Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tokyo Ghoul √A Review

Before I begin, I would like you to know that this review is going to spoiler-free, and that includes both THIS season AND the first season of the show. I will do my best to keep out any information revealed in season one for those who have yet to get around to either starting or finishing it. Though, if you haven't watched the first season yet, I'm not exactly sure why you are reading this.

Anyway, Tokyo Ghoul √A takes place some time after the events of the first season. Ghouls, which are a sort of demi-human who need to consume the flesh of other humans in order to survive, are struggling to keep themselves alive in the various districts of modern-day Tokyo. The protagonist of this series, Kaneki Ken, is a teenager who -- just a year or two ago -- was still completely human. It wasn't until he was involved in a tragic accident and received a faulty organ-transplant that he became part ghoul. Kaneki eventually falls into a group of ghouls operating out of a coffee shop by the name of Anteiku that simply want to help others of their kind survive. But that's easier said than done, considering the humans want ghouls exterminated for good -- which is extremely plausible.

In √A, Kaneki makes the decision to separate himself from Anteiku in order to become stronger and ultimately protect the ones he cares about. So to do that, he joins up with a rival gang (Aogiri) known more for their interference in human life, as opposed to Anteiku's method of just blending in. Throughout the brief course of this sequel, viewers get to sit in on the changes and interior struggle that Kaneki must face if he wants to save the ones he loves. And though the anime does face issues in showcasing that development which is ever-present in the manga, it is still an enjoyable show. The thing is, this season is receiving negative feedback from almost every critic but me. And I can see where that negative attention derives from, but is it really ALL THAT bad? I'll separate it the show into a few key component to better figure that out.

Music: 6/10
The music in the Tokyo Ghoul series is pretty boring most of the time, I'm not going to lie. BUT, at many moments throughout it, especially in this sequel, it hits you like a truck and completely elevates the "Feels" moments to the next level. The very last scene of this series is a reason in itself that should push you to watch it, if anything. Without the music, this scene wouldn't even make the impact of a fly landing on your shoulder. But the point is that the music of Tokyo Ghoul forces certain feelings out of you. After all, that is the objective of music as a whole, is it not? There's just so much stagnation in between these moments of intense emotion that the music isn't able to fully maintain your attention. Once again though, when it does manage to do its job, it does it better than almost anything out there. Go watch the last scene again on mute if you disagree with me.

Characters: 10/10
The characters in the Tokyo Ghoul universe are, without a debt, the strongest part of the show. But even better than these characters are the actors that play them. Natsuki Hanae, who voices Kaneki, is one of the best male-performers you will ever hear in an animated series. This performance tops everything else he has done so far and, in addition to that, has become my absolute favorite voice-acting role to-date. But it isn't just Hanae that delivers a stellar performance. It is the entire damn voice cast. Tsukimiya, Nishiki, Touka, Juzo, I can go on and on. Absolutely every actor works as a driving force in propelling you toward the next episode of the series, regardless of how the story is moving or what the manga did that the show did not. A lot of development is left out due to how short the series is, but it's still there. However, there is an incredibly huge jump from the first season to the second that leaves out almost everything that would cause the characters to become who they are in the newer episodes -- because most of them are completely different people from who they were in season one. But that is more of a story-based problem than a character based-one.

Art: 7/10
The animators at Studio Pierrot aren't the best in the business. They're not even in the top 10, to be honest. But are they bad? Mehhhhh...I'll say no. The fight scenes in Tokyo Ghoul √A are well animated considering how large they are in terms of scale at times. Character design is pretty solid as well and doesn't change that much when comparing the anime to the manga. But the blood is overdone, the faces lack serious emotion at times, and there is such a huge contrast between how everything looks at night and how everything looks during the day that it gets a little...confusing. Overall, it isn't something to worry about and only slightly depreciates the overall quality of the show. Because the character design is loyal to the books and keeps those characters pleasing to the eye, I'd say that the art is decent. That is my final answer.

Story: 6/10
The story in the first season definitely outweighs the story of √A. That huge gap between the two that I mentioned earlier plays a hefty part in this. Tokyo Ghoul is a series in which character development is so important that it is detrimental to the health of the show if you leave it out. But Studio Pierrot didn't care about this and instead focused too much on the conflict between Aogiri, Anteiku, and the humans -- basically leaving said development in the dust. It does get better though. As soon as you can recover from the initial time-skip and kind of figure out why Kaneki has become a completely different person over the last half-hour, it is going to be smooth sailing. The last five or so episodes really stood out, in my opinion. Not only were the riddled with nostalgia aimed at taking me back to season one, they built up hopes and chopped them down soon after. I like when my emotions get in the way of viewing a series. I like when those emotions renew my interest in a show and force me to watch it as soon as it becomes available. I looked forward to the ending of Tokyo Ghoul √A more than I looked forward to any other episode of the series. I think that has to say something.

A lot of critics are right in saying Tokyo Ghoul √A leaves too much out. But those critics aren't right into leading you to believe that the series is bad as a whole. Tokyo Ghoul √A does have its flaws -- no doubt about it. But it also has a lot of good things to offer as well. The characters, those moments of intense feeling, the performances -- so much is overlooked in the negative reviews. But hey, who am I to tell you what you will or won't enjoy? You can decide that on your own. I'm just a guy who knows what he likes, and both seasons of Tokyo Ghoul fall into that category for me.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

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