This theme is popular in shows like AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which is a show about a zombie apocalypse that was released in 2010, and “The Strain,” a show about a parasitic virus that turns its hosts into a vampire-like zombie--which was released by FX in 2014. Both of these shows are very entertaining; another one of these shows that is personally my favorite is an anime (a Japanese animation with English dubbing and subtitles) called “Tokyo Ghoul.” What makes this show different, though, is that this show revolves around a character versus self conflict.
Ghoul first aired in July of 2014 and is about a boy named Kaneki Ken who lives in a world where humans aren’t necessarily on top of the food chain. The human race is threatened by what the world calls “ghouls”who live by eating people. The show revolves around Kaneki’s life when he is “transformed” into a half-ghoul.
There are many things that make this show interesting for a person who likes movies where humans face extinction. Every person who has a favorite show has a reason for liking it, whether it be the characters in it, the audio, or the plot (it may possibly even be all three). Tokyo Ghoul deserves my favorite spot for all three of those reasons. The show has a variety of interesting characters, beautifully placed audio, and the plot is undeniably clever.
If you have not seen the show before, but plan to (which I strongly recommend) reading this article will introduce you to some spoilers, so be cautious.
In the beginning of the show, Kaneki Ken goes on a date with a woman named Rize. The audience soon figures out that Rize is actually a ghoul that tries to get her next dinner alone. Just as Rize strikes Kaneki, steel construction beams fall onto her and the injuries prove to be fatal, and she soon dies.
Before Rize dies, a boy and the woman are found seriously injured, and the surgeon puts Rize’s organs in Kaneki’s body to save his life, turning him into a half-ghoul. Putting a ghoul’s organs in a human body turns Kaneki into a mixed breed. This idea for a television show is truly interesting to me because the rest of the show revolves around Kaneki’s choice: does he want to be a ghoul? Or does he want to stay human?
As a ghoul, Kaneki cannot eat anything but coffee. Tastebuds to ghouls do not work the same as for humans, so with his new life as a ghoul, Kaneki quickly learns that his favorite hamburger, along with any other human food cannot be eaten anymore.
This sends Kaneki on his first adventure as a ghoul. The show does a wonderful job of showing the struggle Kaneki has when he can’t eat anything. He is walking along the streets, and suddenly he starts thinking about people, which quickly devolves into thinking about flesh.
Soon Kaneki is lured by the smell of his deceased mother’s homemade cooking from long ago, which is presumably Kaneki’s favorite smell. He turns the corner of a dark alleyway to find a ghoul feasting on a corpse. The inner struggle for Kaneki gets progressively worse after the first two episodes of Tokyo Ghoul, which sets the rest of the mood for the season.
Throughout the rest of the first of two seasons, Kaneki learns the way of being a ghoul, which is filled with him trying to ditch his human ways. He still does not completely rid of these human traits until the last episode of season one, an episode aptly named, “Ghoul.”
Tokyo Ghoul uses “Jason” as another antagonist in season one. Jason has many similarities to Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th franchise, and I am one of the many people who say that’s where the idea for the show is based.
In Tokyo Ghoul, Kaneki is trapped by Jason. He takes pliers and cuts off Kaneki’s regenerative fingers and toes until he counts back from one thousand by sevens. In the room where he is tortured, Kaneki goes back to thinking about what his life is now like as a ghoul. and all the struggling Kaneki did to stay human is thrown away in a matter of minutes when he utters the words, “I am a ghoul.” His hair turns from black to snow white. Kaneki breaks out of his restraints and takes down Jason with his new profound animalism.
In the fight that follows, the soundtrack takes center stage. Throughout the show, events of suspense are enhanced with eerie piano scales, and scenes of bonding characters are backed up with rather pretty woodwind and percussion. One of the most memorable moments of Tokyo Ghoul’s audio is in the final fight scene between Kaneki and Jason. Most shows have a theme song, and Tokyo Ghoul’s is called “Unravel.” Instead of opening to the theme song, the final fight is played on top of the full version of the song--which to me, was a brilliant idea.
This triggers the ultimate spark in the show. I’ve seen a bit of anime, but this show had me on the edge of my seat with my mouth dropped open by the end of the first season. Since it was the best anime episode I have ever seen in my life, I did not hesitate to start the next season.
The next season is about how Kaneki unleashes an untamable monster into the world. After his conflict with Jason, he simply decides to leave all of his human traits behind. The second season focuses on his friends he made in the first season, and how they try to get the old, sane Kaneki back. The white-haired ghoul makes himself known to the ghoul hunters, as they soon try to get Kaneki killed to stabilize Tokyo’s population.
The ending of season two does something very similar to season one’s scene with the theme song, except it plays a piano version for a death scene (I won’t reveal whose, for saying there is a death scene is spoiler enough). This final episode of season two--unlike season one, made me bawl my eyes out, which always gets a movie or show bonus points from me.
Tokyo Ghoul will take the viewer on an adventure through the mind and make them think about how it would feel to be in the shoes of the main character. It will take them on an emotional rollercoaster from it’s interesting characters, outstanding plot structure, and it’s perfect musical themes--making Tokyo Ghoul, not only my favorite anime, but one worthy of anyone’s time.