Tokyo Ghoul Review/Recap: Tragedy (Episode 01)


Based on the graphic novel series by Sui Ishida, Tokyo Ghoul is set in a world plagued by horrifying creatures called ghouls that like to eat human flesh. In fact, it’s the only thing they can eat. Ghouls are kind of like zombies in that sense. And before you go rolling your eyes at that thought, consider this: ghouls don’t have any of the weaknesses or flaws that zombies do.

More from Animation

Ghouls are, for all intents and purposes, very difficult to distinguish from normal humans. They are so entrenched in society, so well hidden in plain view that it’s rare for anyone to survive an encounter with one when they choose to feed. Since they lead human lives, ghouls always have the element of surprise.

The show opens up with some disturbing violence that’s layered with sexual overtones as a powerful female ghoul feasts on her victim’s bloody corpse, screaming in ecstasy during the entire affair. She is interrupted mid-meal by another clearly evil being – a white suited male donning a Friday the 13th Jason mask no less – who intends to take her somewhere alive. Where? Who does he work for? What are either of their intentions? None of these questions will be answered any time soon as the woman flees just as the man attacks. She manages to steal his weapon of choice, a pair of pliers, in the process, though.

After that brief, mysterious exchange, the episode’s first half introduces us to our main character, first-year college student Ken Kaneki, in a very subdued setting. He and his best friend, Hideyoshi Nagachika (also known as Hide), are hanging around a fancy café discussing dating. Kaneki is there to catch a glimpse of his crush, Rize, and trying to work up the nerve to ask her out, while Hide is there to hit on a young waitress, Touka Kirishima. Meanwhile, a news broadcast on the TV in the background details several local ghoul attacks.

After seeing how beautiful the girl Kaneki has a crush on is, Hide leaves, believing that Kaneki won’t be able to get anywhere with her. Kaneki notices her reading a book, coincidentally the same one he’s currently reading, and he takes the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her. They hit it off and end up on a date. They talk well into the night and he offers to walk her home as she expresses fear at the rise in ghoul attacks in the area.

Surprise! Rize is a ghoul! Not only that, Rize is the dangerous ghoul who was feasting on humans in the show’s opening. It turns out that, while ghouls only need one human to last them up to two months, Rize’s been binge-eating. She knew Kaneki had been watching her for a long time and took advantage of his crush to make him her next prey. She pretended to have common interests with him and feigned frailty to lower his guard and lure him into a secluded area near a construction site to kill and eat him.

Her ghoul form retains elements of her human form, but several sharp, red, prehensile tendrils that seem to extend indefinitely from her body to give her immense agility and strength. She’s pretty much Doc Ock from Spider-Man without any shortcomings. She toys with Kaneki, stabbing him repeatedly with her ghoul limbs, mocking him as he tries to crawl away. Just as she’s about to finish him off, several construction beams fall from above and fortuitously crush her.

The episode shifts to the most important scene as a semi-conscious and confused Kaneki can hear people in the background discussing a transplant. To save Kaneki’s life, one doctor, Akihiro Kanou, takes organs from Rize’s body and puts them in Kaneki’s. He’s half-ghoul now!

The first difference Kaneki notices is the inability to taste any food as it should be. Everything tastes as if it’s gone rotten to him. He spends the rest of the episode eating and subsequently vomiting up normal food. (Rize’s true identity was hinted at during her date with Kaneki as she barely ate anything and excused herself almost immediately to use the restroom, presumably to throw up what little she did eat.)

Kaneki then walks around busy streets, finding himself disturbingly hungry while watching all of the human pedestrians go about their lives. He rushes home to find the most noticeable change in his body. His left eye has turned completely black with a red iris and red blood vessels spread across it. Remembering a ghoul expert speaking of the creatures – ghouls can’t be harmed with blades, apparently – he confirms his partial transformation into a ghoul by stabbing himself in the stomach with a kitchen knife only to find the blade snap off upon contact.

Kaneki again wanders the streets, drawn by the scent of human flesh and he stumbles across another ghoul feasting. The stranger kindly offers Kaneki some of his meal, but is swiftly killed by another ghoul who claims that this is his territory. This new ghoul, Nishiki Nishio, then tries to kill Kaneki for being in his feeding grounds.

Before succeeding, Touka, the waitress from the café, appears to remind Nishiki it isn’t up to him to decide where he’s allowed to feed; there’s a ghoul organization called Anteiku that provides territorial and behavioral guidelines for others to follow.

Touka immediately dispatches Nishiki in a quick fight. She remembers Kaneki from the café and wonders why he’s still alive, since she knew he was Rize’s earlier prey. He then pleads for help, explaining that, while he’s human, he’s fighting every urge he has to eat the corpse laying in front of him. Sick of his whining, Touka shoves a severed hand into Kaneki’s mouth as the episode ends.

The first episode of Tokyo Ghoul is a basic setup of an ordinary person being given extraordinary powers. It’ll be fun to see how Kaneki deals with his new body and his new powers and all of the great and terrible things that inherently come along with it.

You can watch Tokyo Ghoul for free via Funimation or Hulu.