Tokyo Ghoul Manga , a great series for anyone looking for unrelenting existential dread.
How does that old saying go? ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’. Whilst it has proved to be a golden rule over the years, Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller certainly never got the chance to see Ken Kaneki grace the first volume of the manga series. Seriously…he looks wonderful.
The world of Tokyo Ghoul Manga has Japan’s capital occupied by individuals and vampire-like beings known as Ghouls, who survive by feasting on human blood to tickle their taste buds. Book worm Ken Kaneki is a freshman in college, an intelligent young man who finds delight through reading the pages of his favourite author, Sen Takatsuki. A young girl named Rize Kamishiro gets his eye at a local cafe, noticing that she too shares a want for the author Kaneki powerfully adores. What appears too good to be true, probably is and Kaneki soon realises that this is the case, as he finds that Rize shares a dark secret. Whilst walking her home he soon discovers that Rize is a ghoul and as they go through a darkened alleyway she attacks him, but luckily for him, debris from the building site that surrounds them falls on Rize, immediately killing her.
Kaneki is rushed to hospital and undergoes emergency operation, receiving organs from the only available donor to save his life. Unfortunately for our young man protagonist that donor is Rize. As he recuperates from his injuries, he soon realises that his body is shifting. He no longer likes his favourite foods and the only source that will heal his hunger pains is human flesh.
The basic storyline of Tokyo Ghoul Manga isn’t anything new, as finding a demon like population combination with the human race that ultimately ends in tremendous contradiction may sound familiar, but it’s the manner writer Sui Ishida tells the narrative which sets Tokyo Ghoul apart. Ishida offers a powerful character driven story that, as evident in the early pages, doesn’t shy away from graphic detail. Tokyo Ghoul’s guarantee to provide horror doesn’t disappoint, and as odd as it seems to say, unlike many manga horror stories, it continues to supply dread through its storytelling throughout. From the very first page up until you reach the miniature narrative at the end, Tokyo Ghoul provides constant macabre minutes and just builds upon the anxiety about ghoul’s walking amongst the people as the story begins to unfold. The awareness behind the ‘ghouls’ alone helps supply the suspense and dread. Ghouls hide themselves amongst individuals, but have an addictive hunger for human flesh, where their powerful strength is supported by an organ known as the kagune, which stretches out like sharp tentacles to assist them in hunting their quarry.
The characters individual look and styles are all exceptional, and work well to support the powerful narrative. There’s enough to each character to make us care for them, which helps get us emotionally involved with these characters and sympathise with what’s about to occur. Ishida does an astonishing job in pitting our support behind both the humans and the ghouls. It’s soon established that both sorts have good people, along with, bad. It isn’t a narrative about good vs evil, in fact it’s a common motif of Tokyo Ghoul to ask what it takes to be considered good or bad, and if we do something awful but ultimately helps someone in need, can it be thought to be good?
Sui Ishida’s art reflects heavily on the shadowy landscapes that are occurring. Ghouls are frequently located hunting their prays down dark alleys and the wonderfully draw panels help emphasize the minutes of pure horror. Ken Kaneki reacts just how the reader does as they read each page, he goes through the encounters of becoming a ghoul for the very first time, much like we’re. I was tremendously impressed by the collection of moods volume 1 goes through. One moment we’re witnessing a ghoul feast on a person, the next we learn more about the characters back story that instantly alters our emotion. This is cleverly done without it seeming like too much of a fast contrast through the novel.
The style of this opening volume cleverly divides the ‘real’ world and the universe of the ghouls by making the pages white when Kaneki is at faculty, or with his pal Hide, and black pages for when Kaneki is facing a challenge of the ghoul life he has embraced. It’s stylistic touches like these which makes this first volume of Tokyo Ghoul Manga split from other Manga books.
The first volume is fantastic to set up a narrative that can reach enormous peaks. Tokyo Ghoul Manga isn’t like many Vampire manga novels out there (if you’re able to compare ghouls to vampires that’s), but it does hold a few similarities. I would personally separate Tokyo Ghoul Manga from any other manga out there, but if you locate opening volumes that only setup the narrative for future volumes then you may want to buy the few that follow straightaway.
Tokyo Ghoul Manga volume one is a dazzling start to a series. Ishida absolutely performs a powerful narrative that is just made better by the art that supports it. The foundation of the story is good vs bad, but I’m not doing it justice by saying that. Having our youthful protagonist reside in both ‘worlds’ has the reader struggling (as well as Kaneki himself) wonder what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ really mean, which helps develop suspense and for the reader, itching to know what happens next.