Hello PopTalk readers! It’s been awhile since our last manga review for the column, but it’s definitely worth the wait! This particular piece will be spent discussing and reviewing the extremely dynamic horror manga Tokyo Ghoul, by Viz Media. Now let’s not waste any time and jump right into our thoughts are on the first volume, available now!
Aedan : With a name like Tokyo Ghoul, you can assume the series is going to have a dark vibe, but that would be a massive understatement. Before reading volume 1 of the series, I had witnessed both seasons of the horror anime and quickly realized it was the epitome of a tragic tale, and the manga quickly proves that it is no different from the anime series. In the world of Tokyo Ghoul, we become privy to information that creatures known as ghouls exist in the world, and despite being secretive and unseen, are known to have a vicious and carnivorous personalities requiring them to survive off of the flesh of humans. The story introduces us to Kaneki, a 19 year old with a meek personality and a devotion to inventive literature. The beginning of the story feels lighthearted in fun, but set in a dangerous world, as we witness Kaneki and his long time friend Hide attached at the hip with typical young adult behavior. Hide could not be more different than Kaneki, but the personalities compliment each other well (for example Hide tries to bring Kaneki out of his shell while poking fun at him.) Kaneki repeatedly spots a coy woman who offers a smile on occasion, and Kaneki is most clearly smitten by the girl, who reads dark mystery novels that he is familiar with.
Kaneki works up the courage to speak to the girl, whose name is Rize, and the two hit it off before agreeing to go on a date in the near future. For a bookworm like Kaneki, this is a major deal. He spends time reading more of the author’s work, and covering potential topics, eager to meet this dream-girl. When the two meet up Kaneki continues to feel the sparks, and walks her home as she claims to fear the ghouls. Now this is where the manga takes a dark turn almost instantly, when he is attacked by the woman who is actually a vicious ghoul. The transition from light, to twisted is literally between pages, and he is savagely attacked by the monstrous woman. The art noticeably shifts as well, with each expression and character interacting with ghouls drawn to maximize their emotions of fear, pain, agony, and for the ghoul – animalistic. The bloody scene leaves Kaneki hanging by a thread and a mysterious accident from above leaves the ghoul Rize dead. The series spends many moments creatively using the mentioned literature references to foreshadow (the book Rize read was about a female serial killer, or later a book that involves transitioning form human to insect) and when Kaneki feels his life slipping away, his inner thoughts reveal his story would be a tragedy. Consider yourself warned in the most honest and brutal way possible, while capitalizing on the protagonist’s passions.
In-and-out of consciousness, Kaneki overhears the doctors discussing how to save his life, and it is concluded that Rize’s organs need to be transplanted to maintain his survival. Kaneki survives, but when he is awoken he feels different. Food doesn’t taste the same, his senses are altered, and he can’t really comprehend the events that played out before his terrified eyes. The time is taken to show Kaneki transition from his humanity to his new ghoul-side, differentiating from the typical ghouls born as they are. It’s a positive contributing factor to the series to exhibit Kaneki before and after the events, so early on we establish the difficulties he faces. For example, the food he previously loved so much, he can’t stomach to eat. Every bite of normal human food causes him to be revolted and nauseous, and his new desire is none other than human flesh itself. It’s an enthralling story to make you watch as a half human – half ghoul goes about his life as
average as possible, whilst dealing with new and horrid cravings. To make this character the epicenter of moral dilemmas and finding his new transformed personality seeping in, it will surely suck readers in to the issues Kaneki is sure to face. You can’t help but feel somewhat protective over the character and his unfortunate luck, setting up a large series that will put you through the emotional ringer.
The first volume of Tokyo Ghoul is 100% successful in introducing us to the world it has created with a looming feeling of horror and dread for the future of Kaneki, and all of the characters involved. The transition between the occasional fun and gruesome tendencies of the series shifts unexpectedly and righteously in the best moments. The writing feels authentic, sparking individuality in each character seen, with each line leaving you glued to what will happen next. The artwork (as mentioned before) is so precise and detailed in different ways (much like the writing.) You can tell by the art style, the direction the scenes will take. Another thing the series is perfect at is introducing real horror into manga. There are certain series that focus strictly on gore, but Tokyo Ghoul takes its gore and blends it with fear and struggles that you find yourself questioning what is right and what is wrong. In closing, Tokyo Ghoul is a mature series that isn’t created for a typical audience, but a stylized genre series that leaves intelligent insinuations, and self analytical storylines that will keep me coming back for the story of Kaneki.
+Pros: The lead character is a major reason for the series success. Kaneki has a relatable factor that connects you to the emotions he experiences. The horror dynamic it Tokyo Ghoul is one of the best examples of devilishly good read, and the art transitions especially well.
-Cons: There weren’t many (if any) problems with this introductory manga, though my only slight gripe is that I didn’t feel as connected to the other characters besides Kaneki and Hide, surely that will change.
Amrita : The first volume of Tokyo Ghoul introduces readers to protagonist Kaneki Ken while presenting us with a world where ghouls exist; ghouls basically feast on human flesh and they look exactly like human-beings minus their appetite. Right off the bat, I established an emotional attachment to protagonist Kaneki, whose life turns upside down after a book date gone wrong. Author Sui Ishida created one of manga’s most likable main characters, only to make his life a living hell by making him part ghoul. I’ve seen the anime series and judging by Tokyo Ghoul’s first volume, Kaneki’s life is about to get a lot more brutal and harsh. Despite watching the anime, I’m setting aside my knowledge and feelings of the characters based on the anime and starting anew with the manga; although some attachments are hard to let go of such as with the character of Kaneki Ken. Seriously, I absolutely adore him!
Kaneki starts off the volume as a literature loving, shy college student who has a massive crush on Rize, a girl (later revealed to be a ruthless and flesh-crazed ghoul) who shares his love for literature. Introduced along with Kaneki is his lovable best friend Hide, who starts off with a minor role but by the volumes end one can tell he’ll serve as an anchor of sorts for Kaneki through-out the manga. The first volume also introduces readers to ghouls Touka and Nishiki. Touka initially dislikes Kaneki for his cutting judgement of all ghouls whereas Nishiki is a slightly more sadistic ghoul who spends a majority of the volume being antagonistic towards Kaneki.
As far as characters go, Kaneki’s character development is off to a solid start and his transformation from human to ghoul has only just begun. Readers get a glimpse of Kaneki’s ghoul side when Nishiki attempts to kill Hide and if that’s any indication, then Kaneki is bound to transform into a ghoul much more powerful than the rest. Kaneki spends 99% of this volume coming to terms with his new-found ghoul side and he’s understandably not taking it well. Even by the end of this volume, Kaneki still hasn’t accepted his new appetite for flesh and I’m guessing it’s a change and development that will slowly unravel throughout the course of the manga. Along with Kaneki, I’ve also developed a soft-spot for Hide, who by the first volumes end realizes his best friend is now a ghoul. The friendship between Kaneki and Hide is hinted at being Kaneki’s saving grace and I have a feeling that it’s a friendship that will play a bigger influence on Kaneki in the future.
I initially wasn’t pleased with Touka due to her cut-throat attitude towards Kaneki, but by the volume’s end I was intrigued by her character and the emotions that drive her behavior. As of right now I don’t exactly like her, but I am interested in her storyline. Rize and Nishiki served as fantastic antagonists for this volume. Rize’s appearance was brief, but none the less she succeeded in creeping me out. Even when she was under the guise of an innocent book worm, her subtle smiles made me uneasy. Nishiki, on the other hand, can’t simply be labelled as a clear-cut villain because readers simply don’t know enough about him; although he did try to kill and
eat Hide, only to have Kaneki skewer him with his “kagune,” which is essentially a ghoul’s organ that serves as a weapon.
The art took a tad bit of getting used to and often came across as simplistic yet I appreciated the art wholly by the end and noticed the subtle details put into each character, making the art a stand-out feature. The plot introduced is engaging and I simply couldn’t tear my eyes off of my tablet, reading the entirety of both the first and second volume in one sitting. I’m reading Tokyo Ghoul via my tablet and the quality is crisp and clean, making Tokyo Ghoul a perfect digital read. My utmost favorite aspect of Tokyo Ghoul was the connections and parallels it makes with some of Kaneki’s favorite works of literature; Kaneki repeats the same phrases and quotes from his favorite novels in connection to what he’s going through.
The dialogue present in Tokyo Ghoul is not only exceptionally well done, but it also forces readers to ponder upon what is being said; especially when it comes to the more philosophical lines Kaneki utters and recites through his personal monologues. My favorite quote of the first volume pretty much sums up Kaneki’s character as well as Tokyo Ghoul: “If I were to write a book with me as the main character…it would be…a tragedy.”
+Pros: A captivating plot that introduces readers to a fascinating but cruel world with a likable and sympathetic protagonist and a set of intriguing side characters. The dialogue and literary parallels were on point as well. The art in certain panels took some getting used to, but overall the art was well done particularly the details put into Kaneki and Touka.
-Cons: None honestly. The side characters didn’t get as much character development as Kaneki did, but it was necessary to establish the main character first before delving into and introducing other characters. So, I basically have no compliments with the first volume.
Tokyo Ghoul is a thoroughly enjoyable read and the first volume hooks the readers immediately. I give Tokyo Ghoul a must-read recommendation and if you enjoyed Tokyo Ghoul then you’ll like works such as Future Diary, Attack on Titan, Deadman Wonderland, and Death Note.
PopTalk's Overall Combined Score: 9.5/10
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