Many anime fans can pinpoint a particular show or character that pulled them into the genre and, whether for nostalgia’s sake or because it is just that good, this anime usually doesn’t get knocked off its #1 pedestal very easily (if at all). What exactly creates these strong connections that can lead to near obsession with an alternate reality of another’s making?
Tokyo Ghoul is my favorite anime and I have been dying to write about it, but I was not sure how to approach it aside from just gushing over how much I love it. This led to an in-depth consideration of why it resonated so strongly with me. We could start with the fact that it is the first anime I chose to watch for myself. I could also mention the attraction of the animation style, more modern and cinematic than what I had previously viewed. I was also absolutely enthralled by the storyline of an outsider on the fringe of two opposing worlds looking for a bridge to belonging. But sometimes timing really is everything.
I found this anime soon after taking definitive steps toward improving my mental health, while working on overcoming old wounds and quelling intrusive thoughts. I was confronting the inner critic acquired in childhood whose voice, I finally understood, was not my own. Addressing the dissociation that stems from trying to exist as someone apart from your true self your whole life is difficult and unsettling. This experience parallels the jarring journey of Kaneki Ken in Tokyo Ghoul. When he is made a ghoul against his knowledge or consent, he faces a world and existence forever altered. But beyond the acclimatization to a new food source (humans) and new appendages used to capture said food source (kagune), Kaneki must confront the part of himself that has always felt he wasn’t good enough.
These concepts are powerful in and of themselves, but when playing out in tandem with the opening song things reach an unprecedented level. “Unravel” by TK from Ling tosite sigure perfectly encapsulates the conflict of our MC and the world of Tokyo Ghoul. “Tell me how this works. Who is inside of me?” It also faithfully describes the constant discord of those accustomed to donning a protective shell or mask in front of others due to [insert your personal trauma here]. The performance is phenomenal, and the impact is heightened by the full reveal at the end of the first season. This climax marks a terrible transformation for Kaneki, and as the OP continues past what we have previously heard we are brought to dramatic resolution—an intricate weaving of so many threads that have been tangling together from the first moments flashed before us on screen. While I feel the first season is strongest, I committed to following Kaneki’s clashes and evolutions—his fight for a future where all aspects of his being can coexist—through to the end. Although the opening song changes in subsequent seasons, I was thrilled to see “Unravel” utilized in an additional climactic moment at the end of Tokyo Ghoul √A. After watching this series twice through (make that four for the epic first season), I am now working my way through the manga to uncover details that were glossed over or even outright omitted in the anime adaptation. While I appreciate this deeper understanding of the world of ghouls, I am still grateful for what the realization of this anime did for the story and characters embedded in my mind. I am awed it led to the creation of a song that spoke so clearly to my soul. If you have not yet watched Tokyo Ghoul, you really should. Like now, please. It is an experience unmatched and a true gift for those (like me) who still struggle every now and then (or even more often) to identify their inner voice and self.
Melissa Nunez is a writer and homeschooling mother from South Texas. When not in the classroom or behind her computer, she is most likely to be found attempting to identify a local species of bird or plant or watching a really cool show (not always, but very probably, anime). She is contributor for The Daily Drunk Mag and Yellow Arrow, and staff writer for Alebrijes Review. Twitter: @MelissaKNunez