In recent years, there’s been a lot of anime to live-action movie adaptions from both sides of the pond. Toho gave us the ATTACK ON TITAN live-action; 20th Century Fox gave us DRAGON BALL EVOLUTION. There’s a live-action OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB, three DEATH NOTE adaptations, BLACK BUTLER, SPEED RACER — the list is neverending. Joining that list on August 10th will be the TOKYO GHOUL live-action film.
Based on the popular manga written by Sui Ishida, TOKYO GHOUL takes place in a world where ghouls, flesh-eating superpowered beings, exist. The story follows college student, Ken Kaneki, whose life is turned upside when a dinner date turns him into the main course. His life is inexplicably saved, but a doctor chooses to implant the now-deceased ghoul’s organs into Ken’s body to keep him alive. Now part ghoul, Ken struggles between the life he once knew as a human and the flesh-eating ghoul lifestyle he must adapt to if he wants to survive, all while being hunted by the mysterious Commission of Counter Ghoul. TOKYO GHOUL traverses the line between humanity and righteousness in one action-packed story.
Thanks to Funimation, I got to join hundreds in watching an exclusive premiere of the new film almost a month before its initial, July 29, release in Japan. As a huge fan of both the manga and anime series, I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a film since HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART TWO. And while many live-action adaptations get a lot of things wrong, I’m here to tell you that the TOKYO GHOUL live-action is so, so right.
Ghouls, Put on your Masks
The new live-action film covers the first three volumes of the manga, ending in the final showdown between characters Kureo Mado and Touka Kirishima. This adaptation also gives the protagonist, Ken Kaneki, a new mask. For those of you are familiar with the series, you’ll remember that most ghouls wear masks, especially when hunting, allowing them to blend in with human society when needed. Rather than have a full set of human-like teeth on display like Ken’s original mask, the TOKYO GHOUL live action gives him a new set of sharper, metal teeth.
There’s also a new theme song thanks to RADWIMPS lead singer Yojiro Noda, titled “Banka” or “Elegy” in English. RADWIMPS is also responsible for the entire soundtrack of Makoto Shinkai’s YOUR NAME, the anime movie that soared to the top of Japan’s Box office earlier this year. Illion, which is the title of Noda’s solo project, made this statement in regards to the song:
The work as a whole is overflowing with respect for Ishida-sensei and the fans. When creating this song I tried to bear in mind the burning passion of the staff and cast of the movie and also wanted to write a theme song that will reach the audience and fit the movie. It is the hope that the characters, who are struggling on screen, will find even the slightest ray of hope.
You can listen to “Banka” in full here. These additions really help to bring this film to life, and so do the actors and actresses!
A Cast Made in Heaven
One of the main things I want to emphasize is the films incredible casting. With many anime-to-live-action films, it’s incredibly difficult to get every detail right, especially in stories with heavy fantastical elements. But the TOKYO GHOUL live-action scores the most points in its A+ casting. The film stars Masataka Kubota as Ken Kaneki, Fumika Shimizu as Touka Kirishima, Yu Aoi as Rize Kamishiro, Nobuyuki Suzuki as Kotaro Amon, Yo Oizumi as Kureo Mado, and Kunio Murai as Yoshimura.
As you can see from the image above, the casting is scarily accurate. Perhaps the most significant change is the loss of Rize’s purple hair; though Aoi’s chilling performance makes this detail unnoticeable. Aoi breathes life into the character with her sweetness and charm. For a second, it was easy to forget that she played a sadistic, binge-eating monster. Another frightening performance comes from Yo Oizumi, who plays First Class Ghoul Investigator Kureo Mado. The character is best known for hunting ghouls for their kagune, or predatory organ. Oizumi does a good job of balancing Mado’s twisted nature with the charisma that makes him an unnerving presence in the CCG for both investigators and ghouls alike.
Masataka Kubota Steals the Show
Though only 28 years old, Masataka Kubota has dozens of film and TV credits as well as a handful of awards. You might recognize him as Light Yagami in the Japanese DEATH NOTE television remake. However, his role as Ken Kaneki might be his best performance yet. Kubota completely captures what it’s like to go from a timid human to one of the strongest creatures to ever walk the face of the earth. In my opinion, Kubota’s transformation into Ken is mostly due to his control over his own body.
In the beginning of the film, Kubota’s body language is comprised of sunken shoulders, a refusal to make eye contact, and a variety of nervous gestures; all of which are accurate to Ken as a human. As a starving ghoul, Kubota uses a series of disjointed and hurried movements, frequent lip-licking, and wide eyes. What really sealed the deal for me was the training sequence that happens a little over halfway into the film. This is where his transformation becomes the most obvious. Though obviously clumsy against Touka at first, Ken learns how to hold his own through strength training and martial arts. We eventually get a Ken Kaneki that stands tall, accepting of a new life as a ghoul and willing to fight all who dare harm the people he cares about. Also, on the topic of fights, this film knows how to execute them well.
Kagunes vs. Quinques!
While the main focus of the film is Ken’s transformation into a ghoul. Director Kentaro Hagiwara did not disappoint on the many action scenes that occur from this. We get a taste of Touka’s speed, which earns her the nickname “Rabbit” in this world, as well as, supporting character Nishiki Nishio’s hot-headedness. Not once did it feel like there was a moment wasted thanks to the well-choreographed fights.
The final scene especially is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will definitely send goosebumps down your spine. While it deviates slightly from the original battle between Ken and Ghoul Investigator Kotaro Amon it stays honest to the original characters at its core. Unlike the manga, Ken is on the offensive against the quinque (a weapon made from the kagune). He uses his own kagune as if he were a natural-born killer. Also unlike the manga, the brilliant action showcases the best of Ken’s (and Masataka Kubota’s) abilities, which doesn’t really happen until much later in the original story. The fights are amazing, but there is still one flaw to point out about them.
Speaking of Kagunes…
TOKYO GHOUL is a visually stunning film, but sometimes, you can’t get everything right in a fantasy world. If there was one thing that I didn’t quite like, it would have to be the animation of the kagunes. While they were without a doubt creepy, I didn’t like how reptilian they seemed to be.
The kagune aren’t always solid masses. Touka’s kagune is a good example of this since her’s is flame-like in the manga and anime. In the film, the kagune are scaly and kind of slimy with a heartbeat-like pulse. The pulsations make the kagune seem almost sentient rather than as a limb-like extension of their bodies. With a TOKYO GHOUL live-action sequel possibly on the way, it can only be hoped that the new variety of kagune will add some variation to their design.
TOKYO GHOUL Invading a Theater Near You
People are already calling the new TOKYO GHOUL movie the best anime-to-live-action adaptation that there ever was. With its accurate scene-by-scene rendering, I agree. In a world where an American DEATH NOTE exists, TOKYO GHOUL just might be our saving grace. According to IMDB, the movie was supposed to come out in US theaters August 10th; though Funimation, who is licensing the film, has yet to make any official announcements. Regardless of its release date, you won’t want to miss this action-packed film!
Featured image courtesy of the TOKYO GHOUL Official Website.