Anime shows can sometimes take a good amount of time to get going (I am looking at you Dragon Ball Z and those episodes where the only thing that happened was characters standing on opposite sides of the screen and having an inner monologue) Tokyo Ghoul seemed to avoid that pitfall. The characters were engaging and easy to care about.
Tokyo Ghoul is based in an alternate universe where Tokyo is home to ghouls. Creatures who look like normal humans with one very big difference, they need human flesh to survive. Their appearance makes it easy for them to blend in. Season 1 follows Ken Kaneki, a university student who seems to be content living a somewhat lonely life. He’s an avid reader and friends with Hideyoshi (the two of them couldn’t be more different from each other) He gets mixed up in the ghouls’ world after being attacked by one. They both suffer an accident and to save his life, the doctor puts the ghoul’s organs in his body. Ken suddenly finds that he can no longer eat normal food and that he craves human flesh.
The first season is mostly about Ken fighting his new appetite and also finding out more about the Ghouls. They are regarded by the public as nothing but a feeding machine, more animal than human and they couldn’t be further from the truth. Ken comes across a group of ghouls who not only co-exist with humans but also seem to have their ghoul nature under control.
The season started very well and seemed to be moving at a great pace with plenty of character development while also introducing us to new ones. Ken is very much the main character and it is his journey that we follow but there are other characters who play a key role in that journey. Chief among them is Toka, a ghoul girl who lives and works at the cafe Anteiku. She is someone who seems to be at peace with what she is but at the same time she is not a crazed eating machine. She is also powerful. She also creates an interesting foil for Ken who is just so passive that it’s a wonder he manages to do anything in life. He cries and whines and is perhaps the least interesting character on the show.
The show is full of other interesting characters who make the show worth watching. It also stays away from black and white characterizations. For instance, the investigators who’s job is to save peoples’ lives from ghouls are just as twisted as those they hunt and often, as the viewer, you find yourself asking just who’s more evil. Case in point, Kureo Mado, an investigator who hunts ghouls but he’s just as sadistic as those he hunts, just as monstrous. Just as not all humans are decent people, not all ghouls are evil. Indeed, some of them are more sympathetic than the humans.
Throughout the show, there are two main arcs; the investigators hot on the tail of the ghouls and a separate gang of ghouls who are everything that Ken hates and fears. The two arcs are interlinked and often intersect but never with any lasting conclusion and as the end looms closer, the stakes seem to rise and the world of humans and ghouls seems poised for an all-out war.
The show truly had a great start and was good in the middle, it was immersive and kept the viewer invested in the characters. But throughout the series, there were instances where the violence seemed a tad overdone. And at the end, the show just went completely off the rails. The violence became gratuitous and seemed to serve no purpose. The earlier outbursts of violence seemed to pale in comparison. The last few episodes were just so far removed from the rest of the season that they could have been two completely different shows. Violence for the sake of shocking viewers is a cheap trick and adds nothing to the plot.
There was precious little that happened in those episodes save for the aforementioned violence mentioned. The other characters seem more like afterthoughts and the plot was sacrificed in favour of all that blood and gore. Due to that the season ended up on a very abrupt note.
Tokyo Ghoul was a good show that started well but then stuttered towards the end with inconsistent writing and plot development and suffered from self-indulgence especially in the final act of the season.