|Written by oreko Today, 1:16 AM
Having read and kept up with the manga for quite a while now, I've cosplayed the characters, watched the anime and enjoyed my brief time spent in the fandom. I was pretty absorbed in it as a series, more for its concept than anything else, and my own interest in the themes presented throughout it and the dark seinen atmosphere that I love above all other genres was, in part, what had me overlooking quite a few red flags. I'll go into detail, but before I begin, I'll just say that this is the first series I've ever been conflicted enough about to write a review for.
The concept itself is unique and interesting-- a species resembling human beings populating Tokyo and relying on humans themselves for nourishment... When I heard what its focus would be, I found myself very interested in the series. The themes presented and the reader's likely gradual siding with ghouls in place of humanity through observation of the character's experiences was what seemed to stand out to me. At times, there was quite a bit of pressure transferred to the reader upon witnessing either species's failure to understand one another, and among other things, that was one way that the reader was successfully pulled into the story. Although thematically powerful and invoking plenty of thought and emotion from the reader, Tokyo Ghoul has a very large weakness, and that would be its writing.
The reason I'm giving the story a 6/10 is because the writing itself is, in all honesty, mediocre at best. There are large amounts of questions left unanswered by the sudden, very disorganized ending, but I'll talk about the ending itself in its own paragraph.
When asked to think about the plot of Tokyo Ghoul, how would it be explained? A boy becomes part ghoul, learns about the world of ghouls, is kidnapped and tortured and becomes a much darker character, gets into a series of fights with ghoul investigators and finally dies protecting the cafe he worked at. Already, there is no driving force to pull this story forward, just one event after another, strewn together to make a messy sequence of disconnected plot points that make up Tokyo Ghoul. There is a lack of natural flow from one event to another, and each conflict seems almost pulled out of nowhere instead of placed thoughtfully together to develop the story and characters. New characters are introduced without any real reason for their being there, (ie: Takatsuki Sen), or very last minute with a great deal of importance placed upon them, as if the reader is meant to find the impromptu arrival of a character they know nothing about playing a crucial role in only the final chapters of the story is meant to be exciting or well-thought out, (ie: Arima Kishou, The CCG's Reaper). One of the easiest ways to worsen a story is by throwing in last minute characters that either have no reason for their presence and yet mislead the reader into believing they might play an important role, or having a character who has hardly played any role until the last few chapters suddenly take over the story with their supposed brilliance. I'll elaborate more on this when I speak of Tokyo Ghoul's ending.
On the topic of character development itself, there is very little, and Kaneki's post-Aogiri arc self is the best the author managed to achieve for character change. Although the portrayal of what a week of constant torture would do to a person felt more accurate to me than other manga with similar scenarios, the change in character was triggered by a single event, and development isn't quite the right word for it, as it is sudden and straightforward. Aside from Kaneki, the other characters do not develop beyond sudden perspective shifts, again, caused by certain events: (Nishiki becoming friendlier to Kaneki after receiving his help, Tsukiyama crying over Kaneki after his decision to leave). Both of these are sudden, event-induced development, and, especially the latter, seem somewhat unnatural. Tsukiyama's sudden concern for Kaneki, enough to bring him to tears, could have been well illustrated through skillful development and writing acted out beforehand, but the most we were shown of Tsukiyama's view of Kaneki was a certain questionable loyalty, and never much more than that.
Now for the ending. Tokyo Ghoul's ending was what made me realize the amount of poor writing I'd been overlooking before, especially after I was subject to the array of questions from multiple friends as confused as I was about chapter 143 and its preceding chapters. In short, the cafe Anteiku is found out by the CCG to be run by ghouls, and they plan to raid it. For one reason or another, a few of the staff decide to stay and protect it, (Noble? Perhaps, but it seems smarter to escape and live rather than fight for the sake of a cafe when they're beyond outnumbered and have nearly no chance of survival). Once Kaneki discovers the CCG is attacking Anteiku, he decides to take action, and Tsukiyama attacks him, eventually sobbing at the idea of Kaneki leaving on a suicide mission. Tsukiyama as a character was one of my favorites, but this scene felt extremely unnatural to read-- that, or it felt as though I'd missed several chapters of character development, but I hadn't at all. It wasn't so much out of character as it was out of place, as we had not seen any signs of him caring for Kaneki beyond a constant interest and, through Kaneki's eyes, doubtful loyalty he held for him. As it continued, Kaneki fought to help those who'd stayed behind to protect the cafe, eventually finding himself in combat with Amon. The next few chapters were incredibly confusing. He was brutally injured, and escaped to the sewers where Hide showed up out of nowhere after having accompanied the CCG to the raid, telling Kaneki he knew he was a ghoul, that it was okay and saying they should go home. It seemed Kaneki blacks out afterwards, waking up with the taste of blood in his mouth. In short, this implies Kaneki may have devoured Hide in his desperate, injured state, and Hide is never heard from after this, deemed missing by the CCG. Out of all things, I believe this was the most anticlimactic scene in the entire manga. Kaneki devours his best friend offscreen, and we aren't even entirely positive he actually did it or something else happens, but the series ends before we ever find out. Immediately the plot moves forward to involve a character we haven't seen much of before almost instantly, not even dwelling on the possible death of Hide by Kaneki's hands for the rest of the story. Now Arima comes into the picture, the CCG's Reaper, (What a nickname for someone to be given from within a police organization), and he steals the spotlight, overcoming Kaneki's attacks and defeating him. We see a scene with Kaneki recalling his childhood, speaking to his childhood self, which I enjoyed more than anything else in the final arc as it, again, made the reader think about the true intentions of a person in doing what they deem 'an act of kindness' and how such a thing can actually be very selfish. Kaneki, with his black hair, hugs his ghoul self and the two seem to dissolve. It is now implied that Kaneki is dead, killed by a character who never played any role or made much of an appearance before this. We find out that Amon is dead, and the One-Eyed Owl shows her human form to her father, Yoshimura, after moving them to another location, looking down at him with an almost sadistic appearance and saying "Daddy" in a sing-song, yandere-esque voice and expression. That is the first and last we see of her. And it continues to show us an aftermath of the battle in the next chapter, following up with a glimpse at the ones responsible for the dropping of the steel beams in the beginning. And it just so happened that these were characters never implied to have any bad intentions beforehand, especially Uta, the mask maker. Out of nowhere, we are having the plot point thrown in our faces that Uta has been bad all along. Why? What were their intentions? Why show us this right as the story ends? It's one of the most terrible endings I've seen in a while. Introducing new characters, new plot points, and only adding to the unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts left throughout the latter half of the story-- each one of these added to how terrible this ending really was. And the final line from Touka was almost ridiculous by the time it came out. I am aware that there is a chapter 144 coming, (possibly as a sort of sequel or aftermath chapter, or an excuse to continue the story), but the amount of mistakes made in the conclusion of this series is honestly beyond repairable.
Moving on to better things, the art was something I enjoyed quite a bit. Although it wasn't always the most incredible art in the world of manga, I believe the style added to the feeling given by the concept, setting and characters. The character designs aren't anything incredibly unique, but they're fairly natural and appealing in that way. The anime's choice of color schemes, however, is most definitely not quite so pleasing to the eye. This is a manga review, so I'll give it a 9 for its appeal, fitting style for the genre, and accurate representation of each character's personality through the image portrayed.
This category is a bit tricky, as the characters themselves are not bad. They are poorly developed, but to start with, they are interesting and have a bit of a realistic and relatable feeling about them, especially Kaneki, that is lost in some manga. Each one is unique and designed fittingly in accordance to their role and personality, though there are characters wandering around that are introduced without any purpose and some thrown in last minute as mentioned before, but i believe that to be more of a writing problem, so for interesting characters at their basic state, but a lack of significant development, I'll give them a 7.
I mentioned before that most of this series I spent overlooking a very messy story, as I read with the idea in mind that it would continue well beyond the 200s in chapter number. If the story had been longer, it may have been able to redeem itself by answering questions and resolving lasting conflicts, but part of why it ended up finishing off so terribly was because of how sudden it came to a close. I enjoyed this series more in the beginning, as the writing was not quite as poor, or rather, I brushed it off as simply slow and gradual-- something that would eventually come together nicely and take a turn for the better. It didn't, quite obviously, but the concept, themes and depth at times is what is keeping my rating from falling below a 6.
Tokyo Ghoul is a prime example of wasted potential. I feel that with more time and guidance it could have had a better chance to shine with an interesting concept in its possession, but that was thrown away after its sudden and very messy conclusion. The characters were hardly developed, along with their relationships and the plot itself, and the events felt disconnected and poorly strewn together. The writing is its weakest point, and without good writing, it doesn't matter how interesting the original concept might have been. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but I won't lie that I enjoyed the earlier parts up until I realized what a mess it had become. read more