Shy college student Ken Kaneki finally gets the nerve to ask out his crush Rize who he met at the local coffee shop they both frequent, Anteiku. Through a series of unfortunate events, Kaneki ends up in the hospital and an emergency leads to his organs being replaced with Rize’s before approval can be given. As it turns out, Rize is what is known as a ghoul–a human-like monster that sustains itself on human flesh.
Why this series?: I read this series while I was back in high school. I had a lot of good memories of it, and so, since I never finished all of it, I decided that it was time to reread and finish the rest of the series. I wish I hadn’t.
Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul:re are two parts of a single series, although they are labeled differently and are considered completely different. They aren’t like other companion series, where you can read one and then pick up the other in whatever order you want, but instead they are to be enjoyed in a strict order–TG first, TG:re second. While they intend to tell the penultimate story of Ken Kaneki, there is no doubt a reason as to why Ishida split the series into two. TG is told with much more nuance towards Kaneki’s story when compared to the sequel series. TG is a horror-thriller with a tragic hero that had it’s ups and downs. TG:re is a half-assed thriller that is trying way too hard to be gritty and new when it already had all of that within the first series.
Maybe my last sentence was harsh, but I’m seriously upset about how this series turned out for me, so here I am, ready to write out all of my feelings and hopefully discuss this with other people who had similar feelings as I did. Now, as I mentioned in the intro to this post, I originally read this series while I was in high school. If I were to estimate the timeline, I would say that I read TG around 2016, and picked up the second series around the time it first started coming out in 2017. It wasn’t that far into the sequel series that I ended up dropping it as it was released to instead read books that were currently catching my interest. At that point, I wasn’t reading much manga, so this was at the very tail-end of my manga-reading days. I haven’t read much since and this is the first manga I’ve seriously picked up since then.
I’ll be breaking this post into three parts: a TG review, a TG:re review, and overall comments on the series.
Note: to discuss TG:re, various spoilers will come up about the ending to TG. I try not to get into specifics, but because I’m talking about an entire series, it’s hard to avoid spoilers entirely. Instead, I just mention anything that is specific to understanding how the second part transpires.
Tokyo Ghoul – ★★★★☆
This series reminded me of why I loved manga. It reminded me why I loved horror and why I continued to read despite finding books that I didn’t love or agree with one-hundred percent. To me, Tokyo Ghoul is the epitome of what the majority of books should be like for the average reader: you should enjoy large portions of it, find other parts lacking, but overall find a new book/series that you find some level of joy in. Any reader is not going to love every single book they read, nor will they hate every single book they read. This is a good medium.
TG is a dark and tragic story about a hero most people can relate to in some way. Kaneki is shy, he likes to read, he has a friend that often overshadows him, and he doesn’t always know what he wants in life. Kaneki is the every-man trope to the highest degree that you can think of, always with one or two characteristics added that most people will find something to relate to. I’ll be the first to admit that Kaneki is super bland when you first meet him. He’s a simple guy, which I can relate to! However, when he finally goes to get what he wants–a girl, named Rize–it turns out this girl actually doesn’t want him back. She just wants to eat his flesh.
I’m not going to go into the whole premise of TG, but yes, this also comes as a shock to him. And because of this, he is shoved into the world of ghouls, where he has to choose between being a human and being a ghoul, a choice that he doesn’t want to have to make. As we continue through the series, we see Kaneki learn the nuances to living in each world, and what it’s like to be a ghoul in a world that thinks they shouldn’t exist. In some areas, especially in the middle of this part, it definitely felt like the story was going way too fast. We went from several interactions where Kaneki could barely handle himself against regular ghouls to a situation in which he literally decimates some of the most deadliest ghouls in their area. At this point, you can see where Kaneki’s every-man trope really came in clutch for him, because no matter where he went, he always had the upper hand. Now, to be completely up front, this is one of the reasons why I read manga. I like it when the protagonist wins. I like it when, no matter the odds, our hero (whether they are actually a hero or an anti-hero) wins.
Now, this is where I begin to struggle. We go from the beginning of the series (books 1-6) where Kaneki is a weak kid who is still learning everything there is to learn about being a ghoul. He’s weak, he can’t handle himself, he relies heavily on his new friends, and all of his clout in the local ghoul communities only comes from Touka, someone who took him under her wing. Then, throughout books 6-8, we’re introduced to the big baddies, the Aogiri. And through the Aogiri’s introductions, Kaneki gets kidnapped and comes out a completely different person. All of a sudden, for the rest of the series (8-14) he’s one of the strongest ghouls out there. All of a sudden, he’s hunting down other ghouls left and right, as if he’s been doing this for his entire life. The rest of the series steps away from the idea of reuniting the human and ghoul worlds that had first been introduced, and instead really just dives deep in the fighting.
In the end, Kaneki fails at his original goal. This first series ends with, basically, everyone dying. It honestly felt like I had read 14 books only to be cheated out of a proper ending, where nothing mattered to begin with and the author was just out to mess with you from the very beginning. Overall, though, I seriously enjoyed TG. Most people, if they’re into horror manga, have read TG. It’s just one of those staple series in this genre that everyone has read, and it’s obvious as to why it has created so much of a following. It has all of the good manga tropes, but overall, it’s a good story with a bad ending, if a little rushed.
When bringing TG:re into it, however … well, that’s a whole different story.
Tokyo Ghou l:re – ★★☆☆☆
When TG:re comes back into the story, it’s an unidentifiable time after the events of the original series. We are introduced to almost an entirely new cast of characters, and someone who looks vaguely familiar is at the helm of this new group. It was an interesting concept, really, where the protagonist from the first series lost his memory and ended up working for the humans who are hunting down ghouls. We learn that Ken Kaneki is dead, replaced with Haise Sasaki.
I thought this idea was interesting, if a little contrived. It reminded me of a fanfic plot, which I don’t think is bad. If it’s done well, it could be an amazing story of Kaneki realizing his origins and being reminded of his original goal. And really, that’s what the first chunk of TG:re was about. We gradually got to see Sasaki/Kaneki learn more about himself and help his subordinates grow as people. By introducing characters that Sasaki/Kaneki cared about on this side as well as reminding him of his former friends, we got to see him start to remember himself, until finally, everything came to a head.
It was about halfway through the series, when everything I wanted was finally happening, that it all fell apart. It really felt like Ishida lost track of everything that he was building, and just decided to raze the entire idea and start over midway through the second series. Soon enough, another group of characters were introduced and several from the previous series were brought back. It got to the point where there were so many characters that I was losing track of them. I had to legit look up characters on the Wikia page for this series because there were just so many to keep track of. And when I say “several from the previous series were brought back,” I mean that literally everyone who had died in the past series was brought back. Everyone. I can count on one hand the amount of characters that didn’t get brought back, and that’s really saying something considering that there’s so many characters that I’m most likely forgetting about a lot of them.
This isn’t even going into the fact that the main antagonist is just some random person introduced halfway through this second series. Everyone from the first series ended up being misunderstood, and Ishida just killed off all of those characters for other ones from TG:re. He dismissed everyone that had been considered powerful and dangerous in the first series, throwing them away for random characters that are, shockingly, even more powerful.
I have so much more to say about this series, but I’ll limit it to a few more issues I have.
These last few books ruined Touka’s character. She was reduced to being Kaneki’s girlfriend/wife, rather then the strong character she was in the first series. Essentially all of the parts that should have been her’s was given to her brother, a character who was hated in the first series. But suddenly he’s on her side? Where Touka was one of the stronger fighters out there, feared by countless, she is tossed to the side because she allows Kaneki to protect her and hide her from the violence. This is completely out of character for her!
I can’t go into how each individual character was ruined, but the characters that we were introduced to in this series that worked under Sasaki/Kaneki … also completely ruined. One went off the rails, because apparently Ishida always has to include someone driven insane by love? Like it was completely unhinged. And while there was one queer character in the first series that was … on thin ice, this series just shattered the ice and included so many harmful things. One character was trans and it was just handled so badly. It was like every time Ishida accidentally wrote his last unhinged character through a healing arc, he had to add in another, just for shits and giggles. Not even going into how harmful this trope is, but it was infuriating!
Overall, I’m really upset about this series. I had so much nostalgia connected to this one, and I was so excited when I started rereading it. I was looking for the books everywhere because I was sure that I would love it and want to reread it constantly. I’m thankful that I never found all of the books, because I feel like I would have just been more hurt had I owned the books. Now, though, I’m in a situation where I have so many memories attached to this series, only to have to remember what the characters ended up going through and how it was all ruined.
TG started out promising, and while the first series went fast and had a lot of manga tropes (every-man protagonist, suddenly over-powered, fighting against stronger and stronger villains until finally coming to the strongest), there was a lot to enjoy in it. TG:re was much the same, where it was built up extremely well and had a lot of potential–up until the author just decided to change everything.
I don’t even want to think about how Ishida tried to retcon the whole plot and mixed up the sides so thoroughly that I don’t even know which side was which. Here’s an attempt at explaining it? I’ve covered it up due to spoilers but I wanted to try and explain how convoluted this plot ended up being just so someone could potentially scream about it with me: Kano worked for the CCG. However, Kano was eventually taken to the Aogiri. It turns out, though, that the CCG was secretly controlling the Aogiri, in order to fight against V? Except, V was secretly controlling the CCG in order to fight the ghouls. The ghouls, though, thought that the Aogiri were the big baddies, and only realized the CCG and V were involved when the CCG realized that V were actually the big bad guys and ousted them from their positions. Through all of this, Kano was trying to do research, research which ended up being for V when all of his research ended up fighting against V. Kano died when his various experiments fought against the CCG, the Aogiri, and Ghouls, and realized they had been experimented on for V, which was actually the cause of everything. So everyone, the CCG, the Aogiri, and Ghouls all teamed up against V.
So. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s the best way I could explain it without just forcing the books on y’all.
Would I Recommend?
Read the first series as much as you want! Just don’t go past that. The ending might be frustrating to deal with, but I honestly believe that dealing with a frustrating ending is better then whatever happened within TG:re.
Published: June 16th, 2015
Publisher: VIZ Media
Page Count: 224
Synopsis: via Goodreads
Shy Ken Kaneki is thrilled to go on a date with the beautiful Rize. But it turns out that she’s only interested in his body—eating it, that is. When a morally questionable rescue transforms him into the first half-human half-Ghoul hybrid, Ken is drawn into the dark and violent world of Ghouls, which exists alongside our own.
Published: October 17th, 2017
Publisher: VIZ Media
Page Count: 224
Synopsis: via Goodreads
The Commission of Counter Ghoul is the only organization fighting the Ghoul menace, and they will use every tool at their disposal to protect humanity from its ultimate predator. Their newest weapon in this hidden war is an experimental procedure that implants human investigators with a Ghoul’s Kagune, giving them Ghoul powers and abilities. But both the procedure and the newly formed Qs Squad are untested. Will they become heroes…or monsters?!
Haise Sasaki has been tasked with teaching Qs Squad how to be outstanding Investigators, but his assignment is complicated by the troublesome personalities of his subordinates and his own uncertain grasp of his Ghoul powers. Can he pull this ragtag group together as a team, or will Qs Squad’s first assignment be their last?