets him alone in a quiet place, she opens up about appetites that go way beyond the sexual. Though he survives the attack that follows, emergency medical procedures leave him half ghoul, and he must struggle to come to terms with his own appetities and keep them in check.

This story, based on the wildly popular manga by Sui Ishida, has a lot in common with latterday teen vampire tales in which an otherwise wholesome protagonist experiences cravings for blood and faces moral quandaries in the company of inhuman creatures. This being Japan, though, there are tentacles involved and our hero feels obliged to keep going to high school. Fortunately for him, he is taken under the wing of an elderly restaurant owner who supports a company of highly civilised ghouls. They drink coffee, which for some reason doesn't trigger the vomiting reflex as most food does, and they consume the flesh of suicide victims. Unfortunately, they are at risk not only from highly territorial ghouls without such scruples, but also from the Commission of Counter Ghoul (CCG), a secret government body which employs vicious human agents and a particularly nasty turncoat ghoul who delights in hunting down his own kind.

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With its combination of rather sweet teenage angst and extremely gory action scenes, the film serves its natural audience well but is unlikely to reach far beyond that. There seems to be an expectation that viewers will be familiar with the manga and although hasty exposition fills in some of the gaps, the result can be a bit disorientating. It's never really confusing but it can sometimes seem absurd.

With the exception of the lead, character development is also slight, and some of the performances are rather perfunctory. There's a lot going on, however, and the variable quality of the effects doesn't detract from the thrill of the ghoul on ghoul action scenes. Viewers won't be disappointed by the number or variety of these. Particularly notable in the scene in a school lab where our hero first figures out how to use his tentacles (or rinkaku kagune - the difference is not explained here) in a fight with a rival. This scene also takes in issues around bullying which go on to develop into a narrative about learning when to stand one's ground.

Tokyo Ghoul definitely captures the spirit of the manga and fans are likely to enjoy it. For all its imperfections, it's a likeable film with plenty of energy and verve.

Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2018
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Tokyo Ghoul packshot
Following an organ transplant, a shy young man becomes a half-ghoul and beins to crave human flesh.
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Director: Kentaro Hagiwara

Starring: Masataka Kubota, Fumika Shimizu, Nobuyuki Suzuki, Hiyori Sakurada, Yû Aoi

Year: 2017

Runtime: 119 minutes

Country: Japan


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