Tokyo Ghoul: re is the sequel to Sui Ishida’s hit horror manga, Tokyo Ghoul. The setting is a Tokyo not unlike ours, with the exception that monstrous ghouls walk among us, disguised as humans, while preying on them for food. The ghouls are gruesome killers and operate similarly to street gangs or the mafia. They organize as clans and get up to all kinds of nefarious stuff, mostly eating humans and sometimes other ghouls. To combat the ghouls, there is a Commission of Counter Ghouls. This group works as a supernatural police force investigating murders and crimes related to ghoul activity. The book centers around one group of new recruits, the Quinx Squad, led by Haise Sasaki. Readers familiar with Tokyo Ghoul will quickly realize Sasaki is actually Ken Kaneki who is suffering from amnesia.

Kaneki was the central character in Tokyo Ghoul. In it, he survived an attack by a ghoul, but surgeons unknowingly transplanted a ghoul organ into his body. This organ, called a kagune, turns Kaneki into a ghoul/human hybrid. The kagune acts like a flexible, bony, deadly tentacle and is a ghoul’s predatory organ, emerging when the ghoul is stressed, in danger, or hungry. Kagunes are nearly indestructible with conventional weapons, so the CCG harvests the kagune from deceased ghouls to create weapons called quinques for their investigators.

Following the events of Tokyo Ghoul, the CCG creates the Quinx Squad. This squad is special as recruits signed up to have quinques surgically implanted in their bodies, making them ghoul hybrids like Kaneki/Sasaki. (I will refer to him as Sasaki from here on.)

Volume one centers around introducing the Quinx Squad and how the CCG operates. The Quinx Squad’s goal is that its members will surpass the CCG’s star ghoul investigator, Kisho Arima. Of course, the Squad bumbles along, in spite of their powers. Sasaki struggles to control his subordinates and often flounders as the mentor he’s supposed to be. Toru Mutsuki is unable to get his kagune to manifest and wears an eye patch to cover up the ghoul eye he can’t make go away. Ghouls’ eyes glow red when fighting or eating but otherwise remain normal as part of their human disguise. Matsuki’s inability to hide his ghoul eye is a serious problem. Mutsuki also identifies as trans and the Squad is unaware. Kuki Urie is the new recruit with a chip on his shoulder. Urie thinks he’s better than everyone else and often makes foolish decisions. His arrogance leads him into things like not waiting for backup or chasing down ghoul suspects on his own. Ambitious and manipulative, Urie hates Sasaki and wants to be in charge. Ginshi Shirazu is the affable screw up. He joined the squad because he’s always behind on his bills and needed the money. The last Quinx Squad member is absent from the first volume. Saiko Yonebayashi spends her days locked in her room at the Quinx apartment. She spends most of her time playing video games and watching anime. She did really well on the Quinx aptitude test in school, so her mother signed her up for the financial compensation. Saiko doesn’t want to work but she really doesn’t want to go back to her abusive mother. Sasaki is empathetic to this situation.

Volume one of Tokyo Ghoul: re does a great job weaving the character introductions within the context of the storyline. There is a ghoul called “the Torso” that is killing women and taking their torsos, leaving behind the head and appendages. Quinx Squad isn’t supposed to investigate the case as they are still too green. Egotistical Urie decides he can solve this case, despite not being fulling trained. Through a series of events that leads to angering the more experienced squad handling the Torso case, Quinx Squad ends up collaborating with them at the request of a senior investigator. It’s a race to who can get a physical description of the Torso first. They figure out, based on the murder victims and locations, that the ghoul must be a taxi driver who picks up people around hospitals. All the victims have surgery scars on their torsos. The squad splits up to cover more ground, investigating  different hospitals. Mutsuki jumps into a cab following a hunch. The driver is the Torso. He attacks Mutsuki, ripping open his shirt, revealing his trans identity. There is an immediate backstory flashback. This reveal is an example of trans body horror and is incredibly disrespectful to trans individuals. It is degradingly played out for shock value. Mutsuki is able to get away from the ghoul and the rest of the team attacks. The Torso turns out to be part of the Aogori Tree Clan and a ghoul named Orochi shows up to save him. Sasaki goes head to head with Orochi and that’s when we find out Sasaki is part ghoul.

As in the original series, Sasaki continues an internal struggle with his internal ghoul personality. Sasaki, fighting in full ghoul mode, has a hard time regaining his control. The CCG, aware of this problem, is ready to eliminate him if he cannot control the monster within, but Sasaki comes back to himself. Volume one concludes with the squad finding out they will investigate the Aogori Tree Clan. Quinx Squad goes to the coffee house Sasaki used to hang out at when he was Ken Keneki. The ghouls running the place recognize him but he doesn’t remember them.

Volume two finally introduces Saiko Yonebayashi. Sasaki promoted Shirazu to leader and demoted Urie from leadership position to teach him humility. Now Shirazu is tasked with getting Saiko up and working which lends the story some comic relief.

The Quinx Squad is assigned the Nutcracker case. The Nutcracker is a ghoul who consumes men’s testicles. She also works for ghoul madams and there is an upcoming ghoul auction in which human victims will be auctioned off. A sting operation is put into place to get close to the Nutcracker and get into the auction. Since the ghoul is looking for women, the squad dresses as women, hoping to get an introduction to the Nutcracker at a nightclub.

This creates an awkward situation with Mutsuki’s trans identity and he is obviously uncomfortable. However, Mutsuki makes a connection with the Nutcracker, and they get the information regarding the location and time of the auction. Suzuya decides to use Mutsuki as bait, which leads to Mutsuki in another dress, getting kidnapped and sold on the auction floor along with CCG investigator, Juzo Suzuya. All hell opens up when it’s Suzuya’s turn to be auctioned off. He has a prosthetic leg filled with knives that he unleashes into the audience. Volume two ends in chaos.

Volume three has multiple events taking place at the ghoul auction. This series is really good at threading subplots throughout the main story line and you really see that here. This is a high level CCG operation mobilizing all their squads. It can be a little chaotic keeping up with everything going on as there are a lot of quick cuts to the next subplot/main plot element. The reader is introduced to more ghouls like the Clowns, more members of Aogori Tree (who are providing security for the auction), Big Madam, and Kanae. Mutsuki keeps trying to get away, but is chased by the Torso and then by Kanae. Kanae works for Master Shu, the ghoul that was obsessed with trying to eat Ken Kaneki in the original series. He is sure that his master will enjoy eating Matuski and wants to bring him back with him. Urie ends up rescuing Matuski. Instead of regrouping with other squads, they strike out for Big Madam because Urie is only thinking about glory gained. It does not go well for him, but Suzuya steps in and deals with the Madame. His story is in Tokyo Ghoul and this wraps up some unfinished business from his past. Shirazu and Saiko go toe-to-toe with the Nutcracker and win by using the ghoul’s own traps against her. Meanwhile, Sasaki is in a fight with a ghoul who calls him Ken Kanaki, causing another internal struggle between him and his inner ghoul. Sasaki comes to terms with the fact that he is also Ken Kaneki. Another ghoul defends Sasaki because she was friends with Ken Kaneki while Sasaki is wrestling with his identity. Volume three wraps with the CCG debriefing the case. There were a lot of casualties on both sides, ghoul threats eradicated, and important intel gained.

Toyko Ghoul: re is a gory horror manga suited more for older teens and adults. The art is really well done and the fight scenes are so frenetic readers can feel the energy jumping off the page. There is so much happening in big action sequences that it can be a little confusing. Each character has a well thought-out design and all are easy to visually tell apart. Readers should read the first series for a better understanding of plot lines and character motivations. I did not read Tokyo Ghoul, but was able to follow the story well enough. I did look things up if I felt I was reading something about a character that I should know from the original series. Each volume has extra content at the end of the book: small character vignettes or even short stories which add some more depth. I really enjoyed Sasaki’s conflict over his identity. It is a great metaphor for mental illness or accepting one’s flaws and vulnerabilities.

Where this series fell apart for me was Mutsuki’s trans identity. His trans reveal is done in a very disrespectful way and he’s never given real agency over his plot line. Using him as bait and having him dress as a woman is a transphobic creative choice and is not the only one in this series. I can’t in good conscience recommend adding it to a library collection. An LGBT character needs to have agency over their own storyline and also have acceptance of that identity. That is not present in this manga.

Tokyo Ghoul: re, vols. 1-3
By Sui Ishida
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421594965
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421594972
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421594989
Viz Media. 2017-2018
Publisher Age Range: Older Teen

  • Mary N.S. Richardson

    Past Reviewer

    Mary N.S. Richardson is the Adult Services Librarian at the Cragin Memorial Library in Connecticut where she is building an awesome graphic novel collection! She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Georgia and an M.L.I.S. from Kent State University. Mary is the chair of the Graphic Novel Roundtable for the Connecticut Library Consortium. She has been reading comics since she was a kid and is a huge X-Men and Batfamily fan.

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