What They Say:
The twisted horror hit Tokyo Ghoul is back, and the ghouls haven’t lost their taste for blood in season two! After weeks of torture at the hands of Aogiri Tree, Kaneki emerges a changed ghoul. No longer the meek young man who struggled with his hunger, Kaneki goes through a ravenous feeding frenzy, even devouring other ghouls to collect their power.
He then joins the very organization that attempted to break him, Aogiri Tree, and the ghoul faction quickly becomes embroiled in a war between other ghoul groups and the CCG. Along with Amon, Mado’s daughter Akira, hoping to avenge her father’s untimely death, spearheads the anti-ghoul attacks.
The audio presentation for this series is pretty good all around as we get the original Japanese language in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 boost. Both of them are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec, so we get pretty much as good as it can get with the source material. The series generally finds a pretty good balance between its dialogue and action components so that one never really overwhelms the other. The dialogue is one that’s well placed as needed and with some good sound effects for various situations and costume designs. It’s generally a center stage approach as one would expect, but there is some good directionality to be had from time to time. The action side works more of an intense approach in a shorter period of time and that gives it more impact because it’s not overblown or overdone. There’s a welcome intensity to it because of the situations and it works in a ghoulish way. Both tracks are clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episode set is spread between two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by studio Pierrot, the show has a strong visual design to it with some great detail and color pop that it stands out in a great way. Though a lot of the show is the usual slower scenes to balance out the high action ones, the quality of the designs, backgrounds and the fluidity of the animation is very well presented. The characters are well detailed and the settings are great with all the backgrounds elements and the little things that enriches the world. Colors are heavy in the darks when it comes to the action side, especially at night or in closed quarters, but there’s no murky aspects to it that make it unwelcome. Color pops elsewhere in the show, from the blood to the costume design and the world in general. It’s a very rich looking production and the end result is beautiful across the screen with clean colors and no problems to be had.
The packaging for the regular edition release of this series is solid as we get a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the four discs inside for the two formats. With an o-card that replicates the same case artwork but with more vibrancy and pop to it, the front cover is a solid one with Kaneki in his full mode with the red swishing behind him, which contrasts his mostly black outfit really well. Particularly with the white elements we get with the hair and teeth. Even the Blu-ray strip along the top doesn’t run against it in a bad way. The back cover uses one of the familiar key visual images of Kaneki for the season with the bright flowers behind him that contrasts his darker look. It dominates the top half and catches the eye well. The rest is laid out well with a clean looking the extras and the premise as well as a few very small shots from the show. The technical grid captures everything well for both formats, making it clear how they’re put together. While there are no inserts within the release, we get a pretty good piece of artwork for the reverse side that shows off Kaneki with a few fellow ghouls.
The menus for this release are kept simple with the series logo across the middle while overexposed pieces of the settings from the show shift in the background behind it. They’re indistinct to be sure so that it’s not pinned down, but it adds a decent but to the atmosphere overall. Yet in the end it doesn’t really say anything or stand out as something to take notice of. It’s a clean looking menu and it’s also reflected in the navigation. That’s kept to a dark red box along the bottom that has the basic selections and disc notation along it with the text in white. It doubles as the pop-up menu but sticks out when you use it rather than something that accents it. Submenus load quickly and access is easy throughout it. he back of the box uses one of the more used publicity image pieces with Kaneki in his waiter outfit with the mask on, eye red, in an attack position while there are splatters of blood from the spine of the box coming around onto it. It’s a solid looking box overall and definitely sets expectations.
The extras for this release are pretty solid in general as they’ll please both sides of the language equation for fans. For the English language fans, we get some good episode commentary material from the cast and staff as they talk alongside one of the early episodes. We also get a new video commentary with the cast, which are always fun to watch simply to see how the actors interact with each other and talk about their characters – and sometimes take on a characteristic or two of them. Add in the clean version of the opening sequence and a few of the promotional videos to get people ready for the season and it’s a good roundup overall.
The first half of the Tokyo Ghoul adaptation is one that worked surprisingly well for me with what it did. There was an air of the familiar about it but it played to the darker side well, not abandoning some of what’s required to make a show like this connect. While it would obviously only go so far, the production played rough, put the cast through hell, killed as needed, and bloodied them up regularly. The result is something that felt a bit more authentic because of it since the surviving without a scratch concept just wasn’t going to cut it here to really drive home what the ghouls are capable of. The other thing that worked rather well for me, surprising me here as well, is that the lead of Kaneki was more enjoyable than I suspected. While not a truly deep or richly thought out character, the show explored his descent into all of this well.
With this season, which covers the remainder of the first manga series from Sui Ishida for the property, Tokyo Ghoul takes a different turn. A more problematic one in some ways depending on what you want out of it. Since the original work is ongoing, there’s no true end or closure here because you know they’ll want to animate more of what’s next from the creator. In a lot of ways, this set feels like the halfway mark of a twenty-six episode series where it’s hitting that big surge before going quiet for a bit and building toward the actual finale. But that also means that it’s more action focused here, which after marathoning this set becomes the main appeal for me. The production team here continues to do some fantastic work in making these action sequences strong and appealing visually and through the choreography. The quality of the animation and design really is fantastic in this show and with so many big set pieces for it to unfold, they’re showing off in all the right ways.
What the set lacks is the proper resonance to really make it connect as a viewer. For me, the problem is that Kaneki is thrown into a background mode here. His initial fight from the previous season finishes off here and he realizes that the only way to deal with things is to throw himself in with Aogiri, the very same folks that were trying to take him out. That’s not a bad thing and I don’t mind it, but for most of this set he’s barely in the background in a good many episodes until he resurfaces in a big way toward the end to really drive the narrative. What’s compelling about his story throughout this set is that we get him struggling with what he’s becoming, which is certainly not the norm, and that’s laid out by his cannibalistic side that’s surfacing more and more. Visually, it’s a striking series of sequences for him that works exceptionally well to show his descent. But it also works to force him to realize what’s really going on in that he’s not being the cannibal in a true sense but rather that he’s being consumed. That’s a really liberating moment for him in a way as he regains more of who he was and sets to fix as much as he can. You can almost see him trying to find a way to provide balance between man and the ghouls, particularly as one (throwaway?) line late in the set is how humanity is the real danger to the world and the environment.
What’s most surprising with this set for me is that it focuses on Amon as much as it does. The CCG certainly took up a good chunk of the first season, but with him taking on a partner with Akira Mado, that pushes us more into the politics and intrigue side of how this business all works and the struggles of some of the elites. A lot of the driving narrative for the CCG is the pursuit of The Owl, a truly dangerous and destructive force with great visual design, but I never felt like it connected well as the primary opponent. It was more of a force of nature without a personality, though it at least had some personal moments for some of the elite CCG members who lost others to it. I loved the fight sequences and the way they unfold with the power and weapons at hand, but The Owl itself as a true villain was just a monster that can’t really capture your attention because its motivations are so simple. But it goes back to the positives of the season as well because those fights are among the best with the animation.
The amount of time spent with Amon and Akira is certainly interesting since she’s an obvious up and comer with her power set and heritage with both parents having been in the force as well. That it brings in a little bit of potential romance along the way isn’t exactly a bad thing because we get Amon presented one way and giving him something different to work with and react to is a nice change of pace from his serious side. While not every series needs romance, this one doesn’t have much going on in the way of true human interactions besides this, especially since Kaneki is gone for much of it and coping with his own issues. Through both Amon and Akira we get a bit more fleshed out of with the past such as academy days, friends lost, and the things they struggle with, so it works well enough and the romance itself isn’t a huge part of it. The two have a solid working relationship that has this surface toward the end of it that’s fun to watch because it catches Amon unaware after he was already feeling self conscious toward her.
The second season of Tokyo Ghoul is just… kinda there. In terms of story I’m not sure what it’s trying to do, though the material with The Owl has its merits and what we get of Kaneki’s struggle is solid enough, especially toward the end. I got into the material with Amon and Akira with what that helps to flesh out but beyond that my main enjoyment with the season was just the action. Having an episode focused on Aogiri making their push into the ghoul containment center that the CCG has is pretty thrilling because of the stakes involved and how they all pretty much go all out during it. The action is what really drives my enjoyment of this set but I ended up feeling a bit let down after I really enjoyed the first season with what felt like a far more personal and accessible work with Kaneki and what he was going through. Here, his being in the background doesn’t help to really push things forward. But such is what happens when you adapt from another medium.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Kankei in Black and White, Episode Commentary, Textless Opening and Closing, Japanese Commercials, Promotional Videos, Preview Collection, U.S. Trailer, Trailers.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 24th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.