Tokyo Ghoul S Review: An Appetizing Anime Vision With a Mismatched Palate

After years reigning as a top series in Japan, Tokyo Ghoul wrapped its horrific tale awhile back. The manga and anime finished back to back, leaving fans of the series hollowed out with the thought of no more Ken Kaneki. However, the Sui Ishida series still lives on thanks to the theater, and Tokyo Ghoul S revived some of Japan's most terrifying creations with its debut. The sequel is an appetizing return to the franchise which starving fans will feast on, but its muddled palate will leave those with sensitive tastes confused.

Tokyo Ghoul S picks up right when the 2017 live-action film left off. The adaptation follows Ken as he continues adapting to life as a rare half-ghoul after being turned into a cannibalizing monster on a date gone wrong. Ken is still very uncomfortable with his status, but he's got mentors like Touka to guide him, even if they're not enthused to do so.

The meat of the story is plated when audiences are introduced to Shu Tsukiyama, a villain known simply as "The Gourmet." The man is a ghoul serial killer known in the series for his specific tastes, and he becomes obsessed with Ken after catching a whiff of his half-ghoul aroma. Tokyo Ghoul S tracks the pair as they engage in a Hannibal-esque game of cat-and-mouse, and their game is marred with lots of bloody deaths along the way.

tokyo ghoul s
(Photo: Funimation)

For fans of the Tokyo Ghoul series, it will be easy to fall into this sequel even if you have yet to see the first movie. It follows the beats penned by Ishida very closely, but newcomers will be unbelievably confused by this sequel. The movie expects audiences to know all of Ken's backstory from the get-go, and it isn't merciful when it comes to filling in gaps.

Slow to start, Tokyo Ghoul S begins on a high as fans are introduced to The Gourmet with a chilling scene. Its rich imagery will inevitably invoke comparisons to Bryan Fuller's Hannibal, and the villain's charismatic charm sees the flattering connection through. In fact, Tokyo Ghoul S shines the most whenever Tsukiyama is on screen as actor Shoto Matsuda fully commits to the crazed character, but there is not enough of him to refine this sequel's palate.

Tokyo Ghoul S dips into more human drama than you would expect, and these slice-of-life moments give the sequel an offbeat pace. An unwanted romance makes for a confusing subplot, and audiences aren't given nearly as much insight into Ken as a character. In a striking shift, this sequel is more about story than its characters, but its weak plot makes the film feel shallow. While Tokyo Ghoul S looks plenty creepy from an aesthetic level, its story is drab enough to keep audiences from feeling scared.

Without a clear direction to go, Tokyo Ghoul S ties in multiple genres to a film that would have suited the pure horror genre just fine. If you imagine the film with just Ken and Tsukiyama orbiting one another, Tokyo Ghoul S would be trimmed of its excess drama in the best of ways. All of the unneeded side stories clutter the otherwise fun film, but fans of Tokyo Ghoul will still leave theaters impressed. Again, this sequel proves the series' live-action ventures are its best adaptations to date, even if Tokyo Ghoul S fails to reach the heights of its predecessor.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Originally created by Sui Ishida for Shueisha's Weekly Young Jump in 2011, Tokyo Ghoul is set in a world full of Ghouls, beings who eat humans and have been living among them in secret. A student named Ken Kaneki has a chance encounter with one of these ghouls, and a resulting accident leaves him implanted with the organs from the ghoul who attacked him. In order to live a somewhat normal life, Kaneki needs to eat human flesh to survive. Thus he's brought into the underground, action-filled world of the ghouls as the series ponders who the "real" monster is.