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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the movie ahead.
Nicky, it seems like we've been covering nothing but vampires and robots and moon ninjas lately, so today, I thought we could dial things back with a nice and simple story about a wandering folk singer, just trying to make his way through this mixed-up world of ours.
Now this scene is very important. It's his first concert, and—
Aw dangit. We got grabbed by the ghoulies again.
Just when I think I'm out of the Tokyo Ghoul hole, a twist of fate keeps dragging me back in. This time, Funimation finally released both Tokyo Ghoul OVAs for streaming, years after their initial release. Today we'll be covering both Tokyo Ghoul [Jack] and Tokyo Ghoul: Pinto respectively. Both of them are standalone prequel stories spin-offs featuring some important side-characters. Going in order of release, let's get everything ooky-spooky with JACK.
Yeah, I'm also frankly appalled that Funimation expects me to think about Tokyo Ghoul again in the year of our lord 2021, but in some ways, I guess I've never left the 13th ward.
I for one, have never stopped thinking about Tokyo Ghoul. It runs around like a piece of bloatware in my brain's task manager, using up all my memory, and also probably doing something illegal.
Oh it's definitely illegal.
Anyways, JACK is a prequel featuring the once young and up-and-coming ghoul investigator Kishō Arima. Based on a one volume manga, JACK shows the future mysterious and cold-blooded starling in a simpler time but through the perspective of the current-delinquent, Taishi Fura.
Now, Arima's and his stoic attitude has never been a favorite of mine, but I have a big ole soft spot for Fura's narrative here as a guy that feels out of place.
And Arima's backstory here pretty much amounts to a tacit acknowledgement that he's just always been Like That.
So it's smart of the OVA to focus on Fura instead, who experiences a full arc from angsty delinquent to ghoul hunter. With plenty of pain along the way, of course. This is Tokyo Ghoul, after all.
Those with previous knowledge of the series would remember that the 13th ward (actually, Shibuya), unlike the relatively peaceful 20th ward (Nerima) where the titular coffee shop resides, is supposedly a big hot-bed for ghoul incidents and that maintains even in this blast-to-the-past. By day, Arima passes as a normal high schooler but really he's there to act undercover in hopes of snooping out potential predators as a rookie for the Commission of Counter Ghoul (The CCG).
Luckily, you don't have to remember too many of the specifics to follow the JACK OVA, because this series sure does have a lot of specifics. I couldn't even remember who grown-up Fura was (and I reviewed the show) until the end of the episode, but it still managed to weave an engaging enough tale of amateur teen ghoul hunters briefly united through a common purpose. And like the rest of Tokyo Ghoul, its themes of loss and transience are pretty universal.
Fura isn't a big character in the main series but how he dovetails his feelings about both humans, ghouls, and the society they all live under is actually pretty complex. These are briefed but previously he dropped out as a star pitcher due to an injury and became a delinquent. fter having a fight with his childhood friends he tried to reintegrate into normal society only to find out that he still doesn't really belong.
The strokes being painted are also very broad. It's only a half-hour episode, after all. But in between the gore and the colorful kagune, there are some nice, quiet moments that sell the authenticity of these relationships. For instance, I really like this moment where genuine friendship blossoms between Arima and Fura.
Well, it's mostly genuine anyway.
Arima is a character who is mostly spoken about in whispers, both positively and negatively: a prodigy, a mystery, a reaper. So it's nice to see him acting so warmly to Fura, who just wants to do everything to avenge his two best friends, one of whom was lost to the ghoul Lantern.
Fura's hotheadedness also contrasts nicely with Arima, who does indeed act more like a real person around him. It's very sweet.
They're also joined by fellow classmate Minami, who has quite the nose for ghouls, it turns out.
It turns out there's a good reason for that too.
Minami is an interesting character, too. She comes off as a standard good girl but her information on ghouls turns out to be interesting and accurate. Arima doesn't allow her to come along on any missions, however, supposedly because she'll get hurt. Regardless, it seems like she deeply admires Arima.
Fura also seems like he developed a little crush on her, but he's also hung up on his childhood friend, Aki, who was hospitalized after Lantern's attack.
And if you're familiar with how Tokyo Ghoul works, it's easy to spot the twist from a mile away. That's not necessarily a bad thing either. This story isn't so much about the shock of betrayal as it is about the inevitability of it. The conclusion is preordained, but these characters still find as much solace in each other as they can before the shoe has to drop.
Yeah, it turns out the pumpkin-faced ghoul they were hunting all along was none other than Minami herself! She even gets Yamori (pre-torture) to help lure both Fura and Arima into place.
Oh yeah that's a fun cameo! You can tell it's fun because his hair hasn't been ghoul-bleached yet, as hair in this series is wont to do.
You also gotta love Tokyo Ghoul's continued commitment to characterizing ghouls in exactly two ways: the most tragic person you could possibly imagine, and Hannibal Lecter.
There is zero in-between, except in the fact that every ghoul is both of these characters simultaneously.
I mean, we'll talk about a certain gourmand later, but right now I want to talk about what exactly makes Minami so tragic. She attacked Fura's friends after they tore up the town because she was insanely jealous of, from her perspective, their extreme display of privilege and arrogance. She put so much effort into being a goody two shoes that watching someone else waste it infuriated her. Previously Aki stated that it felt like she was punished and that's actually because she was, though not through the eyes of God, but simply another teenage girl less fortunate than herself.
It's a very simple, very human conflict, amped up into loud melodrama thanks to the complicating factor of secret cannibals. And I have to admit, even though it's not graceful in the slightest, I still have prickly kind of fondness for Tokyo Ghoul's exaggerated emotions. At its core, these are hurt, broken people just lashing out at each other, catching strangers in the crossfire, and dragging more and more people into an ouroboros of violence.
Even after killing her, Fura still manages to serve up a smidge of sympathy for Minami. Like many, wondering what would've happened if circumstances had been different. It's not new but I always respect the series for that kind of ambiguous nature. I think Tokyo Ghoul is one of the few series that even tries to maintain that kind of balance between grotesque, tragic, and introspective.
Yeah, it definitely has a flavor all its own. It doesn't always work, but it definitely always feels like quintessential Tokyo Ghoul, even absent its main characters. That isn't nothing.
And speaking of flavor...
Ah yes, time for Cool Ranch Dorito.
Pinto is the subtitle of the second OVA so graciously dropped on our doorsteps, and it's all about the forging of the bond between Tokyo Ghoul's two most powerful characters:
May God help us all.
Here to wreak havoc with their shocking lack of concern for others. Jokes aside though, in actuality PINTO is the only chapter of the light novels to be adapted to anime form. Its story focuses on the ghoul epicurean, Shu Tsukiyama, and the unlikely friendship with a photography-obsessed gremlin Chie Hori. They also happen to be my two favorite characters in the whole series.
They are both chaos incarnate, but wildly different facets of chaos. Tsukiyama is all theatrical soliloquys and gratuitous French, while Chie is photo-obsessed and unflappable. They're an unstoppable force and an immovable object, and they've joined forces, and nothing on the planet can stop them. That is to say, I love them a lot too.
And if you expect the origin of their friendship to make any kind of logical sense: don't.
That would involve following normal person logic and not two beings only concerned with their particular hyperfocus and general boredom for everything else. Chie catches Tsukiyama in the act of chowing down after stalking him. This poses problems for him as a ghoul, her classmate, and as a prestigious member of society. Chie, a human that resembles a hamster more than a high-schooler, isn't concerned with sharing the photos but rather only looking to live her life to seek opportunities for more interesting photos. In fact, she barely wants to give Tsukiyama the time of day, consistently brushing him off and also any sort of philosophical questions he might have about her.
Chie is peak "head empty," and although Tsukiyama can't quite articulate it at first, that's part of what draws him towards her. Like most ghouls, Tsukiyama ain't a great guy, but he's not a total monster either. He has his own weird detached affection for other people (and their vices), but Chie is enough of an enigma to break through his barrier. It's kinda sweet, in its own twisted way. Especially when he's surrounded by friends and servants who keep asking him why he hasn't killed her yet.
I think it's also good to note that their relationship is completely the ghoul-version of platonic where he has ZERO interest in eating her because she's so physically unremarkable to him as a stuffy gourmand. Compared to her, Tsukiyama has everything. He's got money, popularity, a bad hair cut. Yet he has his curiosity piqued by someone so average in comparison. It's is a really strange feeling for him, and it's nice to see some of his thought process and how much forethought he puts into things before going into full "Mamoru Miyano" performance mode.
Yeah it's extremely funny to see all these other ghouls try to talk him into eating her, while Tsukiyama acts like the calm and reasonable one for possibly the only time in his life. Never fear, though, because there's plenty of Maximum Miyano to be found around the margins of this episode.
It's very cringe.
This is why we need Chie to dunk on him.
He sucks so much and that's why I love him. But yes, he definitely deserves Chie.
Boy tho, I really didn't need to hear him so lavishly describe the taste and texture of old man meat. That's not gonna leave my head any time soon.
For the record I have entire folders on my computer dedicated to pictures of Tsukiyama's face, and also some very cute rubber keychains of him living on my desk right now. Words cannot describe how much I love this drama nerd and, more importantly, I still really like his fascination with humans, despite the fact that he eats them. I still think that comes through even if I gotta see it come out of his Dorito-mouth.
He has enough gears turning in his head to make up for Chie's complete lack of them.
Anyways, he brings Chie to an affiliated hospital. There they see an elderly patient who keeps troubling the nurses but avoids being reprimanded because he's too old to remember sexually harassing them. The old guy is also too rich so they can't really do anything to stop him anyway. Tsukiyama promises Chie that if she manages to bring her smol-self, she's in for a good performance. Charming.
And in another typical Tokyo Ghoul twist, it's the nurse who turns out to be an abusive asshole who beats the old man each night with impunity.
Because Tokyo Ghoul will never pass up an opportunity to portray a situation where literally everyone involved is in the wrong in some way.
Well, if it was only ghouls as the ones who are monsters, that would be missing the point. Even without the need to predate on others for sustenance, humans are already cruel and unfair to each other. In this cycle of abuse it makes Tsukiyama's strange display of horror feel almost karmic. After all, humans are well, downright rotten.
I should also note that unlike the broadcast version of the show, these OVAs are completely uncensored, so enjoy the bloody display to your hearts content.
Yep, if you wanna see Tsukiyama peel off a nice big slice of old man skin, it's alllll there. Be my guest.
Tokyo Ghoul's misanthropy can definitely feel overwrought at times, and I think it reaches past that point here, but I suppose it also fits the over-the-top character of Pinto's protagonist. There are no half-measures with Tsukiyama.
I'll also note that he's still clearly the villain as much as he is the hero here and he's happy to play the part, complete with soaring orchestral, singing harmonies, and a stellar 10/10 landing. Composer, Yutaka Yamada does a great job to hit those crescendos. In a way, Tsukiyama is performing as service for his victims just as much as he is for Chie, himself, or the viewing audience, in a weird-twisted sort of way. It's dazzling.
What a man. What a ghoul.
Miyano can hold a note. I would like to see Mads Mikkelsen try that.
HAND OVER SEASON 4 OF HANNIBAL, COWARDS
You're telling me! Oh and I almost forgot my favorite part of the episode: Chie sets up a dead man's switch in case Tsukiyama tries to murder her, but then she completely forgets to tell him about it until after he throws her out the window, thus completely negating it as a negotiation tactic. I mean, it all works out anyway, but that's just so perfectly Chie.
She's got a couple brain cells rattling around in there at least.
I'm pretty sure both Tsukiyama AND Chie exist in some sort of genius-idiot paradox. Like they have one-track minds so they're only really good at ONE thing but fail at others, like having a moral compass. It's interesting to think about that they're actually pre-existing characters from a failed comedy series pitch and ended up in Murder Town. They still come out as so endearing.
Yeah it was nice to be reminded that despite any problems I might have with the manga or its anime adaptations (tho I am a notorious Root A defender), there's still plenty of stuff that genuinely endears me towards Tokyo Ghoul. This unlikely friendship is one of them.
I also gotta give props to the original light novel author Shin Towada, who is actually Sui Ishida's older sister, who took a lot of care to flesh out the characters. Ishida has stated Tsukiyama and Chie are really precious to him, given their past.
Oh that's really cool! I guess the penchant for both exuberant tragedy and cannibal slapstick runs in the family.
Anyways, Tokyo Ghoul's strength has always been its characters and the sheer multitudes that exists within them. I think these two OVAs show a lot of that. It was a really nice trip down memory lane for me but I also still expect a lot of great works from Sui Ishida down the line, whether it be another manga or a musical otome game (pls localize Broccoli).
I had a good time too! It really was just like meeting back up with a friend after a long absence, provided that friend was covered head-to-toe in viscera.
I'd rather be a called a friend than a pet, at least. Some may find it distasteful to be called a treat but it's imo definitely something worth sinking your teeth into, regardless if it's out of season or not.