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Have you thought about what would it be like if we had a society of cannibals living among us? What if they happened to be supernatural in nature? What if we literally become them? One horror manga provides a stylish look at such a scenario in modern-day Tokyo. Ishida Sui’s Tokyo Ghoul is a series from the pages of Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump that covers a young adult who is in-between two different worlds. It’s a seinen manga that focuses on youth being forced to survive in the real world while being hated by it.
Tokyo Ghoul is about a 1st-year university student named Ken Kaneki and his encounters with supernatural and human-eating beings called Ghouls. The story starts off with a strange series of murders involving eaten bodies. Rumors are then spread that the murders are caused by Ghouls. Ken and a friend of his make a joke about them hiding as humans. However, jokes become reality as Ken meets a girl who turns out to be a Ghoul and tries to eat him. Ken becomes severely wounded, but the girl is killed by a building girder. He would later be transported to a hospital and in critical condition. For some unknown reason, a doctor transplants the Ghoul girl’s organs into Ken’s body to save his life. Ken becomes a half-human/half-Ghoul and the story begins to take off as he struggles to retain his humanity while having the bloodlust of a Ghoul.
The manga references Franz Kafka’s "The Metamorphosis", a popular story about a man who slowly transforms into an insect. In some ways, the story sounds similar as Ken goes through the same fate as Gregor Samsa, the main character of Kafka’s work. Ken begins to find regular food disgusting as his change into a Ghoul grows. He struggles to balance both his human side and Ghoul side. At the same time, Ken learns that not all Ghouls are bad and that some human beings are as bad as Ghouls themselves.
What’s fascinating about Tokyo Ghoul is how it uses horror to reflect bias towards and against groups. We all know that people yearn for a place to belong. Once we are part of a collective, we tend to absorbs its values and beliefs. We view those against them as frightening. Ken thinks Ghouls are cruel for eating humans and that he isn’t like them. The female protagonist and a Ghoul herself, Touka Kirishima, tells Ken that he is different to the point that he doesn’t belong to anyone. Ken may not realize it, but there is power in being in the middle ground. You get to have a variety of experiences that help serve you and enhance your well-being. Tokyo Ghoul is an interesting yet violent look at the effects of biculturalism.
The story begins to heat up when an anti-Ghoul police force is introduced. They believe that Ghouls should not exist and have trained intensely for the sole purpose of killing them. Their appearance sparks a shocking moment that involves an innocent Ghoul family, which leads to Ken learning how to protect anyone he cares about, whether they are humans or Ghouls. Battles become abundant physically and mentally for our hero.
Want more delicious meat to savor? Here’s a promotional video from Shueisha of what to expect from Tokyo Ghoul.
If the insanely popular Terra Formars (another Young Jump title) can make it to the West, Tokyo Ghoul can too with an appealing main duo somewhat similar to Eren and Mikasa of Attack on Titan. Since it’s caught the eye of a letterer from VIZ Media, perhaps another riveting manga filled with both horror and action can join in on the global horror trend. The manga has already inspired some amazing cosplay, like this Ken Kaneki cosplayer.
Tokyo Ghoul serves up one dish that’s horrific yet delicious and empathetic. The best parts of being human, no?