Tokyo Ghoul 'S'

**1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Tokyo Ghoul 'S'
"A slice of cannibal horror with a distinctly soapy aftertaste." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Four years after the first live action Tokyo Ghoul film, a new story based on Sui Ishida's manga comes to screens. This time around, gastronomically restrained half-ghoul hero Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota) is no longer wrestling with his conscience, having found a way to live without doing harm, but risks ending up on the menu himself after attracting the attention of the vicious and charismatic Gourmet (Shota Matsuda). Meanwhile, his mentor Tôka (Maika Yamamoto) is trying to persuade him to make more use of his ghoul-based fighting skills, and their friend Shun'ya Shiraishi is caught up in a romance with a human girl (Mai Kiryû). The result is a slice of cannibal horror with a distinctly soapy aftertaste.

If you've left high school and the teen drama that makes up the bulk of this film doesn't do much to hold your interest, what else does it have to offer? The action scenes have the same energy that they did in the original, despite Ken's curious unwillingness to use his powers even in times of extreme peril, but they're too thinly distributed. There isn't enough story overall and the film seems padded and repetitive, while some fan favourite characters are completely absent and others are referenced in a hasty, tokenistic way. Yamamoto is good and provides important continuity for fans, connecting this story to the wider one through the way se comports herself as much as through her dialogue. She also has the best written character - the only one who really changes over the course of the film.

Copy picture

This far into the wider story, it's getting difficult to believe that Ken would really remain as naïf as he is, and one wonders how Tôka dares to let him out of her sight. Even viewers unfamiliar with the story will be smart enough to figure out that when among cannibals an invitation to a special dinner should be treated with caution. Matsuda is seriously creepy as the predatory Gourmet, who opens the film with a particularly unpleasant act that will leave viewers in no doubt of what he's capable of. He's a thrill seeker, jaded as one might imagine anyone could become after having only one kind of food to eat for years on end, but Ken is easily beguiled by his apparent sophistication and elegant cheekbones. Though there's no overt romance there's an intensely homoerotic element to their interactions, even after Ken has had the kind of scare that one wouldn't expect him to forget.

Balancing this central relationship is the awkwardness of the ghoul/human romance, which gets a lot less screentime but doesn't need much since it's a story that any fan of the fantastic will have encountered multiple times before. It plays into the underlying current of angst about the nature of life as a monster. Tôka, again, is the interesting one here, skirting the edges of it, mingling jealousy with a radical desire to celebrate her own monstrousness which is complicated by her continuing tendency yo judge herself by human standards.

There are plenty of good bit in this film but it's the slow pacing, needless fluff and overall messiness of the film (not just where gore is concerned) that lets it down. Like Ken, it never seems willing to fully commit, and it tries to hard to please rather than establishing an identity of its own.

Reviewed on: 27 Apr 2021
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Tokyo Ghoul 'S' packshot
A sketchy ghoul named Gourmet invites a college student named Kaneki to dine with him at a special restaurant where the young man may find himself on the menu.

Director: Kazuhiko Hiramaki, Takuya Kawasaki

Writer: Chûji Mikasano, based on the manga by Sui ishida

Starring: Masataka Kubota, Maika Yamamoto, Nobuyuki Suzuki

Year: 2019

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: Japan

Festivals:

Fantasia 2019

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