What it’s about: There is a dark underworld hidden from the civilians of Tokyo – a subspecies of “ghouls” who, while human in appearance, are possessed of decidedly inhuman strength and cannibalistic urges. After a run-in with one such ghoul, Kaneki Ken wakes up to discover that the operation that saved his life has partially transformed him into a ghoul himself. Stuck half-way between the two worlds, Kaneki must face up to his new reality, without losing his grasp on his former mundane life.
Why you should watch it: It’s gory, dark, and absolutely riveting. Horror is a very hit-and-miss genre for anime, as the abstraction of animating a scene often lowers the visceral impact of the visuals. Tokyo Ghoul somehow manages to walk the line, using gore and suspense without falling into self-parody. The voice actors are excellent and the world itself is very well-painted. the soundtrack is decent, though not mindblowing. In all, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of horror and haven’t found much in anime to suit your tastes.
Caveats: The big one here is the level of censorship. I’d say roughly half the time, they get away with it relatively well, using the show’s already dark palette and some stylish angles to obscure the big black blobs that are only going to get revealed in the BD release, or using the simple expedient of inverting the colours to get around the restriction on showing blood. However, there are quite a few shots where it just doesn’t work, and you’re left with characters reacting to things that are hidden from the audience. Secondly, while the anime version works very well as a standalone, there is a substantial amount of background stuff that’s been cut out of the original manga material in the interests of time.
Themes: Guilt and self-hatred – finding the monster within oneself and making peace with it. Persecution of the “other”, and the cycle of violence that ensues.