Review: Tokyo Ghoul

Release Date
5th October 2015 (Blu-ray CE) / 26th October 2015 (DVD)
Blu-ray Collector’s Edition / DVD
All The Anime
Language / Subtitles
English, Japanese / English
Run Time
300 Minutes

Tokyo Ghoul is the 2014 anime adaptation of the manga of the same name by Ishida, Sui. The series was animated by the famed Studio Pierrot, best known for the long-running Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden series. Shūhei Morita, the director, has previously directed Coicent, episode 6 of the Freedom project, and Possessions, one of the four anime shorts included in the Short Peace Project. All The Anime’s blu-ray collector’s edition, and standard DVD, release of this title reaches the UK around one year after the series finished broadcasting as part of the 2014 summer season and within two weeks of FUNimation’s US release. This release makes use of FUNimation masters, so you can be sure to expect some pointless trailers on disc 2. Having never read the manga, I have none of the preconceptions of the series that readers often give as their reason for being disappointed in this anime. The show is, without those preconceptions, at least, a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience, until you reach the end of the season, anyway.

The series focuses on Kaneki, an average student that falls for someone he sees at a coffee shop. Walking her home one day, they both end up crushed; in order to save him, a doctor transplants part of her into him. Unbeknown to the doctor, this includes her kagune, a predatory organ unique to ghouls that acts as their weapon. Now part-human, part ghoul, Kaneki struggles to retain his humanity as the pangs of hunger for flesh, and a desire to live a normal life torment him. He ends up working at Anteiku, the coffee shop that provides sustenance to ghouls in exchange for them working there. Food is sourced from suicide victims, as these ghouls try to live without killing needlessly. They choose to fight only when necessary, and seem more “human” than some of the doves, effectively police that exist to kill ghouls indiscriminately using quinque; these are manufactured using the kagune of a dead ghoul. Tokyo Ghoul superbly implements human self-righteousness to portray them as more monster than ghouls, epitomised perfectly by one dove killing two ghouls and attempting to use quinques made from them in order to kill their daughter, all the while deriving a disturbing pleasure and sense of moral superiority from it. It’s such a shame that the last episode or two of the series set all this beautifully written conflict aside to focus on a new objective, setting the stage for an anime original sequel series.

This visual presentation of this release is of a high quality, with no issues other than the occasional minor judder during panning shots of stationary images; thankfully, this does not impede enjoyment of the show. Blu-ray lends itself perfectly to a show that, while mostly dark, features frequent contrasting of a ghoul’s kagune with the environment. Reds are prominent throughout the series, and clash with backgrounds whenever present to make ghoul’s, with their red eyes, stand out; bloody gore seems much more violent as well as if assaulting your eyes. Subtitles are white, timed perfectly; it’s a FUNimation title, so opening and closing songs feature a translation every episode. As an aside, the subtitles used are those from FUNimation, rather than those strange overly British-for-the-sake-of-British English subs available on Netflix UK. The biggest improvement over the original broadcast version is the uncensored video; rather than blurring or covering with black bars anything gory, we finally get to experience it as intended. If you already watched it during its original airing, as I did, and enjoyed it back then, it’s worth buying just to see what’s behind the censoring. It makes for a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

The English dub track is included as a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track, while the Japanese track is presented as a 2.0 Dolby TrueHD track. This is standard fare for a televised anime, with the dub producers often choosing to make use of surround sound in an attempt to better immerse the viewer. Both audio tracks are of excellent quality, but having watched with the Japanese track back when it was airing, thus being familiar with Sora Amamiya’s characterisation of Touka, Brina Palencia’s efforts in voicing the character fall flat, in my opinion. After a couple episodes dubbed, I switched to watching it with the Japanese audio track again; the dub track isn’t bad, and many will enjoy it, but being a fan of Sora Amamiya, I just could not accept Touka’s dubbed voice. The opening theme, “unravel” by TK, fits perfectly, embodying the conflict between humans and ghouls, and the inner conflict of Kaneki that drives most of this series. The ending theme, “Saints” (Seijatachi) by People In The Box, meanwhile, is an interesting contrast, being consistently softer and almost soothing in comparison.

In terms of on-disc extras, this release treats us to an English commentary for episode 4 on disc 1. Disc 2 includes the bulk of the bonus features, including a range of promotional videos for the series; subtitled Japanese blu-ray/DVD commercials, a collection of short promo videos, and the US trailer are available. Alongside these, an English commentary for episode 12 is provided, as well as textless opening and textless versions of all four variations of the closing song.  Finally, there is the preview collection, a compilation of post-credits shorts that are also at the end of each episode, and a half-hour feature called ‘Kaneki in Black & White’, which is an English analysis of Kaneki’s character.  An assortment of trailers for other FUNimation titles are also available on the disc. The recent blu-ray release of Fullmetal Alchemist is top of the list – a titles that has been out of print in the UK for a while now but was once released by Revelation Films. In an amusing coincidence, whereas Manga UK’s Noragami release featured more All The Anime licensed titles in trailers, Tokyo Ghoul features more Manga UK titles. Ghost In The Shell: Arise Borders 3 and 4, Black Butler, Deadman Wonderland, and Noragami are all featured as trailers, and are all released by Manga UK over here; in addition, KAZÉ’s Black Lagoon also makes the cut. The final two are MVM’s Basilisk and the as-of-yet unlicensed Selector Infected Wixoss. The blu-ray collector’s edition also includes a hardback book that features behind the scenes information, including an interview with the director, a piece analysing Tokyo Ghoul commissioned by AllTheAnime, and more.

Overall, Tokyo Ghoul is thoroughly enjoyable, despite those final two episodes - the finale being the worst, and undoing much of what made the majority of the season great, in order to set themselves up for Tokyo Ghoul √A, an anime original story, rather than adaptation of the manga. This anime needs to be experienced to test your moral compass - will you side with the doves, or the humans? Which side is actually in the right? With a perfect sub, and an excellent, though not quite as impacting, dub available, there's no real excuse for not giving this title a try. And, with all stock of the blu-ray collector's edition having been shipped out to retailers, it's best you order soon to experience it on blu-ray; we don't know when All The Anime will be releasing a standard edition blu-ray.