Max Reviews Tokyo Ghoul

 Show: Tokyo Ghoul (Season 1)

Manga Creator: Sui Ishida
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror
Studio: Pierrot
Director: Shuhei Morita

First Showing: July 3, 2014

Episodes: 12

                Yeah, so, if you’ve noticed, most of my past reviews have been of relatively obscure or less popular anime. This time, I thought I’d review Tokyo Ghoul for several reasons. One, is because most of the club has already seen it (besides it being popular, we just watched it…), and I know it’s much more interesting to read a review for an anime you’ve seen already. And two, I truly thought it was a really interesting show with a lot of meaning behind it, which just goes to show, you don’t need to look to the most obscure, off the wall, “hipster” shows to experience a deep, meaningful, and well thought-out anime. My disclaimer is that I’ve only just seen season 1 of Tokyo Ghoul, so I’ll be writing this review with no knowledge of the events of Season 2.

SYNOPSIS

                Right, so Tokyo Ghoul takes place in a world in which creatures called ghouls coexist alongside humans. Ghouls can only obtain their sustenance from human flesh and are inevitably drawn to it as humans are to a tasty meal. Of course, this is a cause for strife among both humans and ghouls because in obtaining their food, ghouls are labeled as criminals and murderers. The story revolves around a human named Ken Kaneki, a shy college student who has a crush on a woman named Rize. In the first episode, Kaneki lands a date with Rize who, when they are alone, reveals herself as a ghoul and attempts to eat him. Suddenly, the building they are standing by partly collapses, seriously injuring Kaneki and killing Rize. In the hospital, Kaneki undergoes surgery in which he is given organ transplants from Rize (I believe that the doctors are unaware that she is a ghoul) resulting in him becoming part ghoul. This sets off a chain of events that define the plot of the show as Kaneki searches for his true identity as a human-ghoul “monster”, learns about the interactions between ghouls and humans, and discovers the mysterious past surrounding Rize and other prominent ghouls of the city.

OPINIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

There are two things in Tokyo Ghoul that really stood out to me and I think truly define the feeling of the show. The first is somewhat subtle: it is the idea that ghouls are somewhat of a symbol for social injustice and inequality, and embody the misfortune, cruelty, and misunderstanding that is targeted at those who deviate from a perceived norm or who exhibit behaviors that are unaccepted by society. In the real world, some prominent examples would be the treatment of individuals expressing different sexual and gender orientations, having radical opinions, belonging to minority groups, and even simply taking interest in media and books that are perceived by others negatively. Tokyo Ghoul is brimming with support of this idea. One prominent example concerns the lifestyle and behavior of ghouls: not only do ghouls look exactly like normal human beings, but they hold the same values and are capable of the same emotions as humans; most people would agree that ghouls can truly be seen as humans themselves, simply altered in some way. Another big point are the parallels drawn between the views humans hold of ghouls and ghouls hold of humans. The show conveys that the majority of either side views the other with contempt and having a lack of understanding, so much that violence towards one another becomes a regular part of their lives. Each front justifies their actions through one-sided arguments, with humans claiming that ghouls are murderers and animals and a threat to society but ghouls claiming they are saving themselves and labeling humans as cruel. This reflects the violence and bitterness expressed between different social groups in the real world. The conflicts in Israel are perfect examples, with both sides being motivated against each other through their own ideas of justice, resulting in intense violence and strife. Not only do many ghouls not accept humans, but some ghouls have trouble accept themselves, with Kaneki being the prominent example. Even after being integrated into Anteiku—the organization of peaceful Ghouls within the 20th ward who strive to prevent killing humans and rely on the flesh of dead bodies instead—and accepted by his fellow ghoul accomplices, Kaneki is unwilling to accept his own body and despises his urges to consume human flesh. This applies to the real world by demonstrating society’s tendency to categorize and label individuals based on their thoughts, opinions, and behaviors. In reality, most traits concerning humans (i.e. gender identity, personality, likes and dislikes, sexual orientation, and even ethnicity) are better considered as a continuum with infinitely possible combinations, rather than a set of predefined categories (like “communist” or “right-wing”, or racial groups on a questionnaire, or even “ghoul” and “human”) which tends to polarize people, intensify differences, and leave those in the middle, like Kaneki, stranded and alone. Evidence of this phenomenon can be seen in the treatment of sexual orientation: as we’ve discussed in my class on human sexuality and culture, while homosexual individuals are slowly continuing to gain influence and understanding across the nation, individuals who identify as bisexual or refuse to place themselves in the categories of “gay” or “straight” have not made as much progress, perhaps due to it being easier to accept people if they can be easily sorted into neat categories, which can be seen in Tokyo ghoul by how most people call Kaneki a “one-eyed ghoul”, as if he is merely a ghoul with a bit of human in him, rather than being a different being altogether.

The other aspect of the show that I (and probably many other people) found significant was it’s interesting and excessive use of gore and body imagery. Now I know, if you watched Tokyo Ghoul for the first time in Gator Anime (like me), you we’re probably pretty annoyed at the extent of censorship in the show. However, I find that this merely suggests how famous this aspect of the show truly is and how powerful it is in defining the show itself. I like to contrast Tokyo Ghoul’s use of “blood imagery” to other anime: many shows I can think of tend to use blood to dramatize or make a fight scene seem realistic or exclude blood and/or injury almost entirely (like children’s shows, obviously). Tokyo Ghoul uses this imagery not just to convey that someone is injured, however, but to suggest ideas and evoke feelings that are horrifying, painful, sensual, psychological, and sometimes downright disgusting.

Watch from 13:55 – 15:30

This is a scene from Bleach. You can see how the artists use blood to dramatize the battle and add to the seriousness of the fight scene

Watch from 0:00 – 1:20

This is a scene from Tokyo Ghoul (episode 1) When Rize tricks Kaneki. You can see how the artists use blood to intensify Rize’s personality and pair it with her horrific behavior

To elaborate on this a bit more, I’d like to compare Tokyo Ghoul’s visual style and subjects to a neat video game I’ve played called “.flow” (although I guess this probably applies to horror video games in general, really). Besides the main characters looking alike and the similar color schemes, there are a lot of identical uses of imagery to convey comparable ideas in both mediums. .flow has simple exploratory gameplay and a lack of storyline or dialogue. This, coupled with its extensive use of gory imagery, work to convey complex and ambiguous ideas suggesting immorality, hatred, disgust, lost innocence, and immense suffering. As the player progresses through the game, they begin to question the sanity of their situation and their world, similar to the trauma Kaneki faces when being forced into the world of ghouls. In .flow, you ultimately have to make a decision to permanently change your identity, similar to how in episode 12, Kaneki faces himself and his inner psychological conflicts to make a decision that will permanently change his own identity. Yet one large difference I find between .flow and Tokyo Ghoul’s uses of gory imagery is how the latter uses it to suggest passion, life, and realism. This ties back to the earlier theme of Ghoul’s being a marginalized and discriminated populace, but acting wrongly by striking back with violence. Symbols of bloodshed and human flesh suit ghouls as being full of life and rage, seeking reprise and vengeance from the unfairness of their lives. This is evidenced by each ghoul possessing a “Kagune”, a spirit-like entity that manifests a ghoul’s emotions and desire to live, which they use to their advantage in battle. This is partly why I (and probably many other people) cheer on the ghouls: because they are passionate, badass, and have a reason to fight. They have a strong will and some of them (like Kaneki) possess a powerful sense of justice, all of this emphasized by their close connection to human flesh and the body. In .flow, there is more of a lean towards destruction, death, and decay. The main character’s name, Sabitsuki, literally translates to “rusting” and as the game progresses, it seems as if the world is breaking down or falling apart, rather than heating up to a point of climax, as in Tokyo Ghoul.

Fanart of Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul and Sabitsuki from .flow. It’s interesting how fans interpret both unrelated mediums with similar visual styles, as seen by similarities in color schemes and stylizations of the characters. The ideas expressed in each medium overlap in many ways as well. However, slight differences in texture and shading might exemplify the differences in feeling between the two (passion and pent anger vs. apathy and decay)

FINAL NOTES

Although Tokyo Ghoul’s characters and themes of betrayal, friendship, love, and understanding (to name a few) are similar or analogous to many other anime and media, I admire the uniqueness of it’s approach by incorporating the idea of ghouls into its storyline—to reconcile the needs of humans and ghouls (who eat humans) would seem impossible and futile; and yet, I would argue that much of the intrigue and beauty of the show lies in just this struggle. To go even further, the creator emphasizes, rather than downplays, the ghouls’ monstrosity and gory habits, perhaps to represent the passion and willpower behind most ghouls’ actions and feelings. What I find truly interesting is how popular this show has become across the world. For example, if I were to tell some of my friends I was watching a show in which the good guys were human-like monsters that eat other people, I might get some strange looks. And yet, Tokyo Ghoul’s popularity cannot be denied: although humanity still has a long way to go, we have come so far towards accepting and understanding other cultures, values, and humans which differ from our own expectations and treating that which we find “ugly” or perhaps unpleasant with respect, tolerance, and renewed interest.

 

Flashback: Azumanga Daioh

Show: Azumanga Daioh— Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, School — Episodes: 26

wallpaper

I’d like to begin this article by apologizing. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for turning the video below into a meme among some of the Gator Anime community.

Azumanga Daioh was first a “yonkoma,” essentially a comic strip that read from top to bottom, published in Dengeki Daioh magazine. It’s primarily a comedy, but it integrates a lot of slice of life elements and occasionally more emotional moments. The anime would follow a couple of years later and adapts a lot of the stories and gags. It is classified as shonen, which may surprise readers given the nearly all-female cast and the focus on high school girls doing…high school girl things. Surprisingly, it paid off, and a lot of later shows, such as Lucky Star and Nichijou, would follow a similar concept.

The story follows the misadventures of six high school girls, three of their teachers and the incidental people around them. The girl with (arguably) the most focus is child prodigy Chiyo, who enters high school at the age of 10, and has to spend a lot of time learning about how high school works. The character with the most development is probably Sakaki, the tall, athletic and dreadfully shy girl who strikes fear into the hearts of everybody, none of the qualities she wants. The other main girls include Tomo, a hyperactive jackass, Yomi, Tomo’s ever suffering friend and complete opposite, Osaka, the polite, imaginative, ditzy, and overall kinda weird girl, and Kagura, the emotional sports junkie.

Other important characters include their teachers Yukari Tanizaka and Minamo Kurosawa, both of whom get a few stories to themselves. Yukari is essentially a grown-up Tomo (though lazier and a little smarter) while Ms. Kurosawa is very sweet and, of course, Yukari’s best (and probably only) friend. She gets incredibly tired of her antics. There’s also Kaorin, a girl who has a crush on Sakaki (mostly played for humor), and Mr. Kimura, the perverted, but ultimately harmless goofball that mostly just acts as a jump scare to the girls.

Most of the series is just following the characters in their everyday lives and watching the experiences and adventures that arise from their interactions. Most episodes are just a series of events that don’t always have much to do with each other; the girls will be having a conversation one moment and be walking home the next. The comedy is mostly very situational and character-based, but some parts approach sketch comedy. Some sketches are nothing, but the tangents and rambling by the girls as they sit in class.

While most of the stories are played for humor, a lot of character shines through in how they bounce off one another. This is where the slice of life elements are more apparent, though it usually swings back to comedy pretty quick. The humor can also intertwine with actual character development. Watching Sakaki continuously try to pet cats is both funny and kind of heartbreaking at the same time, for example.

The anime is an incredibly faithful adaption of the manga, consisting entirely of jokes and plots from the manga. It mimics the yonkoma’s usage of “beat panels” by having long moments of silence as a character’s expression changes or otherwise reacts. This might be a bit odd to viewers of faster-paced comedies like Nichijou or Daily Lives of High School Boys, but it lends it’s own charm. The music is very memorable, really cutesy and odd, highly fitting the series. The opening and ending themes are both very good as well; the opening theme sounds very upbeat and quirky while the ending theme is very somber.

The English dub I highly recommend. Though I don’t recognize most of the voice actors, I must give a nod to Luci Christian and Jason Douglas, both of who perform excellently as Yukari and Chiyo’s father, respectively. The biggest thing you’ll be missing out on is Norio Wakamoto, once again as Chiyo’s father, and as always, he’s awesome.

As for flaws, the show might be too slow-paced for some people to be engaged, and while I find that part of the charm, it might not be for everyone. Being a comedy series, it’s of course very much up to the individual if they find it funny.

Honestly though, I find very little fault in Azumanga Daioh. The manga is a ton of fun and, despite it’s format, has a lot of characterization. For most people, I’d actually say to check out the anime, given its masterful translation of the yonkoma, and I feel the slow pace of the show really heightens the slice of life elements. It isn’t for everyone, but I think it has more of a universal appeal (as far as anime is concerned) than other shows in its wake, and it never ceases to make me smile and feel content when I’m watching it.

Derek Delago is a UF student who is also an anime club officer. He loves anime, video games and rock.

Stephanie Reviews Glasslip

Show: Glasslip— Genre: Romance, Slice of Life, Supernatural — Episodes: 13

Welcome back!
This week I watched Glasslip, a 13 episode romp through an unusual clump of teenage angst. It ran weekly from July to September 2014. Unlike most anime I’ve seen, Glasslip started as a television show and has since been adapted into a manga series and light novel. We begin with 18-year-old high school student Fukami Toko, who wants to be an artist, and has an affinity for drawing the chickens her high school keeps around. Her parents own an art studio where they blow glass, and she is learning the family craft in her spare-time.

Toko is making a thing.

Toko is making a thing.

She’s a pretty normal girl, except for the fact that occasionally when she sees sparkly things, she sees into what she’s pretty sure is the future.

space eyes future time!

We’ll get back to that in a minute. Okikura Kakeru (say that five times fast!) is the new transfer student who takes an interest in Toko. She first sees him out of the corner of her eye and immediately thinks of Michelangelo’s famous statue of David, so weirdly the nickname sticks with Kakeru. He is shrouded in mystery for a few episodes, but it turns out he also has the ability to see (well, hear) into the future. His mother is a world-class pianist, and whenever he hears her music, he hears something from what he’s convinced is the future.

our main characters with their school’s chickens

We follow Toko and Kakeru as they try to figure out their psychic gift. They unlock clues bit by bit over the series, teasing out hints here and there and spending an exceptional amount of unsupervised time together. When they do spend time with friends, Toko and Kakeru hang out with a tight-knit band of friends that Toko has been close to for years. They fall into tropes as you might expect; there’s Shirosaki Hiro, a nice, considerate dude whose grandfather owns a cafe. Next we have Nagamiya Sachi, a sickly, soft spoken, super smart chick. Yanagi Takayama is a really pretty and also kind-of-shallow part-time model, and finally Imi Yukinari, a nice enough guy who is an athlete tortured by a sports injury.

The gang.

So much angst ensues.

Characters fall in and out of love with one another; very little schoolwork gets done. They all have to decide what they’re doing after high school. Glasslip was altogether unremarkable, except for the paranormal aspect of it. I actually really enjoyed that bit, although other reviews I’ve read saw that as a detriment. That said, I did keep coming back for more. It was enjoyable enough, but forgettable in the vast sea of available content. You can watch it here → http://www.crunchyroll.com/glasslip

I give Glasslip 6 out of 10 Golden Tanukis. I recommend it if you have a lot of time on your hands, and enjoy the heart-pounding terror of watching high school students give their confessions of love to one another.

Thanks for reading! Until next week, here are some gratuitous chickens.

Stephanie is a UF alumnus who enjoys baking, reading, cats, and the internet. Also anime. OK mostly anime.