Monday, September 16, 2019

Tokyo Ghoul S

You can accuse ghoul of many things, but not cannibalism—because they eat people, not other ghouls. Yet, what about a half-ghoul, half-human, like Ken Kaneki? The notorious ghoul known as “The Gourmet” is convinced Kaneki is not just edible—he will be absolutely delicious. The man-eating ghouls of Sui Ishida’s manga are hungrier than ever in Takuya Kawasaki & Kazuhiko Hiramaki’s live-action sequel, Tokyo Ghoul S, which screens nationwide today, Wednesday, and Friday, courtesy of Funimation.

Thanks to an involuntary organ donation from his late ghoul friend, Kaneki became a human-ghoul hybrid in the first Tokyo Ghoul. He has yet to fully embrace his ghoulishness, especially the eating human flesh part, but he has found belonging in the Anteiki coffee shop that caters to ghouls (coffee being the only human food they can stomach, because it is rich and delicious).

Shu Tsukiyama is exactly the kind of ghoul they prefer not to serve. Viewers first meet him in the bloody prologue. Kaneki’s co-worker Toka Kirishima, a petulant high school student and lethal projectile-wielding ghoul, boots him out on his ear, but not before he gets a whiff of Kaneki. Convinced the human-hybrid will be a rare delicacy, Tsukiyama lays plans to ensnare and feast on him, starting with a charm offensive.

The first live-action Tokyo Ghoul was a lot like the X-Men, but with ghouls not-so secretly living among humans in place of mutants. However, “S” more fully lives up to the horror implications of ghouls eating people. Tsukiyama is a classic horror movie villain, played with scenery-chewing relish by Shota Matsuda. In contrast, one of Kaneki main adversaries from the first film returns in a sickly and more empathetic state this time around.

Masataka Kubota still plays Kaneki like a wide-eyed and largely freaked-out sad sack, but he laos nicely conveys signs the character is starting to mature and grow into his new life. Maika Yamamoto shows off all kinds of action chops as the hard-charging Kirishima. However, it is Shunya Shiraishi and Mai Kiryu who really give the film heart in their poignant scenes as the formerly sinister ghoul Nishiki Nishio and his human lover, Kimi Nishino. As a bonus for Japanese pop-culture junkies, Canadian-Japanese model Maggie appears in the prologue as the bi-racial model, “Margaret.”

The special effects, gory make-up, and whirling-and-swirling action direction are all first-rate. The main characters are wearing well too, which is fortunate, since the mid-credits stinger clearly implies there is more to come. S also draws delves more deeply iinto the particularities of its ghoul world. That should help differentiate it from other manga-to-film franchises, like Ajin: Demi-Human, which largely paralleled the first Toyko Ghoul throughout its opening installment. Recommended for fans of the manga series and dark fantastical action in general, Tokyo Ghoul S screens tonight (9/16), Wednesday (9/18), and Friday (9/20), in theaters across the country, including the Village East in New York (where it will actually screen 9/16, 9/18, and 9/19).

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