Tokyo Ghoul, Episode 1 Review

Wow. So. with the rest of the boys here at the sausage fest we call the Overencumbrance blog (mmm, sausage), I have decided to review an anime episode by episode this season. Due to my love of horror and my compatriots aversion to it, I’ve decided on reviewing Tokyo Ghoul this season, and I think I may have won the jack pot here. Time can only tell past episode one, but personally I am hooked. There really isn’t a way to talk about a show episode by episode like this without a hefty amount of spoilers, so be warned.

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The show opens with a with a confrontation between a naked woman feasting on the chunks of a dismembered corpse, and a heavyset man with a Jason Vorhees hockey mask. Really, there are few things I love more than a naked woman covered in blood. The only thing spoiling for me is the heavy censorship; I may need the Blu-Ray on this one to fully appreciate the show.

"Oh My God, What IS She Doing With That Guy's...Holy Sh-"

“Oh My God, What IS She Doing With That Guy’s…Holy Sh-“

The opening scene is reminiscent of certain other violent, stylish, high action anime shows. I’m particularly reminded of Psycho Pass in the beginning. A heavily violent intense opening leads to a more relaxed scene of the the main character, Kaneki, and his friend Hide discussing Kaneki’s hopeless love life. Kaneki throws out theoretical scenarios, and Hide shoots him down like an asshole, all while a news report plays talking about the recent ghoul attacks. Apparently in the universe of Tokyo Ghoul, ghouls are just some sort of strange pest people have grown to live with and acept; there is no panic about the news and while people consider the ghoul attacks horrible, they don’t seem to find them particularly unusual. Later there are even shown to be experts on ghouls, and late night talk shows about ghouls, so either Japan has gotten really laid back or this is a well-known phenomenon.

Apparently the guys pushing Atkins in our world are ghoul experts in this one.

Apparently the guys pushing Atkins in our world are ghoul experts in this one.

The woman that Kaneki happens to be pining after is a beautiful girl in glasses who happens to frequent the same coffee shop as him. It’s even implied his behavior might be a little stalkerish as he panics about getting thrown out when Hide hits on the waitress, since he has nowhere else to see his crush. The waitress, having full character design and a name (Toka), is obviously not going to be an important main character or anything. Obviously.

Totally Not a Main Character

Totally Not a Main Character

Kaneki’s crush, Rize, enters and when Kaneki notices they are reading the same novel, he uses it as an excuse to ask her out. I’d like to point out the novel they are reading is entitled “The Egg of the Black Goat”. The Black Goat is an epithet normally associated with Shub-Niggurath in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos – she is “The Black Goat of the Woods With a Thousand Young”. Lovecraft wrote about ghouls in “Pickman’s Model” and “The Dream Quest of the Unknown Kadath”. It’s nice to see the show honor it’s roots.

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Rize says yes, and the date goes wonderfully – and if you know anime, then you know that if a girl agrees to go out with you in episode one, she’s probably pure evil. If you have seen High School DxD, a similar situation happens to our protagonist here, only instead of it ending with him surrounded with a harem huge-breasted devil girls, he ends up as a violent supernatural cannibal quickly being driven insane by his sick urges. Rize attacks Kaneki, and almost kills him, but is crushed when a number of construction beams fall on her. In an attempt to save his life, the doctors implant Rize’s organs into Kaneki, turning him into a half-ghoul. Rize slowly discovers this over the course a few scenes, as food no longer tastes palatable and he begins to feel desire to feed on other humans. There is a lot of green filter used in these scenes like in traditional Asian horror films. The quick cuts and camera work, as well as the theme, remind me of the cult classic Ravenous. I have to wonder if the director took inspiration from the film. The quick shots are excellent at establishing the main character’s mounting inhuman desires, confusion, and revulsion.

Wandering lost, alone, and hungry, Kaneki smells something wonderful down an alley – which turns out to be a dead body being consumed by a fellow ghoul. The ghoul offers some to Kaneki, but before Kaneki can say anything his new benefactor is killed by a rival ghoul, Nishiki. Nishiki comes close to killing our main character, likening the violation of his feeding ground to the violation of his girlfriend, but before he does Toka – the waitress, really, she was important this whole time!? – rescues him. Toka announces something about feeding grounds decisions being a matter for the Anteiku, and the suddenly the mind swims with the thought of the supernatural politics that seem to come with these things ever since Anne Rice. There is promise of some interesting conflicts here, although I’ve been in enough bad Vampire LARPs to see a promise of bullshit too. Toka chases off Nishiki, and then offers some of the corpse to Kaneki. Kaneki refuses, stating that eating it will make him a monster. Kaneki struggles back and forth for several moments, until finally Toka rips the heart from the victim and shoves it into Kaneki’s mouth. We hear a gulp as the screen turns black.

This show is awesome so far. I like the violence, naturally. I like the supernatural element. Ghouls are a favorite supernatural creature for me, and I feel they very rarely get any sort of treatment in most media. I’m intrigued by the setting and looking forward with what they do with it. My only fear is the plot slowing down too much, but hopefully that won’t happen. Right now, I feel quite hungry for the next episode.

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