5 February 2018




'The agony of a ghoul's hunger is incomparable to that of humans.'

'Why does your kind want to live in a world built on sin?'

'Having my territory invaded really pisses me off.'

'What a moving display of motherly love.'

'You tried to eat your friend, didn't you?'

'First time seeing a real ghoul?'

'You taste great...!'

'Why me...?'

I wouldn't normally tend to like a film that more or less begins with the words 'Reading is bad for you!,' but I was obliged to make a big fat exception for TOKYO GHOUL, which I liked much more than I was expecting to.

A live movie adaptation of a wildly popular dark fantasy manga/animé series by Sui Ishida, it's the story of a college student called Ken Kaneki who gets a rude awakening when he takes a shy, pretty fellow student out on a date. Not only does he not get 'some' from the attractive Rize, but he ends up impaled on one of her giant tentacles when it turns out that she's actually, ahem, a ghoul...

A ghoul, like, wtf? Well, see, Kaneki lives in an alternate reality in which ghouls hide amongst the living in human form, separated from the humans by their love of and craving for human flesh. Well, of course, certain humans like human flesh too. We call them cannibals, and cannibalism is frowned upon in today's society.

But even cannibals don't have red ghoulish eyes and the ability to sprout ghoulish tentacles (ah, the legendary Japanese love of all things tentacley...!) when the occasion calls for it. Ghouls get their nutrition and sustenance from humans. They are, therefore, to be avoided at all costs. But it's difficult to avoid an entity that can take on a human shape and form to fool you...

Kaneki's encounter with the diabolical Rize leaves him as a sort of half-human, half-ghoul hybrid, you know, like the car? He only gets one red eye when he 'turns,' but he clearly has full tentacle privileges. His new life is going to take some getting used to, though.

He won't be without support, however. He can hang out at the ghoul café, a sanctuary where all the other ghouls meet to drink ghoulish coffee, a bit like the FRIENDS at Central Perk, lol. There he'll meet like-minded ghouls, social (blood!) drinkers, non-smoking with, hopefully, a GSOH that he can chat to and make friends with.

They'll even warn him about the 'doves' or Commission of Counter-Ghoul Agents whose job it is to track down the ghouls, kill them and destroy all traces of their remains. No tall order then, haha. There are three of these enforcers in particular who are looking to give Kaneki and his newfound friends a hard time. They won't rest until they've torn the whole damn community of ghouls limb from tentacled limb. Is there anything Kaneki can do to help his fellow ghouls...?

What's different about TOKYO GHOUL is that we're allowed to see the humanity in the so-called monsters and the callous savagery of the humans, who are supposed to be filled with human feelings and the milk of human kindness and all that jazz. They're not filled with anything except hatred and mistrust of ghouls in this film, while the ghouls are portrayed as actually having love and warmth and kindness towards their fellow ghouls.

Just look how fiercely Ryoko defends her little daughter, Hinami, and how heartbroken the child is when she sees her beloved mother brought down by the two agents. See how Kaneki and the other ghouls react to Hinami's tragedy. It's a truly moving situation and it's the two Counter-Ghoul Agents who come off looking like the real a**holes in all of it.

Of course, the ghouls do bad monster-ish things too, don't get me wrong. I mean, just look at what Rize does to Kaneki, and then there's Nishiki, the attractive bespectacled pharmacy sophomore, who makes shite of Kaneki's bezzie mate Hide in front of Kaneki's eyes. True, Hide's a skinny-jeans-wearing hipster, lol, but does he really deserve to be dismembered? Hmmm. Don't rush me, I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking here...!

The film reminds me of THE HUNGER, that fabulous 'Eighties vampire flick starring the late great David Bowie, in which Catherine Deneuve turns Susan Sarandon into a vampire. Not as sexy as it sounds, although there is sexy lesbian nudity in the film. Susan Sarandon has terrible trouble initially adapting to her new circumstances.

She gets the sweats, she's disorientated, she can't eat or enjoy human food any more, she can't sleep, it's horrible. She doesn't know what she is or what- or who!- she wants until Catherine Deneuve brings her a victim to devour. 

Susan Sarandon falls on that poor guy like a woman on a Ryvita diet. (PS, Ryvita is not food, it's nothing.) It's not pretty to observe. In fact, this was the film that put me off wanting to be a vampire. I just don't think I could handle that horrible transitional period. Well, maybe if Christopher Lee was waiting for me on 'the other side' I could just about manage it, lol, but otherwise, fuhgeddaboutit!

It'd be like having the 'flu and then having to drink human blood instead of Lemsip or a nice hot whiskey. I couldn't be doing with that. Kaneki experiences the same kind of trouble when he's turned into the human-ghoul mash-up.

We see what happens when ghouls try to eat human food, like when Touka's schoolgirl friend brings her a lovely Bento dish to eat for her lunch and Touka has to choke it down in front of her so as not to offend the friend. Touka's all 'Oh, how yummy!' and rubbing her little tummy-tumkins in mock-rapture but the second she's on her own, it's Bulimia Central in the ghoul café, lol...!

Anyway, TOKYO GHOUL, currently in the cinemas, is an absolute must-see for fans of the TOKYO GHOUL manga/animé, or even for fans of Japanese cinema in general. I give it my seal of approval, anyway, partially because I could follow it easily enough and it wasn't hopelessly confusing like some animés I've seen. It's a good story, well told, with some real 'feels' in there for the soft-hearted like myself. Oh, I'm soft-hearted, believe me. I'm so soft-hearted, I cry when I even hear the words 'injured puppy.'

Whaddya mean, have I decided whether or not I think skinny-jean-wearing hipsters deserve to be horribly dismembered by ghouls from another dimension? I told ya already, I'm still thinking about it. I'll let you know when I've made up my mind...



Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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