Get it? Because its a pun….on “A cut above” but since everyone thinks Tokyo Ghoul is edgy….an edge above….
One of the main criticisms that I absolutely hate to see of an anime is that “It doesn’t follow the source material”. Now, its one thing if it completely destroys said source material like Akame ga Kill did a good job of but when it varies itself from it and makes its own decisions and directions, then its a matter of “how do those work” and “are they any good?” rather than “how far is it from the manga?”. One of my favorite shows is Magi which is infamous for bending away from the manga as it sees fit and it works fantastically. The complaints are only from the die hard fans of the manga. However, the same can’t be said for Tokyo Ghoul.
You don’t have to look far for someone to bring up an accusation against Tokyo Ghoul being that “It doesn’t follow the manga”. Hell, every negative MAL review of it brings this fact up time and time again like it is licking the toes of the manga and spitting the Athlete’s Foot onto the anime. They are blinded as to what they are seeing and what they could have seen was a fantastic experience. I’ve seen many complaints that Tokyo Ghoul is just a edge-fest with no primary message, moral or meaning behind it. But those complaints just tend to be backed up with “There’s a lot of blood”, so they don’t really have much weight to them. First and foremost, I wouldn’t even say there is that much blood in the anime in comparison to the manga which pretty much uses blood as a fuel to keep it going.
Blood was used as symbolism in the anime like in the final episode. The very first thing you see is a field of white flowers, which represents Kaneki’s innocence, in which the ones in the foreground are tainted by speckles of blood. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the foreboding symbolism here, it was a simple but rather effective touch that seems to be missing from most shows nowadays. The flowers would then become corrupted by the main corruption in the show, Rise. However, it was only the flowers directly around Kaneki that got corrupted. Now, you can just write this off as Rise was only around Kaneki in the scene and no where else in the white void, but I see it as a visual representation of Kaneki’s personal “motto”, that being “It’s better being hurt than to hurt others, kind people can find happiness with just this…“. Because of this motto of his, it was only him being hurt rather than the world. Thus, the corrupted flowers only appear around him rather the entire room. It is only later in the episode when Kaneki accepts his ghoul side and realizes that the world is not as great as a place as it seemingly was that the rest of the room becomes shrouded in red.
In retrospect, this symbolism is rather easy to grasp but it doesn’t make it any less effective. I appreciate simple symbolism that works over complicated imagery here and there that is just jarring to the story. However, this simplicity has caused many people to lead on to the fact that Tokyo Ghoul has no integral backbone which is a pretty rash thing to think. People always say that Parasyte – The Maxim is what Tokyo Ghoul should have been, its always unfair to make a comparison with these two since Parasyte plays around with the theme of humanity while Tokyo Ghoul is mainly a test of humanity so to speak. Parasyte is a fantastic show but I just think Tokyo Ghoul and it share very few similarities.
Its very clear that Tokyo Ghoul is a character driven show from the amount of character exposition through some conversations or internal struggles, mainly with Kaneki. That’s why whenever someone tries to criticize the plot of Tokyo Ghoul, I always come back with “Who cares?” or something like that. Its true that Tokyo Ghoul doesn’t go about to make much original in retrospect to its story but I feel that doesn’t really matter mainly because Tokyo Ghoul cared about its characters. It showed both sides in the series in good and bad lights. Humanity has its flaws but their motivation is just, ghouls were shown as disgusting creatures that feed on humanity but its obvious that they are suffering as a result of it, physically or mentally. So when the two sides clashed in that supreme battle at the end of the series, it was hard to choose a side. Both were shown to have ugly sides yet they are known to do good, be it humanity with Amon and Mado fulfilling a job of murdering ghouls while being victims of the ghouls themselves or ghouls with Touka who is trying her best to live an innocent live despite the fact that she is more than willing to take a life if she damn well pleases. Its the juxtaposition created within the characters that made them so fantastic to watch. There is no fabled hero that will destroy the absolute evil, just a bunch of creatures carrying out what they think is right.
The closest thing we have to a hero in this show is Kaneki but the show is quick to jump on his weaknesses at exactly the right moments. After the battle with Nishida, Kaneki is seen in a very positive light for saving his human friend, Hide. This light diminishes very quickly as Rise easily persuades him to devour his only true friend with the reason being “He is my friend….that’s why only I shall eat him“. Its Kaneki’s mental weaknesses that is his true downfall and that is somewhat rare to see in anime. He doesn’t lose a physical battle to some grotesque, strong and almighty monster like you would see in any shounen, he loses to the monster within himself, or rather the ghoul within himself. Anger overwhelms Kaneki and in turn, destroys him.
I must credit Hanae Natsuki as his performance as Kaneki. I have been a huge fan of him ever since Tari Tari but he really knocked it out of the park with his Kaneki, especially in the last episode. The full cast did a pretty swell job, including an impressive performance from Hanazawa Kana as Rise (She can do very well as long as she isn’t typecasted) but the show really belongs to Hanae. The torturous screams or the agonizing cries, he was born for the role of Kaneki and I really am looking forward to his performance in season 2.
I feel as if Tokyo Ghoul will always be remembered as a hit or miss show. One group will always hate it for it being “edgy with no fulfilling themes or characters” and the other group being “OMG SO EPIK XXDDDD KANEKI 2COOL!” but I like the believe that there are people out there that can see the integrity with Tokyo Ghoul as season 1 was a fantastic experience. As of writing, Tokyo Ghoul season 2 is yet to air (its actually gonna air this week) but I have high hopes for it and with claims that it will be going mostly anime original, hopefully a larger audience will be satisfied with what is produced.