For centuries humans have feared the fictitious and horrific beings that crawl in their imaginations like zombies, vampires, and werewolves, but in modern-day Tokyo, there are creatures that are far more gruesome and too real to be called just myths. The beings that people fear the most are Ghouls, monsters in the guises of people that devour human flesh. Tokyo Ghoul follows the story of a young man’s endeavors to live in a world inhabited by these monsters, but the story comes with a twist. Our main character himself is half-human and half-ghoul, bringing life to the phrase: “You are what you eat.”
In life, bad things happen to good people for no reason at all, and Tokyo Ghoul is the very materialization of that twisted logic. Ken Kaneki is just an average college student with a heavy interest in literature and the opposite sex. Okay, so the interest in the opposite sex part was a bit of an over-exaggeration, but you can’t blame the guy for falling in love with a bespectacled beauty with the same level of interests in books as him. On the plus side, she shares an equal amount of interest in him. On the down side, she wants to devour his flesh. On the downer side, he becomes half a man-eating monster. How he turns into such a mess I’ll let you find out for yourself.
Tokyo Ghoul is usually seen as a twist of horror and action molded into one, but the underlying themes of the series make it to be much more than that. One can see it as just a series where a bunch of people eat other people, but the fact of it is that it focuses on Kaneki’s journey at finding a place in the world of humans and ghouls. What if you woke up and found yourself to be something you’re not? Would your way of living change? Would the people around you accept who and what you are? Would you even bother trying to live the way you are now? These are all questions that Ken Kaneki has to find answers to in order to cope with his situation. His dilemma is no laughing matter, and the way he struggles to cope with it is something I find pretty realistic and tragic.
It’s not hard to notice, but aside from the main character the story itself is pretty influenced by literature. The story borrows elements from real life literature, like Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, while also following themes from its own self-created literature, such as Sen Takatsuki’s The Egg of the Black Goat. If you’ve read The Metamorphosis, you’ll remember that the main character woke up one day as a giant insect. The situation isn’t exactly the same, but much similar to Kaneki’s, no? While the allusions are pretty noticeable, making the connections are what makes it very puzzling. Is Kaneki turning into a Ghoul really what correlates his story to that of a man transforming into a giant insect? Are his ghoulish tendencies really what makes him to be like the main character of The Egg of the Black Goat? Yes and no, but the journey to finding these answers throughout the series is what’s fun. It makes you think.
The story itself is what really grabbed me, but the same can’t exactly be said for its art. It’s attention to detail isn’t exactly high quality, and most of the characters come off as looking pretty plain. The style is pretty flat and feels like it’s more suited to a more lighthearted setting, maybe a slice of life series. The characters’ reactions to situations are over-exaggerated and look, at times, a little comical. Do all these faults make the art an overall train wreck? Not at all. There are times throughout the volume where the art style spikes up in relation with the story, becoming very dynamic when the situation calls for it.
The Verdict: Good
While at times the art is pretty plain, the story is what really carries the manga. Kaneki’s transition to human to half-ghoul is what really brought depth to the story, and seeing where and how he ends up is what got me to keep reading. The first volume doesn’t branch out the other characters’ personalities for now, but Kaneki as the main focus is what gives the series a good start. The series is advertised as a horror, but it’s really not. It’s not even that gory. Just think of it more as a suspense-thriller, with a side of action.
Tokyo Ghoul is a series by Ishida Sui that’s dated back since 2011 with the span of 14 volumes (this is excluding :re). The manga is currently still in serialization under the seinen publication, Weekly Young Jump. Studio Pierrot adapted the series with 2 seasons, Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul: Root A. FUNimation licensed and simulcasted the anime in North America. The official page for the anime can be found here.
TOKYO GHOUL © 2011 by Sui Ishida/SHUEISHA Inc.