Unpopular Opinion: Tokyo Ghoul

Hello everyone, and welcome.  This review will be jam packed with spoilers so if you have not seen Tokyo Ghoul you probably should not read this post  as much of the content I will discuss will assume you have seen it.  And if you’re here wondering whether or not you should watch Tokyo Ghoul my answer is don’t bother unless it really interests you.  Tokyo Ghoul is one of the most disappointing anime I have ever watched.  In a sense it is the next SAO, drawing everyone in with an exciting premise, excellent artwork and a very strong start with some good early episodes, before falling flat on its ass as the subsequent episodes utterly failed to match the initial pulse pounding start.  Make no mistake Tokyo Ghoul fans, I want to like this show and for a handful of episodes each season I did.  But unfortunately a handful of good episodes in a 24 episode series is not something I would praise nor recommend to anyone, because overall the anime is painfully average, it is supported by the high production values but the story is just bad, again mirroring SAO.

Let’s begin with a broad overview the problems shall we, the two biggest issues negatively affecting Tokyo Ghoul are terrible pacing and the sheer number of characters, with a lesser but still important issue being the god awful censorship.  Tokyo Ghoul has a lot of ground to cover, but rather than pace itself evenly it burns through tons of material at a ridiculous speed in season 1 only to accomplish jack shit in season 2, honestly most of season 2 was so slow and boring I was more interested in some of the side stories like Amon’s connection with the twin half ghoul girls, Shiro and Kuro.  Season 1 of course has the opposite problem, it burned through so much content so fast that many of the relevant characters are unmemorable and underdeveloped, seriously take a second compare the total cast size with number of characters you actually know, let alone care about.  It’s ridiculous how many seemingly important characters are running around without enough of a story to make them memorable and enough screen time to help us remember their names.  And the sad part about all this is that it didn’t need to be this way.

Look I’m no expert on the business of making and airing anime but considering just how many people were already begging for a season 3 on the day of the season to 2 finale and the huge overall popularity of the show, I would imagine this show could find studios and timeslots willing to make room for Tokyo Ghoul sequels with relative ease.  And imagine how much more true that would be if the seasons we got were actually good, if they’d actually paced themselves well and had better storytelling.  Tokyo Ghoul is very popular, if Tokyo Ghoul was actually competent at storytelling that popularity could grow further still.  So, and perhaps I’m being naïve here, I see no reason to rush Tokyo Ghoul, the creators should have had the confidence to slow things down in season 1 and keep the two seasons we got evenly paced.  Clearly the creators feel confident in getting a third season since season 2 ended on a fucking cliffhanger during an episode in which almost nothing happened.  So the question that comes to my mind is this, if you the creators of Tokyo Ghoul were confident of getting at least three seasons after releasing two mediocre seasons, why weren’t you confident of getting at least four seasons if you chose to make three good seasons out of two mediocre ones, or if that wasn’t going to fly why didn’t you just even out the pacing over the two seasons we got?  It makes no sense to me to put the kind of confidence that the creators are putting in their subpar seasons without having the confidence to slow things down to make better seasons, even if you have to make more of them.  Because as it stands I will likely watch Tokyo Ghoul season 3 out of a self-imposed obligation to finish the story not because I’m interested.  And that’s a shame really because early on I was interested, I found the premise intriguing, I found some of the characters engaging and I wanted to see where the series would go next.  This was no longer true by the end of season 1 and season 2 did nothing to help revive that feeling of interest, in fact I think season 2 only deepened my sense of disappointment with the series.

Aside from its visuals Tokyo Ghoul gets very little right.  And even then the great action scenes are ruined by some unacceptable levels of censorship, and having seen some of the comparisons between the censored and uncensored versions, I would say that Tokyo Ghoul rarely if ever needs any censorship at all especially when Parasyte the Maxim was airing alongside it with some stunning levels of gore in its animation.  Tokyo Ghoul, I hate to say but ya done fucked up, if you were going to capitalize on the visuals then don’t put obnoxious amounts of censorship over the gore and action scenes, if you wanted to capture the viewers with a compelling story then you should have taken the time to tell it well.  And the characters are a bloody mess, while some of them were pretty solid in season 1, by season 2 they get sidelined or are lost in the ever expanding cast, to date the only character I can say I still really like is Rize, which should really tell you something since she died in the first episode of season 1.  Kaneki and Touka in particular are characters I liked in season 1 only to watch them fall apart in season 2, main characters should not do that.  Instead I feel like the only characters who were made more interesting or relevant by second season’s end were Juzo, who I still have some personal issues with, Amon, who is becoming increasingly central to the world building and twisted web of subplots in the show and Akira, who wasn’t in season 1.  This is embarrassing, side characters should not be given more screen time and relevance than lead characters, unless it’s their character arc, but to largely sideline your leads for an entire season and have few good side characters or plot developments to show for it is just poor storytelling.  And the sad part is that Tokyo Ghoul clearly is able to make characters who can be interesting in a short amount of time, with Rize being the prime example, however the vast majority of the characters are so unmemorable that I don’t even know their names because they have so little screen time and character development.

Tokyo Ghoul had some major problems in season 1, but the real issue is that season 2 made no attempt to fix those problems, in fact it just exacerbated them when it bothered to address them at all.  Sequels should improve the overall narrative and sadly Tokyo Ghoul season 2 fails to do so.  And to top it all off you have wide-eyed fanboys vehemently defending and praising this series, stop guys just stop.  I understand that you guys like it, remember I once liked it and I still very much want to like it, but you guys are better than this and you deserve better than Tokyo Ghoul delivers.  If you enjoy it that’s great I’m glad you can, but this series fails at basic level in many ways so forgive me if I cannot share your enthusiam.  I’m disappointed that a show which initially had such promise, and still has a great premise, has fallen flat due to poor execution, and doubly so when season 2 rolled around and did nothing to help alleviate my disappointment, but ultimately that’s the reality of where Tokyo Ghoul rests in its current state.  A great idea implemented with amateurish writing, miserable pacing and awesome visuals that suddenly and frequently disappear behind excessive censorship.  Tokyo Ghoul is a big whopping disappointment and unless you really like the premise or the series itself, I would say don’t bother watching it or continuing to watch further seasons.

I know many people won’t enjoy these criticisms of a popular work but if it gets anyone thinking more critically about the series and discussing it in further depth with others then I will consider this post a success.  Hopefully I will see you all in the next one.

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