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Tokyo Ghoul Live-Action Blu-ray Review

8 min read

A darkness permeates the city with one young man now drawn into it.

What They Say:
Ken Kaneki’s only chance for survival is an organ donation that turns him into a ghoul-human hybrid. Confused and alone, he finds sanctuary at Anteiku—a café run by the people he once considered monsters. When the innocent members of this ghoul safe house are threatened by humanity’s taste for vengeance, Kaneki will risk life and limb to protect the very world that changed his own.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this film brings us the original Japanese language mix and the newly produced English language dub, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec in a 5.1 design. Both tracks are pretty straightforward and solid where the dialogue moves effortlessly across the forward soundstage as needed and handles all of its levels well. The bigger moments certainly are louder and there’s some solid rumble in the subwoofer but it’s obviously not an enveloping mix for those with a tight 5.1 setup looking to feel a part of the action. That said, everything comes across well here and it achieves what it sets out to do with a clean presentation.

Originally released in 2017, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. As one might expect, the film leans more toward the darker approach with little taking place in the day for the most part but it does work in a lot of well-lit places. This keeps it from feeling too dark and murky while also allowing the actual oppressive scenes to work better since they stand out more, be it a fight under the bridge or something in an alley. But even there we get enough light so that everything is visible and the encoding doesn’t suffer from problematic black areas. The film is one that largely works very well with solid cinematography and gets an encode that’s clean but still feels enough like film that it creates the right atmosphere..

The packaging for this release is a pretty good one as it uses the familiar main visual for the film with the close up of Kaneki, blood-red eye, and the mask taking center stage. That actually gets some nice embossing with the o-card that comes with it that has the logo with a little more flair and the teeth and more standing out nicely. The back cover is traditional in that we get some character shots for the visuals and a brief summary of premise. The usual space for the UV element is included (bleah) and we get a solid breakdown of the technical aspects of the DVD and Blu-ray discs included. The case, a blue one, is standard sized and it uses a different piece of key visual poster material with a larger cast shot against the city but also a larger masked version of Kaneki in the background. It’s a kind of weird cover in a way but I like when we get the o-card and cover different as it feels like the o-card has more meaning. While there are no show related inserts included with the release the reverse side has a shot of the city from the street view at night that sets the right atmosphere.

The extras for this release are kept simple in that we get the original Japanese trailer for it, which is always welcome, and a seven-minute piece from Anime Expo 2017. This brought in some of the cast and crew to promote the film at the time and a few minutes sitting down with them was definitely a fun if far too brief experience.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a very popular manga series out there and a popular anime adaptation as well, Tokyo Ghoul was one of those easy properties to see getting the live-action treatment. I’m always a bit wary of Japanese live-action cinema for a range of reasons and even more so when it comes to adaptations of manga or anime properties. More often than not, at least outside of dramas, you get things like the Attack on Titan live-action films than something even somewhat faithful. With Tokyo Ghoul, the trend feels like it’s bucked pretty well with what Kentaro Hagiwara directed here as it hews pretty close to what I know of the property. I haven’t read the manga so I can’t really attest to that faithfulness and it’s been what feels like a few years since I saw the anime. But many of the same beats are achieved here.

Enough so that it feels like I could just reiterate the general feelings of the TV series and it’d work here. Tokyo is dealing with the problem of the ghouls that exist, most of which have lived out of sight for much of their existence, but are now known quantities in modern life. They’re being hunted within the city by a special force that’s handling that, essentially treating them like dangerous dogs to be put down, but there’s a good sense of unease and anxiety with most citizens over them. The idea that anyone could be a ghoul is unnerving since there isn’t much in the way of telltale signs. While ghouls can’t consume human food as it makes them ill, ones that have been around for a bit have learned how to handle it in the short term before regurgitating it later and keeping their cover intact. Beyond that, most simply live in secret and tend to be caught by others accidentally discovering them or finding them feeding in the alleys of the city.

The focus is on a college student named Kaneki who, making a really bad attempt at getting to know a girl he sees regularly in a cafe, turns out to be a ghoul that’s stalking him as a meal. It ends up going badly in a way that it often doesn’t and he becomes a half a ghoul. His life is upended by this as he learns to deal with the hunger that comes from being a ghoul and aligns himself in a cafe run by an older ghoul that helps others of their kind. That’s not going to fly with the group that’s hunting them down and naturally it leads to some back and forth encounters that make up the action side of the series. Like I said, the concept holds close to the original work and anime adaptation pretty well and it covers the ground well as you could see a few more easily being made to follow what’s established here.

As adaptations go, this one worked well for me for several reasons but primarily because it didn’t wholesale alter a lot of things from the original, re-imagining it for this medium. Hagiwara has a pretty good plan here with how it unfolds and we get to connect well with the characters all around as it doesn’t try to rush anything. What also helped is that Masataka Kubota did a great job as Kaneki in playing that awkward student at first but really nailing it with how he handles his ghoul side. The in-control moments have him just in that awkward space of uncertainty but when he has to grapple with being a ghoul he really shines with the body movements, the facial expressions, and just the quirks that come from how he looks at everything. It’s one of those performances that takes all the right things from the anime side and brings it to life without looking horrible.

The film also worked for me in another way that tends to be problematic with projects like this. The special effects for this aren’t bad, though they’re not Hollywood style for obvious reasons, but the increase in overall quality as time goes on has helped. Some of this is still awkward but it’s blended into the film better and a lot of this dealing with darker themes helps a lot as well. But even more so is the fact that there is a lot of strong use of practical effects here that grounds it and resonate better with the violence and what’s going on. The blood and gore levels aren’t huge but it’s also not avoided, letting that side of the property sink in as well. The combination of these elements made for a better looking film than I expected it to be – even though I’d love to see a Hollywood adaptation in the vein of L.A. Ghoul and all that could be done there with it.

In Summary:
I’m always wary with these kinds of properties but Tokyo Ghoul works far better than I expected. It’s the kind of property that really is the ideal show to get localized and adapted into different regions to add its own local flavor to it while still having the original to go back to. It’s pretty faithful overall to the core concepts and isn’t a re-imagining that alters the core of it. The end result is a pretty good two-hour experience that feels like it tells the story it wanted will still leaving more than enough open for more. Funimation’s release is solid though I would have loved to have seen a longer and more comprehensive interview with the Japanese creative instead of the seven minutes we got.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Anime Expo 2017: Cast and Crew Discuss Tokyo Ghoul: The Movie, Original Japanese Trailer

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 3rd, 2018
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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