Exciting news, Iggles! Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul, a surprise smash hit this summer in the anime department, is finally going to see its official English translation! Now, of course this series has been translated by scanlation groups, but for it to get picked up by Viz Media is a pretty big deal. Viz officiously announced this at NYCC last month, so who knows how long it’ll take for them to put out the first volume (though I’d imagine they’d want it out soon to capitalize on the recent anime success). So in the meantime, I thought we could try something new – let’s read the series together! Whether you’ve already read the series or not, or whether you’ve seen the anime or not, it’s always fun to try new things or revisit things to see how our opinions change over time.
Every month’s future Manga Madness installment will have a section devoted to our big Tokyo Ghoul read in addition to that month’s theme. This review will only cover the first chapter to get the ball rolling. So! Are you read to embark on this journey together? Then let’s go!
Plot (which I’m stealing from Funimation)
“In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear of ghouls, mysterious creatures that look exactly like humans yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring ghoul factions while attempting to learn more about ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.”
You know what’s good about this series? We get right into the plot. In the first chapter, we’re introduced to our main players, we’re told about ghouls, and Kaneki becomes a ghoul. Bam. Exposition is finished, and we’re ready for the real story to begin. We can expect Kaneki to struggle dealing with being half-human and half-ghoul in a world where humans despise ghouls. Since he’s a unique (??? Maybe? Are there more hybrids?) one-eyed ghoul, I also expect him to act as a medium between the two worlds. Will he succeed? Maybe. Kaneki is a bit bland (more on that later), so I guess this is also going to be a semi-coming-of-age story. Also, Kaneki gets “newfound powers”? Like what?
By now, I’m pretty sure you guys know I’m a sucker for uber angled art. Tokyo Ghoul’s art is a bit too round for my taste. Also, I do not for one second believe that Kaneki and Hide are college students; if we weren’t told they were, I would have assumed they were in high school. Is that because of the artwork? They just look SO young. But I will say that the scenes of Rize turning into a ghoul to bite Kaneki were nicely creepy. That’s where the artwork shone in the first chapter for me.
Meh. That’s all I really have to say. He’s just so….normal. Which, obviously, is the point: you take this ordinary kid and throw him into this unordinary world, and chaos and character growth ensues. One thing I do like about his character is his love of reading; I feel like you don’t see that too often in manga, especially of the supernatural sort. But this series is grounding itself in the real world, and our characters have real-world interests. I hope this reading theme will stay throughout the series, particularly because it’s the main thing that led to him turning into a ghoul. Imagine if he hadn’t seen Rize reading that book (unless she was reading it on purpose to catch his attention?) – we’d have no story. But anyway, because Kaneki is so normal, I’m excited to see him deal with being a half-ghoul. It’s not going to go well; I feel that in my bones.
He’s one of those extremely energetic characters, and I’m honestly just expecting him to suffer. A LOT. Series are always about breaking down these characters, right? Or at least, these characters have a hard time dealing with big changes, like when their best friend turns into a ghoul. Will he reject Kaneki when he eventually finds out that he’s a half-ghoul? Maybe. I can see it going either way, just based on how I’ve seen this trope played out in other series. But for right now, I think he would accept Kaneki, especially if he sees that Kaneki cannot handle this. Going back to Hide’s energy for a second, if he continues to be this extremely energetic, I can see him getting real old real fast. Is character growth on the horizon? I hope so. Turning him into a ghoul would be a bad storytelling move, but having him stay in the dark about Kaneki for too long will reduce his character’s importance.
My biggest question about Rize is what exactly her motives were. Why Kaneki? Out of everyone in Tokyo, why choose Kaneki to bite? Also, Kaneki mentions that he’s seen Rize around a few times; why did she plan out this slow chase instead of immediately attacking him? Maybe she just enjoys the game. Too bad she’s dead, because I’m really curious as to how and why she chooses her victims.
She had maybe two lines in this chapter, but this first chapter went out of its way to show her right before Kaneki was attacked, so I can only assume she’s going to be important. She’s a waitress at the café Kaneki and Hide were at. Is that a cover job? Does she know about ghouls? Well, everyone seems to know about ghouls, but maybe she’s a ghoul hunter, like the vampire hunters in Vampire Knight. We shall see.
So! That’s chapter 1 down – does it make you want to read more? While I find Kaneki and Hide together funny, I don’t particularly feel connected to them. Of course, this was only the first chapter, but I wasn’t really drawn in by their characters. What’s pushing me forward is mostly the idea of “ghouls.” As I’m sure you’re all aware, vampires, werewolves, and zombies have been the biggest monsters in pop culture for at least a decade. Who writes about ghouls? Answer: No one. That’s my main motivation – to see how these monsters differ from the ones I’m already familiar with. We know that ghouls can take on human guise, and we know that they eat humans. So far, so good. Will Kaneki do this as well, even though he’s only a half-ghoul? That’ll be interesting, and as a reader, I can already see him going after Hide. It’s a simple storytelling trope, and I’m also positive that Hide will survive it; he’ll act as Kaneki’s motivation to control his powers (???) so this never happens again. But there are 14 volumes in this manga, so what the heck is going to happen once Kaneki learns to control his powers? You can’t drag that out. Hmm…
Tokyo Ghoul published its last chapter in October, and there are 14 volumes in total. So if you’re interested in participating in this read-along, let’s aim to read all of Volume 1 by next month. You can find the series at various scanlation sites online; all you have to do is Google the title. And if people like this read-along, please feel free to suggest more manga titles for us to read!