Tokyo Ghoul, originally published as a serial in the manga magazine Weekly Young Jump, follows college student Ken Kaneki as he attempts to survive in a world overrun by ghouls who look and act like humans, but kill and eat their victims in order to survive. When Kaneki accidentally goes on a date with a ghoul and barely survives an attack, he is taken to a hospital to undergo an emergency procedure that leaves him half human, half ghoul. Now he must learn to navigate both worlds while figuring out the politics of Ghoul society. With the help of several ghouls, he will not only learn to live as they do, but keep his secret safe from the Doves, government inspectors who hunt and kill ghouls.
Tokyo Ghoul volume two continues with the same pace and grimness first introduced in volume one, but this time, more background on the human/ghoul conflict is explored. As Kaneki gets to know the ghouls around him, so do the readers. Piece by piece, we learn about the characters and begin to understand the dynamics between them and their community as a whole. Similarly, while we get to know the Doves better, there is still an aura of mystery surrounding Senior Investigator Kureo Mado, whose fascination with the ghouls runs deeper than just protecting humans.
The great thing about Kaneki as the protagonist is that we connect with his emotional turmoil on a more profound level. Things aren’t all black and white in his world and he is beginning to realize that. He went from being a normal college student who hated ghouls to someone who can sympathize with and relate to them. Mirroring these emotions, readers begin to feel torn between wanting the ghouls to be eradicated to preserve the human race, and realizing that ghouls are people—for lack of a better term—too, people with family and friends who are just trying to survive. Not all ghouls kill people, and some are uncomfortable with it, so they find ways around it in order to feed humanely. Kaneki’s internal struggle further comes to light when he forms a kinship with the mother/daughter duo, Ryouko and Hinami Fueguchi, and begins to see that maybe ghouls and humans are not that much different from one another. Like anything else, there is good and bad in the world of ghouls and this volume explores that balance.
Author/illustrator Sui Ishida ends the volume beautifully by introducing Kaneki to his first ghoul mask—what ghouls use to hunt in order to keep their identities a secret—just as he has begun to further submerge himself in ghoul culture. We are left to wonder how the mask will transform him: will he continue to resist his ghoul side, or fall deeper into it and leave his humanity behind? It’s a great endpoint, and the fact the mask only exposes his ghoul eye is symbolic of his transformation.
The artwork is phenomenal and works with the story, seamlessly weaving them together to enhance the plot. Ishida captures moments in the story in a deep, yet subtle way by changing the black and white tones he utilizes. Lighter moments of joy and laughter—like the ghouls together at home—are illustrated in white and light gray tones, while fights, attacks, and moments of anguish are drawn entirely in black and dark gray; this makes for effective storytelling. Occasionally, some panels were extremely dark, blending everything together and rendering the fight scenes difficult to follow as there was not enough color contrast to tell the characters apart. Hopefully, this will be improved upon in later volumes.
Tokyo Ghoul volume two is best suited for older teens and adults due to the graphic content (many bodies were graphically severed) and swear words peppered throughout. Even though the pace was much slower than the first volume, the second installment sets up the story, characters, and world in a way that draws the reader in while preparing them for what’s to come. It is a series that will keep readers hungry for more.
Tokyo Ghoul, vol. 2
by Sui Ishida
Publisher Age Rating: T+