Film / Reviews

'Tokyo Ghoul "S"': A college, a cafe and a cannibal

by Mark Schilling

Contributing Writer

Big pop-culture franchises generate movie sequels as naturally as chickens lay eggs.

Directed by first-timers Kazuhiko Hiramaki and Takuya Kawasaki, “Tokyo Ghoul ‘S'” is a follow-up to “Tokyo Ghoul,” a 2017 sci-fi horror film based on Sui Ishida’s hit manga about a college boy who becomes, through no fault of his own, part ghoul. That is, he looks and feels human but, to his own immense disgust, craves human flesh.

In “Tokyo Ghoul,” the boy, Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota), wars with his ghoul side, while associating with ‘pure’ ghouls that human authorities are hell-bent on exterminating. For all its whizz-bang CG battles, the film had something real to say about not only the shifting boundary between human and nonhuman, but also the power of need. As William S. Burroughs put it, “Beyond a certain frequency need knows absolutely no limit or control. In the words of total need: ‘Wouldn’t you?’ Yes you would.” He could have been thinking of poor Kaneki.

Tokyo Ghoul 'S' (Tokyo Guru Esu)
Rating
Run Time 97 mins.
Language JAPANESE
Opens July 19

So what is the point of the sequel? More effects-driven battles, of course, with the ghouls showing off their superhuman powers and flashing their kagune, weapons that look like dissected body organs and erupt from their backs like angry serpents. But story-wise, not so much: The film revisits familiar settings and reintroduces familiar characters.

Kaneki is still working as a part-timer server at Anteiku, a cafe that caters to ghouls, though anyone can enter it off the street, including his buddy Hide (Kai Ogasawara), who remains ignorant of Kaneki’s ghoul side.

Our hero is also still training with Toka Kirishima (Maika Yamamoto), a ghoul who poses as an ordinary high school girl but is a formidable martial artist (as is karate black-belt Yamamoto). She is also capable of jaw-dropping feats, such as running down a vertical concrete surface, that the half-ghoul Kaneki struggles to imitate.

The film’s one major new element is Shuu Tsukiyama (Shota Matsuda), a dandyish ghoul gourmet who shows up one day at the cafe and immediately senses something different — and delicious — about Kaneki.

It’s obvious from the get-go that Tsukiyama is up to no good — he all but smacks his lips in sizing up his new acquaintance — but the mild-mannered Kaneki is both reluctant to offend and ridiculously slow on the uptake. Inevitably, he finds himself at a private dinner in Tsukiyama’s lair, not realizing that he is on the menu.

Playing Tsukiyama, Shota Matsuda chews the scenery and consumes meals that could have come from a Michelin-starred restaurant … that served fricasseed fingers.

In contrast to the super-sincere Kaneki and the all-business Toka, Tsukiyama is pure preening, self-regarding evil. Like Hannibal Lecter, he wears a mask of taste and sophistication. Similar to the mad Captain Nemo he is a virtuoso on the organ. And, like Count Dracula, his eyes light up at the sight his favorite red beverage.

That is, he is a mix of famous villains or, to be less charitable, a compendium of cliches. But Matsuda has great fun playing him while giving the film its only real tension, at least in his first scenes.

In the end, though, “Tokyo Ghoul ‘S'” is strenuously predictable. And no previous viewings of “The Silence of the Lambs,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” or “Dracula” are required to understand why.