What They Say:
In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear of Ghouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans – yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this mattered to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turned him into the first ever Ghoul-human half-breed. Picking up where the first season left off Ken continues onwards into the dark world he has found himself in.
We have a trademark 5.1 English release and a 2.0 Japanese release – a standard set up with no real issues throughout the track in terms of synching with the video, and the general settings didn’t need to be changed. There was no issues with the synching, or with the audio quality as no adjustments has to be made on my stand settings even with the Japanese 2.0 set up – very general and acceptable.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation with some great colours with CGI for the map and certain battle scenes –with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching in either language, no pause lag or in general, it is a quality release – HOWEVER, there was some slowdown on one episode on disc 1 surprisingly (episode 9) considering this didn’t happen anywhere else on the disc (both in show and with the extras) and just a little at the start, however it was very noticeable and just hoping this was on my test disc – and as this is the second series in a row I’ve reviewed that this is happened I’m hoping this isn’t a common occurrence…
There was no packaging for this test release however there is special edition packaging in the Blu-Ray set.
The menu consists on both discs clips from the show – on the bottom there are your selections of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras on a menu looking like blood splatter. All are easily selectable and like most Blu-Ray releases have no time delay when selecting a new menu – and again like most Blu-Rays they have a popup menu that you access during your watching (though you can’t select extras) – overall easily accessible which incorporates the sheer amount of violence and darkness that this show brings.
With a lot of the Funimation releases by Anime Limited you get a lot of the commentary extras, and this series is no exception, with three commentaries available from the English dub. We get ones for the first and last episodes – episode 1 involves Mike McFarland (ADR Director/VA of Amon), an old favourite of mine Brandon Potter (Shinohara), and another fan favourite in Todd Haberkorn (Kirishima) . They mention quickly this is an original series from the creators of Tokyo Ghoul and how that can differ from the manga content, and that as a broadcast dub they had to record it weekly hence no help from Japan or knowledge of the manga, though as roles from the first season of Tokyo Ghoul there was still something the actors could work from. The recording process, the unique sounds they have to do (the cannibalism motif was one they had to somehow figure out), how the actors can contribute ideas – considering the last few commentaries have been more comic, this one is definitely a bit more in depth to the process…though there is still some fun moments (like which of the male Vas would look best in heels…)
The episode 12 commentary features Mike again, but with Austin Tindel (Kaneki), Brina Palencia (Touka) and Clifford Chapin (Hide) – again there are thoughts on the recording process but as it is quite a spoilerific episode, won’t mention too much what is discussed involving the characters here, there is a lot of emotion in the episode and talking about the fan reactions at conventions to the character(s), the whole mystery that anyone can die in the series – but again there are the fun moments (there is a fair bit of discussion on cross dressing for example) so the commentaries are a mix and match of info and fun.
One thing that seems to be new is the video commentaries where we see the actors watching the episode – there is one on episode 7, which Mike and Brandon are both there, but new to this are Maxie Whitehead (Juzo) and Lindsay Seidel (Eto/Sen/One-Eyed Owl) – there is a lot on character discussion which is fun with Lindsay having to do three characters and seeing if she needed to adjust the voice on all of them, the interactions and reactions between Shinohara and Juzo and how important the shop is (the commentary actually does a better job explaining the shop than the show does if you are not familiar with Tokyo Ghoul) from a base of operations to it being the one human enjoyment they can also enjoy – it is surprising how in depth it went to but again, a lot of fun involved as well (Brandon’ Shinohara voice…his own voice – end demonstration.)
Minor extras alongside we have the promo video (which has mostly animation and still with Japanese but also the first one has some live action, and some incorporate the manga), the clean opening, the US Trailer and trailers for other shows – including Assassination Classroom, Garo The Animation, Yoma Of The Dawn, Ghost In The Shell: The New Movie, Rage Of Bahamut and Black Butler: Book Of Murder.
Tokyo Ghoul Root A is not a true sequel to the original Tokyo Ghoul – it is in fact an original series but is still considered a second season. This does mean it is a series that does require knowledge of the original series despite this and that it differs from the manga.
With a lot of original series, there is usually a fair bit of criticism – almost scared it could be filler – because the direction changing may not be what fans want. The rare occurrences this works out (like the original Full Metal Alchemist) is because the material isn’t done and the surprise is still really good. So does this be a shining surprise or something that wasn’t asked for or wanted?
Well as said, you do need to know the original series or manga to get anything out of this – this isn’t a series you can just walk right in, otherwise you wonder why the coffee shop is even relevant until about episode 9. Prior knowledge to the characters is also needed because the mystery of Ken is hit a lot straight from episode 1, but you need to know who he is beforehand otherwise the choice made in the first episode may be confusing. You got argue it is confusing even if you are familiar with the series, as Ken actually joining up with Aogiri Tree which is pretty much the enemy – however it is clear it is for the purposes just to get stronger so he can protect Anteiku – that said, it isn’t made really obvious until throughout the series so this is the first thing that can divide fans – it is either a great twist or something you didn’t want after going through all his half-ghoul struggles of the first season.
There are some things though that it does initially which raises the intrigue – first of all Hide, a good friend of Ken, has joined the CCG almost undercover to discover his whereabouts – and we also get the introduction of Akira Mado, the daughter of Kureo, Amon’s former partner before his death – leading to a love/hate relationship between the two as she holds him responsible for his actions, but his subsequent bravery and background means she can’t hate him. There are fun moments with a rivalry with Takizawa, but that is a rare comic relief (though the drunk scene was amusing it then gets serious bar the end) – the other main duo is also interesting, which is the team of Juuzou and Shinohara, where Juuzou is quite the psychotic and only is in the job because of his immense strength, yet through Shinohara, he discovers someone who actually cares about him, causing some surprising conflicts and sadness near the end of the series during the big raid on Anteiku…
The Aogiri Tree now begins its raid on the ‘good’ ghouls and on the CCG – with the rumours of the infamous One-Eyed Owl appears, noted to be the strongest ghoul of all – this is all incorporated with Anteiku pretty much being normal, with cute little Hinami getting autographs from her favourite author to give to Ken when he comes back (unaware the author may be a little more than expected), Touka annoyed about homework (Touka actually doesn’t get much throughout this series bar one scene when she discovers Ken and then right at the end of the series) and Yoshimura calmly serving coffee – whilst also talking to other ghouls and even revealing his back-story with a human woman as we wonder who his son actually is…(this seems to be straight from the manga, means they have used scenes from it which does make you wonder why make an original series if you are using the manga stories as well…)
One thing the series does well is the action sequences. A big part of the arc is a battle at a high security ghoul prison, where both the CCG and Aogiri Tree (including Ken) clashing in a battle of blood, cannibalism and really cool looking powers and weapons on both sides. Kaneki actually gets beat up by a ghoul named Orca, but he consumes several dead ghouls to evolve into something beyond what a normal ghoul is, freaking out Ayato to the point he thinks he was wrong about Ken and he is a cold blooded killer – there are a lot of clutch moments on both sides and some battles are animated better than others, but overall it is definitely quite the watch.
It all leads to the reveal of Yoshimura’s child and who he is, and the fact the CCG now is targeting the ghouls of Anteiku. It leads to a calm before the storm as the members drink a coffee before they go into battle, with Touka and Kaneki also deciding to help as Kaneki’s obvious loyalties come through. However, whilst initially the ghouls seem to be holding off well, but when the Aogiri Tree gets involved combined with the reveal of the One-Eyed Owl (whose reveal of who it is hinted at but is a bit rushed especially as it was a fairly minor character overall for this season) – we do get a fight between Amon and Kaneki, and the fact another old favourite Arima comes to help them out does get some bad ass battles (some perhaps better than the manga as well) and it sets up the rather heartbreaking last episode…as throughout the series Hide has been investigating Kaneki and decided to get involved when he finds out that he has returned to help Anteiku….
The ending is very ambiguous as we don’t know what happens to Kaneki – there is just one final shot of Touka seemingly re-opening the café – but with the ghouls involved in the battle assumed dead, it does set up for a sequel…yet a sequel to a series with an original ending it is speculative if it will happen.
This is always the risk when doing original series and leaving them open as whilst elements of the source material are throughout and you have to know about the series, leaving it open especially when a remake with the manga could also be on the cards is risky. The last episode was probably the best one just because of the revelations of Hide knowing that Kaneki was a ghoul, Touka’s rush to Anteiku whilst all the violence is going on, whilst prior to that the return of Arima to fight the One-Eyed Owl was a big spectacle, with also other moments such as Juuzou realising that Shinohara did care for him and you see his history, there are a lot of good moments throughout the series…
The problem is that it does feel like a bit of a mess. Whilst some of the comic moments of the staff at Anteiku are great, there is barely any development for them without knowing who they are originally, and because of that it is both problematic for anyone who goes in without knowledge, and also for those who do know it because the way it changes things combined with lack of time for the Anteiku staff will definitely be not welcome. Ironically, there is much more time to the CCG especially with the new character Akira, whose stoic, top of the class mentality combined with the love/hate relationship with Amon makes her the most well known character in the new series, despite the fact old friends and foes have to face Kaneki in several battles. And whilst that development is welcome, the reveals do feel very rushed that there couldn’t be enough time to develop the story – and whilst the visit to Anteiku between Shinohara and Yoshimura is good, as well as the slight hints on who the Owl is, the reveal still feels very rushed and not very memorable (though the Owl itself is VERY memorable due to the design and size).
It is a hard series to rate therefore because whilst I didn’t hate it – the action scenes were superb, the animation for the most part good, the music and voice acting in both languages is good – it feels like it doesn’t work for either fans of Tokyo Ghoul or newcomers to the franchise. The transformation for Kaneki into the Centipede for example just seems to happen (in the manga it was much more detailed) and the lack of character development during some of the confrontations (Tsukiyama being a big one) means a lot of the fallout isn’t very emotional and just feels very tacked on. There is also clearly a lot that wasn’t added to the scenes that were manga-centric, and it sadly does feel it was just a cut job. Even Kaneki joining the enemy is not explained well, just the fact he had to get stronger, and it is barely a factor throughout – I can barely remember any of the other villains because they weren’t in long enough or memorable enough.
If you are a fan of Tokyo Ghoul, I’d be a bit wary especially if you are a fan of the manga, as whilst you may be excited for a mostly original story, there is a lot rushed and cut that you could be very disappointed. And if you are new to the franchise, it is not recommended at all – watch the original, and then maybe take a look – just keep an open mind that you may not like the decisions made…
Tokyo Ghoul Root A is a bit of a mix and mash – with great visuals, sound and battles, it looks initially like a good successor to the original series and manga. However a lot of cutting, lack of development on the Ghouls side, rushed plots and a not clear motive for Kaneki’s initial plot means that it feels a mess. A decent last episode combined with some development for the CCG saves it from being totally non-watchable if you are a fan of the manga/original series, but newcomers it will be very confusing, and those who are fans will either like the fact there is an original story, or disappointed at what is out, and what is used from the manga feels like it has been cut to shreds.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, 2 English Dub Commentaries, 1 English Dub Video Commentary, Clean Opening/Ending, Promo Video, US Trailer, Funimation Show Trailers
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: June 13th, 2016
MSRP: £42.99 (£14.99 for the DVD)
Running Time: 288 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.