The first Tokyo Ghoul, a live-action adaptation of the manga series by Sui Ishida, was a surprisingly fun action flick set in a captivating world. The sequel, Tokyo Ghoul S, takes the series in a new direction, dialing up the horror and delivering a film that is not only tons of fun, but also opens the road for future entries to explore even more interesting themes.
Picking up shortly after the first movie left off, Tokyo Ghoul S follows Kaneki, a half-ghoul college student, as he attempts to train in secret and is put to the test when a serial killer targets him as potential prey. Perhaps the biggest problem with this film is that it is extremely reliant on audiences having seen its predecessor. Without having seen the events of the last movie, this one would likely make little sense. However, those who already have an investment in the series are sure to enjoy what this follow-up has to offer.
The most enjoyable parts of this film are those which go all-in on the horror elements of the premise. Although there are a few moments here and there in the first movie in which Kaneki is struggling with his new ghoulish urges, allowing for some interesting body horror, this features a darker tone and a more sinister villain as opposed to the relatively cartoonish (but still interesting) CCG.
Additionally, the film goes deeper into the series’ themes of good and evil. The ethical implications of the ghouls killing humans to feed were discussed at length in the previous movie, but because of the more complex villain in this film, those themes are even more prevalent and interesting. The Gourmet, who brings to mind Hannibal Lecter and other classic horror villains, is truly menacing and a great way to introduce some of these ideas.
And while Kaneki’s arc of trying to save himself from The Gourmet is compelling, the expanded arc of supporting character Kirishima is even more interesting. Her personality is made even more clear in this movie thanks to the interactions she has with her human friend. Again, the more subtle nuances of these interactions may not be as immediately clear to the previously uninitiated, but they have a surprising amount of emotional weight.
The standout in the cast is undeniably Shôta Matsuda, who plays the antagonist. His performance is a ton of fun to watch, and ultimately, one of the main driving forces of the film. Additionally, his chemistry with lead Masataka Kubota is great, allowing him to pull off the more deceptive elements of the character.
Another impressive thing about this movie is that it is much more accomplished on a technical level than its predecessor. Part of the reason why this is the case is that Tokyo Ghoul S does not rely as much on CGI. Although there are a few fight scenes that involve CGI, much more of the film is shot using impressive cinematography, production design, and practical effects that emphasize suspense.
In many ways, Tokyo Ghoul S is an improvement over its already impressive predecessor. If one hasn’t yet seen the original, it would be advisable to go back and watch it before seeing this one, but since both movies are exciting and unique, it is definitely worth your time.
Tokyo Ghoul S plays in theaters on September 16, 18, and 20.