Japanese culture is ripe with interesting examples of fantasy, science fiction, drama. And most importantly it’s always visually appealing no matter what the subject matter being tackled. This week’s review doesn’t hold back.
Tokyo Ghoul (2017)
Cast: Masatak Kubota, Fumika Shimizu, Nobuyuki Suzuki, Hiyori Sakurada, Yu Aoi
Director: Kentaro Hagiwara
released on blu-ray April 3, 2018
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Audience Score 68%
The Guardian: N/A
Now, I don’t have very much information about this live-action film’s director, Kentaro Hagiwara, as he has managed to avoid appearing all over the internet with a solid measure of success. Thus I am resigned to believe he is something of a ghoul himself, hidden in a secret society and only emerging for brief periods of time to prove his existence.
Which is why I’m not going to assume that this is his first time directing, but I will grade the movie as if it were. So let’s talk about this adaptation of the hit manga by Sui Ishida.
Special thanks to Claudio for the IMDB summary (I corrected some grammar) –
In Tokyo, the shy student Kaneki Ken () finally lands a date with this beautiful girl Kamishiro Rize (). While in a lonely park, she does a gender-reversal on the classic monster movie and attacks him because she is in fact, a flesh-eating ghoul. Luckily, Kaneki escapes after a freak accident that kills Rize, but he soon learns that he has become a ghoul himself in an emergency organ transplant that happened while unconscious from his wounds. He then befriends a group of peaceful ghouls and tries to live his new life with them. However, they are hunted down by relentless two police officers from the Ghoul Division in charge of eradicating ghouls from their district.
My initial impressions after I watched this movie were pretty harsh. While I really liked the premise of an alternate reality where monsters were real and far more complicated then their appearance, I struggle with the CGI used to create this fantasy world. It constantly takes you out of the story, where literally any other distraction could take place and become more engaging.
It’s great to see an assimilation story for the contemporary age, and one that takes what could have easily been a horror film, and turned it into more of a supernatural drama. Lots of cliche ideas about families being found anywhere, and the importance of acceptance for people other then ourselves, but none of the major characters are presented as particularly complex, so the story then suffers.
Pros: It’s visually intense, unnerving and while the CGI itself is difficult to watch, they don’t replace the importance of a good story about mythological creatures that live in modern times.
Cons: It’s almost as if there is an expectation that the story adhere closely to its roots, which appears to be in conflict with the directors much more interesting vision. The primary character played by Masatak Kubota rarely emotes in the right moment.
Runtime: 1 hour 59 minutes
Points of Interest: The musical score is composed by Don Davis, who also did the music for The Matrix trilogy. The director has cited Kill Bill: Vol. 1, District 9 and The Last Samurai as major influences for the film.
If you can get past the bad CGI and the shallow characterizations, this is a very entertaining fantasy movie with some great commentary on social issues, including hierarchy in Japanese culture. The challenges that Kaneki (Masatak Kubota) face as he learns to accept his new lot in life are compelling, and might have been better accomplished with less fights.
With all of that said, do I think you should run out and get a copy of this flick? No, I think it’s an acquired taste. But, I also recognize that exposure to films from other cultures can be incredibly satisfying, and give context to a broader film discussion. A timotheory if you would.
Now, this week’s Watch Culture video review is a little bit kooky as well, but I can endorse this movie over and over again. Super Troopers is one of my favourite comedies from the early 2000s and a potential spiritual successor to some of the classic Mel Brooks and Monty Python films of the 1970s and 1980s. If you haven’t seen it before, give our review a once over, and I bet we can change your mind.
And of course, please let me know what you thought of both reviews, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel (and email) if you haven’t already. With even more theories in the pipeline, you’ll have content to chew on for days.