Tokyo Ghoul begins simply enough: boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy and girl go on a date. Girl attempts to devour boy alive and reveals herself to be a bloodthirsty tentacled creature, known in this world as a ghoul.
Boy is transformed into a half-ghoul and must adapt to his new life. The world of these beings is much bigger than stuttering nerd Ken Kaneki, our uncomplicated protagonist, could imagine as he meets them in alleyways, in the classroom and in a café that is filled with them. This gives way to a whole bunch of supporting characters, whose various stories overstuff the film. It often feels like Tokyo Ghoul is trying to fit in as many subplots as it can in its attempt to reach its grasp as a two-hour adaptation of an entire manga. It’s easy to lose focus and interest in the core plot, which is a cliché take on human hunters versus vampires.
Furthermore, after the date-gone-wrong scene, the movie also fails to deliver on its initial promise of potentially spectacular action. Sure, it’s awesome that there are lots of swinging tentacles but their unnatural CG movements and the characters’ reactions to them result in dramatic scenes that are below YouTube standards.
It’s in the smaller things where Tokyo Ghoul shines the most, like its simplistic ghoul design and their little interactions. The bloodshot eyes are enough to codify that these are the folks who literally see red and they offer each other limbs like cigarettes – casually, frequently and half-finished. There’s a morbid humour underlying the daily lives of these creatures and their cravings for coffee – hence the café full of them.
The most intriguing moments for our protagonist come at the end of the third act, so by then it’s too little and too late to care but still a sufficient point to realise how low the stakes were, given what was lost and what survived in the wars within the ghoul world. For fans of the source material, Tokyo Ghoul could go either way but for everyone else, there’s not much this derivative mess can offer.
Tokyo Ghoul is released in selected cinemas on 31st January 2018.
Watch the trailer for Tokyo Ghoul here: