Ken Kaneki is a shy book nerd, who has trouble with girls. But one day, he lands a date with a delicate young lady named Rize, who happens to share all his interests. As it turns out, Rize is secretly a ghoul, a new breed of creature that’s been feeding on people, all over the city. Though she does manage to bite him, as luck would have it, an accident disposes of this bloodthirsty babe, leaving Ken to deal with a new change, he can’t quite comprehend. He’s beginning to crave human flesh.
In terms of production quality, “Tokyo Ghoul” really nails a chilling atmosphere. Drawing a stark contrast between the bright, golden daytime and the mysterious night isn’t new territory for horror anime. But here, Shuhei Morita paints nighttime as a world all its own, having saturated it with dark blues and reds, creating a feeling both cold and violent.
In terms of the horror, itself, the show stumbles a little bit in its first episode. Aside from spitting terrible puns that detract from her menace, Rize, our first big source of horror, also seems to be constructed from misogynistic ideas about gender and sexuality. She starts off shy, and demure, and timid. But when reveals she’s a ghoul, she becomes aggressive, her bloodlust utterly tinged with lasciviousness. And upon biting Ken, she ‘infects’ him with her ‘disease’.
Where the episode recovers, lay in Ken, himself. There feels like a bit of a gap between the sequence wherein Ken desperately tries to force-feed himself, as the reality of his situation sinks in, and his walk in the street where he begins to register other people with Rize’s bloodlust. The episode recovers in Ken, himself. Ken’s conflicted emotions are palpable, largely as a result of Natsuki Hanae’s suitably tortured performance. The dread sinking into his character is handled well.
All in all, “Tokyo Ghoul” is a potentially intriguing new title for the summer anime season. Its protagonist contends with a timeless horror concept. The acting is top-notch. And the atmosphere is downright ghoulish. This one is worth paying attention to.