Tokyo Ghoul a profound exercise in the Macabre
Shuhei Murita’s anime series Tokyo Ghoul without a doubt is one of the most original anime television series being broadcasted in recent times. Based on a best selling manga series by the noted author Sui Ishida, Tokyo Ghoul is a highly provocative and disturbing series indeed. Comparable to classic horror films such as George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead 1978, Sam Rami’s The Evil Dead 1982, David Croneberg’s Videodrome 1983, and and Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder 1990, Tokyo Ghoul is a frightening and brilliant examination of existential dread and the potential horrors of human life. It is in other words, a never-ending nightmare. The series is without a doubt one of the goriest productions I have ever seen on broadcast television. It is also one of the best ‘bodily horror’ stories ever televised, meaning a story in which the main characters undergo highly traumatic and horrific bodily transformation via the work of demons, technology, or other malevolent forces at work. Nonetheless, this does not detract form the inherent originality of the story and show.
Tokyo Ghoul unfolds in modern day Tokyo, Japan. The protagonist of the story is Ken Kaneki, a young and highly intelligent university student who lives in central Tokyo. Within the framework of the storyline, Ken leads a seemingly predictable and rather mundane sort of existence, something which one might expect of some university students. This very normal life comprised of socializing with friends, frequenting local cafes and restaurants, among other popular past times, soon comes to a highly violent collapse. Ken is blissfully ignorant and unaware of the fact that Tokyo is in the midst of a Zombie/ghoul apocalypse, a world in which the dead is literally feeding off the flesh of humanity. This in other words means that humans are no longer at the top of the food chain, and that they have become in essence the ‘snack food’ of the Ghouls.
During a seemingly normal sort of evening, Ken embarks on a date with another university student named Rize Kamishiro. Kamishiro is an attractive and seemingly innocent young woman, who during their first night out reveals herself to be one of the ghouls. Ken is soon violently attacked and disfigured by Rize in terrible night of blood and terror. Having approached death very closely during that same night, Ken soon wakes up the next morning in a local Tokyo hospital vaguely remembering the highly traumatic events which recently took place.
To his great shock, Ken discovers as he wakes up that during his sleep, doctors had been performing a series of secret experiences which transform him into half ghoul and half human. This terrifying realization, completely transforms his biological status. Ken now ‘hungers’ consistently for human flesh, but he refuses with every offer to eat as he believes that this is evil. He vomits every time he tries to eat regular human food, and can only digest coffee with no problems at all. As a ‘half breed’ member of the Ghoul city, he faces a truly terrible fate. He is not ‘fully’ accepted by the community, as he is only half ghoul. Moreover, there is absolutely no turning back for him. He nonetheless still has an incredible degree of empathy, which prevents himself from feeling completely cut off from the human experience, and also prevents him from becoming a complete monster. Yet at the same time, his appetite and his bodily transformation make him more ghoul like in many ways.
At the end of the month Japanese filmmaker Kentaro Hegiwara will have his first film Tokyo Ghoul or Tokyo Goru released at the end of the month. I am hopeful yet skeptical that a feature film adaptation of the series could become an ultimately successful project, and will do this great saga justice.
I highly recommend Tokyo Ghoul for all cinephiles and horror film buffs alike. If you are looking for something genuinely scary, fun, and thought provoking, I highly recommend you watch this series. For the faint of heart or squeamish, however, I warn you that this show is just about the goriest series I have seen in my life. For the many horror fans out there, this show will likely give you nightmares. It is that potent indeed. Do not miss it.
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