‘Tokyo Ghoul’ Review: A Fun Film Adaptation That Anime Fans Will Eat Up

Drew Dietsch
Movies Anime
Movies Anime Horror
of 5
Review Essentials
  • Fun premise
  • Solid filmmaking
  • Good action
  • Uneven pacing
  • Thin characters

A Solid Adaptation

tokyo ghoul review ken kaneki
Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota) wears his frightening ghoul mask.

Most live-action adaptations of manga and anime don’t get it right. They suffer due to a multitude of reasons: condensing a serialized story into feature length, an inability to properly translate tone, and oftentimes they take fantastical ideas that work in cartoon form but look cheesy in reality. There are elements of those issues in Tokyo Ghoul, but this is actually one of the better adaptations I’ve seen.

The movie mostly gets by on its fun premise. The concept that there are flesh-eating monsters called “ghouls” hiding among us is a setup ripe for exploration. And our perspective character, Ken Kaneki, works well enough as a proxy for our introduction into this crazy society.

Horror Action for the Marvel Generation

tokyo ghoul ken kagune
Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota) unleashes his kagune.

Tokyo Ghoul is at its best when it sticks to its horror action. The big fights that are peppered throughout the film are all engaging and exciting. This is definitely cribbing from the Marvel mold in terms of direction and style when it comes to the action. That’s not a bad thing. It might not be incredibly unique but it works and keeps you entertained.

Unfortunately, these action scenes are too few and far between. Drawn out exposition and maneuvering of characters take up so much of this film. This all works in a longer form of storytelling, but doing this is a feature film eats up a lot of running time. If there were one or two more action beats, it would help keep the pulse of the film from getting weak.

Threadbare Characters

tokyo ghoul review Mado
Kureo Mado (Yô Ôizumi) is a deadly and driven ghoul hunter.

Probably the biggest issue with the film is its characters. As with most manga/anime characters, they are often one-note or only exist to service the plot. Granted, a serialized story allows for such characters to grow, change, and surprise us. But, a feature film only has so much time to do all of that. Tokyo Ghoul feels like it’s populated by cartoon characters.

Now, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. The villainous government agent who is tasked with hunting the ghouls, Kureo Mado, is delightfully wicked. Still, that’s all he is. There is very little depth or complexity to these characters. What you see is what you get. For some, that’s actually appealing. But, it does leave very little to discover to the story once we’re familiar with the world of the ghouls.

Is Tokyo Ghoul Good?

It’s a film for fans of the property. The filmmakers take great care to remain faithful to a lot of the story with only minimal changes. For many fans, that’s all they want. If this is your first experience with the property, it’s a decent entry point. It falls victim to a few anime adaptation woes but nothing damning. I’m sure you’ll like it more than Death Note.

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