There’s an urban legend about a species of monsters known as “ghouls,” fiends who feast on human flesh. These rumors are given form in a series of unexplained murders throughout the city, but despite that and scientific research, most people don’t really seem to believe in the creatures. Ken Kaneki is one of them, until the day a date with his dream girl goes horribly wrong.
A lucky accident kills the ghoul, but Ken is mortally wounded, and only an organ transplant can save him…and the ghoul girl’s are the only ones available in the moment. Now Ken is forced not only to acknowledge that ghouls exist, but that he’s a human/ghoul hybrid with the ghoul’s craving for human flesh. Can he survive in this new, twisted reality? Does he even want to?
Mangaka Sui Ishida deserves praise for several things in this first volume of his series Tokyo Ghoul, but one of the most obvious is his choice of man-eating monsters. Ghouls are very similar to another, more overused threat to humanity, vampires, and by choosing to make them an entirely different species rather than simply piggybacking on that more popular choice, Ishida sets his story apart from others like it while still allowing himself to use some of the same mythology as a basis. It sets up an interesting world for protagonist Ken Kaneki to navigate, teasing us with familiarity while still creating a new story to enjoy.
Like many series about humanoid monsters, there’s an underlying question about humanity to Tokyo Ghoul’s first volume. Although he knows that ghouls must eat people to live, Ken still wants to maintain his human friendships, specifically with Hide, whom he has known since elementary school. (Hide is likely to become one of the most interesting players in this game, but at this point his role is kept in the background as a catalyst for Ken’s choices rather than as a main character. He certainly bears watching, however, as the final pages indicate.)
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