Two of the shortest anime I’ve ever seen are Puelle Magica Madoka and Serial Experiments Lain. Ironically, those are also two of the best anime I’ve seen. They’re only about 12 episodes each, but unlike shows with over a 100 episodes, there’s no filler and no episodes to stretch for time. Each episode gets right to the point in advancement of the story. That’s one reason why the first season of TOKYO GHOUL is pretty great. There’s no filler and the story is definitely very unique like the aforementioned shows. With FUNimation recently releasing the complete Second Season, it’d be good to take a look at the many positives of the first season and why one should go check it out.
In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear ofGhouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans — yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.
TOKYO GHOUL Season 1 has some unnecessary things preventing me from giving it a perfect score. Even in context for the story, the fan service featured in the first episode was brutal. There are some over-the-top writing and questionable content in some of the episodes, but nothing absolutely terrible because these things appear just for a few moments. With that out of the way, let’s start with the actual concept. It’s really cool how in this universe ghouls and humans coexist. It’s dangerous and an interesting status quo the story just drops on the viewer. Rather than taking its time in explaining things, the viewer learns about it as the episodes move along. It’s a tough thing to do since there can be the complaint of not explaining much, but GHOUL pulls it off nicely.
One of the greatest things about Puelle Magica Madoka is how amazing it is in developing likable characters in such a short amount of time. In just 12 episodes we have some of the most engaging characters out there. (Some shows take a hundred episodes to make someone likable.) There’s of course nothing wrong with long-term character development, but it’s always a feat when a short show/season can establish much in so little time. For example here, in just two episodes the viewer cares about the friendship between our main character, Ken Kaneki, and his best friend, Hideyoshi. Then, in even shorter time the brother-sister relationship between Touka and Ayato is fantastic. Somehow just one flashback was needed. Of course, this is mainly due to the great writing present throughout the episodes.
An intro can gain or lose a viewer. If the intro is really bad, then it’s farewell. For example, BATTLESHIP’S beginning completely destroyed the movie before it even began. Most intros in anime are great and Tokyo Ghoul is no exception. We open up to an intense WALKING DEAD-like scene with a ghoul “binge-eating” as it’s called before being confronted by another ghoul. It’s scary, action-packed, and with a stellar soundtrack that sets the tone for the rest of the show. What’s great is that what happens here has an effect on the last episode. If one watches the season over the course of say a month it can be easy to forget that, so it’s good to look back and see how everything came together.
A major part of the first act is Ken having to deal with the fact he’s part ghoul. The show does an excellent job showing his inner turmoil. Here we have this guy whom now has an appetite for humans and there’s nothing he could do about it. It’s an inner battle for him as he tries to retain his humanity while fighting this new tendency. It’s a great concept over the course of 12 episodes, and the fact he really wants to stop himself from giving in, which would be the easy thing to do, makes him quite a likable and engaging focus.
There’s a very intriguing dividing of focus. Obviously Ken’s story is at the main, but the show also shows us the human side of things. We follow detectives Koutarou Amon and Kureo Mado, both very different, but engaging characters. Because of their stark contrasts in personalty they make an excellent pairing, even buddy-cop like. They’re part of the CCG, which hunts ghouls. It’s interesting because as humans in this world we would be on the CCG’s side because many ghouls hunt and kill humans. All we would ever hear about on the news is killings. Yet, there’s a small band of ghouls whom refrain from doing as such, because they choose not to. The CCG is not aware of this, so the conflict in the latter part of the season was extra interesting.
I suppose what the season lacks is a true main villain. There are some that pop up, but not a main antagonist. Of course, things are heavily established in the final two episodes, setting up for Season 2. The notable villains that do pop up here are all well-written and diverse. Tsukiyama for example with his polite demeanor made for an interesting contrast to the sadistic Jason. Touka’s brother was also definitely interesting. While these villain characters are very good, the show also features some really great protagonists. Touka is very good as she too has to go through inner battles. One of the best scenes was when a character made her re-think what it means to be a ghoul. There are many old, wise man characters in media, but that doesn’t stop Yoshimura from being one of the most likable characters in the season.
It’s a little disappointing how Season 1 ends. Of course, since there is a Season 2 we won’t count loose ends a negative. Rather, I found the end conflict rather contradictory. The character says one thing but something happens anyway which kind of renders his notable line moot. The fight scenes are very impressive throughout. There’s a certain amount of tension that leads up to each fight, making it even more engaging. (A great example is the dialogue back and fourth with Tsukiyama against Ken, Touka, & Nishiki.) The soundtrack as stated earlier is also very impressive.
Overall, Season 1 of TOKYO GHOUL is very strong . It has a unique story which is filled with interesting characters. Ken is unlike a lot of characters we’re used to seeing. His inner battle against this other side is really engaging. The show has been compared to ATTACK ON TITAN, and for good reason. If you are a fan of the latter, you will like GHOUL.