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Review: Tokyo Ghoul (2017) — Live-action adaption fails to engage like the manga

Masataka Kubota Ken Kaneki Tokyo ghoul live action movie still

Tokyo Ghoul 東京喰種 (Tokyo guru)

Movie review


Based on a popular dark fantasy manga series of the same name, Tokyo Ghoul is set in an alternate reality of Tokyo where ghouls are a known to exist. They can only survive by consuming human flesh, super strong with special abilities and look exactly like humans. The story follows Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota) who goes on a date with his crush who turns out to be a ghoul and attacks him. The next thing he knows is that he's at the hospital with her organs transplanted into his body and he begins craving for human flesh as well. He is forced to adapt himself into the ghoul's world while maintaining his identity in the human society and hide from the human authorities who're hunting and killing all ghouls, no question asked.

There are tentacles and girls in school uniform but it's not that kind of a Japanese flicks. The premise is basically like An Interview with a Vampire (1994), Castlevania video game series or any other modern vampire stories these days with a mix of typical Japanese action anime/manga elements like Parasyte. The only difference here is that it's ghouls instead of vampires. There is, of course, a group of "humane" ghouls who do not kill humans, helps other ghouls in need and are disguising themselves as ordinary people working at a cafe. If you've been watching movies and playing video games at least as much as I do, you'd definitely find all this very familiar. But apparently, the unoriginal concept isn't one of the main reasons why the source material is so popular.

touka kirishima rabbit mask tokyo ghoul live action movie Yoshiko Sengen

I've never read the manga so I asked a few fans why they like the series so much and they pretty said the same thing — it's cool, dark and highly emotionally engaging. Unfortunately this live-action adaptation fails quite miserably to achieve any of that. Before I entering the cinema, I was hoping that it wouldn't open with a plain, lazy narration to explain the world. But it does just that. The film pretty much does everything terrible textbook manga/anime live-action film adaptations do. With the rushed pacing, poor character development, predictable story and corny to cheesy performances, it's difficult to feel invested in any of the characters, especially the protagonist who can't even run to save his own life after being bitten once on the shoulder.

There's hardly anything cool or dark about it either, especially with the budget effects and laughable cliched training montage (ghouls doing hanging pushups as one of their exercises). And somehow these ghouls, who are stronger and possess regenerative ability, can be overpowered by human government agents who casually swings a weapon made from a ghoul's special predatory organ ("kagune"). It's fucking stupid despite good efforts of making the action sequences look intense, dramatic and violent. There's just not enough in film to make me feel like reading the manga. The only thing I can probably admire is its themes of humanity, justice and moral dilemma. But even those subjects aren't new in the genre.

What I would've named the film: "Underworld Tokyo"

Malaysian censorship: Doubt anything is cut. It is violent but slightly less gory than your average zombie, vampire, slasher and gritty action flicks.

Verdict: Even some fans of the manga might find this live-action film adaptation disappointing. As for non-fans like myself, I wouldn't recommend watching it at all.

Rating: 2 / 5

Tokyo Ghoul live action movie poster malaysiaBased on: "Tokyo Ghoul" manga series by Sui Ishida
Country / Language: Japan / Japanese

Genre: Dark fantasy horror action
Running Time: 120 minutes
Screenwriter: (no info)
Director: Kentarô Hagiwara
Cast: Masataka Kubota, Fumika Shimizu / Yoshiko Sengen, Yu Aoi, Hiyori Sakurada

Malaysia Release Date: 5 October 2017 (TGV and MBO)
Rated: 18
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: (no info)



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