“Tokyo Ghoul S” Review – Touka Shines

If this is your first foray into the world of Tokyo Ghoul, the opening sequence of Tokyo Ghoul S, the second live-action film in the franchise, will be a baptism by fire.

The film opens as a beautiful model with heterochromatic eyes (each is a different color) arrives to her luxury hi-rise apartment, only to be greeted by a sparkly mask-wearing ghoul who proceeds to, in order: promise she won’t be violated; force her to do an uncomfortable dance with him; rip out and eat her eyeballs. Oh yeah, then he throws her out the window to her bloody death. I think that counts as “violating” but I guess ghouls have different standards.

And that is the introduction to the villian of this movie, Shuu “The Gourment” Tsukiyama (Shota Matsuda), who has some serious food fetishes but, unfortunately, little backstory.

For those unfamiliar with Tokyo Ghoul, its set in a world co-inhabited by normal humans and ghouls who must feed on people to survive – ala vampires but with serious martial arts skills and superweapons called kagune, which are literally part of their bodies. Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota) is our warm-hearted half-ghoul, half-human protagonist who really doesn’t want either ghouls or humans to be hurt or killed, but alas regularly finds himself in situations where both are.

Tsukiyama, the aforementioned eyeball muncher, catches wind of Kaneki’s unique biological makeup, and decides he must have a taste of such a rare breed of ghoul. He befriends Kaneki through their common bond over books, and sets in motion a plan for the ultimate ghoulish feast.

While Kaneki’s plot line is ostensibly the focus of the film, I found that the true standout of the movie is ghoul Touka Kirishima (Maika Yamamoto), who is struggling with her friendship to a mortal — knowing the danger that she poses should she ever find out her true identity. Her storyline is a nod to the complicated nature of relationships among different classes, or even biological races, of people — and the sad truth that friendship can be marred by differences people have no control over.

She also happens to kick major ass, and in this film demonstrates why she is such a valuable character not only to Kaneki, but to the Tokyo Ghoul universe itself. Looking forward to seeing more of her!

Other pluses of the film are the fight sequences, which are quite fun albeit kind of short, and seeing the effort some of the ghouls go through to try to better the darker parts of their nature. If they can do it, maybe we humans can too!

Weaknesses include the lack of backstory for The Gourmet, a lack of Hide’s comic relief, and a fairly predictable trajectory: bad guy does bad things, hero almost dies trying to stop him — will he prevail? I think you know the answer–especially as the mid-credits scene portends a Tokyo Ghoul 3.

All-in-all, Tokyo Ghoul S is a’ight. Fun to watch but not something that breaks any new ground. B minus.

The film opens Monday, September 16 in 400 theaters across the U.S. and Canada. The film will have a three-day limited theatrical run (September 16, 18 & 20) and will screen in Japanese with English subtitles.

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