Image source: 映画『東京喰種 トーキョーグール』 on Twitter

A lot of movies are based on books, comics, TV shows, and even other movies. But, how many of those adaptations make you want to see or read the original? One movie that does this exceptionally well is the new live-action Tokyo Ghoul movie.

After surviving an encounter with a human eating Ghoul, our hero Ken Kaneki wakes up in the hospital without an appetite for regular food. He soon realizes he craves human flesh, but resists the urge with all his might. Thankfully for Ken, a group of ghouls take him under their wings to learn more about Ghouls and the fear some of them live in.

With a title like Tokyo Ghoul it’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing the story is going to be about a cannibalistic person, yet the movie focuses on the character drama more so than anything else. This is especially true when we consider we see Ken face the reality that, in order to survive, he has to start eating people. It’s an unnerving thought because we never think about this and it’s posed to the audience in very clever ways. But, the movie goes even deeper by forcing us to question the morality of eating humans to stay alive and the broader social implications it has.

When we look at the character Ken, we see he’s in a very interesting bind throughout the movie: Either eat humans to stay alive or starve. What makes this engrossing isn’t the actual question but how Ken struggles with find an answer that best suits him. For instance, early in the film, we see Ken walking the street of Tokyo looking for a meal. But, when he comes to the realization he can’t bring himself to eat humans, he’s at a loss at what he should do. Consider, we all have the urge to survive and with Ken this now means he needs to eat people. Yet, because he is a human who was turned into a ghoul, that thought is repugnant. However, since hunger is a very powerful urge, we eventually see him face his harsh new reality when he’s given the choice of eating his friend Hideyoshi “Hide” Nagachika or saving his life.

Image source: 映画『東京喰種 トーキョーグール』 on Twitter

The choice for Ken to eat his friend is a real test of willpower because he hasn’t eaten in days and the expression on his face as he’s sampling Hide is of pure ecstasy. Yet, because Hide is Ken’s friend, the question posed to the audience is, should Ken go through with eating Hide or not? For most other ghouls, it’s not a question; in order to stay alive, they need to eat human flesh. With Ken, though, there are moral and ethical barriers he needs to cross; namely, is it moral and ethical to eat his friend? To think of it from a more reality-based perspective, could you eat your pet? While it’s not the same situation, Ken now has to see Hide not only as his friend, but also as a potential food source. Thus, by giving us an uncomfortable scene where Ken revels in and resists tasting Hide, it heightens our understanding of what Ken is going through.

Yet, Tokyo Ghoul takes Ken’s dilemma one step further by pointing out that what the ghouls are doing is for their survival. Yes, it’s shown that some ghouls enjoy the hunt, but throughout the movie we’re actually shown ghouls who want to live in peace. The mother-daughter relationship of Ryoko and Hinami Fueguchi illustrates this best. While these two characters are ghouls, it’s not as though they want to bring harm on humans. Yes, they need to eat humans to survive, but in the end, what they want is to be left alone and live their lives without being ridiculed. Yet, throughout the movie, we see Ryoko and Hinami hounded by the Commission of Counter Ghoul investigators Kureo Mado and Kōtarō Amon. And for what reason are Ryoko and Hinami targeted? It’s because they’re ghouls and not because they’ve actually done anything wrong.

Image source: 映画『東京喰種 トーキョーグール』 on Twitter

Think about this for a minute, Ryoko and Hinami aren’t guilty of anything and it’s never stated they’ve actively killed a human. So, Kureo and Kōtarō are haranguing them just because they were born a certain way. It’s disturbing to say the least. But, at the same time it helps us understand the type of ostracism Ken will face going forward and the battles he’ll have to fight.

The Tokyo Ghoul live-action movie packs a lot of interesting questions into a two-hour movie, especially since both anime series combined are 24 episodes long. But, what you get out of the two hours is just enough to make you want to see what other things happen to Ken. And that’s no easy task.

Tokyo Ghoul opened in Japan on July 29, 2017. An English subtitle release is planned through FUNimation.

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