Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tokyo Ghoul S1 is surprisingly bad

I say it's surprising because of how well done the show is in general.

Tokyo Ghoul (東京喰種グール) is about a human (Kaneki Ken 金木 研), who through no fault of his own other than liking a pretty girl, ends up being turned into a rare ghoul/human hybrid and has to deal with his newfound cravings and abilities, as well as his place amongst the other hungry ghouls of the city and the police force tasked with exterminating ghouls. Its potential is off the charts.

It's popularity is deserved for sure: the opening and ending music and art is great, the art throughout the show and the action when it pops up is all well-executed, the characters are interesting and mostly three-dimensional, even if some of them do end up falling into stereotypes and tropes.

But that just left the lack all the more apparent.

Throughout the show there's a surprising amount of episodes and actions taken by characters that leave you infuriated, and not in a good way. The power of the adversaries takes an arbitrary jump up so that previously strong characters are left lying on the ground bleeding out.

In the realm of actual problems with the writing as opposed to differences of opinion, the power levels of characters are decidedly arbitrary and the mechanism between strength of ghouls and how eating humans powers the ghouls is never explained and seems to fluctuate based on story needs. Sometimes one bite is enough to enable a character to overcome an S-class, while at other times characters don't even present a fight even while presumably well-fed.

Episodes 1-3 are the best episodes of the first season, setting the hook and getting you to fall for the main characters. Episodes 4-6 start to frustrate you with the idiot ball being carried by the characters, but there's enough learning and growing and challenging that you won't be disappointed even if you were initially flummoxed by the choices being made.

In Episode 7, you'll start to yell at the television because of how stupid and ineffectual the characters have become, but by then you've already been hooked and the art is good and you're involved in the characters . . .

In Episode 10, you'll start to feel ripped off and betrayed by the story and writing.

By the "climactic" Episode 12, I won't be surprised if you've checked out because you know it's the last episode and they spend something like 20 minutes on introspection. I was saying, "OK, OK, now be a badass! OK OK, just do something! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU! SPEED IT UP SPEED IT UP. THIS IS EPISODE 12, NOT 11!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And then it's over after what feels like a midseason episode with nothing to offer you in terms of closure.

I realized by doing the review that Tokyo Ghoul is supposed to be a horror show, but one where the horror isn't the eponymous monsters, nor the people and monsters acting like monsters, but the horror is the cruelty of real-life where nothing is safe, people die for no reason, and random assholes show up that are ten times better than anything you've seen to date to show you how petty and worthless you really are.

The antagonist is society and the world we live in, while the people that actively move against you are mere tools of that world.

It's at once more terrifying and more humdrum than most horror stories, and at least there's not a random jerk shooting two hippies on motorcycles at the end (like some stupid movie I won't deign to mention here), but it's not ideal. It's not enjoyable and there is no catharsis.

The main character never gets to the point where you'll like him. He's in a cocoon the entire first season, and you want to root for him, but by the time the proverbial shit is hitting the fan, he just frustrates you, making you wish he wasn't the main character.

The main character - Who I wish was the main character - A crazy person
Kirishima Touka (霧嶋 董香), the second character in the picture above, absolutely would have been a better and more interesting character to follow in the events of this first season. She was always the most interesting part of any scene she was in, visually she is dynamic, and you just want to know more about her.

I will be tentatively watching the sequel to see if maybe a catharsis exists there, but I'll be watching it expecting to be let down. In looking for the sequel, I inadvertently spoiled the start of Season 3, which did not leave me optimistic for how Season 2 is going to go down, but the show succeeded in making me care about a good portion of the characters and I want to watch and hope that there may exist a happy end for them.

Ah, two quick notes: after the end credits they regularly have cute, funny little scenes featuring minor characters or characters that died that episode, they're worth watching, although a definite tone shift from the rest of the show! Secondly, if you're worried about spoilers, don't watch the opening and ending credits because they reveal characters and forms of characters that you won't see until literally the last five minutes of the season.