A number of mainstream live-action films are lined up for 2017 but Tokyo Ghoul is the one that I’m totally hyped about. Sato Takeru’s Ajin: Demi Human comes in close second. Sato Takeru, who rose to international fame with Rurouni Kenshin and Bakuman, is a fan-favorite pick to play Kaneki Ken. Others are also rooting for Kanata Hongo, Ryûnosuke Kamiki and Kento Yamazaki — but 28-year-old Masataka Kubota came out on top.
Tokyo Ghoul is a dark fantasy seinen manga created by Sui Ishida. With more than six million copies sold, it is the fourth best-selling manga series in Japan in 2014. Its English translated version topped The New York Times Bestseller list in 2015.
The story is set in a world where ghouls and humans coexist. Ghouls live like ordinary people except they crave for human flesh. They have unusual abilities that they try to hide to avoid getting exposed and captured by authorities. Kaneki Ken is just a normal Japanese Literature student at Kamii University but meeting a ghoul named Rize Kamishiro changed his life altogether. He recovers from a fatal accident by having Rize’s organs transplanted into him but he wakes up as a half-ghoul who now needs human flesh to survive.
Half-ghouls are said to be stronger than pure-blood ghouls. A half-ghoul is born naturally as a ghoul and a human’s offspring. Artificially, a half-ghoul can also be produced the same way Kaneki was turned into one: by transferring ghoul organs into a human body. Fortunately, a place called Anteiku took him in, a safe haven managed by ghouls who help him adjust to his new life.
Kaneki Ken is a dark haired, lean, young man who prefers reading over athletic pursuits. Masataka Kubota is one of my favorite actors and here are the reasons why I agree that he is the best choice to play the famous half-ghoul:
1. He does crazy so well.
Kaneki’s fear of being alone pushed him to do extreme measures to protect the important people in his life. However, instead of sticking with his previous gentle nature, he becomes violent and merciless towards those who threaten him.
Masataka Kubota is best known for his award-winning and engrossing portrayal of Yagami Light in the 2015 series adaptation of Death Note. Unlike Kaneki who goes from shy black haired boy to white haired badass, Yagami Light did not have any physical manifestation of his changes but Masataka Kubota sensitively showed the pathos of Yagami Light’s transformation from compassionate fighter of justice to a ruthless psychopath who deemed himself fit to judge humanity. Just look at those expressive eyes.
2. Playing tragic characters is nothing new.
“I’m not the protagonist of a novel or anything. I’m just a college student who likes to read, like you could find anywhere. But… if, for argument’s sake, you were to write a story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be… a tragedy.”
Kaneki Ken is a tragic character. Yagami Light, too. Kubota played one of the elite samurais who went on a suicide mission to assassinate a tyrant in Takashi Miike’s remake of 13 Assassins. He is also included in the famous Rurouni Kenshin live-action film. It may have been a brief appearance but he is definitely an important part of Himura Kenshin’s life. Masataka Kubota is Kiyosato Akira, a member of the Mimawarigumi who worked as a bodyguard for a high-ranking official. He met his tragic fate at the hands of Hitokiri Battousai but his strong will to live allowed him to leave the first deep and lasting cut on Kenshin’s face. Talk about a scene stealer.
3. He’s more than just a dramatic actor.
Masataka Kubota may look like a precious cinnamon roll but he can actually kick ass and accomplish physical feats in impressive action sequences.
His previous roles prove that he is one of Japan’s go-to action stars: Kuronaga Hayato (a violent youth delinquent in the low-budget Crows-inspired Gachiban MAX), Yuji Kurosaki (one of the quirky members of ST in ST MPD Scientific Investigation Squad), Toshida Makoto (a member of a vigilante group in the comedy Maniac Hero), Mochizuki Ryota (a young policeman in the Japanese remake of the German series The Last Cop), and Smoky (the leader of the Rude Boys in HiGH & LOW).
The Rude Boys’ trailer is the most viewed video among the factions from HiGH & LOW. The members utilize the art of parkour in their impressive action scenes. At the 1:47 mark, we see Smoky in a one-on-one fight against Sannoh Rengokai’s Yamato (Noboyuki Suzuki). Soon, they will face each other again since Noboyuki is set to play First Class Ghoul Investigator Koutarou Amon.
4. Sui Ishida approves.
After seeing Masataka Kubota in the trailer for the 2011 film We Can’t Change The World But We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia, Sui Ishida said that if Tokyo Ghoul ever gets adapted into a live-action movie, he’d pick Kubota for the role of Kaneki Ken. And no one knows the character better than the creator himself!
An effective lead is just one of many essential things on the checklist of how to make a good live-action film. Their acting skills and star power aren’t enough to guarantee success so there is always the fear that Tokyo Ghoul is going to be the next lackluster adaptation like Shingeki no Kyojin. But if done right, it might just be the next big box-office hit in the vein of Rurouni Kenshin. I’m just hoping for the best.