Tokyo Ghoul is a nuanced horror series exploring human nature through the devolving mental state of anti hero school kid Ken Kaneki. The violence is graphic and the writing equally uncompromising as we watch Kaneki grapple with whether it is worth being alive if it means he must be a ghoul and eat human flesh. There is a lot of intelligence and pathos here but definitely in a dog-eat-dog fatalistic nihilism that can either intrigue or repel readers.
Story: Shy Ken always operated on the periphery of society, preferring to stick to reading and his schoolwork. But when a sweet girl asks him on a date, he cannot believe his luck that she would be interested in him. Unfortunately, she lures him to a dark alley and then is killed while attacking him. Kaneki wakes up after the attack to be told her organs were used to save his life – the organs of the ghoul who tricked him and then nearly killed him! Now Kaneki is half ghoul and coming to understand what that means and how he is going to survive in the harsh world will become his new life.
From the ghoul attack to the fractious ghoul society, being hunted by normal humans, and not being able to eat regular food any more, the story is all about Kaneki’s change and straddling two worlds. For he is only half ghoul – and the human side of him rebels at the thought of eating humans while the ghoul side of him hungers desperately. It makes for a very dark and morbid tone since Kaneki is such a pathetic everyman with incredibly bad luck.
Other ghouls maneuvering into rival positions on feeding grounds, special ghoul abilities, and even a ghoul ‘safe house’ add to the different aspects of the plot. But for the most part, this first volume is about Kaneki changing and then being confronted with the horror of his ‘new normal’.
It’s an intriguing series but definitely not for the faint of heart. It is a very dark series with a thread of hopelessness running throughout. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.