Tokyo Ghoul S, a sequel to the Tokyo Ghoul (2017) live-action film, is a relatively faithful adaptation of the anime series, and ride that’s both thrilling and graphic. The first film introduced Ken Kaneki and featured his transition to part ghoul, along with his realization of the danger in being discovered. That film ended with Kaneki trying to avoid capture by Amon and other CCG members as he tries to come to terms with his new reality, and covered episodes 1 through 3 and part of 6 through 8. Tokyo Ghoul S fills the gaps between those episodes, focusing largely on the antagonist, Tsukiyama Shuu.
Tokyo Ghoul S begins with a graphic scene to introduce Shuu, immediately setting the film’s dark tone as “The Gourmet,” as he’s better know, kills an actress for her heterochromatic eyes. In seeking new, unique “dishes,” he becomes interested in Kaneki. Falsely befriending him, Shuu leads Kaneki to a “dinner party,” where unbeknownst to him, he is dinner. Upon realizing the true rarity of Kaneki being a one-eyed ghoul, however, Shuu decides he cannot share Kaneki.
Thus sets the action in motion for Tokyo Ghoul S, which involves chance encounters and false leads, as well as Touka, a fan favorite and friend of Kaneki’s. An important plot point for the franchise is also established—there are dangers facing Kaneki not just from the human world, but from the world of ghouls as well.
In instituting that theme, Shuu’s portrayal is of immense importance. The type of character you love to hate, Shuu has an eccentricity that’s both intriguing and revolting. Shota Matsuda is brilliant in this role, giving Shuu just the right balance of poised elegance, riddled with his own madness, drifting from a bibliophile with and a composed, commanding air about him, to who a ghoul oses control over the smell and taste of Kaneki’s half-ghoul blood. In the anime, the scene at the coffee shop where Shuu smells the handkerchief with Kaneki’s blood is a memorable one, with Shuu’s eyes practically popping out of his head. While that extreme can only be reached in animation, Matsuda recreated it very well for a live-action, capturing the same feel of someone waiting in patience, struggling to hold back. He portrayed a similar scene, in the abandoned church, equally well, as he tastes Kaneki’s blood and attempts to explain the flavors he experienced. Matsuda’s portrayal of Shuu was chilling as pitch perfect.
On the note of cast, the actress for Touka changed between films. She was played by Fumika Shimizu in the 2017 live-action film, but replaced here by Maika Yamamoto. I am unsure of the reasons for this switch, but I honestly prefer Yamamoto’s portrayal of Touka. She feels more like the cool, collected, sometimes sharp Touka that’s familiar from the anime series. From her witty remarks about Shuu to her manner of subtly calling Kaneki a friend, she plays the part well.
The movie did alter some plot points from the anime that I wish had not been changed—namely, the revisions to the Ghoul Restaurant. In the anime, the restaurant is more of a stadium, where the unsuspecting “guests” are forced to face off against an executioner, ultimately becoming dinner to the audience of ghouls. In the live-action, this is altered to a more nightclub feel—visitors mingle, drinks in hand, music ringing and lights flashing. Rather than a fight, “dinner” merely means being strapped down and prepared alive. This change may have been made to avoid the level of graphic detail that could have occurred if the anime had been more closely followed.
However, the kagune were improved in this film. In particular, Touka’s kagune is mesmerizing. You can see lights like veins pulsing through it, giving it life-like qualities, and the ember specks that flicker off of it as she fights make it hard to look away. I relate to how Kimi felt when she saw it and simply said “so pretty.” The ghouls’ eyes, as well, seemed more real somehow. A range of color is shown, from an almost-gold color to raging red. The special effects definitely seem to have improved between the 2017 film and this one.
Overall, minor problems aside, this was a strong adaption. While some aspects felt overly graphic, that may simply be because it’s one thing to watch something happen in animation, but another entirely in live-action with realistic effects. However, staying fairly true to this arc of the anime, maintaining a good plot pace, and showcasing a superb portrayal of Shuu, Tokyo Ghoul S is makes for an enjoyable feature. With subtle mid-credits hinting toward future events, I hope we see a live-action part thre released in the future, introducing us to the next big threat—Aogiri Tree.
Rating: **** (out of *****)
Tokyo Ghoul S opens tomorrow in 400 theaters across the U.S. and Canada. The film will have a three-day limited theatrical run (September 16, 18 & 20) and will screen in Japanese with English subtitles. Visit the official site for tickets and more information.