Ken Kaneki is a shy college freshman who loves to read horror novels and likes to hang out with his best friend, Hideyoshi “Hide” Nagachika, at a coffee shop called Anteiku. The two often discuss ghouls, creatures who appear in human form but eat human flesh, and their increasing attacks in the area.
It is at Anteiku that Kaneki first spots the beautiful Rize. Hide thinks she’s out of Kaneki’s league and teases him relentlessly about asking her out. One day, Rize accidentally drops her book and Kaneki notices they are reading the same title. When the two make plans to go on a date at a bookstore, the night seems to be something from Kaneki’s dreams. But on the walk home, things take a turn for the worse when Rize takes a bite out of Kaneki’s shoulder and he discovers she is a ghoul. Kaneki fights for his life, but he is no match for the supernatural Rize. When it seems that all hope is lost, a beam falls from a nearby construction site, appearing to kill Rize. Barely alive, Kaneki is taken to the hospital where his life is changed forever.
Kaneki wakes up to find that he was severely injured and received life-saving organs from a girl who was found crushed nearby. From that moment on, Kaneki no longer feels like himself. He begins to notice a change: food he used to love tastes absolutely disgusting and his left eye has turned a different color, which he tries to hide with an eye patch. Suddenly he doesn’t see other people as fellow humans, but as his next meal. Horrified by these developments, Kaneki isn’t sure what is going on at first; but after watching a show on ghouls, he believes he is transforming into one.
Kaneki attempts to return to his normal routine and goes back to school, but Hide notices something isn’t quite right. When Hide and Kaneki go on an errand to retrieve a DVD from a classmate, Nishiki Nishio, Kaneki recognizes Nishio as a ghoul. Nishio says they’ll need to go elsewhere to pick up the disc and Kaneki decides to tag along to make sure Hide is ok, but Nishio leads them to a back alley where he attacks Hide and leaves him seriously hurt. Kaneki is terribly injured in his attempt to defend his friend, only to be saved by the intervention of Toka, a waitress at Anteiku and a ghoul. Kaneki then awakens at Anteiku where he is given the chance to learn more about ghouls and acclimate himself to his new life.
The first installment of Tokyo Ghoul serves as an introduction to the dark world inhabited by Ken Kaneki: much of this initial volume centers on building Kaneki’s character and explaining the existence of ghouls and their world. Kaneki is a rather naïve and sheltered young man who is mostly ignorant of ghouls and doesn’t realize how close he has been to them all this time; this costs him greatly when he is easily targeted by the ghoul Rize. Throughout his transformation into a ghoul, he refuses to eat because he still sees himself as a human and not a “monster.” Eventually, he comes to the realization that he is different, and he must make sacrifices to protect his loved ones.
Tokyo Ghoul drew me in from the start, mostly due to the story of the ghouls. Characters who seem to be standard at first are then revealed to have secrets and alternate identities, and it becomes interesting to try to figure out who may be a ghoul. During the world-building, there are bouts of intense action, and it can sometimes be difficult to understand what’s going on since the artwork is blurry. This is a dark story with elements of gore, so those with weak stomachs may want to pass. I, however, am definitely intrigued by the characters and ghouls and can’t wait to learn more in the next volumes.
Tokyo Ghoul, vol. 1
by Sui Ishida
Viz Media, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T+/Older Teens