Stage & Screen

Gannibal, Season One: A Satisfying Slow Burn Psychological Horror

The director behind well-loved Japanese film Missing lifts this horror-mystery manga off the page and onto the small screen to great effect.
Daigo Agawa (played by Yuya Yagira) held at gunpoint by Mutsuo Goto (played by Yoshi Sakou). All photos courtesy of Disney / Hulu.
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Gannibal, Season One: A Satisfying Slow Burn Psychological Horror

As one of the most-watched series for Disney+ in Japan, Gannibal leaves the audience in no doubt that the subject of people eating people is the order of the day in this seven-part series, which sees Yuya Yagira in the role of officer Agawa Daigo, who arrives in the small rural village of Kyokamura with his family. The fact that village's previous officer disappeared in mysterious circumstances becomes Daigo's main focus while he also does his job watching over the village. It very quickly transpires that anyone that gets too involved with the Goto family in the village ends up in terrible trouble, and Daigo races against time and a roster of enemies to figure out the truth, deal with his own past, and keep his family safe.

Daigo Agawa (played by Yuya Yagira), Yuki Agawa (played by Riho Yoshioka), and Mashiro Agawa (played by Kokone Shimizu)

The show thrives on the emotional attachments the audience forms with the variety of characters in Kyokamura. Of course, we know that cannibalism is the ultimately heinous issue at the center of the show, but how does it scar the people it touches? How does Daigo's own past and methods as a police officer serve him or fail him in the face of such an atrocity? And how is Daigo's very young daughter (who has her own opinions and thoughts about her father's job) cope amongst all this? Many unforgettable characters pop up that give the village a deep sense of history and tight community, and as a result, it is easy to wonder how Daigo might possibly get himself and his family out of such a place unscathed.

Daigo Agawa (played by Yuya Yagira)

In many ways, the actual 'horror' element is merely the backdrop to all the fascinating motivations of the characters involved. The story knows that the audience will be able to presume certain things straightaway. Young family visits village where cannibalism may be involved: of course we know terrible things will occur... but where the show has its fun is in surprising us with when those twists and turns do pop up. Little moments to unsettle the audience are intertwined with the bigger, more overtly horrific or dramatic set pieces. The way a character might smile, walk, peer out from the window of a car; all of this helps to hold the audience's attention through the sense of unease built into every episode.

Daigo Agawa (played by Yuya Yagira) and 'That Man'

Fans of the original manga will find the source material adapted fairly faithfully, with many moments enriched through its transition onto the screen. The cannibalism element enables to the show to utilise some bloody and truly gross moments that places the show firmly in the 'horror' genre, but to call Gannibal a psychological thriller is just as apt. For those that might shy away from horror, Gannibal could be the perfect fit: there is no barrage of jump scares here, for instead the real horror is found through unraveling the many motives and actions of the occupants in Kyokamura. But maybe don't watch the show while eating, just in case.

Season One of Gannibal is streaming now on Hulu in the US, and Disney+ in other territories.
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